Xbox One: One Year Later

Xbox One: One Year Later

The Xbox One has undergone quite a transformation since it was unveiled back in May of last year. What was once the “All-in-One” entertainment device is now missing the Kinect and DRM restrictions that were supposedly necessities, and the console has shed $150 of its original asking price. The Xbox One is a different machine than Microsoft originally revealed, and with the console’s launch anniversary finally here, I asked the Gaming Trend staff how they feel about the system now that it’s been on the market for a full year.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Kenneth Shepard

If you had told me I would own the Xbox One on launch day after I was told to stick with the Xbox 360 if I didn’t have an adequate internet connection, I would have absolutely laughed in your face. But after being adamant that I wouldn’t buy the thing at launch for months, I still found myself sitting at my local Walmart to buy the thing at midnight.

My time with the Xbox One wasn’t pleasant. I loathed the Kinect, the system’s UI was designed for me to have to use it, and I wasn’t too big on much of the “subtle” changes made to the Xbox One’s controller from the Xbox 360. The D-Pad was improved, but still not what I preferred for fighting games like Killer Instinct (the only game I cared about at launch). Overall the thing just felt “compact” and too small compared to the almost perfect 360 controller (sans the mess of a D-Pad).

What led me to ultimately sell my Xbox One to a co-worker (other than the fact that there was money to be had in doing so) was that I looked at 2014’s line-up of games and realized that, despite my usual dismissiveness of the constant debates over resolution, I had no obligation to play my Xbox One when my more powerful PlayStation 4 was sitting right next to it and I don’t care about Microsoft’s four tent pole franchises.

My relationship with my 360 soured in the last two years before these new systems came out because I realized my gaming priorities didn’t line up with Microsoft’s. I didn’t like playing online, and I wanted games with characters and worlds I could be invested in. I found that in Sony’s first party studios, and I really admire the way that it nurtures its own IP.

As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft’s efforts to win me back are a generation-long process that will require it to show me that the Xbox One can have an identity tied to its own games, not the Xbox Live logo. Right now, Microsoft seems to just be trying to catch up to Sony’s messaging after its poorly-received unveiling. The Xbox One’s messaging is mimicking the PlayStation 4’s, but I don’t need a weaker PlayStation 4, Microsoft. Give me a reason that I would ever want to pick up an Xbox One controller instead of a PlayStation 4’s.

Sunset Overdrive is a start, but Microsoft’s not done yet.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Travis Northup

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love my Xbox One. I bought a PS4 and an Xbox One on the day of their release, and fully expected to play my PS4 more–this has not been the case. The Xbox One, to me, feels like a truly next-gen console, because it’s different than any console I’ve ever owned, and the Kinect (a point of hot contention on the console) is actually the perfect example of why.
I work during an overwhelming majority of my waking hours, and so when I’m sitting on the couch I’m the laziest person ever. I mean, REALLY lazy. I’m so lazy that I bought a digital copy of Destiny, because I didn’t want to get up and get the physical version that I already owned and put it in my console–yes, THAT lazy. I don’t like to fiddle around with a controller while I eat tacos and watch Netflix, so the Kinect is my best friend. I use Bing voice search to find a game I want to buy instead of searching for it in the store, and I tell my xbox to turn itself on, so that I don’t have to get up and grab a controller.

I also am a huge advocate for the “snap” feature on Xbox One, which is another thing we’ve never been able to do on a console. Whether I’m watching my Giants win the World Series while running a raid on Destiny, or snapping my friends list to shoot out a few instant messages to my friends without ever leaving my game, the snap functionality has become a core feature to how I use my console.

But by far the thing that has surprised me the most about the Xbox One, and is something that I can safely say can only be found on that console, is the feeling that I am shaping what the Xbox becomes. The Xbox One that launched a year ago, and the Xbox that I have today are two completely different consoles. I was invited to the Preview program on the month that the One launched, and have been vigorously offering my feedback each and every month. Here’s the thing though: most of the feedback I’ve given have been implemented in future updates! Snapping achievements, customizing the dashboard, and being able to buy games using Smartglass were all features that I personally asked for as part of the preview program, and they were added shortly thereafter.

