E3 has come and gone, Gamescom and TGS are closing in, and it’s almost that time again. Yup, my favorite time of the decade: new console season. As much as we’d like to think all gamers follow this stuff as religiously as the rest of us, reality has proven to me time and time again that the average consumer is misinformed or uninformed about their potential purchase despite all the information at their fingertips.
It doesn’t help that employees in brick and mortar stores typically have either a personal or corporate agenda when “informing” prospective buyers about the new consoles. This business has become more cutthroat than it used to be by my estimation, and I think the best way to combat that influence, along with misapprehensions based on internet chatter, is to ignore just about everything except the truth as it currently stands and what logically follows from it.
Since Microsoft has had a little more difficulty getting their message across I wanted to just draw everyone’s attention to what I see are the key advantages for purchasing this console, sans all the extra noise. The consumer knows what appeals to them right? They don’t need a lesson on that from me.
Snap Mode Activate!
In today’s world you’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, and do a video chat, and have a text conversation, and tweet the fact that you just stubbed your toe. The multitasking realities of our age weren’t lost on Microsoft when they decided to make the Xbox One an impressive multimedia device, thus they imbued it with basic multitask switching and the Snap feature.
The operating system is set up in a forked manner, meaning very different tasks like a game and a movie can run side by side without any problems. That lets you switch between them without processing problems. Aside from just instant switching, “Snap Mode” will allow you to bounce between and among running apps and TV as fast as ideas occur to you. Currently when I’m watching TV and my mind wanders I usually drag up my laptop and look around for whatever scratches my itch. I know that’s outdated and a lot of you bring out your tablets or phones instead.
With the Xbox One you’ll be able to keep that all integrated on your TV. Did you just see a commercial for Call of Duty: Ghosts and decide to cave on your promise to yourself that you’d hold off this year? Tell the Xbox One “Snap Mode Internet Explorer,” then log into your favorite retail site and put in a pre-order, then snap to Twitter and tell everyone you caved, then log into Facebook and tell everyone you are going to commit terrible acts against them with a sniper rifle, and still get back to your TV show before the commercials are over. That’s just something I made up of course, but the point is the apps all run simultaneously and you can switch between them easily.
Kinect Fully Realized
To the Xbox 360 the Kinect was a peripheral camera aimed mainly at motion gaming with Microsoft slowly rolling out improvements like voice commands. The new Kinect is an integral part of the full gaming and multimedia package this time around. It boasts some major improvements too. It has two cameras with 1080p resolution shooting at 60 frames per second. The field of view is 60% larger than the original Kinect, making it a better fit if you do your gaming in a bedroom instead of a living room. The new cameras will react faster to your movements as well, potentially exponentially reducing the frustrating lag in motion games.
The cameras along with the microphones will do a better overall job of “knowing” you. This should allow for a person to take their experience with them just by bringing their face (and body presumably). Since the Kinect will be able to recognize you, applications ought to include something like instant user settings changes. If you’ve ever had a party gaming experience where you’re constantly flipping the Y axis between players you’ll know how helpful this could be.
The new Kinect should have a better shot at having cool new uses in hardcore games and for those of you with families the experience for casuals and kids is going to be that much better.
Don’t space out. I’ll try to make it simple because this thing matters. In my day Cloud based gaming meant playing Final Fantasy VII, but things have changed. Basically, the addition of cloud computing allows the Xbox One to let somebody else handle your processing for you. This would allow the Xbox One experience to get better over time since the console itself wouldn’t be doing all the work. The cloud was the best reason to keep the Xbox One connected online most of the time, but since certain ideas have been scrapped prior to release that leaves us wondering where cloud computing stands.
I have to do some speculating based on experience here but I don’t think there will be much of a problem now that the system can stay offline. Xbox Live subscriptions were huge, I think most Xbox gamers liked to be connected as often as possible anyway so cloud features probably won’t be derailed now that online connectivity is more of an option than a requirement. One bonus is that games with an integrated multiplayer feature like Forza will literally be a new experience every time. Single player experiences can be better too, imagine avoiding technical issues like frame rate hitches and screen tearing due to processing walls. Smoother games and dynamic experiences are things that all gamers should appreciate.
Another feature of the cloud is that developers get backdoor access back into their game. Instead of waiting for issues to pile up and then releasing patches, developers will be able to make instant changes to their games, including alterations to the achievements system. Imagine a weekend where rare achievements are up for grabs, or on-the-fly special holiday items in game.
How do we know they are serious about all this and “the cloud” isn’t just a talking point? Microsoft is kicking off this shindig with 300,000 more servers to handle the load.
Microsoft Is Rich
This is one of those facts that people can argue over until they are blue in the face, but on its face, this is a plus for people who get the Xbox One. If you watched E3 you saw that Insomniac is making Sunset Overdrive in conjunction with Microsoft Studios. That means the game won’t be going to PS4. But Titanfall? Dead Rising 3? I can pretty much assure you those games will land on the PS4 at some point. This means you’ll hear a lot of “We have no plans for other platforms at this time” when the press asks third party developers exclusivity questions. For now though Xbox One adopters have the benefit of early access to whatever titles game developers are willing to sell to Microsoft as a timed exclusive.
You can expect the same treatment when it comes to downloadable content, as often as is possible it will be coming to the Xbox One first. So if you just can’t wait to get your hands on things as soon as they are ready you can bet on this console always being first in line for the goods. We already know Battlefield 4‘s Second Assault DLC will be timed for it and there’s no reason to believe Call of Duty won’t keep up the same relationship.
There you have it in a handful of colorful points my dear consumers. If this sounds like the console with the experience you want to have, I say jump in.