Is Microsoft Taking a Risk with Xbox One?

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In today’s videogame world, people from all walks of life play games. Men and women, boys and girls, people from ages 6 to 66 enjoy playing consoles and handhelds. While these folks as a whole make up the gaming community, the demographic that holds the whole thing together is the core gamer. Core gamers are the people that purchase consoles at launch, that pre-order the biggest games, that go online and read reviews, previews and articles about games. These gamers are the center of the gaming universe, and Xbox seems to be pushing them away with Xbox One.
I am not one of those cynical “highbrow” gamers that hate everything and like to complain. I love gaming and I own all of the consoles. I am not a fan boy of any certain company and I play all genres of games both mainstream and under the radar titles. That being said, my favorite console of the last generation was the Xbox 360. I loved everything about it from the controller to achievements to the dedication to gamers (especially at first). As time went on, Microsoft slowly added to the 360 to include all kinds of apps and other non-gaming functionality. Other than Netflix, I didn’t pay much attention to these apps, but didn’t mind them because others seemed to enjoy the features.
I couldn’t wait until Xbox One was announced. I wanted to see what Microsoft had up its sleeve for us. While I am not going to make final judgment on the console based on one event, I have some concerns about it, both short term and long term. I thought I would tackle the upcoming console Clint Eastwood style…..

The Good
1. Few Controller Changes
The 360 controller is about as close to a “perfect” controller as one could make, in my opinion. It feels good, the buttons are easy to get to, and all of them have their own function and reason for existing. They tweaked the look a bit and moved the “guide” button as well as altering the sticks slightly, but the controller is pretty much the same, which is awesome!

2. Profile/Achievements/Xbox Live will Transfer
Microsoft has indicated on their Xbox Wire FAQ that your avatar, achievements, and other aspects of your identity on Xbox Live will carry over to the Xbox One. Your Xbox Live account will also transfer over to the new console, making that aspect of moving painless and easy.

3. Strong Developer Support
EA and Ubisoft have already committed to producing their games for Xbox One and it’s a sure thing that the console will have plenty of games to choose from on day one and beyond.

The Bad
1. Too Focused on Non-gaming Aspects
I understand that Microsoft wants to make a piece of hardware that can take over your living room, but the whole presentation seemed to be focused on the many parts of the Xbox that will control your TV, music, microwave, coffee maker, etc. Warning bells went off in my head when I have had several different friends who are gamers tell me “I think I’m going to pick up a PlayStation 4 first because Xbox seems like it doesn’t care much about games. “

2. Emphasis on Kinect
I don’t have the hate for Kinect that many do, but it wasn’t that useful for gamers. It is interesting to mess with when playing dance games, but otherwise collected dust due to its weak capabilities and crappy software. With Xbox One, Kinect is REQUIRED to be connected at all times. Just the idea of that will probably push some gamers away. It’s a neat little addition to the console, but some people don’t want it, particularly core gamers, so why require it?

3. Pre-owned Games Cost to Play
Ok, listen, I get it….Game companies lose money on used games. It’s been that way for a couple of generations now. I thought the “online passes” were actually a good idea because it forced gamers to pay a small sum to play online while not punishing those who want to take their new game to their friend’s house or get a used game from GameStop for single player. Microsoft has been strangely vague on how used games are going to work for the new console, but they have confirmed that you will have to pay to play a used game on your console and that a new game will be connected to your profile. I don’t mind as much that you won’t be able to buy used games as much as I care that this will affect services like GameFly. I’ll get to that later….

4. Digital Games Don’t Transfer
This is just ridiculous. The fact that there is no backward compatibility is fine as the last generation kind of threw that out the door, but not being able to take your digital content to your new console is a stupid, “Nintendo-like” move. I’m sure they will let us re-download the games we already had…..after we purchase it again. I imagine it would take some tweaking of the hardware to let these games play, but it would have been worth the effort and nice perk for gamers who have hundreds of dollars put into their digital content on the 360.

5. Mandatory Game Installs
This goes back to stopping used games and speeding up load times, but it’s dumb to “require” this. I have never installed a game on any of my 360s because I don’t want to use the space. It’s a pain in the butt to wait for it to install, then to uninstall it after I’m done playing the game. Then if I decide I want to play the game again down the road, I have to install it again? Really?

The Ugly
1. Online connection required?!?!
Various media reports have gone all over on this. Phil Harrison from Microsoft has stated that the console needs to be connected at least every 24 hours. Again, some of this is to prevent used games as well as to use the “cloud”. Microsoft is trumping the fact that the Xbox One is going to be your “all in one” entertainment system for the reasoning behind it needing to be connected. So basically, if you can’t afford an internet connection or live in an area that doesn’t have good internet (yes, these places do exist), you won’t be able to buy an Xbox One. My parents live in a semi-rural area that does not have broadband service so sorry Mom and Dad, no Xbox One for you!

The Xbox One has a lot of nifty bells and whistles to it, but it is almost as if Microsoft completely forgot about its most vital audience. The required Kinect, alienating of used games, inability to transfer digital content, and general focus on all of the non-gaming functionality may push away core gamers. If I can’t play games from GameFly and continue to build my Gamerscore without having to pay insane sums of money, I will be really disappointed. I hope the Xbox One is successful but Microsoft is making it very difficult for me to love the upcoming console.