What the Xbox One means for gamers

Gamers did get a first peek this week at the Xbox One at Microsoft’s recent announcement. But it would be understandable if they felt, well, a little left out.

Most of the top-line features of the splashy event were for features such as the ability to stream live television or make Skype calls. Those are interesting, compelling features, but hardly the kind that truly light up a gamer’s heart.

The company made it pretty clear that the real gaming news is coming next month at the game industry’s big Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3— including more details on what exclusive titles the console is getting.

Microsoft didn’t leave gamers completely out in the cold at Tuesday’s announcement. In fact, they were careful to reveal just enough to pique interest. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told The Washington Post that was probably a savvy strategy on Microsoft’s part, in order to attract the attention of non-gamers before the company’s second Xbox event.

But that also means there are still plenty of unanswered questions. Chief among those: Microsoft hasn’t said how much the thing will cost, or when you’ll be able to buy it.

The company also only showed just a fraction of a promised 15 exclusive titles coming in the year after launch: the racing game Forza 5 and Quantum Break, a title that will blend a television show and video game by letting each influence the other. With a promised eight completely new exclusive titles, gamers will have a lot to listen for once E3 rolls around.

After the event, Microsoft also clarified a lingering question about whether players will be able to sell used games for the Xbox One, after players worried that the company’s announcement that users have to install games on the device’s hard drive to play them meant the end of the secondhand market.

On a company blog, Xbox Live’s programming director Larry Hryb said that it will be possible for “our customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” but that the company hasn’t specified exactly how it will work.

As for the games you already own, Microsoft said that the Xbox One will not be backwards compatible, meaning that all those Xbox 360 games currently sitting on gamers’ bookshelves or in disc wallets have hit a wall.

Pachter told The Post that putting in the tech to let players use their old games was probably cost-prohibitive. He said that those who really want to play their older Xbox games can probably make do with plugging their old system into a television when needed.

That’s not a great answer for long-time Xbox fans, but if Microsoft offers a low-enough price, they may not mind so much.

While questions remain, Microsoft did, however, top Sony’s similar February announcement for the PlayStation 4 by actually showing the console.

The Xbox One is a sleeker, more textured and, well, boxier box than its Xbox 360 predecessor. It will also come bundled with an improved Kinect and a completely redesigned handheld controller that Mashable reports is supposed to have more responsive analog sticks. Mashable also said that the handheld will be able to communicate with the Kinect to let the sensor know which players are holding which controllers.

The new Kinect, the company said in its event, will be able to detect more subtle movements during gameplay — good news for anyone who’s ever felt like an air traffic controller during a Kinect game — and will also respond to a wider range of conversational voice commands. The Kinect will even respond when you tell the Xbox to turn on.

Microsoft has also given the Xbox a serious spec bump, blessing it with a 500 GB hard drive, 8 GB of RAM, and a powerful 8-core CPU that should greatly improve the quality of graphics on the console.

The company more or less matched Sony stride for stride on the hardware inside the Xbox. Sony hasn’t released full details on just how big its hard drive will be.

Related stories:

Xbox One: Microsoft’s plan to take over your living room

‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’ trailer sparks excitement

PlayStation 4: Sony announces it, but doesn’t show console

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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