Microsoft’s new console reveal Tuesday was an extravagant show with lots of bells and whistles. With appearances from members of Infinity Ward, EA, 343 Studios, and even Steven Spielberg himself, MS pulled out all the stops to entice people with their new entertainment center.
Keep those bolded words in mind, because Microsoft hammered them home throughout the press conference. Features were aplenty with the Xbox One; from fantasy sports integration to instant access to your cable, Microsoft made sure to emphasize their goal to dominate the living room. But while they were trotting out an extensive lineup of features and entertainment, one thing stood out – the severe lack of gameplay footage.
Almost everything that was shown at the big reveal wasn’t much of a reveal at all. We got glimpses of the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, a tech demo from EA Sports, and some high powered trailers for Forza 5 and the new IP Quantum Break. None of these featured anything that looked like gameplay to the naked eye. It was apparent to anyone familiar with the use of CGI in game trailers that these were cut scenes, not the main course.
So then why reveal anything at all? Let’s be clear here: the Xbox has always been a video game console, on which people play video games. Sure, as it has evolved it has gained plenty of secondary purposes that owners can take advantage of. Consolidating social media, movies, music, and sports into one concise package is nice and can cut down on the clutter of your entertainment system.
But games will always be the reason to own a game console. Microsoft themselves even emphasized the history of the Xbox name, focusing on the growth of their server base from mere hundreds in the early stages of Live to hundreds of thousands by the time the One launches. They have been a pioneer in online console gameplay, which makes their focus on everything but gameplay all the more puzzling.
Furthermore, why pay a premium for these services? Assuming that Xbox Live Gold will continue to be a paid service, the right to watch cable on your Xbox is still an extra fee on top of the check you’re writing to a cable provider. The same goes for Netflix, NBA League Pass, and the litany of other entertainment packages that can be accessed via the Xbox dashboard.
There are a whole lot of problems and questions that arise from the presser, from used game issues to the lingering concern over online connectivity. But the lack of gameplay and the continued focus on TV and media is a glaring red flag in the lead in to E3. Consumers and investors took notice, with Sony stock jumping up 9% in the wake of the reveal. If Microsoft wants to hit the ground running with the Xbox One, they better bring out the big guns in a hurry.
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