You’ve seen the Xbox One’s glossy black chassis. You’ve followed its ups and downs—and the ups again. You’ve heard the argument for the competition. Now it’s time to take a look at Microsoft’s feature-packed console on its own merits.
Like we’ve mentioned before, the Xbox One is making a full court press for a broad spectrum of potential Xbox owners this generation. What began with the Kinect, a thrifty, hackable casual gaming revolution at the time of its launch, has evolved into a longitudinal strategy to woo not just hardcore gamers, but casual gamers, and—most experimentally—people who might not be gamers at all.
Here We Are Now—Entertain Us
If the Xbox 360 conjures images of headset-clad gamers battling it out on a multiplayer FPS map, eyes alight with a telltale green glow, the Xbox One shouldn’t really conjure an image of, well, anything. That’s because the Xbox One wants to be all things to all people, and those people don’t even need to be gamers at all.
See also: The Case For The Sony Playstation 4
If money wasn’t a concern, the Xbox One’s top-notch controller and bright, tiled UI would make for an excellent set-top solution for someone with no intentions of ever touching a game at all. Here’s why.
- HDMI passthrough. Microsoft wants us to watch TV (the normal kind, you know, that pumps in from the wall) on the Xbox One. In an ideal Xbox world, we’d never leave the confines of Microsoft’s virtual interface at all, because we wouldn’t need to. Early reviews suggest that the execution is clunky for the time being, but blending traditional TV with sources like Netflix and Hulu is undoubtedly the direction things need to be headed.
- Kinect 2. The Xbox One and the Kinect 2 are two peas in a pod. Bundled together (part of the explanation behind that steep $499 price tag), the Kinect 2’s voice and motion capabilities are interwoven deeply into the Xbox One experience. Control TV with voice commands, swipe through menus, and maybe even lose some weight in front of your TV for a change.
- Apps. Eight years ago, the idea of anything but games as a major selling point for a gaming console would be laughable. Now, imagine if a console launched without, say, Netflix. (It’d be a disaster.) Happily, Microsoft came out swinging with its launch app lineup, upping the the PS4’s ante and then some. Launch apps include usual suspects like Netflix and Hulu are joined by ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, HBO Go, Twitch, Machinima and more.
- Multitasking. Channel flippers have cause to celebrate. The Xbox One hardware and software was designed from the ground up to multitask. Switching from a game to a TV or Netflix or a movie is an instantly executed task, and you can even “snap” two things side by side and keep them running. This works for Skype, live sports, music, games and more.
Xbox Live Still Shines
Microsoft’s online platform for multiplayer gaming really came into its own during the Xbox 360’s reign, and it shows no signs of slowing down with the Xbox One. Of course, it pays to play where your friends do, but odds are that gamer buddies who’ve racked up a massive gamerscore—a cumulative number of “points” awarded for various in-game achievements— over the years might hunker down with the console lineage they’ve already invested thousands of hours in.
Xbox Live and PlayStation Network will both charge for online multiplayer play this generation, but Xbox Live has a more robust track record of seamless multiplayer pairings and other online goodies that will only be expanding with the Xbox One. Microsoft will also be giving loyal Xbox Live subscribers free games each month through 2014 through its Games With Gold promotion.
Games … For Now, At Least
The Xbox One might be a multitasking, home entertainment maniac, but it’s still got the heart of a gaming console—and the games to prove it. It’ll be months, maybe more than a year, before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One begin to properly fill out their gaming lineups, but it’s well agreed upon that the Xbox One has a launch day advantage.
And for early buyers, that makes a big difference. After all, you don’t want to wait around a year to use the thing, do you? There are 22 Xbox One games available now:
- Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
- Battlefield 4
- Call of Duty: Ghosts
- Crimson Dragon
- Dead Rising 3
- FIFA 14
- Fighter Within
- Forza Motorsport 5
- Just Dance 2014
- Killer Instinct
- Lego Marvel Super Heroes
- Madden NFL 25
- NBA 2K14
- NBA LIVE 14
- Need for Speed Rivals
- Powerstar Golf
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Skylanders SWAP Force
- Xbox Fitness
- Zoo Tycoon
- Zumba Fitness World Party
Like we always say, the best launch day strategy in our book is the “wait and see” approach. The PS4 launch had its fair share of quirks and total meltdowns, and the Xbox One’s opening moments are sure to be a little quirky, too. And remember: these consoles are designed to last an entire generation, and last time around that was a solid eight years. It’ll be years before we know which console has true staying power, but if you’re even slightly tempted to make an early leap of faith, you might as well explore the options in full.
Images via Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite