Xbox One_Logo_01

The Xbox which for some time now was code-named ‘Durango’ or a multitude of other names has been officially revealed and named as Xbox One at the Xbox Reveal yesterday.

Obviously – as with anything in life – there will be those that love what they see, and those that hate what they see.  We are of that type too, even though zombies are superior to humans in that we also don’t always give a f***.  Or fuck.

So, the Microsoft console got an airing.  They mentioned some features and they tossed in a game.  Or two.  We think.  They also failed to touch on a few things which may leave some worried.  However, after show a few more details came out, and we thought we’d summarise as much as possible here, from the reveal event and after.

The Good

Usher didn’t make an appearance.  Neither did The Rock.  In fact, other than recorded footage of some American Footballers, UFC fighters, Lionel Messi and Steven Spielberg, there was not a celebrity insight.  Score.

The Xbox One has a Blu-ray player.  Yes, I know it’s only just catching up now, but so be it.  It comes with 8GB of RAM, but they’re not saying what type just yet (later reports are leaning to DDR3).  There’s a 500GB hard drive standard (until they make a “budget” version), but it seems all games will have a mandatory install.

The controller is beautiful.  Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I even like the slightly cubist look of the new console.  The controller is everything one loves about the Xbox 360 controller but without the bulky battery pack and with an improved d-pad and “Impulse Triggers” which sound cool.  We haven’t a clue what they’ll do though.

Xbox One_04

[You can see the first images of the console and peripherals here]

The whole “always online” thing got confirmed (after the show) as not being always on.  Unless the game’s developer themselves decide they want to implement it.  Although apparently Xbox Live director Marc Whitten said “I hope they do [implement it]”.  Wired also said that developers can make games which make use Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, meaning “that they might be able to offload certain computing tasks to the cloud rather than process them on the Xbox One hardware itself”.

That being said, it also appears that the console will need to connect to the internet every “24 hours”.  That’s according to Microsoft VP Phil Harrison to Kotaku.  So if we never go online and adjust the clock it should never know… right?!

The Xbox One is to include a significantly improved Kinect.  Now this may very well slot into the ‘Bad and Ugly’ section too.  And does.  However, the good part is that it is improved and it is “rocket science stuff”.  It “understands the slightest rotation of wrist, shift balance, transfer of motion, and when you’re exercising it can read your heartbeat” and… ah crap, you can read the rest in the press release floating around below.

Skype and Smartglass are more integrated in the next generation Microsoft console.  Maybe Skype is the new party chat, and Smartglass is the Wii U…

Another announcement that straddles the good/bad divide is the EA and Microsoft “broad strategic partnership”.  Four games featuring the new ‘Ignite’ EA Sports engine will be arriving on the Xbox One: FIFA, NBA Live, Madden NFL and UFC.  The engine promises to blur “the line between real and virtual” and “examines what defines sports: instincts, deliver, true player motion, living world, the essence of sports.”  Andrew Wilson, vice president of EA sports indicated that FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode will be “only on Xbox”.

But what about the games you ask.  Thankfully the number of Kinect titles revealed was kept to a minimum.  On the other hand, the total number of games revealed were rather pitiful too.  The aforementioned EA Sports titles made up the bulk, but Forza (pronounced “Fortza” by Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer) Motorsport 5 was revealed.  Car porn ahoy.

EA has also confirmed Battlefield 4 for the Xbox One, as well as announcing the game’s release date.  The game will launch on 29 October, making one wonder if the Xbox One will be out about then too.

Quantum Break_01The first of eight new IPs was revealed and looked intriguing to say the least.  Remedy is working on Quantum Break.  The game is a story-driven action game with decision-based scenarios that have consequences as you progress through its campaign.  Words like “revolutionary” were tossed around, and claims it “blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience. How you play the game impacts the show, and the show informs how you play the game.”

Call of Duty: Ghosts looked rather good.  If there’s one thing that will keep the Xbox One rooted with the core gamers, it’s the clear partnership between Activision (with its Call of Duty series) and Microsoft, making it pretty clear that the Xbox One will become the competitive platform of choice for tournaments such as the Call of Duty Championships.  All the DLC for CoD: Ghosts will be a timed exclusive still.

Ubisoft have confirmed (post show) that they have “at least six next-gen games released for Xbox One in the system’s first year” including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs.

