WEST PALM BEACH, FL, May 22, 2013 – After months of breathless anticipation, Microsoft last night publicly launched its next-generation gaming system, Xbox One.
The new console, which resembles a square, black box rather than a sleek video game console, is poised to take over not only gaming, but your entire entertainment spectrum.
In an apparent effort to bring the console out of the basements and bedrooms of 14-year olds, Microsoft is emphasizing the new system as an all-in-one entertainment option. Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, said, “We’re thrilled to unveil the ultimate all-in-one entertainment system.”
While the new box does promise enhanced gaming, it also lets owners watch TV, Skype, listen to music, and rent videos.
The change is not all that surprising. According to public research firm Nielsen, just over 50% of Americans connect their gaming consoles to their televisions and use the boxes for either TV viewing or watching movies. The same survey shows that 22% of the time consoles are used to stream videos from the Internet.
The study corroborates independent research from Microsoft, which reported in late 2012 that owners of Xbox 360 spend more time watching movies, streaming video, watching TV or listening to music than playing video games.
Xbox One hopes to capitalize on that trend and meet all the family entertainment needs.
Among the offerings the company highlighted last night are deals with Steven Spielberg and the National Football League. Spielberg will produce a television series based on the “Halo” games, while the NFL is partnering with Microsoft to develop an interactive television experience.
The new console allows users to run multiple programs simultaneously. Gamers can open a window to check football scores, access the Internet, or call up a fantasy football sidebar while watching an NFL game.
Of course, the new Xbox will still provide gaming options to the faithful. Among the upgrades are higher definition graphics, better sound and Smart Match, which identifies online players of similar skills to play against each other. There is also an in-console DVR to facilitate recording and sharing game highlights.
The new console comes with a new controller with “more than 40 technical and design innovations,” according to Microsoft, which automatically links the controller with Kinect. Other controller upgrades are an updated d-pad and vibrating triggers.
Downsides, as always, include that you will not be able to play all those Xbox 360 games on the new console. According to Microsoft, “We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud.”
The company is promising to deliver 15 new games in the first year of launch, which will include the popular EA sports games Madden NFL, NBA, and FIFA, as well as a new Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch Dogs.
Thanks to the Kinect camera that is included with each Xbox One and the voice command-driven interface, Xbox One will respond to voice and gestures to control both the console and the television. You can tell Xbox One to change the channel, find the basketball game or look for a movie to rent. You turn on the console buy telling Xbox to turn on and once it recognizes you with its camera, Xbox One will load individual home pages without users having to log in.
Despite the high profile launch, much about the Xbox One remains unknown to the public. More details will come at the E3 gaming conference in Redmond and the June 10 press event. The console, with an unknown price tag, should be available around the 2013 holiday season.