Microsoft is finally joining the eighth generation of videogame consoles — and its system is meant to make every other system obsolete. Meet the Xbox One, described alternately (and often simultaneously) as “instant,” “simple,” “complete,” “interactive,” and “personalized.” It’s apparently equal parts computer, console, and TV, continuing the tectonic technological conjoining that was kickstarted three generations ago with the Playstation.
In an hour-long launch event today, Microsoft unveiled Xbox One and its many new features, some of which are scintillating and some of which are silly. It also debuted some exclusive partnerships (Spielberg! Call of Duty!), almost all of which are potentially awesome. The highlights, below:
Halo: Okay, so Peter Jackson’s Halo movie never happened. But this is far from second-best: Steven Spielberg is producing a live-action Halo TV series with 343 Studios.
“Can we take what you love and make it better?” That’s the basic question Microsoft is asking, and answering, with the Xbox One. The solution is an all-in-one system that “harmonizes” (an important word) your TV, computer, and console. But it isn’t just being marketed as a next-gen next step — no, company execs say they’re aware of the changing, fractal videogame landscape. Casual and core; streaming; movies, TV shows; Netflix. This encompasses all of that.
Intelligent TV: The One responds to both your voice and your movements. Yes, that means you can say “Xbox, watch TV” to watch TV. It also means you can minimize your viewing screen with a two-handed pinching gesture, and “grab and pan” or “swipe up.” It also means that you can voice-search for your favorite programming with “Xbox One Guide,” as well as save favorites and see shows your friends and the entire Xbox community are watching and loving.
Snap mode: For multi-taskers, “snap mode” allows you to run multiple programs alongside each other without closing either. In practical terms, this means you can surf the Internet in a side-bar while watching Star Trek.
Instant switching: The Xbox One is able to switch from TV to music to movies to gaming, and back, in a blink. “No more changing inputs,” they said — and they meant it.
The specs: The Xbox One has 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 500 GB HDD while the Kinect sensor has been “completely redesigned.” The operating system is actually three: the best parts of Windows, Xbox, and something that bridges the two. Meanwhile, the controller has been tweaked 40+ times, with a new battery pack, triggers, and D-pad.
Xbox Live: The Xbox One will debut with 300,000 servers. Right now, Live runs on 15,000.
Fantasy football: Microsoft is expanding its partnership with the NFL, integrating the fantasy football game with your TV. Hopefully you’re thinking, “That sounds awesome! That also sounds like we need more information!”
Call of Duty: We already knew that the next COD game would be subtitled Ghosts. But did you know that Xbox will exclusively launch content for it? And that writer-drirector Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) was involved? The gaming footage was fancily high-powered in the usual way (COD has never been my flavor of choice) but it’s the single most lucrative gaming franchise in the world right now and now it’s an Xbox exclusive.
Now’s the time for questions and doubts: Is Xbox One entirely voice-controlled — or even designed to privilege spoken commands? What if you’re having a party? What if you’re mute? Does anyone else think the sleek, boxy new console shell looks like a less Coliseum-y version of the PS3? And when the suits say “later this year,” do they mean next spring or am I just being mean to Reggie Fils-Aime?