New Xbox aims to be center of home entertainment

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

REDMOND, Wash. -- When Microsoft began selling its last video-game console nearly eight years ago, there was no iPad, smartphones had keyboards and Facebook was mainly for college students.

But it is against those devices and services, all of which have transformed the games business, that the new Xbox that Microsoft introduced on Tuesday will compete.

The new device, the Xbox One, is a big gamble by Microsoft that it can re-establish the living room as the place where people can get the best gaming experience, with the most eye-popping graphics and innovative methods for controlling games.

It is also an effort by Microsoft to step up its push to make the Xbox an all-purpose device for getting to online video.

To that end, Microsoft announced a plan to develop its own original live-action television series that will be accessible through the Xbox, in partnership with the director Steven Spielberg and based on its "Halo" video-game franchise. The company is also working with the National Football League to develop an app for Xbox that lets players interact with their fantasy football teams while watching a live sportscast of a game.

Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, said the company's Xbox group was trying with Xbox One to "design and build an all-in-one system to light up a new generation of games and entertainment."

One of the crucial features of the new Xbox, which is scheduled to arrive on store shelves in time for the holiday season, will be a new generation of Kinect, the camera-based motion control sensor that Microsoft introduced several years ago as an accessory for the previous Xbox.

The new Kinect, which will come with every Xbox One, will have a high-resolution camera for conducting Skype videoconference calls through the television set. Microsoft said the device would have sensors capable of measuring a player's heart rate -- useful for, say, a fitness game.

Its camera and software will be able to recognize players' face when they step in front of it so that the Xbox One can automatically present them with personalized entertainment options, including links to the last games they played and a menu with their favorite television shows.

At an event in a carnival tent on its corporate campus, Microsoft also showed trailers for new games, including one for one of the industry's most popular franchises, "Call of Duty," with graphics and battle scenes that were almost indistinguishable at times from movie footage.

Microsoft did not say how much the new system would cost or how much publishing partners would charge for games, which today typically start around $60 for high-end game consoles.

Traditional retail sales of games have come under pressure in recent years as mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, have invaded their turf with free and low-cost games.

While many gamers dismiss those offerings as inferior to console games, they have nevertheless tapped into a huge audience of players who, in some cases, have never played an Xbox or PlayStation.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that would make the market more challenging for Microsoft with the Xbox One, since the days are gone when an oligopoly of companies -- Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony -- owned most of the games market.

"All they had to do is keep their eyes on each other and to keep them on the already confirmed gaming customers. Compare that with today, they're not just competing with each other," Mr. McQuivey said. "They're competing with a much greater pool of people."

Still, the television screen remains the center of home entertainment for many families, and the slick production values possible on Microsoft's new machine are hard for current mobile devices to match.

John Taylor, an analyst at Arcadia Investment, said he was impressed with the new Xbox and believed that it would be able to deliver unique entertainment experiences on television sets.

"You can do a lot of things on the phone and a lot of things on tablet," he said. "You can't do the same kinds of things on those device as you can on that big screen."

cybertainment


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here