The Xbox One: Nice, But Meh

The Xbox One.

The Xbox One.

Today, Microsoft announced their upcoming video game console, the Xbox One. Named for its intent to simplify and control your entire media experience, the Xbox One takes the Xbox 360 initiative toward movies, music, and television and ups the ante. There are a number of interesting new features on the Xbox One, and its controller looks like it might best the PS4’s offering. However, there are a number of nagging issues that leave me lukewarm on the device. While the internet goes nuts over Microsoft's announcements, allow me to point out my grievances.

1. Installation Required

All Xbox One games must be installed to the console’s internal 500 GB hard drive, which is not upgradeable. Additional hard drives can be added via the Xbox One’s USB 3.0 ports, but with games coming on Blu-Rays, you can expect install sized of over 30 GB to be common. That’s a lot of space, so expect to delete older games off the drive from time to time.

This isn’t a dealbreaker. Microsoft has stated that games will be playable during the install, which means player’s won’t have to deal with the epic, half-hour-or-more install times that plagued some PS3 games. A bigger issue stems from this requirement, however:

2. Possible Fees for Playing Used Games

The Xbox One console.

The Xbox One console.

This has not been confirmed by Microsoft, but Wired reports that after a game is installed, anyone else who attempts to play a game from the same disc will have to pay an activation fee. How this would technically work remains unreported, and Microsoft has gone on record with a firm “we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” which isn’t actually a denial.

The video game industry’s combative relationship with used sales is anti-consumer, reprehensible, and ultimately self-aggrandizing posturing by people who should have a better idea of how economics work in the real world. The fact that Microsoft won’t come out and say “there will be no fees for playing a used game” is completely unacceptable at this point.

3. No Backward Compatibility. At all. Ever.

Although there are reasonable technical reasons not to have backward compatibility — the Xbox 360’s technical architecture is vastly different from the new Xbox One — Microsoft spent a great deal of time touting how easy it was to port games designed in XNA to their various platforms. Although most Xbox 360 games aren’t made using XNA, it would have been nice to hear that those that were would port just as easily to this new platform. Futhermore, it means that any Xbox Live Arcade games purchased are probably going to disappear soon. Fans of retro gaming will be pretty upset by this, I am sure, as game preservation initiatives continue to stumble.

4. They’re Trying to Tie You Down

This is my biggest dislike of the Xbox One: it’s all designed around Microsoft services. This is an issue with every major hardware manufacturer, but Microsoft has historically been the worst with it: even using third-party services like Netflix or Hulu require an additional payment to Microsoft to access them on the Xbox 360. Microsoft has not announced if this practice will continue, but they have not announced that it won't, either.

5. Kinect Doesn’t Work in my Living Room

The Xbox One's revised Kinect.

The Xbox One's revised Kinect.

This is a pretty specific grievance, but I can’t use the Kinect sensor in my small apartment. I would have to completely rearrange it, and possibly remove some furniture entirely. I have no intention of doing this. Again, not necessarily a dealbreaker, but not something I’m going to look forward to, either. The Xbox One includes a Kinect, and uses it for a number of standard functions. In addition, a number of current Kinect users noted that the device did not react well(or, reacted too well) to the multitude of sample commands thrown out during Microsoft's press conference, inadvertently recreating a scene from 30 Rock.

6. Advertising Everywhere

One of my biggest complaints about the Xbox 360 is that its interface is plastered with ads. It is annoying. Premium services should not be covered in advertising. Microsoft thinks it is acceptable to charge a monthly fee to access most of the Xbox 360’s online features and then cover your screen in all manner of ads. Not only are they wrong, but they allow their ads to make navigation slower and more difficult. Microsoft has made no announcements regarding the use of advertising on the Xbox One, but they plaster every other service they offer in ads, so I can’t imagine this one will be different.

Possibly the best standard controller ever.

Possibly the best standard controller ever.

So far, the PlayStation 4 has garnered far more interest from me than the Xbox One. I think the Xbox One has an awesome controller, but Microsoft’s announcements did nothing to address my complaints about their previous console. The Xbox One is the Xbox 360, only more so. If you’re a fan of the 360, this is exciting news. If you aren’t, it’s pretty much a non-starter.

Posted on May 21, 2013 .