You’re no longer the key demographic, it’s an event about the platform not the games, and all tech announcements tend to be met with cynicism.
Those things are all true, but let’s get them out of the way because it doesn’t stop the criticisms being true either.
The new Xbox One is supposed to be “simple, instant and complete” however in reality it seems to be “instant”, at best. When you’re setting out a bold new preposition to sell your new, expensive electronics box, it’s probably best to give people a reason to buy one over their perfectly usable existing Xbox.
So if we accept it’s no longer just about games – and judging by the time spent on it last night – it’s all about entertainment. That’s fantastic, I spend much more time using the video-on-demand services on the 360 than gaming, but am yet to see how the new Xbox considerably improves on that. There’s voice commands, which just reminds me of a scene from 30 Rock where the TV turns itself off because someone said it on a show. It’s a silly thing that decent technology could prevent, but people watching the announcement last night reported that it kept cutting off as each time the video showed a voice command, their original Kinect was listening and trying to do it. That really bodes well from the future.
Pressing “TV” and “HDMI” on my remote is hardly a difficult experience that needs revolutionising, and besides, you need a separate approved tuner box to provide the TV source, it suffers from the same issues as Google TV where it can’t really control the recorder on a tuner so you still need to switch back on your TV AND this isn’t even coming to the UK at launch. Simple, instant and complete.
How else do they plan on improving that experience? Personalisation and recommendations. Lovely, but they probably should have gotten round to that already. You’ve got basic multitasking with the ‘snap’ feature to have a browser or app alongside your TV viewing – but people have already decided how to do that with their phones and tablets, they’ve moved on. How does having the extra things on the TV screen inherently improve it? That’s yet to be proven, and this is just playing catch up.
Multifunctional consoles are great – but for that to thrive they need a more open ecosystem for apps (not mentioned) and those functions to be considerably better than how they work on my 360 to justify a replacement! And I may be biased because of my involvement in it… but why not try attracting the radio industry? If they’re all about woo-ing big partners, there is more than just sports and TV out there.
It’s early days for the announcement, but it’s not early days for the console. Microsoft and Sony’s attempts to wrangle a last year or two extra out of their consoles has led to some stagnation – we’ve seen some great games, but everything’s slowed down in anticipation. There should be more ready to reveal. People’s interest has moved on, and elsewhere.
And that’s what worries me – If you’re going to do entertainment, do it well. Big expensive development on games needs a bigger audience, and other things can help drive audiences to games (see: phones). Build up an app ecosystem, truly link together video services in a useful way. Don’t just add more voice control and act like that really is what people are after. People don’t need a console, make them want it. Make them want to spend the considerable amount of money replacing their existing console with a better one. And the earlier the better – not in three years time, where media and technology will have moved on elsewhere too.
At least the showing of Forza and Call of Duty means they’re aware they still do need to actually do things people want – you need to keep the existing audiences happy, absolutely – you need to go further to get people who aren’t still buying those. And I’m not just talking about Kinect. Maybe we’ll see that at E3. I’ll wait and see, and suspect some of this mess may become clearer. More features. More games.But after this long waiting for the console itself, we shouldn’t really be up in the air this much. There’s always going to be unanswered questions at this stage but there’s a need for more clarity – see the mess over preowned games and sharing with friends. Their attempts to clarify the situation have clarified very little.
But hey, simple, instant and complete. Maybe it feels like that for them. Just not for everyone else yet.