Xbox One: First Thoughts

So let’s get this out of the way first: Xbox One is a stupid name. I’m vaguely aware that the idea behind it is probably that there should be ‘one’ box under your telly that does everything, but it just sounds like it’s the first ever Xbox. I’ll bet they spend AGES thinking it up too, which just makes me sad. Still, Xbox 360 was a stupid name too, but that never hurt its chances.

One of the most exciting design features of the Xbox One is that it floats.
One of the most exciting design features of the Xbox One is that it floats.

Second, my god it’s fat. Seriously, that box is MASSIVE. The fridge school of console design. Perhaps it’s the ‘one’ box under your telly because it ate all of the other ones. Where’s the form factor? Where are the ergonomic curves? Why have they made an enormous two-tone desktop PC? And then you’ve got to find somewhere to put that bloody huge Kinect sensor as well.

Speaking of which, why does everyone at Microsoft think that talking and waving at your telly is the future? I’ll be the first to admit that Kinect is clever, but is it any more than a novelty? As I was watching the reveal last night, one of a series of anonymous men in suits walked onto the stage and started barking commands into thin air: “Xbox! Trending!” “Xbox! Go home!” All I could think was: “My god he sounds like a tit.” But thanks to Xbox One, now I can sound like a tit in the comfort of my own home.

Speaking of that reveal, there was an awful lot of talk about using your Xbox to watch TV… but can’t we just, you know, use a TV to watch TV? I’m still not entirely clear on what the benefits of watching TV through an Xbox actually are. There was talk of ‘instant switching’ between movies, games and TV, like we’re all ADHD children with an attention span of 10 seconds. I can’t think of a reason I’d want to instantly switch back and forth between all of these things, unless perhaps I was watching a porn movie and my girlfriend walked in.

Apparently the control pad has "40 new design innovations", although we have to guess what they are. Perhaps it's made of cork so it floats if you drop it in the bath?
Apparently the control pad has “40 new design innovations”, although we have to guess what they are. Perhaps it’s made of cork so it floats if you drop it in the bath?

I’m aware that all of this sniping just makes me sound like an Xbox hater, but the truth is that there was nothing in the presentation last night that made me get excited about the new console. I don’t care about Kinect, I hardly ever watch TV and I never play online, so there was very little that appealed to me. Then when they finally, FINALLY got round to talking about the games, they were just the same old bombastic blockbusters – Forza, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. Not only do these types of games leave me cold, they’re also available (for the most part) on the PlayStation 4, so where’s my reason to buy an Xbox One?

Then there’s the really irritating stuff. Details are still a bit sketchy, but it seems that any games you buy will be downloaded to your machine and tied to your Xbox Live account, which puts a big question mark over the whole pre-owned market. It seems that Microsoft will ‘allow’ (huh!) second-hand games to be played on your console, but you may have to pay a fee for the privilege. Then there’s the question of lending games to friends – apparently you can play your games on a friend’s Xbox One if you sign into your account on their machine, but presumably this isn’t an option if you want to lend it to them long term. It all sounds a bit Big Brother to me, and these innovations benefit only Microsoft and the big publishers, not the consumer.

Oh, and it’s not backwards compatible with the Xbox 360 either. So that’s a bit shit. Looks like you’ll have to keep two big boxes under your telly for the time being.

So all in all, rather than being excited, I just got a bit annoyed by the new Xbox One. Aside from fancier graphics, I’m not entirely sure why it’s better. Feel free to enlighten me.

[As penned in perplexity by Lucius Merriweather.]