Microsoft made two big announcements yesterday regarding the Xbox One and the Xbox Live service. The first is the unbundling of the Kinect sensor from the Xbox One console. The second is the removal of the “pay wall” for content consumption apps such as Netflix.
The creation of a new Xbox One SKU for $100 less than the original that doesn’t include the Kinect accessory is purely a marketing move. It provides a price that allows it to compete directly with the PS4 and takes away one club that the tech press has been beating Microsoft over the head with since launch. Choice is a good thing, but I don’t see very much value in the Xbox One without the Kinect sensor. If you devalue the vision and voice control side of the Xbox One, you are really better off with the PS4 (unless you are heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem). So even though people have a choice now, I don’t think it’s a very good option. Right now, the full system bundled with Titanfall is the best option. Of course developers can’t depend on having the Kinect sensor and so you can expect to see fewer (only slightly) games include support for it.
The big news here is the removal of the “pay wall” for Netflix (and other apps). A lot of people are interested in only playing single player, but wanted to be able to use the device for Netflix as well. Now they will be able to use the free XBL Silver membership and still access Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, etc.. Expect to see the used Xbox 360 market pick up as households grab an extra 360 for play rooms just so they can watch DVDs and stream Netflix. You can also expect a drop in the number of Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. I would expect this drop in revenue to be somewhat offset by the use of other Microsoft services (of which Microsoft is investing heavily in right now). I would not be surprised to see more bundling of these services in the future (i.e. additional One Drive storage, Office apps, etc..). This also makes the Xbox One the best choice for your living room as you don’t need to Gold level account to access just about every media source available (with the exception of iTunes and Google Play).
If you don’t like Microsoft, then this will be seen as Microsoft on the ropes and desperate to hold on to what little market that they have. The reality is that Microsoft under Satya Nadella is being more aggressive in going after the Devices and Services segment. They feel the pressure to deliver more value and choices in order to stay competitive and this is one result of that. Competition is a good thing. This is also why Microsoft haters should be careful what they wish for when they hope for Microsofts demise.
The results of the Xbox 360 / PS3 / Wii generation of console gaming are in and they all won depending on how you keep score. The next generation of console gaming has already started with the release of the Wii U. The Wii U has had a difficult time gaining traction and this is mainly due to the underpowered main processor and graphics. At this point, it’s main draw is the Nintendo software and that’s something that losing value with each month without a Wii U Smash Bros game. For all practical purposes, the Sony PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are the only two consoles still in the hunt to be the winner of the next generation.
Continue reading The Next Gaming Generation
Microsoft’s Xbox Live service turned 10 years old today. It was the first service to provide an authenticated network for video gamers to play games together over the internet. Before XBL, you had to jump through hoops and cobble together a system with computers to play together over the net.
In my opinion, it is the biggest reason why the Xbox 360 is so successful. With voice, video, messaging, cloud saves and much more, it’s proven to be a very full featured and robust system. Both myself and the whole family have enjoyed being able to talk to friends while playing along side them in video games. The boys have watched Netflix shows together with friends in other states. Emma has enjoyed Kinect sports matches with her friend that lives outside of town.
Congratulations to Microsoft for building a service that’s actually worth the money paid for it (after being maligned for charging in the first place). Hopefully they will continue to be innovative. I look forward to new ways to communicate with friends on the service.
In my first post on the topic, I looked at accessing the “over the air” HDTV signal in our area. That went pretty well. That brought me to the next question, how will we get the shows that aren’t on the “free TV” channels (ex. Mythbusters). Not only do we need them in a timely fashion, but also we need to be able to see them from all over the house. Oh, and it needs to be easy enough for a child to access (as easy as Netflix).
Step Two – Verify that we can access purchased media from different locations around the house.
The biggest source of content (shows and movies) for the family is Netflix. We have both the streaming and the movie subscriptions. With that we have most of the content from previous years. The current season of shows aren’t on Netflix though, so we need another way to see shows from the current season (the next day after they air on the TV). The first things that came to mind were iTunes and the Xbox Video Marketplace.
The problem with iTunes is that we don’t have an all Apple ecosystem. We do have an iPhone and an iPad, but no Mac computers or Apple TVs. Even the two Apple devices that we have are linked to different iTunes accounts. In the past, people would use the same account on all devices. With iCloud, you need separate accounts so that your email and calendars don’t get mixed up.
The problem with XBox Video Marketplace is also that the content will be tied to a specific account and you can’t have simultaneous logins on different XBoxes at the same time. This is definitely something that Apple, Google and Microsoft will have to figure out if they want their ecosystems to flourish.
One company that isn’t dependent on their hardware is Amazon. They do have the Kindle, but it isn’t so popular that they refuse to allow access from other devices. Just the opposite is true. They provide Amazon Instant Video clients for the XBox, PS3, Computer, Kindle, Blu-ray players and Smart TVs. They also have season passes (show ready next day after airing on TV) for most popular shows. Another option from Amazon is their Prime subscriptions. This bundles a set of TV shows & movies with an ebook library and free 2 day shipping for $79 per year. I don’t think it provides enough value for us yet, but we could easily pay for it with the savings from cancelling cable.
There may be other options out there (Vudu comes to mind), but Amazon Instant Video library should do the trick for us. It’s cheap enough and easily accessible.
I got my copy of Mass Effect in this past week and boy has it impacted my ability to post anything here. By the way, I hope to post a few pictures here in the next week or so if I can just pull myself away from this new game. It’s the third and final installment of the story of Commander Shepard and his quest to free the galaxy from the destruction of the Reapers (ancient race of sapient machines). Between the single player story and the cooperative multiplayer, it’s just so appealing. It’s like a good book where you can’t wait to get to the ending.
This one is definitely the darkest one of the series as you open the game with the Earth (and other alien home worlds) being systematically harvested by the invading force. You are then sent along your merry way to rally the galactic races to solve this nagging problem. As you can guess, the soundtrack isn’t very light and fluffy. What I do get is a trip down memory lane with all of my former squad mates from the two previous installments including every decision that I made. Again, interesting stuff. Perhaps I’ll post my thoughts on the whole series when I’m done.
It’s not the most important thing going on right now, but when I get free time then I find myself with my xbox 360 controller in my hands. I’m getting pretty close to the finale, so this should be over soon. Hey, at least my grass got cut this week.
Update: Finish the game last night. I’m still not sure how it ended though. Oh well, very fun game. Now for a more relaxed multi-player schedule.