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Plugged In

Tepid gamer reactions cool Xbox One fever

Plugged In

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(Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft came out swinging Tuesday with a highly-anticipated hour-long reveal event for their next-gen home console, the newly minted Xbox One.

Unfortunately, it seems they weren’t connecting.

The event focused on the console’s ability to support live television, its reworked Kinect motion control system, and Microsoft’s deep relationship with massive mainstream brands like EA Sports, Call of Duty and the NFL. Though they touched on a few games as well, the company is holding back the bulk of the software for the E3 trade show coming up in June.

The trouble is, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and to gamers, that impression wasn’t exactly thrilling.

“I was seriously unimpressed. It's only the first hour of Xbox One, but it suggested a company that's curiously both mired in arrogance and somewhat directionless. I don't know who the Xbox One reveal was meant to appeal to, other than the TV executives whose egos it massaged,” opined Gamesindustry writer Rob Fahey.

The problem, it seems, stems from Microsoft’s decision to position the console as an entertainment hub rather than a games machine. It’s not a crazy thought -- the Xbox 360 is now used more for online entertainment than gaming -- but that’s not necessarily the system’s chief selling point.

“I just wanted a gaming console, I don’t want to pay for a whole entertainment center,” gamer John Ricciadri told Forbes.

“It’s a shame that the reveal didn’t tell the consumer much,” gamer Lui Galletto added. “It seemed like one big advertisement rather than an actual informational session on the product they were offering.”

The name itself, Xbox One, came as something of a surprise, as the rumor mill was bullish on “Xbox Infinity.” But to Jason Schreier at Kotaku, One is, in fact, no better than Infinity.

“Average people might not see the Xbox One as an accessory, but they sure could think it’s a remake of the first Xbox,” he wrote. “Or a lesser version of the Xbox 360. And while this sort of brand confusion may not destroy Microsoft’s new console, it could very well hurt Xbox One in the single market Microsoft is pursuing hardest: casual TV watchers and video game fans.”

Worse than the name, however, was word that the Xbox One might require extra payments if you want to play used games. You didn’t like that, not one bit.

“PS4 sounding better by the day and all thanks to Microsoft!” said Yahoo! reader David. “Owned an Xbox for years, but don't do brand loyalty, when the company involved appears to be shafting the customer!!”

“After more then [sic] a decade with Xbox ...I will be switching over...Sony seems to be the only one who remembers that the reason people buy consoles is to play video games...not to watch tv and run back ground apps that your average smart phone already does,” added Yahoo! reader William.

Not everyone thought the event was a bust. Game designer Cliff Bleszinki chimed in with support for the Xbox One’s multimedia approach.

“In a world of smartphones, tablets, and PCs releasing a console that only plays games would be the dumbest thing imaginable,” he tweeted Wednesday, though he tossed in a bit of snark as well.

The issue is whether or not Microsoft made a tactical error by trying to get the non-game features out of the way prior to E3. Some would argue that this is exactly what they needed to do, lest they face backlash from the hardcore gamer contingent expecting mostly games content at a trade show like E3.

With the system launching later this year, however, it’s imperative that Microsoft (and Sony, for that matter) get the early adopters on board as quickly as possible to drive initial sales. Instead, Microsoft went broad and somewhat unfocused, ignoring indie game developers entirely, skipping over pressing questions and bumming out the die-hards who turned the Xbox 360 into the best-selling home console of the past two years. Not exactly a stellar start.

But at least it makes for a stellar highlight-reel. Take it away, Youtube genius Darkbeatdk:

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