Xbox One: Microsoft's one console to rule them all

Sleepy geeks across New Zealand woke up at 5 AM this morning to take a look at Microsoft's latest addition to the console wars, the Xbox One. General consensus seems to be Microsoft has another hit console on its hands – but many here in New Zealand are apprehensive about how many of the features announced this morning will make the flight across the Pacific Ocean.

The One will launch later this year in time to compete with the Playstation 4 for your hard-earned Christmas dollars. Just how many of your dollars it will cost is not known yet. What we do know is what's in the box.

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Hardware

First and foremost, Microsoft has finally jumped onto the Blu-Ray bandwagon – which with a much larger storage capacity than the DVDs it's been using for the past eight years means (hopefully) a farewell to the days of switching discs in the middle of playing a game.

The black box design is a throwback to the original Xbox. It's a hefty looking unit.

The new Xbox has an octa-core chipset, with 8 GB of ram. The 500 GB of storage means a lot more space for game saves and downloading content. The One's innards will quickly be out matched (and already is) by what's achievable by building your own gaming PC, but it will be more than enough to power the console's games and entertainment system for another eight years.

Kinect

Bundled in every box is Microsoft's latest generation Kinect motion and audio sensor. The Kinect sensor has the same design aesthetic as the console and is larger than the previous generation. The size is to fit in new sensor equipment, including improved microphones to pick up audio commands. If you've used the Kinect microphone as a remote you'll know how hit or miss that can be, demoed on stage the latest version looks promising.

The camera's been revamped too, increasing the resolution and improving minute gesture recognition to better control the console from afar.

Controller

The Xbox One controller has largely retained its shape and style, with the familiar XYAB configuration we're all used to. It's been designed to work closely with the Kinect sensor, for instance giving users the ability to sync in new controllers by holding it to the Kinect's camera view. A vibration motor in the triggers now give feedback when the triggers are pulled.

Games

Strangely for a games console launch there weren't many examples of gameplay shown this morning. There are 15 games which have been announced as exclusives for the new console and gaming giants EA and Activision say they're launching their popular titles on the platform.

Unfortunately for people who've amassed a collection Xbox 360 games over the past eight years, you won't be able to use them on the Xbox One. There's no backwards compatibility as the One uses a different chipset architecture to its predecessor and games built for one one architecture do not work on the other. This wasn't unexpected, supporting games for an eight year old system would have Microsoft falling into the same trap it often builds in its Windows operating system business. Sony's upcoming Playstation 4 doesn't have backwards compatibility either.Skype

Microsoft purchased Skype two years ago and has since been busy rolling it out as an integrated product in its operating systems. The Xbox is now the getting the same treatment.

Using the Kinect's camera players can take Skype calls while they're playing a game, picture-in-picture-style. Combined with the Game DVR feature which lets you record your game play, this will no doubt result in hundreds of hours of hilarious videos showing people's awkward game faces.

Xbox Live content

The One is designed to be just that – the one media box in the family living room (or at least the one people actively use). In the US content deals such as NFL partnership, ESPN, Netflix and HBO GO (Game of Thrones!) makes the One a viable king. In territories such as New Zealand where Microsoft doesn't provide any of these services the Xbox is for the most part just a gaming device.


Idealog has contacted Microsoft New Zealand for more information about which services will be available in the country at the time of launch.