Friday, May 31, 2013

Xbox One: Nobody likes it

Having recently become a father, it's inevitable that my gaming habits change at least a little. For example my Xbox 360, which sounds like a chainsaw when it's running, is too noisy to play while Daughter is sleeping. Furthermore, not wanting Daughter to grow into a teenage sociopath who cusses at total strangers through a headset means not playing Call of Duty when she's nearby.

As such, it should be no surprise that my habits have seen a trend toward portable gaming as of late. My daily commute on the Saikyo Line is essentially a forty-minute hole in my schedule, begging to be filled with Angry Birds or what have you. Still, as a gamer for the past thirty years, how can I not be excited when it's time for new home consoles to come out? Ever since the North American release of the Super Nintendo in 1991, my instincts have told me that a new console's release is a rare thing, and a big event. (The only console I ever bought on the day of its release was the PlayStation 2 in 2000. I was in university. I skipped half a day of classes to "make sure it worked.")

So why am I completely unimpressed by everything I have heard so far about the Xbox One?

Stupid forever.

Granted, plenty of bloggers before me have expressed their disdain for Microsoft's next platform, so I doubt this post will shatter anybody's world. But I can't resist sharing my perspective on Microsoft's (horrifically botched) marketing of this upcoming console. Yes, it's a bad move on Microsoft's part to lock each copy of a title to the first console it's played on (the so-called "used game fee" controversy). I won't spend much time on that issue, but let's just say the used game lock alone is enough to stop me buying the Xbox One. But wait, there's more.

Starting on the day of the Xbox One reveal, Microsoft's Xbox newsletter started bombarding recipients with ill-conceived snippets of copy singing the praises of this big, ugly monolith of a machine. First came a message titled Xbox One: What It Is, which contained ingenious strands of advertising prose such as:
Xbox One delivers an entertainment experience like nothing before. Its innovative technology is rivaled only by its iconic design. Sharp corners and clean lines make for a sleek, modern console that complements any decor.
Apparently "iconic design" means IT'S A RECTANGLE. It has lines and corners. Sharp ones. Pro-tip, Microsoft. Next time make your game machine triangular. Triangles have even sharper corners.

As for complementing any decor, well...we'll see about that.

The quintessential American living room

A week later I found another newsletter in my inbox, this time with the title Xbox One: What It Does. My imagination ran wild at the though of what this beast could do. Maybe something like, "It cuts your fingers with its sharp corners."
From the moment you say "Xbox On," you'll be instantly recognized and welcomed by a personalized home screen with all your favorite games, apps, and content. 
Xbox One was designed for today's fast-paced lifestyle. It wakes up instantly when you say, "Xbox On," and even turns on your TV.
Great. So my wife and I will be setting up the entertainment center and I'll say, "Let's put the Xbox on the bottom shelf," and it will turn on my TV. Or my neighbor will be cutting lumber with a chainsaw and I'll say, "Do you hear that? Is the Xbox on?" and it will turn on my TV. Yeah, this is a great leap forward in convenience. And that's assuming the speech recognition is accurate. What if I say, "Hey honey, there are sex-bots on sale at Don Quijote?"

Apart from being a big, heavy, sharp-cornered, voice-activated remote control for your TV, Xbox One also wants very badly to be part of your television-viewing experience, despite there being no need for such a thing:
Connect your cable or satellite box to Xbox One, and watch all your favorite television shows right through the console. All your favorite channels. All your favorite shows. All with the sound of your voice.
WHAT'S THE POINT OF THAT? Adding an unnecessary "middle man" to my cable TV setup doesn't enhance convenience. It's like saying, "I'm going to travel from Italy to France, right through China." Unless I want my Law & Order marathon interrupted by a Red Ring of Death, what's my incentive to change a living room dynamic that's been impossible to improve since the early 80s?

The early 80s in summary

The sense I get is that Microsoft is trying again to do something they tried and failed to do with the original Xbox and the Xbox 360: make it the center of the household entertainment environment. But that goal in and of itself is archaic in a day and age where the living room is no longer the center of household entertainment. People like me, who watch more media on their computers than they do on TV are seemingly an unimportant segment of the public in Microsoft's marketing strategy. That is, unless Microsoft's goal is to stop people buying their computers, which I doubt (although if it were, that would explain a lot about Windows).

Microsoft's Xbox One marketing makes numerous incorrect assumptions about the market into which they plan to introduce it. They're going to need one hell of a killer app to win back all the customers they've lost with the Xbox One reveal. What's that killer app going to be?

Dead Rising: Zombie Nunnery?

Lego Halo?

DOA Extreme Sexual Harassment (better with Kinect™)?

Probably that last one.

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