Where is our “Xbox for the rest of us”?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted September 4, 2013 16 comments

Microsoft made it official today: the Xbox One will be available (limited by regions, at least to start) starting on November 22nd, just in time for the post Thanksgiving (here in the US) holiday shopping free-for-all that is Black Friday:

Xbox One will be available on Nov. 22, 2013 in all 13 of our initial launch markets – Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and USA.  Many more markets will follow in 2014.

According to Xbox chief marketing officer Yusuf Mehdi, speaking at the Citi Global Technology Conference (via GeekWire), the Xbox One is in “full production”, and Mehdi is preparing for “the biggest launch we’ve ever done by a wide margin in terms of units shipped at launch”.

The Xbox has been receiving some technology tweaks before it hits the shelves, with the CPU gaining a 10% speed boost (from 1.6GHz to 1.7GHz), after previously getting a 6% GPU boost. Microsoft has also been tweaking the Xbox One’s “features”, dropping an initial insistence that the Kinect sensor be always on, and reversing a controversial used games policy and a requirement for “always on” connectivity to play games.

So, hardcore Xbox gamers are excited, they’ve won a couple of skirmishes with Microsoft, and are about to get a killer new gaming system that in many ways will blow away what’s available today. It’s going to hit the shelves just in time for the holidays, and there are going to be LOTS of Xbox Ones under the tree this Christmas.

But for the rest of us, the non-hardcore gamers, the news isn’t quite as good. The Xbox One is expensive, at $499, and huge. The idea was that the Xbox One would be Microsoft’s avenue into the living room, the device that would gain Microsoft not only control of the hardcore gaming market but the living room entertainment center market as well. At $500, and facing what increasingly appears to be stiff competition from Google’s $35 Chromecast and Apple’s soon to be released new Apple TV, the thought that the Xbox One will give Microsoft control of the living room is perhaps overly optimistic, to be generous about it.

At a time when Microsoft is making rapid and wholesale changes all over the place, everywhere from the CEO to the purchase of Nokia’s phones business on down, are they making another same old mistake here with the Xbox One? Sure, if you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re going to be quick to shell out $500 for a killer gaming system that will also control your TV by voice, give you command not only of content from the likes of Netflix and Hulu but live TV from cable operators as well, and bring Bing, Skype, Internet Explorer, and more into the living room.

But if you’re not a serious gamer, what is there coming out of Microsoft that’s a compelling reason not to go with Apple or Google? Is Microsoft’s zeal to appeal to hardcore gamers getting in the way of its ability to see the bigger picture? Early on, there were rumors of a low-cost, subscription based Xbox set-top box (apparently code named “Yuma”) that would provide some of the living room control experiences (Bing search, voice controls, etc.) But Microsoft dropped those plans in favor of a single Xbox One, with some amazing TV controlling features, but at a price (and a size) that to be honest just aren’t going to fit in many consumer living rooms.

Microsoft appears to be betting heavily on Kinect activated voice and hand-gesture controls as the way of the future, but second screen controllers, like Android devices hooked up to Chromecast, or perhaps an Apple-iOS solution, or even like Microsoft’s SmartGlass, seem to be the way of the future. Consumers are already using their “second screen” to Tweet while watching the latest Breaking Bad episodes, and it won’t take $500 to add TV controls to the mix.

Is Microsoft missing yet another boat when it comes to the future of the living room? Do we need an “Xbox for the rest of us”?

Posted September 4th, 2013 at 10:52 am
Category: News
Tags: Xbox One
  • jkavanagh58

    Not to mention the family plan is eliminated long before the Xbox One alternate….

  • jkavanagh58

    Not to mention the family plan is eliminated long before the Xbox One alternate….

  • garak0410

    I can’t agree more on this article and it makes me itchy to press the cancel on my pre-order. Since I preordered, I’ve cancelled DirecTV and we stream and use over the air signals. 80% of our XBOX time is media streaming, especially Windows Media Center. We use Media Center to put on music and watch our family pictures go by on a slideshow. I just read today that Media Center extender will not be a part of XBOX One. So, I don’t see much incentive to move except to have something “new.”

  • garak0410

    I can’t agree more on this article and it makes me itchy to press the cancel on my pre-order. Since I preordered, I’ve cancelled DirecTV and we stream and use over the air signals. 80% of our XBOX time is media streaming, especially Windows Media Center. We use Media Center to put on music and watch our family pictures go by on a slideshow. I just read today that Media Center extender will not be a part of XBOX One. So, I don’t see much incentive to move except to have something “new.”

  • TheRickshaw

    Why can’t MS come out with every product ever, all at the same time, gosh!

  • TheRickshaw

    Why can’t MS come out with every product ever, all at the same time, gosh!

  • cmwind

    thank you for this article!

    price, size, and complexity kills this average household

    MS could make the argument that…

    -Xbox devotees will purchase at high price at launch (when there is limited quantity due to manufacturing still ramping up). Therefore make the price at launch as high as those folks will tolerate. > 1 to 2 years later the price gets lowered to appeal to the avg. household

    -Same thing could be said about size. bigger now > redesign in a couple years to be smaller > Xbox devotees repurchase and avg. household buys for the first time.

