Question Block : Xbox One and Going Indie

Welcome to this edition of Question Block. As always, send your questions to rdonaldson@vfs.com or post them in the Comments section below. Thanks for reading!

 

Why do you think so many people are upset with Microsoft’s announcement of Xbox One?

In general, I think there are two main reasons:

  1. Scattered and confusing messaging;
  2. Disappointing business and design decisions.

Leading up to the event, there were rumors swirling. Microsoft responded in various ways, generally just creating more confusion. The announcement event could have gone a long way to clearing up some of these concerns, but unfortunately just served to fan the flames among most gamers.

Always On. Sometimes On? Once a day On? Huh?

Perhaps the biggest backlash has been around the ‘always on’ requirement. Although this was one of the top issues on gamers’ minds before the reveal, Microsoft ignored the point entirely during the conference. When journalists asked executives point blank following the conference, Microsoft’s messaging was all over the map. Some said it was absolutely untrue, others said it required a connection once every 24 hours, and still others said that the requirement was up to third party developers. This served to make matters worse, leaving gamers feeling that at best the console required a connection once a day to play even single-player games. In any case, this kind of roughshod communication is disappointing from such a revered company as Microsoft.

All Used Up

The second biggest issue revolves around used games. On every previous console, gamers have been able to lend games to friends, sell them secondhand, or take them for trade-in to popular stores like EB Games, GameStop, and even Best Buy. For some players, this is the only way they can afford to buy a new game: get a $30 credit for the last game they bought, and apply it to the $60 price tag on the new game they want. Microsoft announced that games will need to be installed to the Xbox One hard drive. Once installed, the game will be locked to that particular account. If you were to lend that game to a friend, your friend would simply be given the option to purchase the game – the disc would be a coaster to anyone but you. There’s a system that lets you play the game if you, the owner, are at a friend’s house, but only if you’re signed in with your profile. If we look at the messaging around this issue, again the water was muddy, with comments to the effect that Microsoft is still investigating different approaches.

Watch It

We’ve all known that Microsoft wanted to make a big play for the center of the living room for some time now. But we didn’t expect them to push games to the backseat. Now that they’ve held their E3 press conference, we’ve seen a taste of the games they have in store, which should alleviate some of the pain. But gamers should still be concerned about the balance of Microsoft’s efforts on the games vs. TV front. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft has a shot at winning the living room. If you look at most peoples’ living rooms, Sony is actually in a better position, already supplying many of the TVs, stereos, and Blu-Ray/DVD players around. I think it’s more likely that the mainstream would buy a Sony product as a living room hub than an Xbox One. Does that mean I think Sony will win (or even really try to fight in) the war for the living room? My answer is no, but that topic is better left for another day…

Xbox ONE, with mandatory Kinect.

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Tech Talk : Xbox One Thoughts

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Microsoft finally revealed its much anticipated new console to the world on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 and decided to go with the interesting name of Xbox One. The name is pretty apt as Microsoft made clear they are not just creating a gaming device but are attempting to replace every entertainment unit in your living room with one device to rule them all. In fact, it seemed that Microsoft’s event was not really aimed at Sony as the main competition – but rather at Apple.

For me, the presentation was very good and a welcome return to reality after Sony’s PR event for the PlayStation 4, which was widely panned for not actually having any hardware to show. As a software engineer, I worked on both the Playstation 2 and 3 and the original Xbox 1 and 360 on engine development. Without a doubt, Microsoft products were always much easier to develop for. The tools worked perfectly, the development environment between PC and console was seamless, and the documentation and support were superb. Playstation hardware however was often exceptionally difficult to work with – particularly the Cell architecture in the PS3. This frequently led to PS3 games having less features and a lesser performance than 360 games – simply because they were so difficult to fully exploit.

Xbox One Console

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