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Is The Xbox One Ready for Launch?

The number of delayed Xbox One features cast doubt on if Microsoft is truly ready to launch this year.

Article by Mike Williams, .

Microsoft's Xbox One is coming to 13 countries on November 22, 2013. The console's release date gives its rival, the Sony PlayStation 4, a one week head start on the market, but when its comes to consoles that will be on the market for years, one week is almost nothing. It seems like Microsoft is placing a lot of importance on having the Xbox One out on store shelves this year and before Black Friday, the official beginning of the holiday shopping season. What's been lost in the rush to get the Xbox One out this year?

In its original reveal of the Xbox One, Microsoft outlined a voice-controlled media box to stand as the centerpiece of your home. The system would connect with your television, overlaying show data and recommending new content for you to watch. The all-new Kinect would always be waiting for your voice commands, allowing you to switch seamlessly between watching a movie and playing a game. Xbox Live GameDVR would allow you to share your gaming experiences with friends on Xbox Live, YouTube, and Facebook. The best games, the best movies, the best television experience, all in one place. Sure, it was spin, but that was the vision laid out before us.

The full, original Xbox One reveal.

Now, things have changed since that first reveal. Microsoft touted an always-online future and consumers called foul; the company changed course. Sony came in with a strong indie focus, and Microsoft jumped in with its own ID@Xbox program. The Kinect, which was originally stated as necessary for the system to even operate, has been made optional. Despite all these changes, Microsoft corporate vice president of interactive entertainment Phil Harrison insists that the company's vision hasn't changed.

"Our long term vision hasn't changed at all. We haven't diluted our long term vision, which is all of the benefits of a connected ecosystem and what that means for all of the stakeholders - us, developer, publisher and crucially, the player," Harrison told GamesIndustry International. "We had to adapt some of our policies and it was best that we did those before we launched, which we've done."

If Microsoft's vision remains the same, why are so many features missing launch? It's been an ongoing refrain for the past two months. That's not coming, you can expect it in early 2014. Nope, early 2014.

If you were looking forward to the new Kinect's smooth voice commands, you better hope you're buying the Xbox One in one of ten out of the thirteen launch territories. Microsoft senior director of product management and planning Albert Penello told IGN that these ten languages will be understood: US English, Great Britain English, Canadian English, French Canadian, French French, German, Australian English, Spain Spanish, Mexico Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Sorry, New Zealand. This is all after you notice that the Xbox One was meant to launch in twenty-one countries when it was first announced, not thirteen.

Want to use those great TV overlay features that Microsoft showed off in the first reveal? Unfortunately, if you're in the UK or Europe, you'll be waiting for those features. The TV features require HDMI input from your television set-top box; anything else is a non-starter.

"We talk a lot about TV and that's only going to work basically in Japan and the U.S. at launch where you have HDMI-in scenarios, so you'll say 'hey, what if I have a terrestrial over the air?' We won't have a solution for that right away, but we still sell it as part of the vision," Penello told IGN. "So it's honest criticism and you'd love to have the new launch be everything that you had before and more, but unfortunately it's an untenable [proposition]."

Xbox Live only for the foreseeable future.

The GameDVR will make launch, but it will only allow uploading to Xbox Live. YouTube and Facebook sharing has been pushed back until next year in all territories, Penello told Destructoid. Bright side? Sony has never confirmed PlayStation 4 video sharing to YouTube.

The Xbox One will ship with a 500 GB hard drive, but if you want a larger one, that's too bad. The console's hard drive is non-removable, leaving external hard drives as the only option. But external storage won't be supported at launch. Xbox Live director of programming Larry Hyrb confirmed that in a live recording of his podcast at PAX Prime 2013. There's no confirmed date for adding that support.

Looking forward to Microsoft's indie program matching the great set of indies that Sony has in store for the PlayStation 4? Also not expected at launch, because Microsoft just took the wraps off the program.

"I don't think we're going to see things at launch," Harrison told GI.biz. "I don't think it's realistic to see a developer get the program and build a game and get it into the market on November 22. It's reasonable to expect in early 2014 we'll start seeing the first games come through."

