In the last few gaming generations a special designation for high budget, tentpole games rose in the industry. They are called AAA Games. In my day they were merely called ‘Killer Apps’, or system sellers that were often exclusive and bleeding production quality. Now they’re multiplatform, marketed during Super Bowls and Playoffs, and more than likely have Steve Blum in there somewhere. They are also shallow, built by committee, aims to satisfy everyone while appealing to no one demographic anyway. They are cookie cutter, expensive, and do little more than sell some gaming engine’s brand. They also sale like pancakes regardless of homogenized quality. Microsoft, ever the innovator, took these ingredients and decided to make a console. The first AAA console is then appropriately called, the Xbox One. Let’s begin.
All For One, and One For… Who Exactly?
I’m forced to echo a few comments written about this thing already and ask, “Why do I need to buy this console?” And I feel terribly funny asking, because as far as X1’s incredibly pompous official page is concerned, it does everything I like to partake in. Plays games? Check. Plays movies and music? Check. Takes me online for multiplayer? Heh, double check. The controller even fixes the current one’s most glaring flaw, that utterly American d-pad. So how come, if I were to get my hands on this tomorrow, it would collect dust? Quite simply, it has nothing to offer. Not really. Well, unless you are somebody who never had particular interests to begin with. Like AAA games of this passing generation, the Xbox One is the perfect item for people who have no idea what they want – but want it very badly.
The All-Appealing Gambit
You can watch live TV on it. Presumably Netflix will still work, along with other streaming apps like Hulu and other stupidly named things. Essentially, I would never really have a reason to turn this off (an important point about the machine to be discussed later). So let’s somebody who isn’t a gamer, but likes TV shows and movies. The Xbox One could service him; but… why would he partake? I mean, the Xbox One is competing against well established cable boxes – which probably won’t attempt to block entertainment when people walk into the room. Where I am we’ve had a cable box and a console, I can’t say it was terribly hard to switch inputs. Maybe we’d like to go from Halo 5 to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in a ‘snap’, but maybe our attention spans are greater than a 4 year old. And the Xbox One won’t record live TV, rendering it embarrassingly obsolete in the arena of cable boxes out of the gate. You can view TV on Xbox One, but why would a TV viewer get an Xbox One?
Like Xbox 360 (as of a few updates ago), the X1 has Internet Explorer. I suppose having yet another device to check your Facebook on isn’t so insulting, except this is in your living room. I can think of about 45 reasons off the top of my head I wouldn’t want to web surf on the biggest screen in the house. Also consider some of the key reasons to head to internet in the first place is either replicated with apps (YouTube available now on 360, and your phone) or makes more sense on your comp anyway (I need to research something for a paper, “Xbox On,” unlikely).
You can do the Hulk Hogan shirt ripping thing to minimize a screen and do… something else. It seems you can do this during gameplay, and I spent an hour or so trying to figure out why I would do that. This is really emulating the Tab Switching experience of all your modern web browsers. Hey, I like to play certain YouTube news videos while hopping around sites. And there may be some quality to… say… pausing an adventure game and going to YouTube to review some tips.
By the way, I just sold Snap better than anybody at the conference just now. This is probably the most positive I can be over this console thing.
The Kinect, something else nobody wanted or needed really, is now kinda sorta definitely required. So the X1 is your own personal JARVIS, following voice commands and signing you in by recognizing your face. I suppose Microsoft’s focus testing revealed a passionate hate for using the stick and A/B buttons to navigate their menu screens because they’ve been trying to phase it for a while now. This is what weirds me out about Microsoft; they are so desperate to innovate something-anything, they shove things in your face you never asked for, and do it until it has some kind of success. Fail or not. All those Kinect demos in the market place screams, “Try me, please!” It is not a blow out success like the Wii. It did not take the world by storm. So what does Microsoft do? Pretend it did and promote it to being as necessary as the very controller.
Who is this machine for? Who watched the conference and thought, “YES, thank you God, YES!” A psycho, that’s who. Or maybe Cliffy B.
Oh Yeah, It Plays Games Too
Rocco would be the family dog who passed away this week. He would be happy to know the star of X1’s conference is his spitting image, all done in next-gen super-duper-ness. Aside from an inadvertent dedication to a fallen family member, Call of Duty Ghosts is the kind of AAA bullshit the Xbox One has in its DNA. All the other games had pretty hot visuals. In fact, the X1 page talks at length about how realism equals progression. Setting aside how ridiculous the statement is, bear in mind we are entering a generation where gameplay is actually the last thing anybody talks about anymore. How perfect that the first AAA console also regards games as this thing you can do when you’re done Snapping between Skype and The Real Housewives of Wherever.
They announced that there will be a bunch of new IPs and exclusives, mentioned one (with a worthless CGI trailer), and showed off most the game that looks the least impressive for a ‘next-gen game’. Hell, you might as well prepare to be unimpressed on a yearly basis. The games I look forward to, are already being crafted for current consoles. The high profile ones will be up-ported, of course, which means great current gen games being so-so next gen games. I mean, if Battlefield 4 and Destiny can run on current gen, they can only benefit being prettier on next gen right? We’ve seen this before, new console launch titles being more or less prettier versions of the previous gen’s efforts that year.
So even as a gamer, at least for the first year, I don’t have any reason to upgrade. And I hesitate calling it an upgrade. It’s stronger, sure, but it doesn’t help me do what I already do better. Not really. It doesn’t even have a fighting game in its lineup. It does have the ghost of my family’s dog, though. Oh wait, CoD Ghosts is also slated for current gen.
Why am I talking about this thing again?
Something for Everyone, But Everyone Aren’t Gamers
Listen, if Microsoft wants to make a console that’s a Jack of All Trade, that’s fine. I don’t think there’s a Blue Ocean for that, but whatever. But going down the road, they make their competitors look like paragons of gaming heaven. Of the three, the Wii U seems most comfortable with being a gaming console. And I thought the PS4 was similarly missing the point like Microsoft – until I seen the Xbox One, now the PS4 looks like a good deal. When Microsoft entered the gaming space they helped turn gaming from that thing you whispered in the back of the class to something all the cool kids reference in their own social circles. They helped make gaming cool by talking to gamers. Now they’re talking to… I don’t even know anymore. The Kinect fans? The non-attentive kid who absolutely needs to switch from Forza to Internet Explorer in a Snap? This consoles does so many things, but without a singular thesis…
It’s as shallow and aimless as any AAA game. Ladies and gentlemen, enter the world’s first AAA gaming console: The Xbox One. A console that never needs to turn off, until Zelda returns anyway. The next blog will get into the symbolic message of Xbox One’s design. Yes, there will be a trilogy of posts concerning this thing. Because make no mistake, this is console history in the worst way.