I recently contributed to a piece on the Somo blog looking at the Xbox One announcement and what it means for advertisers and users. A little rushed, both in my thinking and the urgency of posting the piece, I think my opinion comes off a little harsh. After a little time to reflect on both my opinions and those of my co-writer Naji El-Arifi, I felt like I should add comment to my initial reaction.
The Xbox One, controller, and Kinect
On my initial opinion:
First off, let me set the record straight – I’m a huge Xbox fan. My gamerscore is over 20,000 (in your face Naji). I used to work for both EA and Codemasters so I have a keen interest in the next generation of entertainment hardware. I was counting down the days to May 21st but am left just a little unfulfilled. Here’s why…
WHERE’S MY SMARTGLASS?
SmartGlass is a brilliant, yet underused feature that allows you to control your Xbox with any tablet or smartphone. SmartGlass also displays supplementary content to the big screen, giving a really great in-built second-screen experience. This integration of mobile to console opens up the opportunities for mobile interactions in the connected living room. I really want to see where Microsoft have taken this as I believe it will be an emerging space to deliver mobile experiences on. Currently non-gaming activity accounts for around 40% of time spent with an Xbox, as we use an Xbox for TV and films, there is an opportunity here for brands to deliver supplementary content and engagement
I’m sure we will hear more about what Xbox are doing with SmartGlass at E3 as it was only mentioned once at the announcement event. The reason I was disappointed we didn’t hear more about SmartGlass is because I think it is the perfect second-screen experience just waiting to be used. If I was Zeebox or Monterosa or similar I would be worried. Even Shazam for TV should be worried as this can potentially do the same job. I can see SmartGlass becoming the most used input method to the Xbox One, more than the Kinect, as people start to watch TV, movies, and internet content through their Xbox. What do have PlayStation have to compete…?
The original SmartGlass hasn’t really changed since it was launched. What does the Xbox One have in store for it?
IS IT ALWAYS-ON?
Whilst the ‘always-on’ rumours are still a bit murky, being strongly encouraged to be connected to the internet means the home screen of the Xbox One will be a prime position for advertising. I remember the long-gone blades UI with no advertising (except for my Discovery Channel sponsored Gears of War theme). Nowadays the Xbox home screen is choc-a-bloc with branded advertising, and we can expect even more advertising, branded apps and sponsored content to come.
The now-infamous tweet from Microsoft CD that sparked the ‘always-on’ backlash
This one is relatively straight-forward. Internet connection required = advertising. Combine this with Kinect recognising your face and you have some really tailored advertising and content recommendations.
At the moment there isn’t much news at all on the mobile Xbox platform except for an early discussion about how Ubisoft game ‘Watchdogs’ will enable mobile gamers to interact with friends’ games in real-time. For some reason no one is talking about this and what this means for Xbox on mobile!
I expect to see Xbox games made available across mobile platforms, and I expect to see apps that interact with Xbox content in a meaningful way. I would like to hear about how games like Plants Vs Zombies can work across mobile and console, bringing the Xbox Live gaming platform to a much wider mobile audience.
This one’s a lot bigger than I can go into now… however, in short, Xbox Live is awesome and bringing it to mobile would be a huge win for Microsoft. The Watchdogs reference above I highly recommend reading as it talks of mobile gamers influencing friends’ Xbox gaming sessions in real time. This will be huge when released and I can see this an essential part of every AAA game – having a companion mobile app that keeps you playing on mobile when you are away from your Xbox. Eventually I see this moving to social platforms also.
On Naji’s opinion:
XBOX ONE THE ONE PLACE FOR YOUR MEDIA NEEDS
Microsoft have played up this angle for the Xbox One, it aims to be the entertainment hub of the living room. Hopefully you will be able to have all channels going through the Xbox and integrate Netflix. The perfect solution for me would be if I could search for a program on my Xbox One and it would rifle through Netflix, Sky and Lovefilm for me, I don’t care which service I watch a program or film on I just want to be able to watch it.
This is interesting when we add mobile into the mix (#SmartGlass). It’s obvious that Xbox want the living room, but what happens if you replicate the Xbox home screen on the mobile? Could you watch your content through the Xbox app on your phone? Do you organise your watch lists cross Netflix, Love Film, and iPlayer on the Xbox app?
KINECT, WE CAN SEE YOU BETTER THAN YOU THINK
The most impressive piece of technology announced was the new Kinect sensor which pulls in 2Gbs of data and so gets a very accurate reading of your environment. It can actually see up to six people and even the orientation of your extremities.
The hardware has also been upgraded and it now films in 1080p which is far superior to the previous Kinnect.
These improvements mean it is now technically possible to track a user’s facial expression, so you could see someone’s reaction to a particular advert or program – provided Microsoft allowed you to pull that data. Users’ heartbeats can also be captured by the Kinnect which could be used to great effect in games.
Overall, I think these improvements are all good, but I’m not tempted to pre-order. I’m hoping they will announce more than just exclusive game titles at the E3 event in a couple of weeks. There has to be more to come.
My first thought on this was a sarcastic ‘wow, HD Kinect. Now my Xbox can track 200 points of my body fumbling another kick in Kinect Sports’, however, I like Naji’s point that it can now track emotional responses to content. Whilst this doesn’t relate directly to mobile it’s interesting as this idea has been around for a while for smartphone front-facing cameras. It will be interesting to see how this idea is implemented successfully and how these learnings get translated to mobile.
In hindsight it seems so obvious – the Xbox One announcement was just the basic ‘hello, we’re here’ from Microsoft giving the basic overview of what they are offering for the next generation of home entertainment. Over the next 5 months we will get the full low-down of each and ever feature detailed and discussed to gain maximum buzz and coverage followed by 12 – 18 months of developers finding their feet and really innovating with the Xbox One’s multimedia and mobile integration capabilities.
I’d love to hear what you may think about the Xbox One announcement, and especially how you think mobile impacts the console in the comments below.