Xbox One: One Year Later

Xbox One: One Year Later

Xbox One launched on November 22, 2013 in North America and Europe and September of 2014 in much of Asia. As of November 2014, 10 million Xbox Ones have shipped to retailers.

Technical Specifications

The Xbox One ships with custom made x86-64 AMD 1.75 Ghz 8-core (2-quad core) Jaguar processor, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM (5 GB of which is available for games), and an 853 MHz AMD Radeon GCN graphics card (inside the APU). There is a built in disc drive capable of playing Blu-Rays, DVDs, and CDs. The console also currently ships with a 500GB internal hard drive.

The console is capable of outputting at 4k, 1080p, and 720p. The console is capable of 7.1 surround sound, outputted through an HDMI cable. The Kinect camera is capable of 1080p. WiFi is outputted at 802.11n, b, and g. There are three USB ports, an additional HDMI 1.4 in/out, S/PDIF, IR-out, and an Ethernet port.

Xbox One Kinect

Xbox One Kinect

The initial offering of the Xbox One did not ship with any optional components. The Kinect and one controller were shipped with the console. Due to lackluster sales, at least in comparison with the PS4, Microsoft has elected to offer to offer a standard edition (without a Kinect) and a Kinect edition of the console (in addition to the game package editions). Without the Kinect, the price is approximately $100 (USD) less than with the Kinect.

Game Library

Titanfall

Titanfall

There are currently 115 games available to the Xbox One, as of November 29th, 2014, 14 of which are exclusive to Microsoft. The five best selling games are Titanfall, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Dead Rising 3, and Forza 5 Motorsport. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are the only non-exclusives in this group. Other popular games include Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Grand Theft Auto V, FIFA 15, Destiny, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and an assortment of sports games (Madden 14 and 15, NBA 2k14 and 15, NBA Live 14 and 15, NHL 14 and 15).

Only Halo is an exclusive in this list. Arguably, the premiere exclusive titles for the Xbox One are Titanfall and Halo. Halo is a remake of Halos 1 through 4.

Microsoft’s Xbox One Business Model

DRM controversy

DRM controversy

Microsoft’s initial conception of the Xbox One was met with intense criticism. Initially, Microsoft planned to introduce DRM into their gaming library, with a requirement for the console to check online every 24 hours for authentication purposes. Even more concerning to consumers was a tacit implication that resale of Xbox One games would be disallowed without an activation fee. Family sharing (a version of which Sony is now trying to launch) and disc free options were initially planned. The Kinect also had a connection requirement.

After Microsoft’s E3 press conference on June 10, 2013, criticism become more rampant and scathing. On June 19th, Microsoft reversed their decisions by announcing that the used game model would remain the same as the Xbox 360 library. They also dropped the licensing and DRM requirements. Family sharing and disc free features were also dropped. Microsoft also eventually changed the Kinect connection requirement (which now greatly helps Xbox One sales). Because of the last minute changes to the console, Microsoft was set back in initial features for the console.

Microsoft’s initial conception of the Xbox One was met with intense criticism

The Xbox One was (and continues to be) marketed as an all encompassing media device. There are several apps that were offered at launch and several new ones that continue to be added, at least in the United States. Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO Go, Encore, Starz Play are just a few of the apps that are currently available. Many of these apps are not available on the PS4. That being said, the primary reason for buying a game console is for the games, something that Sony has successfully marketed with their PS4. A person who wants to buy hardware solely for app support would be better off saving money with an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon TV or other similar device.

Hardware

Call of Duty comparison

Call of Duty comparison

Of the games listed on IGN for Xbox One, 25 games have a resolution listed as less than 1080p. In comparison, of the games that have been released on both the PS4 and Xbox One, only three PS4 games have a resolution less than 1080p. Although the processor for the Xbox One is slightly faster than the PS4’s processor, the graphics processor on the PS4 is substantially faster, making the graphical differences between the games somewhat pronounced when evaluating side by side.

However, other than the argument of the PS4 having a higher graphical power, the resolution argument is mostly moot. Most people, other than looking at side by comparisons provided throughout the Internet or trying to rationalize a purchase of the PS4 over the Xbox One, would not be able to distinguish between various resolutions. Additionally, although there are some pronounced differences between individual games on the PS4 and Xbox One (especially sharpness and graphical detail), the difference is arguably minimal.

Interface

Xbox One UI

Xbox One UI

The interface for the Xbox One has not changed substantially over the course of the last year, though there have been numerous additions to the UI and features that have improved the overall Xbox One experience. The best added features are arguably DLNA support and optional inclusion of up to two external hard drives, neither feature of which is currently on the PS4 (though the PS4 hard drive can be changed without voiding the warranty). Functionally, the Xbox One interface is similar to the Xbox 360, in that there are pages by category. Backgrounds, Twitter support, and social features such as party groups and showcases have been recently included. The Xbox Live Store is, however, an absolute train wreck. It is difficult to navigate and find games, especially finding add-ons.

The Xbox Live Store is an absolute train wreck

One feature that Microsoft added to the Xbox One at the launch was the ability to watch TV through the Xbox One. In order to utilize this service, you can have to run an HDMI cable from your satellite/cable box to the Xbox One, then another from the console to the TV. In essence, it is a tacit HDMI pass-through. However, this feature only works if the Xbox One is on. Without the Xbox One on, the TV feature doesn’t work, which means that you have to have the console on whenever you want to watch satellite/cable. Additionally, the quality of the picture is far inferior, especially in terms of contrast, to when the satellite/cable is run directly through the TV or through an HDMI switcher (such as a receiver).

Xbox One has the capability of leaving programs/apps open whenever you want to switch an app. This gives the option of going from one app to another whenever the player wishes. Although a useful function at times, it is minimally applied in reality. Equally useful and minimally functional is the snap function, which allows two different apps open at one time. Rounding out the Xbox One features is voice and facial recognition through the Kinect (if you have it plugged in). The facial recognition works fairly well, though the voice support is buggy. You constantly have to tell the console to ‘stop listening.’

App Support

Xbox One App page

Xbox One App page

There are currently 39 apps available for the Xbox One, as opposed to the 29 currently available on PS4 (at least in the United States). Most of the Xbox One apps can currently be found on many other devices such as the iPad, Xbox 360, and PS3. Although all encompassing entertainment is used as a marketing scheme, in reality the Xbox One is a gaming device. Buying the console solely for apps would be a waste. It does make for a nice addition to a family’s entertainment needs though.

Xbox Live

Xbox Live

Xbox Live

The multiplayer of Xbox Live has far eclipsed any other multiplayer online gaming service

Xbox Live has always been a service that Microsoft has been proud of. Multiplayer, while inherent to many games, is made a reality through the Xbox Live service. When Microsoft launched with the original Xbox, Xbox Live was launched as a multiplayer service. While the service has remain mostly unchanged since the launch, the multiplayer of Xbox Live has far eclipsed any other multiplayer online gaming service.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft’s aggressive pricing strategy could tip the balance in favor of the Xbox One

The Xbox One had an extremely difficult start and times remain difficult to Microsoft. The Xbox One remains second behind the PS4 (though ahead of the struggling WiiU). However, the console in the first year of the life remains vibrant and, due to an extremely aggressive pricing strategy by Microsoft, remains viable. Premiere titles such as Halo 5 and Gears of War will require that the Xbox One remain extremely competitive with the PS4. However, the normal business cycle of a gaming console, about an average of nearly six years, means that the PS4 and Xbox are tied. Premiere gaming titles for each individual console could mean the lead for their respective console. Microsoft’s aggressive pricing strategy could tip the balance in favor of the Xbox One.