Microsoft is out to conquer your living room with the new Xbox One entertainment system.
Now marketed as a multimedia system, Microsoft’s newest console has winning capabilities — but also some worrisome failures.
Entertainment systems have had, to say the least, a fractured history. They began with relatively simple, dedicated gaming systems such as the once hugely popular Nintendo. Gaming grew rapidly with the release of the Sony PlayStation and the Wii, and Microsoft spent billions in development and marketing to make its Xbox console one of the top two gaming devices.
But today, gaming manufacturers have a serious problem. Sales of dedicated gaming hardware have dropped significantly. Casual gamers are moving to their phones and tablets; there’s also competition from multimedia devices such as Roku and Apple TV. It seems no one wants hardware that runs only games.
That change isn’t lost on Sony and Microsoft, the two leading game-console manufacturers. They now market their latest hardware as entertainment systems — with video streaming, music, and Web browsing getting equal billing with gaming. (Microsoft took a previous shot at an entertainment system — the often maligned Windows Media Center.) Both Sony and Microsoft are betting big that their new all-in-one boxes will become the next must-have multimedia devices in your home.
On Nov. 22, Microsoft released two versions of the Xbox One (site): a standard model and a limited Day One edition with all-black packaging and an exclusive controller emblazoned with “DAY ONE 2013.” Aside from that, the two systems are functionally identical and have the same U.S. $499 cost. (I tested the Day One edition.)
Xbox One installation: Quick and painless
My first reaction was surprise at the sheer weight of the Xbox One box. A good part of that heft comes from the Kinect sensor, a camera- and audio-based controller, optional on the Xbox 360 but standard on the Xbox One.
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