Posted May 22, 2013 by Zeth in News

XBox One – A PR catastrophe in the making!

Xbox One site screen
Xbox One site screen

I gotta vent… I wanted to write an article but I’m WAY too tired to do that. I have a massive WTF screaming through my head since the Microsoft reveal earlier.. am I the only one? Ah balls to it, I’ll try and organise my thoughts into a post!

Straight off the bat the console looks ugly.. I mean the Xbox was no looker and the PS3 was a shiny George Foreman grill but the XBox One… it’s a damn satellite receiver from the 1990s for fucks sake! It’s square, has slatted venting and just looks like an awful prototype casing that should have been shelved… In short – it looks like a case you’ buy to make your home build media PC in…. and ironically that seems to be what Microsoft have done!
Scant time was spent on what the gaming prowess of the system is going to be.  Sure this is the initial reveal.  And I am keeping in mind that Microsoft had just an hour to cram in what they wanted to share with the world about their new baby, the Xbox One. Although whose choice was that?  Opting for the maximum “main stream” exposure they could muster seems to be the way the wanted to play it. Day time TV viewers are held in higher regard than actual relevant content it seems.

A stream of information was presented during the event – 8GB of DDR 3 RAM, 500GB Hard disk (non-removable), HDMI In and Out, newly designed 360 controller with programmable feedback triggers, box like a cheap set-top PC etc. They then launched into around 25 minutes of how you can watch live TV on your Xbox One. How you can Skype someone AND watch some TV at the same time! Well consider my mind blown!

Sarcasm aside though it was neat to see the Xbox One switching between the new desktop user interface (UI) seamlessly – a I’ll hazard a guess that Microsoft are using a Windows Virtual Machine and an Xbox Virtual machine that is then managed by the third intermediary OS they mentioned. Switching between apps and games was almost instant. The general UI looked like a slightly tweaked version of the current Xbox 360 dashboard – only this one actually managed to swap between blades and locate your stuff in good time, unlike the current 360 dash. Then they trumped it all by spending a large number of minutes showing just how well you can incorporate your Fantasy Football game in to the system.  All this whilst you actually watch the game on another part of the screen AND talk to your buddy over Skype at the same time.


Seriously what the hell Microsoft? Did you NOT watch the Sony PS3 reveal? Did you NOT see them bang on about being able to run multiple apps, switch between them whilst video calling and leaving your game ticking over in the background? Did you not sit back and giggle with heady delight when Sony took the gaming press and public by the haunches, bent it over and went “You take what we give you!”?

This feels like a large collection of middle aged, middle American business men sat around and used the word “leverage” and “social hooks” a lot in focus meetings. They looked at who they think their core audience needs to be – Joe Schmo mythical American who likes to watch Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, whilst talking to his buddies, drinking beer and organising his fantasy sports league! He then takes a break from this to probably pick up the Cheetos from his y-fronts and then shoots people in the face on Call of Duty – which he now has a pet dog in!

It feels like I just stepped back in time to be honest. Microsoft are pushing the unified entertainment system theory again – something I’ve seen tried countless times before. From the Commodore Amiga CDTV to the PS3 it’s been tried many times – maybe Microsoft can achieve this… but maybe they’ll lose a lot of the customers that drive their business in the long run.

So what about some of the burning questions? What about it being always on? What about DRM? What about used games? What about playing old disk games or accessing the hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros worth of content you’ve shelled out for on XBox Live? Once again Microsoft offered no clear and decisive resolutions to these problems – in fact once again Microsoft proceed to bend us over and tell us we should be grateful!