Sony is missing some things as well, but they are features the company said wouldn't be available at launch from the beginning, like the Gaikai streaming service. I understand console launches are difficult - platform holders are getting closer to a true worldwide launch though - but one company seems prepared for their console launch while the other is not.

What ends up here on launch day might not completely be what you saw in that first video.

"I mean, I totally understand people's frustrations, and it's hard to give an answer beyond the fact that, from my seat, it's a console transition and this is part and parcel," Penello said to IGN. "There's a lot of things that we'll talk about in our vision for the product that aren't going to be there at launch."

Would Microsoft have been more prepared if it had launched the Xbox One in early 2014? I don't know, I'm not a giant multi-national conglomerate. But it does seem like Microsoft's new console has a number of features, bells, and whistles, that aren't coming until next year. I doubt those will be the features that will make-or-break someone's decision between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but Microsoft isn't operating from a position of strength. The $100 price different is killer, and Titanfall, one of the Xbox One's best-looking titles, isn't coming out... until early 2014.

Is Microsoft making the right decision? Is it better to release a system without promised features just to get in on the holiday rush, or could the move backfire and hand the PS4 an early lead?

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Comments 16

  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #1 AxiomVerge 3 years ago
    One advantage I could see to the delayed indie publishing would be if they give them their own "Indie Launch" - this could keep them from being overshadowed by Watch Dogs and the like. On the other hand I think the indie titles will be what helps fill the gaps during the PS4's first year, and the Xbox One won't have that.
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  • Avatar for curryking3 #2 curryking3 3 years ago
    Define "ready to launch" though... it's kind of hard.

    Does it mean.... having 50% of announced features available in another equally arbitrary proportion of countries?

    Or does it mean simply stocking units on shelves that can at least run games?

    Or is it something much more vague? How many units they can sell? A measure of the excitement they have generate pre-launch in some ratio to the sales velocity and availability post launch?

    What does "ready" mean?

    Don't get me wrong, I think Xbox One has more than a sliver of a chance of getting crushed by PS4 in sales right out of the gate and onwards...

    Just wondering how does one gauge readiness. But yea... if we're talking about readiness as in "are they rushing, or are they not" type of thing, yea I could say with some confidence... the team running Xbox isn't that ready.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #3 metalangel 3 years ago
    "Great Britain" English... it'll be able to understand everyone, from the Welsh Valleys to Yorkshire to Birmingham to Aberdeen?

    They're taking to make it do everything for everyone without even asking what everyone wants. There aren't even that many launch games.

    Maybe it's because I'm old, but I remember the days when systems launched with awesome games, or at the very least one awesome game that would keep you going. The SNES had Super Mario World, the N64 had Mario 64, the Playstation had Ridge Racer, the Dreamcast has Power Stone AND Soul Calibur... even the original Xbox had Halo.

    You can see I'm more interested in games than stupid features... maybe I'm soured to how a lot of the 'wonderful' apps on the 360 require a gold membership (Last.fm, when I asked them directly, seemed unaware silver members only got 120 minutes of use). Maybe I'm just waiting for a decent game before I get interested in the system. It took GTA3 for me to become interested in the PS2, and Test Drive Unlimited for the 360.
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  • Avatar for MrTomFTW #4 MrTomFTW 3 years ago
    Microsoft add features after launch, whereas going by past form Sony take them away.

    Swings and roundabouts really.
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  • Avatar for memeroot #5 memeroot 3 years ago
    my xbox homescreen looks so different today....

    discuss
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  • Avatar for Jonny5Alive7 #6 Jonny5Alive7 3 years ago
    I think there are plenty of good games coming at launch, I'd agree that the platform exclusives don't' look up to much but the likes of Battlefield 4 and Watch Dogs look awesome.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #7 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @memeroot I don't miss the Xbox 360 Blades.
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  • Avatar for Toplinkar #8 Toplinkar 3 years ago
    I don't know if these features will be the killer-apps under the X1's belt. But I do think MS rushed their launch a little to make sure it was available at the all important black-friday (at least to you, northern-hemisphere dwellers)

    However, I don't think they had a chocie. Missing the holiday season would be quite the financial blow, specially to a platform that needs to have the largest installed base possible, as soon as possible.

