After much build-up and a great degree of fanfare, Microsoft this morning finally unveiled its foray into the next generation of gaming. It's called the Xbox One, and you can watch TV on it. It also plays games.
If it's not obvious already, I've a slight problem with how Microsoft carried itself at the Xbox Reveal event. There were enough marketing buzzwords to fill a novel. There was fake, manufactured dialogue and awkward coupled with clumsily pre-rehearsed exchanges. More importantly, there seemed to be a rather strange oversight on Microsoft's part: for the first half of the keynote, they seemed to forget that they were unveiling a gaming console.
Indeed, a great deal more focus was placed on the many different ways that users could connect to their favorite television networks. Microsoft's Don Mattrick waxed at length about how One's enhanced Kinect software would allow users to seamlessly switch between channels and navigate the menus, on how you could watch and discuss video with all your Xbox Live friend, on how the Xbox One will make the experience of watching television more social and immersive.
"Xbox is about to become the new water cooler," gushed Microsoft Entertainment and Digital Media Head Nancy Tellem. "And this is only act one." No, I'm not entirely sure what she was trying to say either. Yes, I agree; that has 'buzzword' written all over it. Shortly afterwards, 343 Industries Head Bonnie Ross took to the stage to announce a new live-action Halo TV series. Then they started talking about fantasy football and Microsoft Smartglass.
Are you starting to see the problem here?
Perhaps I represent an anomaly in Microsoft's target demographic, but I haven't had a cable subscription for four years. I watch all my content online, streaming videos through Netflix and the like. To me, cable is largely irrelevant. Even then, I'm not terribly interested in having my viewing experience 'customized' to the degree Microsoft seems to imply - to be completely honest, if I want to do that, I'll buy a tablet or pop open my computer. Hell, I'll subscribe to one of the newer digital cable plans, which let you do that manually. What I'm interested in - and I'm assuming at least a few of you share my stance - is games.
Something tells me Microsoft missed the memo there.
Over the course of the entire event, a grand total of seven games were announced: four new EA Sports titles, Forza 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Quantum Break. The last one looks pretty cool. The rest, on the other hand? Same old stuff we've been seeing for years, and Ghosts isn't even an Xbox One exclusive.
At the moment, if you're a core gamer, there is literally no compelling reason to buy the Xbox One (at least, not until Microsoft reveals the other fifteen titles it supposedly has in development for the console).
Worse, aside from all the bunk about television, the only thing the Xbox One really has going for it at this point- the only thing which I feel definitively differentiates it from the Playstation 4- is Kinect 2.0 (and perhaps Smartglass). Admittedly, it's a pretty impressive piece of technology, and may well end up being one of the best motion-and-gesture control devices on the market. But is that alone enough to give the One an edge over the PS4?
Probably not. If you ask me, it's time Microsoft stopped dragging its feet, and started rethinking its marketing (and perhaps its next-gen strategy, at that). Because as it is, they've got most people laughing.
And not because anyone's excited about their new console.