Also confirmed after the reveal are the following games for the Xbox One: Thief 4 from Eidos and Destiny from Bungie.

Rare also revealed to Polygon that the firm will be bringing a “historic” franchise to Microsoft’s console which will be revealed at E3.  Hooray!

While the total number of games shown off at the reveal itself appeared small, Microsoft says they have 15 exclusives to reveal, and we assume they’ll do so at E3.  Actually, they said they’d reveal them at E3.  The number of Kinect titles is unconfirmed.

Xbox One_Dashboard_01The Bad and The Ugly

You seriously didn’t think I’d differentiate between these two did you?

Second-hand games… you will pay to play them.  At least that’s first impressions.  Because of a mandatory install “each disc will be tied to a single account lest consumers simply pass a disc around and have all their friends install the game, then play it without the disc. This is why the second-hand fee is being implemented.”  Now, we’ve quoted directly from Eurogamer, because even we find this one a little confusing.  “When asked what if a person just wanted to play a game from the disc without installing it, Microsoft didn’t have a response, further suggesting that playing a game without fully installing it won’t even be an option.”

However, the Eurogamer article got a late update that seems to indicate that it’s not a fee on second-hand games but a fee for ‘disc sharing’.  Corporate vice president of Microsoft Phil Harrison:

I can understand where some of the confusion may have come from, so let me try to help out there. First of all, you can buy a game on a disc from a retail store, come home and install it to your Xbox One. The disc contains all the bits and data on that game, which you can then give to your friend, and they can then install it on their Xbox One. No restriction on that, except that the second person obviously has to pay for it. You can purchase a game in two ways: you can purchase it from a retail store or you can download it. So the act of putting the bits on the hard drive – the Xbox One doesn’t really know or care what method the bits got into the machine, if it was from a disc or downloaded from Xbox Live. But obviously the users will then have to purchase that content. What I think people are now confusing is the purchasing of content in the first instance with the ability to trade and resell the previously played games. We have a solution for that and we will be announcing exactly how that works in due course.

This is clearly a confusing mess that has Microsoft execs talking over each other and sometimes undermining each other.  It’s also close to a deal breaker for a number of console buyers.  If one console forces it, surely the game publishers will force the other console to follow?

As mentioned in the good, there is still also a little confusion on the matter of the “always online” concept, as a Microsoft statement did say that the console “does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.”  Erm.  What?!  “We’re designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready. We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection.”  Kinda saved.  Maybe.

The Marketplace will apparently not offer “discrete game channels”.  The Live Arcade and indie games categories will be abolished to allow users to discover them… [via Eurogamer]

The Xbox Reveal itself was way too heavily focused on American themes.  The TV access and event the NFL interactive thing is useless to most of the world east of New York.  Unless Microsoft has a secret plan to get their TV broadcast to the rest of the world?  Didn’t think so.

They have however promised to launch ‘Xbox One TV’ globally “over time”.  The features will be accessed by attaching the Xbox One to BT, Virgin, Sky, or Freeview boxes using a HDMI pass-through (sold seperately from the console) and the console then allows users to navigate live television through Kinect using voice and gestures.  A ‘snap’ feature allows applications to be overlayed on TV for multitasking.

However, the Steven Spielberg executive produced Halo TV series could be a winner.  Why’s it in this section then?  Because we’ll probably be excluded as one of the regions to actually get it.

The new Xbox will not be backward compatible with Xbox 360 titles.  This is due to the fundamental differences in the architecture of the two consoles.  Not necessarily the biggest train smash in the world as the PS4 is not backward compatible in the traditional sense either.  And to be honest, if you’re that worried about your old Xbox 360 titles… keep your old Xbox 360.  No-one will want a secondhand one next year anyway.

The Xbox One is to include a significantly improved Kinect.  Yes, this was featured above.  However, the console looks like it wants you to only use it for interfacing with the dashboard.  Let’s hope not.

A price wasn’t mentioned, but it seems UK retailer Zavvi is hedging its bets at £400 and are dating the console’s release as 30 November.

The word “blurs” was thrown in way too often…

xboxliveXbox Live

We’ve separated this, as the information on the next generation Xbox Live is pretty comprehensive and both good and bad.

