Editorial

Is Microsoft finally getting it right with the Xbox One?

I am the first to admit that I was not a fan of the Xbox One when it was first talked about early last year, the issues surrounding the original announcement have been well documented, but now six months after launch and with what feels like a complete 180 over nearly every feature and idea they originally talked about and Microsoft might finally be on the right track with the console. Focusing on what the public might actually have wanted to buy, an entertainment unit priced reasonably.

Some people have said that the biggest issue they had with the original Xbox One announcement was the bundling of Kinect 2.0. It clearly bumped the consoles pricing up high and was always an accessory that many people rarely used after the first few months of purchasing the original version on the 360.

I never really enjoyed the original Kinect, but I have stated this in the past. The problem seemed to lie with the lack of many decent Kinect games, lack of space in gamer's houses and a hardware based controller which could have added more “hardcore” gamer options rather than regressive hand gesture controls we seem to be getting now.

This never really changed with Kinect 2.0 either, games were non-existent and Kinect Sports Rivals, the one big Kinect release that was planned was the expected flop which has all but ended any chance of Rare ever making a game again, especially after the announcement of layoffs at the company last week. Another issue was voice control was still never 100% accurate and if you are using that as your main control method, it had to be. Heck my console rarely launched with the “Xbox On” command something that should have been spot on.

Microsoft must have known that bundling Kinect 2.0 was a huge risk, but they were adamant that it was their plan all along, especially with their push for voice control of the entire Xbox One UI. Yet they have completely reversed that decision, adding that a future update for the Xbox One will allow far better UI controls via the gamepad rather than Kinect, something that should have been there from the beginning anyway. Microsoft even had plans to integrate Kinect into the Xbox One during development, something I am glad they didn't go ahead with, otherwise we may have had an even longer wait for a kinect-less version.

It has also been well documented that Kinect 2.0 takes up some GPU and CPU time which could and should have been optional for developers. Removing the requirement of having Kinect attached to the console frees up this extra power for developers to not only improve their games, but also attempt to reach the PR important 1080p gaming that PlayStation 4 users are enjoying.​​ I have to admit that as soon as Microsoft's said Kinect will be removed from the Xbox One, I removed it from mine knowing that I will no longer need it.

Removing Kinect 2.0 from the Xbox One isn’t the only improvements that Microsoft have announced over the past months. The early price-cut wasn’t much of a surprise to many people, trying to sell a less powerful console at a much higher price was always a risk and when you already have negative public response to nearly everything that Microsoft announced you are facing a losing battle.

Dropping Kinect and the price will help Microsoft no end, although I still feel that it needs to be priced less than the PlayStation 4 simply due to being less powerful and that will make a big difference to public perception.

Another major change that has been a long time coming is Microsoft’s revamp of their Xbox Live Gold package. The Xbox One will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold subscription for you to access apps like Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go and more. You also won’t need to subscribe to use apps like Skype, Internet Explorer or the OneGuide. These changes are what users have been hoping would happen for some time.

Xbox Live Gold will also now add free games into the mix each month, starting out with the excellent Max: Curse of the Brotherhood and the iffy Halo: Spartan Assault. The free games offer has worked wonders on the PlayStation 3 and 4 and it is great to see Microsoft finally realise what a good thing this is for subscribers.

The upcoming June update for the Xbox One will also add an option for a user to auto-login to the console, at the moment you either have to do it via Kinect’s iffy recognition which can take some time or via a few button presses, either way it is something again they should have got right in the first place.

Microsoft are heading the right way though, especially with their regular monthly updates which not only add new features, but also fix or improve existing ones. The biggest change for Microsoft is that they are finally listening to the public. The public were always vocal about not wanting Kinect bundled with the console, about automatic logins and other features that are now appearing. This change for Microsoft will bring a lot of good feeling from gamers and fans of the company alike.

The next big push from Microsoft will come at E3 – they need games now, even more so after the lacklustre sales of Titanfall, which was previously expected to be a catalyst for sales of the Xbox One and that just hasn’t happened. It is hard to predict what will happen in the future for the Xbox One, but let’s hope the wait is well worth it. The company are listening to you and that is one of the most important things they can do.

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Where do you get the 'no competitionn' thing from? What gives lower pricing is game manufacturers not having to over-charge on initial sales because they see ZERO from re-sells. It's the "Steam" model. Combine the publisher/developers getting a cut from EVERY sale (not just initial sales), with the fact that there's no physical media, warehousing, or shipping... and you get over-all lower-cost games, and the potential for great sales.

Now, because stupid short-term-thinking narrow-minded whiners exploded in faux-rage, we're stuck with $60/game for the foreseeable future.

deadonthefloor said,

Yes. The vision is dead.
Thank you internet.

No, not thank you. The opposite of thank you.

Internet whiners are why we can't have nice things.

Really... Publishers would lower the price because there are no re-sale... They would keep the price at current rate for longer to make as much money as possible... even increase the price if market would pay for it... Do you think Microsoft would have released a new bundle with a game for 50 less if they were selling more than PS4.
As consumers, our only weapon against them is to vote with our wallets.

