Reactions so far to last night’s unveiling of the new Xbox One have been tepid to say the least. Industry commentators and internet commenters alike have accused Microsoft of straying from their brief: failing to put gaming at the heart of their new console and concentrating too much on integrating TV.
But comparing today’s reactions with those that accompanied the 360’s launch back in 2005, it’s worth remembering that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
A report from the BBC on 1 December 2005 described Microsoft as “pitching the 360 as more than just a games console. It can also serve as a digital media hub”, before continuing to speculate that the console is “[laying] the foundations for a digital distribution system where games may no longer exist as shiny discs but as downloads.”
The 2005 report also repeats current worries over launch games, noting that “the big Achilles’ heel in the launch line-up is that there is nothing that hardcore gamers have not seen before” and that Microsoft is “missing a killer game for the Xbox 360 that provides a compelling reason to hunt down the machine.”
Of course, this is not to say that criticisms of the Xbox One are in any way unjustified. The lack of launch-titles for the One make Sony’s PS4 launch seem prescient in its focus on games, games, games. Similarly it goes without saying that Microsoft’s pitch to conquer the living room is nothing if not ambitious.
And this is without even considering the details from the launch that have so far received little attention. A live-action Halo series produced by Steven Spielberg? The "Quantum Break" title that is supposed to merge a TV show with a standard gaming experience? If anything these seem to be the more extravagant moves from Microsoft, rather than simply allowing you to switch quickly between TV and gaming - a feature that is smart in its execution but far from revolutionary in its conception.
As ever with console launches the best decision is to wait and see. Microsoft will certainly be expanding upon this initial launch with a follow-up at E3, and Sony too will be releasing more info about their console in June. Perhaps this will see a shift from Sony towards creating a purer gaming experience in reaction to Microsoft’s grab-bag of entertainment features.
Whatever happens at E3, reactions and speculation will continue to boil over in the UK and the US. When Kotaku searched through Japanese text-board 2ch to gauge the reactions over there, one anonymous commentator was particularly astute - “Western internet forums are on fire. lol”