From reveal to retail: How we arrived at the Xbox One Day One Edition

22nd Nov 2013 | 16:40

From reveal to retail: How we arrived at the Xbox One Day One Edition

Xbox One was against everything before it was for it

The Xbox One name is a misnomer that's as giant as the hefty console itself, as Microsoft has put its third system through four major changes in just six months.

Microsoft's pendulum-swinging messages were no doubt fueled by Sony's more gamer-friendly PS4 announcements and zinger-filled E3 jabbs.

Ultimately, consumers benefit from more than the entertaining back-and-forth between the two companies - they also now have a better, feedback-inspired, next-generation Xbox.

The changes of the last six months have made transitioning from the Xbox 360 to Xbox One a little easier, albeit a bit confusing at times.

The only requirement the much-evolved Xbox One needs now is to set the record straight.

Xbox One timeline

Xbox One online check-ins check out

The Xbox One reveal on May 21 sparked a panic of rumors that the new system would carry an "always-online" requirement. Gamers immediately feared this "no internet connection, no functional Xbox" future.

This was never really the case, but Microsoft failed to promptly address the situation with facts, leaving wild speculation to shape the Xbox One in a color reminiscent of the Red Ring of Death.

When the company did set the record straight, gamers were left with something less threatening: a once every 24 hours online check-in requirement to keep the Xbox One chugging along.

There were benefits to this daily internet check-in "feature." Both physical and digital game purchases could be backed up to a cloud-based library and played on another Xbox One.

A few gamers liked this idea so much that they petitioned Microsoft to bring back Xbox One DRM.

  • Take a gander at our Xbox One controversy timeline. Just to the right ... there you go.

Family sharing shot down

Microsoft also introduced a family sharing plan that would have allowed up to 10 members of a family to log in and play from each others' shared games library - again on any Xbox One.

"You can always play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time," Microsoft explained while never defining how loose of a concept "family member" would be.

Xbox One dashboard

The true definition doesn't matter now. Both the cloud-based library and family sharing concept were axed, at least for the time being, when Microsoft gave up on the online check-in requirement - it was necessary to make the games library syncing process work.

Considering gamers' experience with frustrating DRM catastrophes, the potential downsides to an almost-always-online console outweighed game sharing features between multiple Xbox One consoles and family members.

Xbox One used games policy reversal

The greater reason behind the periodic online check-ins had to do with how Microsoft wanted to control Xbox One used game sales.

Was it an all-out used games ban? Was there a fee attached to buying or selling a used game? Was it just an option for third-party publishers to take advantage of?

These were some of the important questions on gamers' minds that went unanswered from the first day the Xbox One was announced until up to 31 days later. Politicians in a heated scandal usually fold faster than that.

On June 6, Microsoft finally made it clear that transferring an Xbox One game to a friend wouldn't incur a fee if they've been on your Xbox Live friends list for more than 30 days. But each game could only be exchanged once.

Xbox One game trade-ins to "participating retailers" were also possible and Microsoft said it wouldn't charge a fee here either, but this left the door open to third-party publishers to apply fees.

It also seemingly closed the door to independent video game retail chains that get by on buying and reselling used games due to the never-defined "participating retailers" list.

Microsoft also hadn't made plans for loaning and renting games, stating that these options wouldn't be possible when the Xbox One launched. It was "exploring the possibilities with [its] partners."

That exploration was never needed, as the backlash over Microsoft's complicated used games policy led to a complete reversal at the same time the company did away with online check-ins.

You're required to buy Kinect, but don't have to use it

The Xbox One Kinect is a powerful 1080p gesture and voice-based input that can process 2GB of data per second and recognize six skeletons at once.

But this next-generation camera has gotten under gamers' skin for a number of reasons, mostly because it was originally supposed to be essential for the Xbox One to function.

This requirement led to everything from reasonable privacy concerns to unchecked conspiracy theories when it was revealed that the sensor would be listening for the "Xbox, On" voice command even when the system was powered off.

Xbox One Kinect camera lense

It sure didn't help that reports fingered Microsoft for working with the US government on its Prism surveillance program. Its alleged spying on web customers further gave credence to the thought of Xbox One snapping photos and listening in on conversations in users' living rooms.

It took more than two weeks for the company to note that the Xbox One Kinect could be paused and that even the "Xbox, On" functionality could be disabled.

One less problematic issue remained: the new Kinect is much larger than its Xbox 360 counterpart. Users still complained that it might be a hassle to set up in certain living room or bedroom environments.

Microsoft set the record straight at the end of the summer, confirming that the Xbox One Kinect would not be required to be plugged in after all.

Open to indie games, maybe more than Sony

The Xbox One's final strategy shift came when Microsoft reversed its indie game policy.

All game developers originally needed to find a publisher to back their software in order to have a game release on the Xbox One, threatening garage-based video game creators.

This emerging talent simply migrated to Sony's indie-friendly PS4, as Microsoft's rival was more than happy to demonstrate during an usually long segment of its E3 2013 press conference.

Xbox One controller battery

A month after this happened, Microsoft not only opened up the Xbox One platform to small-time developers, it announced that all Xbox Ones would double as a developer unit.

This kind of hardware can be five times the cost of a normal console.

"Our vision is that every person can be a creator," Xbox Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten said in a statement on July 24.

"That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox Live."

Xbox One price remains

Microsoft changed its tune on four out of five controversial decisions, keeping the higher Xbox One price intact as it goes head-to-head with the PS4 today.

The Kinect-camera-included console costs $499 in the US, £429 in the US and $599 in Australia for its worldwide launch.

Xbox One unboxing

But even this will change eventually. Early adopters are going to pay the premium for Microsoft's next-generation console, while everyone on the sidelines will enjoy inevitable price drops.

Macro changes for Microsoft

Microsoft didn't change Xbox One's VCR-like form factor, its 8GB RAM and included specs, or the launch game lineup in the last six months as much as it overhauled its jarring, unfriendly policies.

Because of this, Xbox One acts more like the Xbox 360 than it did when it was first revealed in May, and for many gamers, that's completely OK.

Most importantly, it shows that Microsoft is open to change, a valuable lesson the wider company is at this experiencing at this very moment with its CEO exiting and its once-software-only investments looking to hardware beyond the Xbox brand.

  • Our Xbox One review is evolving by the minute, but it's definitely worth reading right now.
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