In my last blog post I presented my impressions of Sony’s Playstation 4 but as it is only fair this week’s editorial is all about Microsoft’s Xbox One. If you are a die-hard gamer the past two weeks have been a whirlwind with the launch of both next-gen systems and approximately 40+ games that all attempt, in some way or other, to showcase what the future of console video gaming is all about. My impressions of the PS4 have so far been highly positive so let’s see if Microsoft can also hit a home run.
After eight long years the arrival of Sony’s Playstation 4 marks the true beginning of the next generation of video game consoles. Yes, I know that Nintendo’s Wii U launched last year but let’s be honest and state that just about everyone understands that it is vastly underpowered when compared to either the Xbox One or Playstation 4. However, this post is not meant to be some rant against the Wii U which, I actually like as a gaming console, but to point out that in terms of pure tech specs that it lags behind both products from Microsoft and Sony. Now, having spent an entire week with the Playstation 4 I can finally report a few quick impressions of the new console.
In a move that has long been speculated upon Microsoft Corp has finally pulled the trigger on a huge $7 billion USD acquisition of Nokia’s Devices & Services business bringing the number one Windows Phone maker into the fold. Analysts are certainly going to have a field day tomorrow morning when the Stock Market opens but this is a move that should not be much of a surprise.
News has broken this morning that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has unexpectedly announced his retirement causing shares to surge 6-7% in morning trading. Ballmer has been at the helm since January 2000 when he took over from Bill Gates but his tenure has certainly been decidedly mixed with equal parts success such as the launch of Windows 7 and outright failures like the Kin line of smartphones.
By now most Internet savvy people would have heard that Microsoft has decided to do a complete 180 and remove the DRM requirements for the Xbox One, re-instated used game sales through physical media and completely eliminated the once per day Internet connection requirement. Not content with these changes Microsoft also made the system region free. You can read the official press release for more information here. While this news will be comforting to some and ridiculed by others the point of this post is not to go over the finer points of what has changed but rather to ask a simple question: Microsoft, what the Hell are you doing?
Everyone who knows me understands that I am a diehard gamer. Starting from the Atari 400 and Apple II+ way back in the early 1980s I’ve basically been blessed to own every single major console released since then along with most of the handhelds. Therefore, this time of year has always been great to be a gamer as the big guns come out at E3 to show upcoming games as well as periodically releasing new hardware. It is that last point that I want to focus on today.
Last Trek commercial I saw that had me smiling was this one featuring William Shatner and his long-time nemesis the rubber suit Gorn hawking the new Star Trek video game. This time around we’ve got Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto trying to sell…Audi cars. Okay, I’m not exactly “getting” the connection between Star Trek and Audi automobiles but whatever. Nevertheless, Trek fans should get a real hoot out of this one which features Nimoy swearing and singing his “famous” song the, “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”
Well Nintendo finally kicked off its marketing blitz with their first Wii U full length commercial today titled, “How U Will Play Next.” Video game launches can be special events especially if they are big franchises such as next week’s Halo 4 or Call of Duty Black Ops 2 due the week after but I have to admit the only thing more exciting is new hardware. The Wii has been by far the most bought system this console cycle but if one looks at sales charts it was massively front loaded selling like hot cakes in the first few years and then basically falling off a cliff the past two years allowing Microsoft’s Xbox 360 to surge ahead in North America (although it still lags behind the Wii in total units sold). Globally there is still no contest as the Wii will end the current console cycle number one worldwide.