Gamerscores, Achievements, Gamertag and Xbox Live subscriptions will be carried over to the next generation of Live.  This also means you will be paying for the service still.  Background downloads, skill tracking and 1000 friends (come on, no-one truly has that many) will also be part of the future.  Basically Microsoft has promised “an all-new generation of Xbox Live that is more powerful, more personal and more intelligent”. Xbox Live will be basing lots of stuff in the cloud (not good for South Africa and a lot of other countries without robust internet), where segments of games can be installed so they start quicker and update in the background – a bit like the PS4.

An auto-resume feature for games will activate when you switch applications.  Like the PS4’s ‘Share’ button functionality, Xbox One will have a ‘Game DVR’ feature which will let you capture gameplay footage and post highlights to your Xbox Live profile.  Smart Match will (hopefully) take the wait out of waiting for multiplayer matches, as it will estimate wait times and find matches while you’re doing other things.  It will also match you with players of equal skills.

Conclusion

Well, that might have seemed like a wall of text, or an assault of incoherence.  Either way, the information is here for you.  We’re going to suggest – in much the same way that the PS4 is actually the PS3.5 – that the new Xbox is actually the Xbox 540.  It’s an evolution when we maybe wanted a full-on revolution.

Price and games may still play a deciding factor for most users.  However, in the world of competitive gaming is the partnership between Microsoft and both Call of Duty and EA an indication of the console being the platform of choice for Call of Duty and FIFA 14 and on?  Time will tell.

If you still feel some of your questions are a little unanswered, check out the FAQ here by Microsoft.

Press Release

May 21, 2013

Microsoft unveils Xbox One: the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system

Blockbuster titles, Steven Spielberg-produced Halo TV series, and exclusive agreements with the NFL transform games, TV and entertainment for the 21st century living room.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 21, 2013 — A new vision for the future comes to life today as Microsoft Corp. unveils Xbox One, the all-in-one gaming and entertainment system created for today and the next generation. At Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., the company showcased how Xbox One puts you at the center of all your games, TV, movies, music, sports and Skype.

“Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device,” said Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment.”

Introducing Xbox One

With Xbox One, games push the boundaries of realism, and TV obeys your commands.1 Say “Xbox On” to launch your personalized Xbox One Home screen, discover what is popular on TV or see friends’ latest gaming achievements all using the most natural interface — your voice. The more you interact with Xbox One, the more it gets to know you and learns what you like. Some of the breakthrough Xbox One features that put you at the center of your living room entertainment include the following:

– TV on Xbox One.1 Navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Microsoft is committed to bringing live TV through various solutions to all the markets where Xbox One will be available.3

– Home. Turn on your entertainment system with two powerful words, “Xbox On,” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favorite games, TV and entertainment.

– Snap. Do two things at once on the biggest screen in your home. Use Snap to jump into a multiplayer battle while watching your favorite movie, talk with friends on Skype while watching live TV, or track your fantasy team on TV as you watch the big game and more.

– Skype for Xbox One. Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in stunning HD, or for the first time ever, hold group Skype calls on your TV.

– Trending.1 Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.

– OneGuide.1, 2 Find your favorite entertainment easily, searching by network, name or time, all with the sound of your voice and presented in a tailored program guide.

To create the most advanced Xbox system ever designed for games, TV and entertainment, Microsoft created a state-of-the-art gaming operating system and fused it with an equally amazing entertainment platform, so you will not have to switch inputs to watch TV or play a game. An eight-core, x86 processor and more than 5 billion transistors helps make lag and load times a thing of the past, so you can instantly jump between a game and your entertainment at lightning speed or run a host of apps right alongside your game with no loss in performance.
Introducing Xbox One titles and exclusives

Gaming on Xbox One immerses gamers in cinematic worlds that look like real life, with characters that feel more human than ever before. AAA blockbuster titles unveiled for Xbox One include the following:

– “Forza Motorsport 5” from Turn 10 Studios is the latest edition of the highest-rated racing franchise of the past 10 years.3 Built from the ground up to take advantage of Xbox One and the infinite power of the cloud, no game better delivers the sensation of being behind the wheel. “Forza Motorsport 5” sets a new bar for racing games and will be available exclusively for Xbox One at launch.

– “Call of Duty: Ghosts” is the next generation of “Call of Duty” and a stunning leap forward for the franchise. It delivers an all-new world, an all-new cast of characters and an all-new story, built on a new, next-generation engine. The next-generation technical innovations built to support the incredible gameplay advancements make this the most beautiful and immersive “Call of Duty” experience yet. Activision and Microsoft also announced the renewal of their close partnership that will see both the return of the “Call of Duty® Championship,” presented by Xbox, as well as all-new downloadable content debuting first and exclusively on the Xbox platform.

