Xbox One – A triumph for social networking?

Following Sony’s release of the Playstation 4 in February, and Nintendo’s Wii U release last year, Microsoft have shown their mathematical prowess by revealing their weapon in the war for control of the gaming console market – the Xbox One.

Due for release late this year, the console has had some fiddling. Aesthetically, I’m assuming they’ve gone for the minimalist approach, because it looks a lot like the CD player my parents have got hooked up in the living room. It could also be any number of things, mainly because it lacks any shape, decals or features that make me assume it’s a next generation gaming console. We also have a blu-ray drive, some updates to the gamepad and Skype functionality, which will be great for teamplay if it’s implemented correctly. The kinect has also had a boost and the sensor is now 1080p, meaning that it will now be able to sense your heartbeat while you work out in front of it.

Aside from the graphical capabilities being increased, possibly tenfold from what I understand, the processing chip has been changed from the console’s predecessor. Great news for developers looking to port across platforms (as Sony announced in their reveal that they were doing the same), bad news for backwards compatibility. Neither console will support it, despite both consoles doing a lot to accommodate the feature in the PS3 and Xbox 360 releases. Say goodbye to your gaming library, essentially.

Users will also see an increase in social networking features, which allows me to approach the crux of my point. If you nab a photo or video in-game, you can upload it to any number of sites instantly without having to get the files onto a computer. This poses both good and bad points.

Personally, if I were to invest in a console, I would be quite chuffed from a journalistic point of view. With the medium of expression in games journalism taking leaps into the audio/visual sector, the ability for me to record the video or audio I need and upload it instantly is a blessing. Console-obsessed journalists will be rejoicing as I type, I’m sure, as the simplicity that accompanies this feature becomes more apparent. Applications which make editing said footage on the console even easier will probably be commonplace, making everyone a contributing vlogger. Youtube and Vimeo will be awash with people showing their GTA stunt jumps and jammy FPS headshots, sure – but the platform for people to share their experiences in a really easy, approachable medium will encourage a lot more informative gameplay pieces as well.

On the downside, the predictable obsession with social networking shows the fissure in development between creating a gamer’s dream, and creating a modern, marketable jack-of-all-trades system.

The console market is consistently under pressure to compete with the stoic PC platform, and it is that exact pressure which has pushed developers to accommodate everyone. Since the processing capabilities may well be equal to or in excess of some household computers, these new generation of consoles are being marketed as alternatives to the family laptop. Soon enough Microsoft will likely be adapting their MS Office programs to feature on the new Xbox, possibly the Playstation as well. Keep down that route, and the diversity between console and computer will be non-existent. I don’t know what to think about a primary school child doing his or her maths homework on their Playstation 4.

Even the genres which PC gaming has held such a strong monopoly over are likely to be challenged as the consoles’ features are evolved. Whereas the current Xbox has 15,000 servers dedicated to accommodating online gamers, the new Xbox One will have 300,000. Yes, I meant to add that zero. Couple that with console developer Boyd Multerer’s statement that processing power could be pushed from the console to the cloud storage system, and we have an online network which could put a dent in the crown of the computer and it’s tyrannical rule over the MMORPG market.

Looking for people to fill your team before you enter a map? I usually alt-tab out and scour the web. This disconnected approach has been spotted and rectified by Microsoft, however, who will let you watch television while you wait before nudging you back into the game on completion of your team. Other than the fact I can see it whisking me away at inopportune times, it is at least the first steps to trying to match the PC in claiming a share of the MMORPG gamers’ market. Not a massive step, but enough of one to sound the horn of war.

I’m not sure how I feel about the releases. Far from the most entertaining uses of my time, both console reveals have shown that social networking is the new black. I am excited, if not a little weary, as for the first time I feel that games are not necessarily the highlight of the show. Commendations to both companies for identifying the solidarity of social networking and doing everything they can to integrate it – I just hope we do end up with a games console.

Author: graemefinch

Teacher, avid Warcrafter, gifted Dungeons and Dragons character creator. Passionate about all things high fantasy and RPG.

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