I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in shock about this. I first started getting concerned for the next generation Xbox when Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth had a highly publicized exchange with a follower on Twitter regarding the then rumor of the “always on” internet connection requirement. A concern was raised regarding the difference in quality of connectivity in urban as opposed to rural areas. Orth was asked to consider people living in those rural areas, such as where I live, where connectivity is temperamental. The response from Orth wasn’t the smartest in the PR sense which was, “Why on earth would I live there?”
As time went on, during which Orth was resigned, more details emerged. Microsoft unveiled the console which it had named Xbox One and confirmed that it would require an internet connection to check in every 24 hours, require the Kinect camera to be connected, and would be clamping down on the used game market. Oh! I almost forgot: all this for $499. I have to say I admire the bravado of a company who would increase the inconvenience and the price. The President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Don Mattrick was asked at E3 what would happen with folks who didn’t have a stable or any internet connection. “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360,” says Mattrick. Facepalm. To be sure this hasn’t been the Xbox team’s finest hour. All that changed recently when Microsoft announced that the always on internet connection would no longer be required and used games wouldn’t work any differently than with the Xbox 360.
Why is the Xbox One Now a Viable Candidate?
For me the one cool feature about this Xbox is its HDMI pass-through ability. While designed for cable boxes I wonder what’s to stop me from adding this between my TV and HTPC? Essentially the HTPC is really for my collection of games from Steam (can’t beat those summer sales) and it would eliminate a step between having to switch inputs on the TV when I want to view the PC or the Xbox. It’s cool that Microsoft is making committing to digital downloads as well as shipping games on disk. This is perhaps the reason I love Steam and if my PC ever crashes I can always redownload those games. I’d LOVE that in an Xbox.
What Still Bugs Me?
I’ve been a little creeped out at the notion that the camera is always listening or watching. It’s the most unfortunate timing imaginable that Microsoft announces that the Kinect camera has to be connected to the console for the Xbox to work and that it’s always watching you just as a whistleblower announces that the NSA is collecting phone calls, IMs, and other data from US citizens. In Microsoft’s defense it promises that you’ll have control over your privacy settings but come one. It’s not the switch on MY side of the console I’m worried about it’s that I’m being told that the NSA won’t be able to access a backdoor and use that camera and microphone anyway. Bull. I’m not saying this is going to happen but don’t lie to me by trying to assure me it’s not possible.
I love that Microsoft is listening to the consumers and let’s face it: an Amazon poll showing the PS4’s 38984 votes winning over the Xbox One’s 2162 votes really sends a message. I’m sorry to say that as far as consoles go that Microsoft and I are going to have to part ways this generation at this point. It’s going to have to take a very compelling title or feature for me to consider the One over Sony’s PS4.