– “FIFA 14,” “Madden NFL 25,” “NBA LIVE 14,” and “EA SPORTS UFC”from EA SPORTS will change the way consumers experience and play sports games. Driven by the new EA SPORTS Ignite engine, these new EA SPORTS games will deliver massive innovations in human intelligence, true player motion and living worlds. Adding to its commitment to Xbox One, EA SPORTS also announced the promise of exclusive content to be revealed in the coming months.

– “Quantum Break” from Remedy Entertainment is a revolutionary entertainment experience from the creators of “Max Payne” and “Alan Wake” that blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience. How you play the game impacts the show, and the show informs how you play the game.

In addition to the amazing lineup of games coming to Xbox One, Microsoft unveiled exclusive content partnerships with some of the top names in TV, sports and entertainment.

 “Halo” television series. Award-winning filmmaker, director and producer, Steven Spielberg will executive-produce an original “Halo” live-action television series with exclusive interactive Xbox One content, created in partnership with 343 Industries and Xbox Entertainment Studios.

– National Football League (NFL).1 A multiyear, landmark partnership will deliver the ultimate interactive NFL television experiences for the next-generation Xbox One and leverage Microsoft devices and services to evolve both in-game and on the sideline. The NFL on Xbox will redefine broadcast experiences through innovations around Skype, Xbox SmartGlass and player-worn technology; add an all-new fantasy football solution for the biggest screen in the house; and create a personalized NFL destination only available on Xbox One.

Introducing a new generation of Xbox Live

Xbox One is built to amplify an all-new generation of Xbox Live that is more powerful, more personal and more intelligent. Unleashing the virtually unlimited power of the cloud makes everything more convenient and accessible, from allowing games to be installed in segments so that gameplay can start quickly to updates downloading in the background. Save and store your personalized profile, games and entertainment in the cloud to access them anytime, from any Xbox One console.4 In addition, existing Xbox Live Gold Membership for Xbox 360 will
seamlessly carry over to Xbox One.5 Xbox Live takes you deeper into the games you love with all-new features.

– Smart Match. A new Smart Match matchmaking system virtually eliminates waiting in lobbies by estimating wait times and finding people you want to play with while you are enjoying other activities — reputation fundamentally matters and helps find best matches.

– Game DVR. A dedicated Game DVR captures and accesses your magic moments, all saved to the cloud. Along with sharing tools, you will have the most amazing bragging rights with Xbox Live.

– Living Games.6 Dynamic, living worlds evolve and improve the more you play, and advanced artificial intelligence can learn to play like you, so friends can play against your shadow.

– Expanded achievements. A new and expanded achievements system captures video of your epic moments, continues to grow a game’s achievements over time and rewards you in new ways, and your Gamerscore carries over from Xbox 360.

– Xbox SmartGlass.6 Xbox SmartGlass is natively part of the Xbox One platform, built in from the beginning with the ability to quickly render content directly onto your device, and now more devices can connect at one time for multiplayer and shared entertainment.

Introducing the Xbox One look and feel

New Xbox One hardware is sleek and modern and complements any décor. The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray™ disc player. It is molded in a deep and rich liquid black color and includes a distinctive beveled edge.

The completely redesigned, revolutionary 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive. Its unparalleled vision, motion and voice technology let you reach into games and entertainment like never before by dramatically expanding its field of view and fidelity. It works in nearly any lighting condition, recognizes precise motion control from a slight wrist rotation, and distinguishes your voice even in a noisy room using advanced noise isolation.

The class-leading Xbox controller is refreshed with more than 40 technical and design innovations. Updated directional pad, thumb stick and ergonomic fit immerse all gamers in ways that are uniquely Xbox, and precision and control have been dramatically increased with all new vibrating impulse triggers.6 The Xbox One Wireless Controller is designed to work in concert with the new Kinect, allowing the two to be paired automatically to create seamless player syncing.

Xbox One will launch in markets around the world later this year. Visit the new Xbox Wire blog at http://news.xbox.com for in-depth features on the new system, including photos and videos from the unveiling event and new and rotating content from Xbox. More details about Xbox One and blockbuster games will be explored at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.