Microsoft on Tuesday used more Redmond-style math, unveiling the Xbox 360's successor, Xbox One. As in, the one machine you need for your home entertainment system. But is it the one we want?
While there was a lot of fanfare for the glossy pronouncements touting the One's Blu-Ray player, 500 GB hard drive, a new Halo TV series produced by Steven Spielberg, and the use of cloud servers to create a seamless user interface, a lot of details fell by the wayside.
I was able to ask José Piñero, senior director of Xbox Live Entertainment, a few questions by phone Tuesday, but with the Electronic Entertainment Expo starting on June 11, he had to hedge his answers quite a bit. Here are some things Microsoft wasn't terribly clear about the first time around:
1. The One won't be backward-compatible with Xbox 360. Piñero said the change in core processor (360 used PowerPC, while One has an x86, according to Joystiq.com) won't allow your eight years of discs or XBLA games to be playable on the new system. But when's the last time you played the first Gears of War, anyway?
2. One way or another, you'll be able to trade or buy used games. Piñero wouldn't go into specifics on reports that new games would have to be uploaded to the console to be recognized, thereby locking out used games without a pay-to-play code. He said only that "gamers will be able to trade and play used games." That's one to watch, because buying licenses to upload rented or used games could get expensive.
3. Gamerscores will move to the new system. "We recognize the achievements people have earned and their history with the system. That's super important," Piñero said. Plus, it will make it look like you've played your One for months right out of the box.
4. The One won't always need to be "on." There had been some rumors the console would always need to be connected to the Internet, but Piñero said that's not true. But in order to use most of the system's features, like Skype conferencing, Snap mode (which allows users to run more than one app at a time) and cloud storage, an Internet connection is required.
5. Xbox Live is probably not changing much. Piñero again couldn't go into detail about this one, but he did note gamers shouldn't expect a radical shift. "Nothing has been announced, but it's been so successful, I don't see the model changing anytime soon."
6. The One won't replace your cable box — or maybe it will. The ability to watch TV with a voice command was one of the first features shown, but the interface is still a question mark. Piñero said Microsoft's "partner-centric model" of providing live TV service is still in the works, but he hinted some vendors may potentially allow the One to replace your cable box, should your provider allow it.
7. The new Kinect is going to change how you use your Xbox. Piñero was most excited about the new Kinect, which is so much more sensitive that it uses voice and Minority Report-style motion controls, and can base your Xbox profile preferences on your voice or even your appearance in front of the camera. And what if two people stand in front of it? "It can recognize the dominant profile" and offer preferences based on that hierarchy, he said.
8. There will be scads of games announced soon. Tuesday's unveiling only featured a handful of titles, with Electronic Arts showing off four sports games plus Remedy's Quantum Break and Activision's Call of Duty: Ghosts, written by Syriana and Traffic scribe Stephen Gaghan. Immediately after the announcement, other titles like Watch Dogs, Thief and Bungie's long-awaited Destiny were among the names coming out of the woodwork. But E3 is where the big guns will be fired.
"Today was about announcing the system," Piñero said. "I can say we have more in development. E3 is about games, games and more games. I hope gamers can hold on until they see what's next."