Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's inside the box, Pandora?

As you have probably seen splashed all over the internet, Microsoft announced its Xbox One today. Here's the video that went with it:

There is a good summary of all the features here. The stuff that stands out to me--at least in terms of trying to position a product to hit as much of the market as possible--is how gaming actually seems almost like a secondary function to all the multimedia stuff it's rigged for.

It doesn't just look a little bit like a Tivo box, it's meant to BE a Tivo box, more or less. Television, music, other streamed content, Web browsing and Skype are all part of the voice-controlled package. And, of course, you can play games, although there is a little controversy about how that will work and whether there will still be a market for used games.

I have an Xbox 360 (now eight years old, somehow), but I don't play a ton. To me, video games are entertainment in the same vein of television or movies... something to do in a spare moment but not something to do all day. Mrs. Blog, who doesn't enjoy many games you can't dance to, is much less of a fan.

But she is exactly who Microsoft is taking aim at. Not only is the box sleek and unobtrusive, it is arguably more of a multimedia reciever than a gaming console. And that's an easier purchase for a non-gamer to embrace. If you can make the case to someone that they need this because they can eliminate other devices and streamline content access, then you're in good shape to expand your consumer base. There is even talk of a subsidized system, where you pay a greatly reduced price for the gear, but pay a monthly fee for Live access (and presumably streamed content therein). That, too, feels at least psychologically like a cable bill and not a means of online gaming.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Microsoft, like Apple and Google, is trying to create a device ecosystem. Whether it works depends largely on how people like Mrs. Blog react. But it should be noted that the motion-sensing Kinect is geared toward dance games.

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