The Xbox One was certainly the underdog when it launched a year ago, and the same can be said today, but the experience seems to have humbled them, and every Xbox One owner is benefitting from that renewed vigor. Some gamers will argue that the better exclusives on the Xbox One are what makes it the best, others will argue that the performance advantage of the PS4 makes it the best. I don’t have to care about either of these, because I own both (and a PC and a Wii U), but so far I enjoy the Xbox One more for its originality. I’m excited to see my console continue to evolve, and am proud to say that I love my Xbox One.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Justin Pauls

Xbox One is, besides my moderately aging PC, the next generation for me at this time. With a limited time and budget, I couldn’t justify both consoles. The main body of staff on the site went Playstation 4 at launch (you’ll notice 2013 reviews for Xbox One titles were generally from myself or Ron).

With the power of hindsight, 2013’s console was a mess. Even today there are features and functions that the Xbox 360 did better – for instance being able to have a games music track dropped in favor of your own), however the Xbox One today is vastly different from the Day One model I had.

I can honestly say that I use my Kinect daily. I walk into the room, and using my disapproving dad voice say “Xbox On”. While playing when the phone rings, “Xbox Mute” works like a charm and if I don’t feel like navigating to certain areas I will traverse using my voice. I’ve found that alternate methods such as the Xbox Remote can be useful but has its limits. Smartglass is also vastly improved, but with no cable service some of the biggest improvements in that interface are lost on me.

There is a list of over a hundred improvements since last year (major nelson posted http://majornelson.com/2014/11/05/hundreds-new-features-delivered-xbox-ones-first-year/ – numbered list on news.xbox.com), and allowing streaming video, MKV and external hard drive support are some of the ones at the top of my list.

As for gaming, there has been so much focus on visual fidelity (resolutiongate, 1080p/60fps, blah blah blah) that matter not a lick when you fire up a game. We’re not talking about the drastic differences seen between Wii and PS3/360 versions, but minor issues. Furthermore, some of the features that Kinect adds (Anna on Forza Horizon 2, for instance) can help flesh out a game.

Admittedly there has yet to be a “must have” Kinect game, and I fully support the idea of decoupling the camera over keeping it saddled and losing marketshare over it. But the thing is, the rest of the console including the video-in integration for TV is a really nice option. Furthermore, I hope the new TV Tuner ends up coming to North America – if they can add some PVR function to it would be phenomenal.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Ron Burke

Let’s get this out of the way – I absolutely and completely hate the interface of the Xbox One. I think it is the most poorly designed UI I’ve ever seen and I’ve been working in the IT industry for nearly 20 years. The metro tab system isn’t a user interface but instead a vehicle to push ads. Seriously – I want to go back to the Xbox 360’s blade system.

I think the Xbox One was doomed from the start, and the visceral reaction to the “0 games shown” reveal should have been a wakeup call. People are cutting their cord to cable TV, not looking to integrate it further into their entertainment system. Throw in a tiny and horribly slow hard drive and then try to couple it to DVR functions and you have a mismatched system. Call me crazy but I buy my game consoles to play games.

But that was then.

Don’t get me wrong, the UI is still garbage, and the hard drive is still what you might find in a laptop in the mid 90s, but there have been so many improvements to the system itself. The horrible hour-long installs seem to be completely erased from existence, replaced by a slick auto-loading and updating system that simply works without my intervention. The system supported DLNA while Sony continues to fumble that ball in profound ways. Netflix works without me having to uncheck HDMI protection like you do on the PlayStation 4, and there is support for formats like .wmv and .mkv. Chat systems now work as intended and allow you to set up a party across multiple games. External hard drives like the one I reviewed from Western Digital allow you to bypass the 5400 RPM internal drive, expanding the storage to a reasonable amount. Custom backgrounds are a thing again, and Games with Gold is finally delivering on its initial promise of quality games for those of us who subscribe.

