Like the Jedi Order in the maligned Star Wars prequels, Microsoft was once seemingly untouchable, commanding vast armies with the allegiance of powerful allies. But there was an arrogance in its approach, a delusional belief that it could simply impose its will until the public accepted Microsoft rule.
That’s why the past couple of years have not been kind to Microsoft. The publisher was out-of-touch with its audience when it revealed its plans for the Xbox One. Draconian ideology on the nature of game ownership and distribution rights set it back, and a stubborn insistence on forcing motion controls on the public via the Kinect tied Microsoft to an unwanted peripheral that drove up the price of the system. The stage was set for the downfall that would follow.
The Star Wars analogy is imperfect because there is no “good” or “bad” in console gaming. There are no Jedi or Sith, only companies whose responsibilities lie with their shareholders. Like the Force, there needs to be some balance.
Sony has just been ahead in recent years, deftly leveraging its more powerful PS4 to be the console to beat this generation, consistently offering better performance, a variety of popular exclusives, and bigger versions of multiplatform titles like Call of Duty. Sony is winning the war with PS4 sales that outnumber the Xbox One 2-to-1. Things are looking bleak for Microsoft.
Fortunately, there is a new hope. The Xbox One is still a solid console that can run the same games as the PS4, so here are seven reasons to consider adding the Xbox One to your collection:
Microsoft pulled a 180 and de-emphasized the Kinect, in effect undercutting Sony’s original $450 PS4 price point. These days, you can score an Xbox One for around $350, which should be bundled with at least two games, if not more.
If there’s one area Microsoft has succeeded, it’s in keeping up with Sony on the number and quality of exclusive games (timed or otherwise) it releases. Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Ori and the Blind Forest are some of this year’s standouts, but there are plenty of interesting ones on the horizon, including Quantum Break and Gears of War 4.
Microsoft dropped a bomb with its surprise announcement of backwards compatibility. While it has been slow to add new games, there are a decent number of backwards compatible titles already available, with more coming each month. More importantly, publishers are taking the opportunity to drive sales of new games by offering free downloads of the older games in the series. Fallout 4, Rainbow 6 Siege, and Gears of War Ultimate were the first to do it, but they definitely won’t be the last.
Backwards Compatibility also adds value for those who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold through the Games with Gold promotion. Moving forward, each 360 game given away is also backwards compatible, meaning each month can potentially bring four free games to your console. I can’t always vouch for quality, but free is free.
Both consoles feature ergonomically sound, feature-laden controllers. Microsoft’s offering may have less bells and whistles (no speaker or touchpad), but it’s more solidly built and has a few tricks under the hood.
Aside from the basic controller rumble mechanism, each trigger is outfitted with individual motors, providing even greater feedback to the player. It’s hard to explain why that’s a good thing until you’ve actually felt a perfect reload in Gears of War or experienced the shift to new terrain in a racing game or the subtle recoil of an automatic rifle.
Trading one devil for another, Microsoft lost its timed exclusivity with Activision, but it gained EA Access, the subscription service that offers a bunch of free, older EA games. For $30 a year (on top of Xbox Live Gold), gamers have access to EA’s vault of games that includes Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield 4 and Battlefield: Hardline, and a ton of sports games. They also offer timed ten-hour trials of some new games, which might actually be enough time to fully appreciate Star Wars Battlefront.
External Hard Drive Support
500 GB of storage space just isn’t enough when patches are measured in GB and not MB. Instead of forcing players to open up their consoles to swap out drives, Xbox One allows you to plug in a USB 3.0 enabled external hard drive, provided it’s larger than 256GB. If you have a large enough solid state drive or hybrid and a hard drive enclosure, you’ll even get a bit of an added performance boost when it comes to loading times.
This year, Microsoft released Windows 10, and aside from making right the wrongs of Windows 8, it also attempts to unify many Microsoft devices, including the Xbox One. With a lot of improvements under the hood, including the addition of Microsoft’s DirectX 12 technology, the user experience is vastly improved thanks to the new, slightly snappier user interface for the Xbox One.
The addition of Windows 10 also means that game streaming from the console to PC is a possibility, and while I’ll probably refrain from playing competitive multiplayer matches on my laptop, I have used the feature to sneak in some time with Telltale Games’ adventure titles while sitting in bed.
There was a time when even Xbox One owners were apologetic about their console choice. That should no longer be the case. Microsoft has learned a lot over the years, admitting its failings and working hard to right the course. Sony’s lead this generation is likely insurmountable. But even for the most die-hard PS4 fans, it’s hard to deny that a successful Xbox One brings balance to the console wars.
So is it finally OK to go out and buy an Xbox One? Search your feelings. You know it to be true.