In 2001, Microsoft entered the console gaming world with a splash with the XBOX. Bill Gates and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (only known as The Rock in those days) introduced a gaming console that had teamed up with a little-known development company called Bungie who re-imagined their game Halo into a first person shooter to show off the best of the new system’s capabilities. Those who laughed at the bulky design and high price — Nintendo was releasing the GameCube at the same time for cheaper, while Sony’s sleeker Playstation 2 had been on the market for 6 months already — were silenced when the higher-powered XBOX went into such high demand that they were being scalped on Ebay.
In addition to being high-powered and an American entry in competition with imports, the XBOX brand became known for its first shooter games — while its best known franchise is Halo, which has gone on to include board and card games, figures, toys, collectibles, and its own fanbase, there’s no limit to the amount of FPS and major league sports tie-ins.
Now on its 4th regeneration (XBOX ONE), Microsoft is a mainstay in American gaming culture, and used in professional gaming tournaments around the world.
WHAT: XBOX ONE (just like it looks like)
RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2013 (North America)
CURRENT PRICE: $399.99 with 500GB Memory, 1 wireless controller, one game (buyer’s choice depending on bundle), 1 chat headset
AGE RANGE APPEAL: Tweens, teens, and older — dedicated gamers and those who are able to pick up controls easily
CONTROLLERS: XBOX ONE has one basic wireless controller:
you can get it in colors, customized, translucent, etc. There are additional thumb grips to stick onto your controller to help with gaming, as well as replacement buttons if/when the controller’s “action” wears out. Depending on your vendor, you may also be able to purchase a warranty on your controllers as well — check with both your vendor and your purchasing department to see if this is allowed.
KINECT: Carrying over from the XBOX 360 is the XBOX Kinect, the TV/camera sensor/recorder bar that allows for controllerless play on certain games, and puts you into the game on others. It’s still controversial in that it can record the number of people playing or watching people play, but Microsoft made it an optional part of the gaming after massive outcries from gamers. There are privacy settings as well that can be adjusted, but there is no firm information about how much data the Kinect gathers and stores, or where that information is sent. There is some fun to be found, however; if you want to see what people have done with their Kinect units outside of the XBOX world. Note: these void the warranty on your Kinect.
VOICE CONTROL: XBOX ONE, like the XBOX 360, has voice control, which is pretty cool — you can command it to do certain functions a la Star Trek. XBOX ONE also supports Skype, which would allow libraries to bring in authors and presenters who wouldn’t physically be able to due to distance, depending on your wireless or network connections.
MOST NUMBER OF PLAYERS IN PROGRAMS: I’ve seen 8 players on one system (obviously needing 8 controllers); typically it’s the traditional 4 with more available online
PROS OF THE XBOX ONE:
- Instant familiarity: most tweens and teens will either have had an XBOX or XBOX 360 or have had experience playing on one, so they will know how to play on an XBOX ONE with no trouble. There won’t be any awkwardness of learning new controls or buttons, just learning new games and getting to know new teens and players — which means you can focus on making sure that things go smoothly in your program rather than answering which button does what.
- Massive stable of games: you can have your choice of what type of game day you want to have — racing day, combat day, gaming day, basketball day, soccer day, football day — choose one and go. Most are top rated franchises with multiplayer options, and can be easily turned into free play or tournament programs depending on the style you want for your program.
- Apps: in addition to games, XBOX ONE has a variety of apps that run on it as well. ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, NFL, Ted, The CW, Twitch, Univision Deportes, Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube, along with Internet Explorer, all run on the XBOX ONE currently, with more being promised. These turn your XBOX ONE from a gaming system into an educational tool, it’s just up to you on how you use it.
- Minecraft: if you have tweens or teens that are into Minecraft, purchase this NOW. Four can play on the screen, and you will have to pry them off of it.
CONS OF THE XBOX ONE:
- ESRB Ratings: if your teens are like my teens, they frequently want to play first person shooter games or combat games, with Halo or Call of Duty being prime examples. However, that presents a problem with administration, which doesn’t want to have games (or movies) that are over the age range of the participants (with M being Mature, which means over 17). Very few of the shooter games are rated T for Teen, so for the time being there are a lot of different sports games along with Injustice: Gods Among Us going around
- Kinect Fail: we really expected a lot of games to be out by this time for the Kinect — after all, everyone is hyping about controller-less technology, and how everyone is fat and needs to exercise. The only ones we’ve really found are Just Dance and Kinect Sports. Where are the games?
- XBOX Live Issues: there have been issues with the XBOX Live network being down randomly without notice — which is not good when games require a network connection to save gameplay. You can still play games without the network connection (with some fuss) but none of the progress or stats will be saved — which makes it difficult to unlock characters or keep record of scores during tournament play.
- Not Backwards Compatible: although Microsoft keeps saying they’re “working”on a solution (snort) the XBOX ONE does not work with your XBOX 360 games.
OVERALL: XBOX ONE is expensive but a powerhouse gaming tool. Definitely geared towards those who know gaming, showcasing shooters and sports games, the graphics and intensity of games definitely beats out the Wii by a long shot. The XBOX Live issues and the lack of games for the Kinect are factors to take into consideration, as well as the variety of games that are available. If you currently have an XBOX 360 in your library, keep it until it dies, then think about replacing it. However, if you’re just starting out with a gaming system and can pick only one, poll your teens with a list of games from both the PS4 and XBOX ONE that would be available to them based on what you’re allowed to purchase, and see what they decide.