So here we are a year later with Sunset Overdrive, Titanfall, Forza Horizon 2, and others under its belt, the system is hitting its stride. We are still seeing some technical hurdles, but the Xbox One is clearly here to fight. I may have paid $150 bucks more than everyone else, but I’m not disappointed that I own the console anymore.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Stefan Alexander

I never really considered getting an Xbox One, I’ve been a pretty diehard PlayStation player since the original first came out. I’m not the type of gamer who buys up every system for every generation (AKA loaded), but I’m also not the type to militantly support a system in perpetuation of a console war.

Every console, with some exception, is good in its own way and it seems silly to argue over something as subjective as who is having the best time playing games. However, even I couldn’t help but notice the rocky start Microsoft had on the launch of the Xbox One. Even before its release, the system was haunted by Internet rants ranging from higher pricing, concerns over privacy, and stricter copy protection controls.

Even though Microsoft backpedaled on many of these issues (most notably by removing the Kinect as an essential part of the bundle and lowering the pricing options), the damage may had already been done as the sales figures for the PS4 continue to outshine those for the Xbox One. It’s true that I never really intended to buy an Xbox and I’ve been more than satisfied gaming with Playstation all these years, but it is nice that most of my friends have jumped over to my side this generation; it makes for much better online multiplayer.

Xbox One: One Year Later

Josh Devlin

Before the launch of both the Xbox One and the PS4 last year, there was a ton of speculation as to how the two console behemoths would match up. Last gen, Microsoft hit the ground running with the success of the Xbox Live Arcade and their streamlined, user-friendly online multiplayer experience. These initial innovations caught the eye of the consumer and led to most people choosing the Xbox 360 as their first console purchase from the last generation. We, as well as the console manufacturers themselves, understand the importance of establishing that strong player base early. The majority of software sales are from third-party titles, and with the online multiplayer and social aspect of these games being more prevalent than ever, playing these games on the console that all your friends already have is a big part of choosing which gaming system to purchase.

When we first got official announcements about the PS4 and Xbox One, Sony was upfront about being a console for gamers, whereas, Microsoft suffered from a mess of convoluted messaging, a shaky stance on DRM, and what seemed to be a drastic misunderstanding of what their customers wanted. Gamers responded in kind, and the PS4 ran way out in front of the competition and hasn’t slowed down much since. They established that early player base and have created a healthy (but not perfect) online ecosystem.

Microsoft, behind new boss Phil Spencer, felt that they were in a good position relative to their successor’s one year after launch, but realized they were losing market share to their most direct and formidable competitor. The holiday games were coming, and expected to help boost sales, but was it too little too late? Fast forward to mid-October, when Microsoft announced the temporary price drop to the Xbox One and Xbox One bundles. This move was, undoubtedly, a reaction to the ever-growing gap between the sales numbers of the Xbox One and PS4. But was it enough?

Well… the answer is, we still don’t know. Microsoft has said that the console sales have tripled in the month of November and have surpassed Sony’s figures for the month thus far. But take those numbers with a grain of salt as Forbes reports those numbers don’t mean quite as much as you’d think. Again, we’ll have to wait until the holiday shopping season is over before we can make any further market share judgments. As for myself, I’ve been a PS4 owner since launch and have seen no reason to buy an Xbox One … until now. I’ve bought into the price drop (especially with the Black Friday deals) and have already purchased three Xbox One games that are ready and waiting for when I get the console in a couple of weeks.

The bottom line is that the PS4 had the launch games I wanted and was $100 less than the Xbox One. As the two consoles sort of stabilized, neither one was releasing any major top-of-my-list exclusive titles, so all the new third-party releases I bought for my PS4. Now, with a price drop and a few great Xbox One exclusives–Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection (where are Sony’s exclusives?)–I’ve decided to get the Xbox One … and I couldn’t be more excited.

So what do you think of the Xbox One? Are you still angry about the system’s reveal, or has Microsoft managed to entice you to buy the system? Let us know in the comments!

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