"I have to admit that as soon as Microsoft's said Kinect will be removed from the Xbox One, I removed it from mine knowing that I will no longer need it."

When you say Xbox might finally be getting it right, I thought you were referring to the great improvements that have been made since day one on voice recognition, sign in recognition, and voice navigation. Granted the gestures are a huge step back, but the voice stuff is better than ever.

I walk into the room, say "Xbox On" sometimes you have to say it twice. Then "Xbox Music" on comes the last album I was listening to. Off to make dinner, sit on the couch, "Xbox Netflix", up comes Netflix and fast. "Xbox watch TV" up comes TV, channel changing even works amazing with voice. "Xbox mute, Xbox unmute, Xbox volume up, volume down, Xbox go to Forza Mororsports 5, I get not just to the launch of the game, but the PLACE in the game I last left it, instantly. And I don't really ever have to raise my voice to do any of this with the exception of loud music.

This is a Geekbox, not a Grandma Box. And it works great with voice. Removing the Kinect especially after you already bought it tells us that you are the guy that wanted it $100 cheaper the first time. Glad they addressed your segment, but I'm really glad they are constantly improving, and addressing my segment as well. With the addition of Cortana and some massive machine learning to come, this will be quite the Geek box, and some day, the complete home automation box.

If John Cormack says that there isn't much difference in performance between XOne and PS4, I'll take his opinion over yours. Especially because when they designed this box they knew all along about the incredible improvements to come with Direct X 12.

John Carmack says a lot of things. I don't see how he can argue with the numbers.

XB1: 12CU at 853MHz : 1.31 TFLOPS
PS4: 18CU at 800MHz : 1.843 TFLOPS

Beyond clock speeds and core counts, both GPUs are identical

The numbers clearly show the PS4 is significantly faster. About a 40% faster GPU. That's why it consistently beats out XB1 in resolution and framerates. There isn't a single game that the PS4 renders at a lower resolution or lower framerate. There are only some games where it matches the XB1, probably because the developer didn't care to spend extra time optimizing the PS4 more since.

mrp04 said,
John Carmack says a lot of things. I don't see how he can argue with the numbers.

XB1: 12CU at 853MHz : 1.31 TFLOPS
PS4: 18CU at 800MHz : 1.843 TFLOPS

Beyond clock speeds and core counts, both GPUs are identical

The numbers clearly show the PS4 is significantly faster. About a 40% faster GPU. That's why it consistently beats out XB1 in resolution and framerates. There isn't a single game that the PS4 renders at a lower resolution or lower framerate. There are only some games where it matches the XB1, probably because the developer didn't care to spend extra time optimizing the PS4 more since.

Using that figure it's only about 28% faster in a pure TFLOPS basis. I know it's not the entirety of the system, but the differences really are negligible largely. The Xbox is simply harder to program for with the ESRAM which is peculiar as the 360 had a similar setup.

-T- said,

Using that figure it's only about 28% faster in a pure TFLOPS basis. I know it's not the entirety of the system, but the differences really are negligible largely. The Xbox is simply harder to program for with the ESRAM which is peculiar as the 360 had a similar setup.

How are you getting 28%?

1.843-1.31 / 1.31 = 0.407

Even if it's just 20%, how do you consider that negligible? Negligible is more like 5% difference.

pmbAustin said,
"Negligible" because most average users would be very hard pressed to perceive the actual difference while playing games.

Some users who sit very far away from their TV may not be able to see a difference but that doesn't mean there isn't much difference in performance. Others who sit closer or user monitors will. 40% is not in any way negligible.

Yeah, it is. Because the difference most humans perceive at a distance of 8-10 feet (average distance from living room TV) is just not that significant... and that "40%" you keep quoting is a really low-level number that doesn't translate in to that much difference on the screen as perceived by human beings. Only geeky nerds and hard-core gamers are making any huge deal out of this. Side-by-side comparisons of a dozen games show so little difference that most people won't even notice.

You're making a mountain out of a mole hill. Yes, the PS4 has a greater capacity for higher detail graphics and/or frame-rates. In reality, at least so far, it simply hasn't been that significant of an issue.

pmbAustin said,
....

Yes. I deal with this in the video space all the time.
IPTV typically streams HD at 6.8Mbit VBR yet my engineers insist we stream at 8Mbit CBR because that's true HD.
Even after Microsoft engineers insist that the difference is imperceptible.
Then cable operators say it makes a difference to win back customers.
Then there are those who insist on bluray.
And even Netflix.

Really, at the end of the day, the(original) MS way aligns with my usage.

mrp04 said,

How are you getting 28%?

1.843-1.31 / 1.31 = 0.407

Even if it's just 20%, how do you consider that negligible? Negligible is more like 5% difference.

As I understand it, those are theoretical limits for the GPU. However, real world benchmarking suggests that more Compute Units do not necessarily benefit the actual throughput if there is another bottleneck in the system. In other words, the PS4 may have more capacity but that doesn't inherently mean that it is able to use all of it. Microsoft's benchmarkng suggested that increasing the clock speed would provide more tangible benefits than it would to include more Compute Units. Were they right? I don't know and neither do you.

