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Last week, Microsoft finally pulled back the curtain on their much anticipated Xbox 360 successor, now named the Xbox One. To say that reactions around the internet were tepid would not be doing reactions justice. Negative voices always seem to overpower positive in volume, if not number, but I feel it’s safe to say that negative reactions were larger in number as well. Moving beyond general reactions though, what does this mean for what Microsoft is doing and for gaming consoles from this point on.

It took 28 minutes for Microsoft to discuss games for the Xbox One (and am I alone in thinking X-One is a better name?). Prior to that, they focused on streaming movies, running your cable television through your Xbox, and how a required Kinect sensor would make watching TV easier via the use of voice and motion controls (yes, easier). I won’t pretend that the 360 or PS3, and even the Wii to some extent, were 100% dedicated gaming machines. Heck, when my 360 is on, it’s for Netflix streaming about 1/3 of the time. Up to this point in time, however, these systems still existed primarily to play games. The extras (Netflix, IE, Facebook, etc…) were just that, extras that could be utilized. With this console, I feel that Microsoft sent the signal that they are broadening their scope to the point that “gamers” will no longer be the most sought after consumer group, but will be equal with those looking for an all-encompassing media machine.

Is this a mistake? Not necessarily. Nintendo expanded their focus with the Wii and scored a huge win, though the difference there is that they sought to turn non-gamers into gamers, whereas I don’t believe Microsoft is searching for that. Microsoft wants to cater to existing audiences by expanding their machine, as opposed to expanding the audience with the machine.

Of the games shown, one was an FPS (the next iteration of Call of Duty), while the others were sports games. Again, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. EA sells a butt-load of these games and it’s probably a sound strategy on their (Microsoft’s) part to showcase a special agreement for timed exclusivity (I think, need to follow up on that one) of future sports titles. The downside to this focus is that they chose to showcase games that feature very little innovation over what is offered in this generation. Innovation isn’t a must for all new games, but when showcasing a new console, isn’t it important to display what makes it different from the competition? Yes, these games were gorgeous, but that alone leads to the question…

When are graphics no longer enough? I asked my wife this towards the end of the Gamecube/PS2/Xbox era, prior to the unveiling of the Wii/PS3/360. It was a legitimate question then and remains one now. Nintendo leaned heavily towards reduced graphical power with a new input method and scored big. The 360 and PS3 started with the status quo, but eventually followed suit with Kinect and Move respectively. Now, Kinect 2.0 expands and improves upon the original, and that is innovation outside of graphical improvements. Again though, how will they be implemented? I feel that Microsoft chose a very safe route with what they showed, game wise, by really focusing on the the graphical abilities (individual arm hairs!).

Now, in conclusion I’ll openly admit that I’m making many, many assumptions off an hour conference. Microsoft can, and probably will, address many of these issues at E3 in a few weeks. The bigger picture is that the new normal seems to be that gaming consoles have to be more than gaming consoles. I really don’t understand this, and judging from the reactions of committed gamers, I’m not alone here. I like to play games. I’m not concerned with accessing Facebook (I can do that on my computer), checking sports scores (I have ESPN), or having someone pop up on my screen while I may be watching a movie. This isn’t appealing to me. I want games, and if you want my money at this point, you have to make those games be worth that money, not make the console a multi-media machine. Sorry Xbox, I may end up owning your newest sibling at some point, but it will always be for the games, not for the bells and whistles your console throws at me when I’m not playing those.