    Their proposition of the ultimate All-in-One entertainment device does sounds great, but they underestimated the work they needed to do to achieve that vision.
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  • Avatar for Feanor #9 Feanor 3 years ago
    @MrTomFTW Sony added a ton of features to the PS3.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #10 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    Well, Microsoft _was_ prepared, just the consumer outcry forced them to scramble and reevaluate. For the better, but this is the price we're going to pay for changing their policies.

    Honestly, I'm not going to bother with either for a while. Nothing at launch seems particularly appealing to my tastes, and I'd likely get a Wii U before anything... not that I can really justify that yet, either. Especially with the backlog I've got on 360/PS3/3DS/Wii!

    I think Microsoft is going to get back into the swing of things eventually. This whole kerfluffle will go away when the games start coming out, and as long as they've got some strong exclusives, they'll do fine. Probably.
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  • Avatar for Spazgadget #11 Spazgadget 3 years ago
    While it seems fair to guess that Microsoft will survive this troubled launch and sell plenty of consoles, it also seems completely fair to say that they are grossly unprepared for the launch, to a level that's bordering on botching it.

    Obviously the vociferous consumer backlash to their planned "features" is partly to blame for them being so behind at the moment, but it doesn't excuse it. The platform has been in the works for years, and having to cut many of its touted features in the months before launch shows a marked lack of ability to get the job done.

    It also, to me, points to a company that seems out of touch with it's desired consumer base and way too caught up in their own marketing "vision". Frankly this was very much the case with Sony at the launch of the PS3, and it's uncanny to see how much the tables have turned for this generation, where Sony seems to be largely hitting bullseyes with each announcement, at least from a PR perspective.

    Microsoft will be fine, obviously, and in a year no one is going to really remember whether you could use external hard drives at launch, but the company clearly has a lot of catching up to do. I'll revisit the console around Xmas 2014 and see how much they've managed to shoehorn back in, but for now, I'm not paying for what looks like an unfinished project.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #12 Bla1ne 3 years ago
    Also their killer launch titles are under extreme deadlines. Killer Instinct launching with a roster of 8 fighters? I read Forza was similarly pressured, though I don't remember the details. So services and software are being rushed... let's hope the hardware, at least, isn't rushed like it was last gen.

    Edit: just wanted to double-check it was 8 fighters for Killer Instinct, and it seems it's actually 6, and 2 will be added later. I know Double Helix are doing everything they can, but launching with 6 fighters is cutting it really short.Edited September 2013 by Bla1ne
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  • Avatar for PerfectUgly #13 PerfectUgly 3 years ago
    @Spazgadget So agree, this launch is Microsoft's version of the PS3 launch - completely out of touch with industry needs and desires, imposing relatively draconian mandates on the industry.

    To their credit, they listened to public outcry. That said, Sony takes home a huge PR win from this launch, so I'm curious how much that will translate into sales (to date, the only real advantage Live has over the PS network is group chat, which isn't an advantage anymore at launch).

    And if you read the NeoGaf forums, where the developers hang out, you can read just how unprepared MS was for launching this year.

    I hope they're not rushing so much as to create hardware issues for themselves again (i.e., red ring, etc.).Edited September 2013 by PerfectUgly
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  • Avatar for melnificent #14 melnificent 3 years ago
    @memeroot Bring back the blades and swooshy sound.
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  • Avatar for Bremenacht #15 Bremenacht 3 years ago
    Can a gaming console play games at launch? If the answer is an unqualified yes, then it's ready.
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  • Avatar for Vasenor #16 Vasenor 3 years ago
    I'm surprised that the ongoing work on the hardware hasn't been mentioned in the article. Sony were able to release specs on their box months ago but given the announcements about Xbox engineers getting more power out of the console as recently as a few weeks ago it sounds as if the finalized hardware is only just now getting locked down.

    Frankly, I would not fancy my chances with a launch Xbox One. They had issues with launch 360s and that was with a seemingly far more comfortable launch schedule.

    Standard disclaimer, I don't think Microsoft are boned and I do think the Xbox One, like the PS3, will most likely dig itself out and be reasonably successful (and perhaps even "win" the generation given time and TLC).
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