This move pleased vocal critics who were angry about not being able to play games offline. Great for those folks, only that it’s now ticked off a whole new set of suddenly outspoken judges who immediately condemned the company for caving in on the benefits of its check-in-required features.
Yes, it’s a bit square on the outside, but the inside has a lot of forward-thinking features that gamers will want to know about now that the controversy is starting to subside.
1. Kinect is pretty incredible this time around
Kinect is still required operate the Xbox One and that irritates some privacy-concerned gamers, even though Microsoft has made it a point to say that it won’t be listening to your conversations.
"If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect," explained Microsoft earlier this month.
"To turn off your Xbox One, just say ‘Xbox Off.’ When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command – ‘Xbox On,’ and you can even turn that feature off too," it further clarified.
What’s left is a "rocket science-level" 1080p camera that can process an amazing 2GB of data per second. It certainly blows away the original VGA Kinect.
Here’s why: Besides its gaming capabilities, Kinect can sense when a person walks into the room and their skelton picks up a controller. No need to sync that controller via the Xbox Guide button anymore. That’s so last generation.
A second person just walked in the room? It knows to assign them as "Player 2." For us, that’s pretty darn smart.
2. Splitscreen seat-switching can be eliminated
One of the most exciting "why didn’t anyone think of this before" features that Microsoft told us about regarded the system’s ability to configure the sides of a splitscreen game based on where the players are sitting in a room.
Because the Xbox One controller has an IR sensor in the top and the Kinect picks up on its whereabouts, future games can set up splitscreen matches without the hassle of switching seats.
Microsoft mentioned that no games support this feature currently, but it’s a part of the system and can be utilized by developers at any time.
PlayStation 4 has this same splitscreen switching functionality built-in, but its add-on camera leads us to the next point.
3. Kinect included means 100% of people have it
Here’s another added benefit of the Kinect: it comes with the system out of the box, whereas the PlayStation 4 camera does not.
That means 100 percent of Xbox One owners will also own a Kinect 2.0. What percentage of PS4 owners are going to purchase the $ 60 (about UK£39, AU$ 65) camera add-on?
History has shown that PS3‘s Move controllers (generously counting people who bought more than one Move wand more than once) amounted to about 4.7 percent as of late last year. (4.7 percent of what?)
Would developers really going to cater to a similar 4.7 percent of the PS4 user base? Sony is likely to encourage it, so maybe there’ll be some features thrown its way by first-party developers, but that may just be a waste of valuable development time, all things considered.
Former Sega of America President Bernie Stolar is said to have argued with his own company in favor of the Dreamcast launching with the 56K modem, becoming the first home console to include one in 1999.
Without it, virtually no one would have played or developed an online Dreamcast game in the last decade. The same lesson may apply here.
4. Xbox One gamepad tweaked to near-perfection
The Xbox One gamepad‘s 40 innovations translate into making one of the best controllers ever made even better.
Right off the bat, we noticed that it’s lightweight, doesn’t sport a bulk battery bulge in the back, has closer together face buttons, and features a much-needed D-Pad redesign.
Sure the PS4 controller is leaps-and-bounds better than the PS3 controller, according to our extensive hands-on time with the DualShock 4.
But the Xbox brand controller was already closer to perfection before its 40 innovations, making it seem like it received less buzz.
And speaking of buzz, Microsoft put tiny force feedback motors into the Xbox One controller’s right and left triggers. Rumble hasn’t seen a bigger impact since Nintendo debuted the technology in Star Fox 64.
5. 15 first-party exclusives in the first year
Microsoft isn’t known for publishing a ton of triple-A, first-party games outside of Halo and Gears of War. Nevertheless, it promised 15 exclusives in the first 12 months of the Xbox One launch.
Well on its way to living up to that promise are new game franchises like Ryse: Son of Rome, Quantum Break, Project Spark, Sunset Overdrive, Below, LocoCycle, D4, and Crimson Dragon.
They join existing IP Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Minecraft: Xbox One Edition, Kinect Rivals, and Killer Instinct.
A new Halo game is on its way to Xbox One, but there’s little known about the game other than it will run at 60 frames per second. It might fall outside the 12-month window.
That means game number fourteen is Titanfall, which should be noted is coming out on the PC as well, and the last one is an untitled new franchise from Vancouver subsidiary Black Tusk Studios.
So while Microsoft has been known for buying exclusives while Sony produced heavy-hitters itself in the last generation, it looks as if it’s upping the in-house ante on the Xbox One.
6. Still has Call of Duty DLC as a timed-exclusive
Say what you will about Call of Duty, but the game breaks its own "best selling in entertainment history" record every year, and Call of Duty: Ghosts looks to be no different.
That means that CoD players owning one of Sony’s machine may have to wait up to an extra month to buy the supplemental maps and modes that come out post-launch.
7. Xbox One multitasking is slick
Another feature that Xbox One-owning gamers will appreciate starting in November is the ability to switch apps instantly and multitask on their new console.
Microsoft boasted an instant switching voice-controller feature with commands like "Xbox, game" and "Xbox, watch TV."
These voice commands are a plus, but it’s the lag-free switching is makes the user interface feel so lightweight compared to today’s clunky UI.
Having to press the slow Xbox 360 guide button and then the Y button just to exit into the dashboard and search for the next app you want to load will be a thing of the past.
8. SmartGlass, Twitch integration are established
While Sony is going with a proprietary second-screen option for PS4 by incorporating the PS Vita for some unique gameplay enhancements, Microsoft is opening its doors to rival devices with SmartGlass.
Outside of Microsoft’s domain, it also works with iOS and Android hardware, so more people may actually use Xbox One’s second-screen features.
Likewise, Microsoft has chosen to use the established Twitch live streaming video platform to host videos via its gameplay DVR.
PS4′s share button may not have the same built-in audience that’s always hungry for more gameplay video on a 24-7 basis.
9. Xbox One Cloud
Microsoft was pretty excited for the Xbox One’s use of the cloud, citing it as one of the many reasons gamers will want to be always online with the new console.
Although the check-in requirement has been dropped with the exception of the system’s initial setup, Xbox One will still make full use of the cloud when there’s an internet connection available.
Microsoft’s 300,000 servers for Xbox One give developers the ability to offload some of a game’s processing power, like AI, to the cloud, thus taking the system’s specs to an appropriate cloud-like level.
10. Achievements are carried over from 360
It may not count toward anything, but Xbox 360 achievements have kept gamers loyal to the Microsoft system for the past eight years.
Because the company is carrying over these Xbox Live bragging rights to the Xbox One, it’s going to be hard for any hardcore gamer to completely abandoned their achievements.
With Microsoft expanding the role of these rewards and promising a "new generation of achievements," there’s even more reason to stick around.
Both Xbox One and PS4 are shaping up to be the most feature-attractive systems to date in the ugliest, box-like chassis ever.
No matter, both Microsoft and Sony’s console have their own advantages.
That means the next console cycle is going to be even more competitive than the past 8 years, to which innovative developers and gamers are the real winners.