Xbox One is not as innovative as Microsoft wants you to believe.
The modern video game industry is partly driven by the idea of wanting something you can't have. Because of this, many games age ungracefully, quickly forgotten so as not to agitate the alarming gap between what was and what was wanted. Yesterday, Microsoft announced its third home console, the Xbox One, promising to "change the relationship" a person has with his television.
The agent of change will be a new version of Microsoft's camera sensor-mic combo, Kinect, upgraded to such sensitivity that it can now detect rotating wrists and measure a person's heartbeat. This device had been an optional add-on for the Xbox 360, but will now come packaged with every Xbox One when it arrives on store shelves this fall.
Microsoft’s particular approach may be technologically novel but in terms of actual services, it is redundant. Most people already have devices that do all of the things Microsoft is proposing.
Microsoft's claim that Xbox One will change the way we view our televisions is strange since every demonstration was centered around accessing old and familiar kinds of content: movies, basketball, and a spot of Call of Duty.
Xbox One doesn't seem to change the nature of what the user is relating to, but instead asks him to use his body and voice as a menu interface to multitask. Your body becomes the mouse cursor: Spread your arms wide to make content go full-screen, and pull them back into your chest to minimize that content as one viewing option among a sea of animated tiles.
Reaction to Microsoft's announcement has been mostly derisive. Leigh Alexander called it a sign of "arrested development, the last gasp of the console generation," while Kotaku's Luke Plunkett labeled it a "disaster."
That word has been circling the video game industry in recent years with increasing frequency, fueled by declining software sales, the sluggish launch of Nintendo's 3DS, and the so far disastrous first year of Wii U.
Sony and Microsoft were happy to watch the one-time industry leader struggle, promising that their own magical consoles would revitalize the market. Yet Sony's PlayStation 4 announcement was a rolling anti-climax of known quantities. Now Microsoft has joined the scrum with a machine that turns Windows 8 navigation into a gym routine.