Skipping the Xbox One

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
Update (05/25/13): Tadhg Kelly over at Tech-Crunch has since published this article which basically reiterates the points I make below and takes them a step further.

So the internet quite literally exploded this week when Microsoft pulled back the curtain on the Xbox One. There was quite a bit of buildup to the event, most memorably when Adam Orth shot himself in the foot several times in quick succession on twitter regarding the One's "always-on" requirements. So following Redmond's Xbox event this past wednesday, where does that leave us?

The general consensus on the internet was that irregardless of the hardware itself, Microsoft botched the reveal event. I'm not sure why that surprises anyone given the big M's marketing effectiveness as of late, but lets put that aside for the time being.

Given the fact the international media was out in force for the Xbox announcement, it's really interesting to see how entirely and completely Microsoft has given up on the international market. They certainly made a lot of effort with the 360 to appeal to Asian countries, arguably some of the largest consumers per capita of video games in the world. And I don't think anyone would argue that both the original Xbox and the 360 failed miserably in Asia. So when Microsoft spent a big chunk of time Wednesday focusing on the fantasy football features of the One, to the point where international reporters were asking what fantasy football even was, I find that really interesting.

Enough about the press event though. Lets talk about the actual Xbox itself. Wired has a great write-up on the One (complete with parallax scrolling for christ-sake). Wired talks at length about the hardware, the spec sheet, and a bit about the software that will be running the One. It's all well and good and certainly worth the read for those that are interested in the technical side of things. However, the question that still seems to be one most everyone's mind is, where the hell are the games?

To be fair, it's still early for that. Nintendo and Sony are both guilty of this same sort of behavior when it comes to rolling out their new hardware. I think people were just especially taken aback at how centrally the device focused on entertainment as a whole instead of games specifically. Microsoft has been vying to put themselves at the center of consumer's living rooms for a while now, and they've always done a really poor job. As has Google for that matter. That's great all the tech giants keep giving this their all, but with the Apple TV still lurking out their in the darkness, the elephant in the room is overwhelming and makes me wonder if Microsoft isn't already too late to the game.

That's even more scary when you already have devices out there like the Roku or the Boxee Box meeting the streaming needs for the large majority of the market. What I'm wondering regarding the One is, are people going to be willing to pay a premium for a media service when cheaper alternatives are already doing the job and Apple is about to roll-out what will undoubtedly be a dominant high-end competitor.

An enlightening interview with Microsoft VP Phil Harrison sheds a bit of light on the mystery shrouding the One, but not much. Harrison didn't come right out and comment on the always-on controversy  but did say that,

"There are a host of features which will be usable without an Internet connection — watching movies, playing certain single player games…".

The phrase "certain single player games" is a bit disconcerting, as is the fact a Microsoft VP had to differ to an assistant throughout the entire interview to answer simple questions to which he did not have the answers.

On a personal level, I have absolutely no intention of purchasing a One. I purchased an Xbox 360 some years ago, and I'm currently on my fourth hardware unit because the first three all red-ringed. Not to mention that fact that Xbox 360 games won't be compatible with the One. Every Microsoft platform I've ever supported has left me burned (I'm looking at you Zune), and I swore to myself long ago that I was never going back. The One's lackluster reveal has only furthered my convictions toward that end.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.