Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled their upcoming next-generation console, which they dubbed Xbox One.  This being the third in the series, the name was met with no shortage of head scratching, but most seem to be missing or simply not commenting on the significance of the name.


The marketing speak would have you believe that the name represents how many electronic devices Microsoft believes you need in your living room, with their new system being your video game console, cable box, music library, etc. all in one.  And that’s technically true, the new system will be able to do all of these things, although technically so could the last one.

Hardcore gamers are upset that so much of the conference was based on things unrelated to gaming, such as the hands free Kinect functionality, the license with the NFL, and the Steven Spielberg produced Halo television series.  The only games shown were some sports titles such as Madden NFL, the racing series Forza, and of course Call of Duty.  Big titles, sure, but ones aimed squarely at fans a lot of gamers consider…well, what’s the worst word for them I could print?


Quick, who won the last console round?  It wasn’t Microsoft, and it wasn’t Sony.  It was Nintendo.  The Nintendo Wii sold more consoles than either Sony or Microsoft by targeting demographics who previously showed no interest in gaming, using controls that didn’t require complicated button presses or dual analog stick controls.  You swung your arm, the bowling ball knocked down some pins, and you were happy.  The Wii had inferior graphics to the PS3 and the 360, it didn’t even play DVD’s, and with the exception of two Zelda‘s and some Mario titles, it didn’t even have any worthwhile games.

And it crushed the competition.

Did you think that Microsoft and Sony weren’t going to notice this?  That they were going to just let these huge demographic swaths just lie there on the side of the road without someone asking if they needed a ride?  So Sony created the Move, and Microsoft created the Kinect.  The Move is pretty much a bust, and the jury is still out on the Kinect as a game system, but the potential the Kinect has shown as a user interface is astounding.  It’s not going to go away, but is the new Kinect going to be a game-changing break from the previous one?

Everything we were shown was good, but what was new?  Nothing.  I think this was deliberate.

Innovation is exciting to a lot of us, but intimidating to most.  Most people fear being the early adopter on a dead technology, and the best way to bring in customers isn’t to offer them the future, it’s to offer them the past.  The familiar, the comfortable, the thing that they’re used to.  That’s what Microsoft is doing.  There’s no doubt that this new generation of consoles is going to push gaming to levels we haven’t even imagined, but that’s not going to put an Xbox One in every nursing home where the Wii’s are collecting dust.  This approach won’t make Microsoft cool, but it will make Microsoft money.

Xbox One isn’t the first Xbox you’ll own.  It’s the first Xbox that they’ll own.  And they might never play a game on it.  They might use it for Netflix and Hulu and Pandora and everything but games.

Oh my god, people might buy this system and use it differently than you would!

And that’s okay.  Game developers didn’t stop designing complicated games just because the Wii was a financial success.  The brains at Valve and Dice and Bioware and Irrational didn’t pull the plugs on Portal and Battlefield and Mass Effect and Bioshock because your grandma wanted to go bowling.  So relax.  The games are coming, and nobody’s going to make you play the ones you don’t want to.  The box may say Just Dance, but just don’t.  It’s a big tent, you can stand by the bar if you like.

But some people are just going to dance anyway.