So, the good news. Yes you can buy and sell the products you’ve purchased (well thanks for that.. as they’re mine!). No clear answer as yet to HOW this will work only that “We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later.”. This throws up a question about families sharing a copy of a game – so for instance you buy Need for Speed: Most Wanted and the kids want to play it on the Xbox One in their room can they play it still? The consensus appears to be yes at this time. DRM seems to be unknown completely at this time. Rumours that the game will tie to you user account have been backed with a few “kind of” intimations from Microsoft but again they’re keeping that all close to the chest at the moment.

xbox one controller

What about always on? Ah, now… this is where things get a little muddy at best. In principle NO you are not required to have the Xbox One connected to the internet at all times. That said it will need to contact XBox Live once a day (according to this Kotaku article) to verify its license files…. Once… A … Day… Microsoft do also mention an offline mode, but again no details are given on this. The general thing appears to be “No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.” so yeah.. that clears that up….. The non-replaceable 500GB drive, in a system designed to be a PVR, that requires every game to be installed (and every game is on a Blu-Ray so sizes will balloon!) and be the centre of your media empire seems ludicrous. Sure you can add more storage via USB 3 but no word on how much or if this means memory pens or if it’ll take external drives over USB.

Yet the biggest kick in the balls is yet to come – no backwards compatibility. “Oh boo hoo it’ next gen!” I hear you call. It might be next generation BUT I’ve invested a lot of time and money on Xbox Live and, unless I want to keep another legacy console about, that’s about to be chucked to the wind.  Now I know PS4 has not backwards capabilities either but Sony are coming from an entirely custom built processor and architecture to the standard PC build. They’ve also made small references to access  older content via GaiKai.  Microsoft are moving from a legacy of PC builds to what appears to be another PC build console. It angers and perplexes me that these purchases are lost now unless I keep another box around. What impact will this have going forward on people being willing to part with $10 – $20 per digital arcade release, when they know they’ll have to kiss them goodbye at some stage. At least with a PC and Steam/Origin you know that game will be their for as long as the service providers are!

Anyway, I’ve rambled and ranted enough. I just feel, and many others seem to as well, that Microsoft dropped a massive “Thanks, I’ll call you in the morning” on those that have stuck with them over theses past years. They have their sites on a different market now and games are just a small, insignificant, part of that – a means to justify their current ends. The message seems to have gotten diluted, obfuscated and lost.  PR seem to be having a nightmare trying to lock down exactly what the system can and can’t do.  How it will impact gamers who have invested time and effort in the Xbox eco-system is unclear.  It feels very much like they produced a flashy show to appeal to those demographics that’ll be watching a national broadcast on TV – then as an after thought they could then mop up questions from the games press and Xbox subscribers via scraps of information put out through outlets… outlets like this one in fact. What’s happened though is that many different versions of the features included, or indeed missing, from the Xbox One have been strewn around the internet.  Microsoft’s reveal and the bullet points they want everyone to be buzzing about are getting lost under the tide of bemused journalists and consumers trying to piece together a cohesive picture.  It’s such a contrast to the Sony event where the messages were slick and clear with boundaries clearly defined about what we know and what we will know in the coming months.


All the sports, video calling, IE browsing and futuristic talking to your TV stuff just seems like it’s not meant for me as a core gamer – as a family gamer.  Or indeed as someone whose doesn’t just want to watch sports and tweak my fantasy sport league on my 50″ TV whilst I chug a brewskie with my bros.  A real sense of exclusion is what I’m trying to grasp at here. They went from being the under dogs to almost embodying what they derided all those years ago with the Sony release of the PS3.  Xbox was, and rightly so, The people’s champion. Flying in the face of the arrogant and dictatorial Sony with their media enhanced console experience. Sony realised this and went hat in hand to developers and core consumers this time out and asked them how they could best build the platform they needed to drive gaming.  PS4 has similar features to the Xbox One tacked on, but they were’t presented as main features. Nothing in the Microsoft conference screamed “next-gen”. We’ve seen it all before, just a little slower and less integrated on the XBox 360 or PS3. Sure you can talk to you console, it’ll recognise you, and then load things you tell it too but that technology is here, now.  Nothing left you with that “WOW!” factor you should be getting from a next generation console reveal.

Microsoft come out swinging for the fence and we all wanted them to do something spectacular.. in reality they’ve taken their bat and ball and gone to play in a different park leaving a confusing field of players wondering what’s next.


Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.