It finally happened. After all of the rumors, speculation, hype and nonsense, Microsoft has revealed the next-generation Xbox console, strangely dubbed Xbox One. Unfortunately, I must have missed the part where they talked about all of the cool next-gen games we'll be playing.
The new "console war" is something we've all been anxious for, but for me there may already be a clear winner. The conference started off well, quickly introducing us to the new Xbox One dashboard. But, seeing it filled with TV shows, streaming services and movies was a bit of a let down, especially after Sony came out of the gate with games in the front seat. Yesterday's event at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters felt more like a TiVo party than a games console reveal and, in all honesty, that's exactly what I expected. After learning former CBS exec Nancy Tellum was joining the team, it was clear Microsoft had decided to put a stronger focus on film and video entertainment. Don't get me wrong, a "Halo" TV series with Steven Spielberg on board is pretty darn awesome, but it sadly seems to come at the cost of pushing games to the side.
To make things worse, a lack of games at the reveal isn't the only thing current Xbox customers, like myself, are upset about. The past few months have been filled with bad PR surrounding the new Xbox console, and it appears as if some of those wretched rumors are true. Players will have to pay a fee to share games, even if they're being played on the same system? What's up with that? What effect will this have on the used game market and rental services like Gamefly and Redbox? If the Xbox One is as restrictive as it seems, Sony just might be able to reclaim their position a the top of the gaming podium.
Failing to even mention the Xbox Live Arcade (or whatever it may be called now) is what really gets me. Sure, we got a look at some new sports games, and "Forza 5" and "Call of Duty: Ghosts." The AAA big boys are what we all want, but the bevy of affordable ($5-$15) Arcade games are what fill the gaps in between those large-scale releases. There are so many great experiences in this particular segment of gaming, and to see Microsoft completely ignore this part of Xbox Live during a console reveal left me feeling like they weren't even talking to me. The fact that Sony has been cramming talk of indie support and lower budget titles down our throat since February only adds to my disappointment.
My distaste for the Xbox One thus far doesn't really have anything to do with what Microsoft showed us yesterday. In fact, some of the TV and Kinect features they showed off are very cool. Sports are of massive importance to many Xbox loyalists, and I'm as big a fan of "Game of Thrones" as the next guy. What's really off-putting is what Microsoft didn't show us.
And I'm not the only one who's unsure about Microsoft's plans for Xbox Live Arcade and games in general. Speaking with Joystiq, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail (Super Crate Box) and others expressed some concerns as well: "The whole presentation felt sort of awkward, but the D-pad looks really nice. Sadly, at this point the thing we're looking forward to most for the Xbox One is Skype on our TV," he said.
"As an indie and developer the Xbox One reveal didn't really say anything to me. The stuff with fantasy sports is cool and all, but I was more interested in seeing how the marketplace/store might have changed or how discovery was being handled," added Philip Tibitoski of Young Horses.
When you have developers saying Skype on TV is the thing they're most excited about after a new games console reveal, you know there is something horribly wrong. Sure, there's no doubt we'll learn more about games at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, but that doesn't change the disappointment that Xbox One has already turned out to be. It's a horrible way to start things off, and I have to imagine there are some Microsoft execs feeling the heat today.
I guess the real source of my disappointment (keep in mind, Xbox 360 is my preferred console at the moment) stems from hope that Microsoft would come out swinging with a rebuttal to the PlayStation 4 event, telling us why their console is the better choice. Instead, it seemed as if Microsoft took to the stage to show us a new set-top box that just so happens to play games as well.