Only time will tell once developers become more familiar with the new architecture. I would suggest that many of the perceived shortcomings for the Xbox One will fade into memory in the next couple of years. The next SDK should release approximately 8% of the Xbox One GPU reserve (with or without the Kinect) so that will only bolster performance that much more. But even then, it can take time for developers to understand a system architecture well enough to know how to take advantage of it.

Existing cross platform rendering engines are likely to favor a more simplified architecture but as they evolve, the differences will become negligible. Furthermore, Microsoft left it up to developers to choose resolution vs pixel quality for their games based on their game content and objectives.

Either way, using a theoretical limit as a basis for saying that one platform is more powerful than another isn't necessarily valid if other bottlenecks prevent them from coming anywhere close to those limits.

That is like comparing the performance of two cars using magazine specs and dyno charts. Despite this, those specs sell cars with people blindly driving around in a modern day hot rod believing that their car does 0-60 in 3.65 seconds and the 1/4 mile is exactly 11.85 seconds. The guys at the track know differently but what they know doesn't sell cars.

I'm torn... It may help with some sales in the short term but it's also now a weaker product. *shrug* It's too bad Microsoft's original plan didn't work out, I think I kind of got it, but not enough seem to have.

I don't think this will make it sell better than the PS4. They removed the edge it had against it to be able to lower the price but a lower price does not make a better product.

both are decent consoles depending on the exclusives you prefer...casual gamer's will always have a preference but lets not kid ourselves whichever console allows us to play our pirated content on it first will win the war

"Is Microsoft finally getting it right with the Xbox One?"

Not by making Kinect optional. MS should find way to add value to the bundle instead of removing it. Titanfall bundle was a step in a right direction

Microsoft just put Xbox One like the other console. MS have 5 million people invested on Kinect. The difference with PS4 and Xbox One in term of global sales are wide but the infrastructure that MS has created locally within each country are wide also.

The right question to ask is this, Are console defines for living room or personal just like PC? If living room, then Xbox One have just created that path.

Guys this is really nonsense like it or not the PS4 will still be the more powerful console.I am happy Microsoft has finally realize it was time to remove Kinect for certain reasons not that it a bad product just it should had been sold separately. I am also happy because I want to get the Xbox one for the next Halo game and happy there was a price drop.But lets get the Facts straight and that is Ps4 is still more powerful than XBOX one.

I find it hilarious when Xbox fanboys say that the PS4's performance over the Xbox One is hardly anything, when you know if it was the other way around they would not be singing the same tune. MS is doing so many U-turns on the Xbox One that they're becoming dizzy and they're still desperately trying to play catch-up to the PS4.

CUBBYJR2005 said,
Guys this is really nonsense like it or not the PS4 will still be the more powerful console.I am happy Microsoft has finally realize it was time to remove Kinect for certain reasons not that it a bad product just it should had been sold separately. I am also happy because I want to get the Xbox one for the next Halo game and happy there was a price drop.But lets get the Facts straight and that is Ps4 is still more powerful than XBOX one.

Is it? I know enough to know that I don't know everything and that the Internet is full of other people who think they do. In other words, theoretical limits don't mean much if architectural and system bottlenecks prohibit you from exploiting the available capacity. It wouldn't surprise me if we are seeing less than half of what these systems are capable of. In the end, more power doesn't mean much if you blow the tires off of it every time you pit your foot into it. Generally speaking, the race cars that win are the ones that are balanced and consistent. Microsoft's benchmarking may or may not have led to optimal architectural design decisions. However, the fact that they understand the difference between real world performance and theoretical limits is what leads me to believe that they have the right formula. I always tell my clients that the difference between success and failure is relative to whether you follow the data. Only time will tell but I am not inclined to say that theoretical limits really mean anything this early in this cycle.

Edited by fiftytwoeighty, May 24 2014, 11:30pm :

It doesn't take a genius to find out on the internet that the PS4 is not only way outselling the competition and is also more powerful (if you can read numbers).

MS should have just ate the cost and dropped the price to $400 w/ Kinect. They seem more interested in winning a console war than sticking with their original message. Now it's just an underpowered PS4 for the same price. I hope they land a MAJOR 3rd party exclusive, otherwise I would get all 3rd party games on PS4. I may get one if their deal with the NFL will allow me to watch games without a cable subscription. (does anyone know? maybe there will be more info at E3)

If they had done all this at the start I would have got one as I liked my 360. When it broke down after 3 years they collected it from my house and I had a replacement within a few days all for free , that made me a loyal customer and I always planned on getting a xbox one..

I have a PS4 now though , probably for the best as its a more powerful console. To be honest I've hardly used it , it does seem a good console but there's not really any games that interest me and plenty on the PC.

My main problem with both console's is game pricing. It's way to high , £55 for a download is insane. Unless the price drops to £30-40 I won't be buying many games.

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