    That said I think this market (living room) is going to be too competitive going forward to waste 1-2 years playing a game that worked in the last console generation and if MS insists on playing it the way they have in the past their headstart in the living room will workout much the same way their headstart in Windows Mobile, and Windows based tablets did (aka disaster).

    In addition to the cost and size of the hardware there is another big problem with this being an avg. household device. Xbox Live paywall for 1st/3rd party non-gaming apps/services. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind paying for it in the least. That is b/c I play online games (albeit rarely… but I like the option)

    Here are the households that the paywall doesn’t impact:

    -single “hardcore” online gamer

    -couple/family with at least 1 “hardcore” online gamer

    Here are the households that the paywall does not make sense for (if MS wants the Xbox One to be a real media center piece):

    -single non-gamer

    -single casual-gamer

    -single non-online-gamer

    -couple/family without at least 1 “hardcore” online gamer

    Couple problems here. 1) MS is appealing to fewer demographics (with my guess that they are composed of far fewer people) and 2) They are making people pay to use not only 3rd party services but also their own 1st party services

    Looking at this all combined… why would I ever recommend to my friends that range from singles/couples/families most of which don’t really game (and for sure not online) a BIG, EXPENSIVE, COMPLICATED (by the nature that it can do SO much) device that they have to pay a yearly SUBSCRIPTION to so that they can access the same apps/services they are accessing on their iPad, PC, MacBook, Android phone, Bluray player, SmartTV, etc. for FREE… by the way they don’t have Windows 8 and they don’t have Windows Phone, they have an iPad and an Android phone, so why wouldn’t I recommend a tiny device that costs $35-$99 once and have them be done with it?

  • cmwind

    thank you for this article!

    price, size, and complexity kills this average household

    MS could make the argument that…

    -Xbox devotees will purchase at high price at launch (when there is limited quantity due to manufacturing still ramping up). Therefore make the price at launch as high as those folks will tolerate. > 1 to 2 years later the price gets lowered to appeal to the avg. household

    -Same thing could be said about size. bigger now > redesign in a couple years to be smaller > Xbox devotees repurchase and avg. household buys for the first time.

    That said I think this market (living room) is going to be too competitive going forward to waste 1-2 years playing a game that worked in the last console generation and if MS insists on playing it the way they have in the past their headstart in the living room will workout much the same way their headstart in Windows Mobile, and Windows based tablets did (aka disaster).

    In addition to the cost and size of the hardware there is another big problem with this being an avg. household device. Xbox Live paywall for 1st/3rd party non-gaming apps/services. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind paying for it in the least. That is b/c I play online games (albeit rarely… but I like the option)

    Here are the households that the paywall doesn’t impact:

    -single “hardcore” online gamer

    -couple/family with at least 1 “hardcore” online gamer

    Here are the households that the paywall does not make sense for (if MS wants the Xbox One to be a real media center piece):

    -single non-gamer

    -single casual-gamer

    -single non-online-gamer

    -couple/family without at least 1 “hardcore” online gamer

    Couple problems here. 1) MS is appealing to fewer demographics (with my guess that they are composed of far fewer people) and 2) They are making people pay to use not only 3rd party services but also their own 1st party services

    Looking at this all combined… why would I ever recommend to my friends that range from singles/couples/families most of which don’t really game (and for sure not online) a BIG, EXPENSIVE, COMPLICATED (by the nature that it can do SO much) device that they have to pay a yearly SUBSCRIPTION to so that they can access the same apps/services they are accessing on their iPad, PC, MacBook, Android phone, Bluray player, SmartTV, etc. for FREE… by the way they don’t have Windows 8 and they don’t have Windows Phone, they have an iPad and an Android phone, so why wouldn’t I recommend a tiny device that costs $35-$99 once and have them be done with it?

  • Gle Ban

    agree, they try for big dreams pricy products but sometimes the smaller cheaper option is best. i do not have an xbox but i would like a streaming device. i am considering a roku. if MS bought roku and added some MS centric feature, bing, Skype, ect. then this would be a way to a cheaper for the masses approach

  • Gle Ban

    agree, they try for big dreams pricy products but sometimes the smaller cheaper option is best. i do not have an xbox but i would like a streaming device. i am considering a roku. if MS bought roku and added some MS centric feature, bing, Skype, ect. then this would be a way to a cheaper for the masses approach

  • jader3rd

    I believe it’s called a Windows 7 Media Center.

  • jader3rd

    I believe it’s called a Windows 7 Media Center.

  • William C Bonner

    As for the physical size, I like going big. Especially if it can sit UNDER my traditional amplifier. Since the Amp is always on for sound output, it’s always generating heat, and I want it’s passive airflow cooling to be most optimized. The XBox I want to have optimized airflow so that it only needs to run its fans occasionally when it needs active cooling.

  • William C Bonner

    As for the physical size, I like going big. Especially if it can sit UNDER my traditional amplifier. Since the Amp is always on for sound output, it’s always generating heat, and I want it’s passive airflow cooling to be most optimized. The XBox I want to have optimized airflow so that it only needs to run its fans occasionally when it needs active cooling.

  • guest

    you can play games on the Chromecast and Apple TV? do tell…

  • guest

    you can play games on the Chromecast and Apple TV? do tell…