Microsoft plays up Xbox One’s entertainment features
Microsoft Corp., looking to build anticipation for the new Xbox One video game console, emphasized the entertainment features of the device.
The struggling Seattle technology giant has been positioning the successor to its Xbox 360 as an all-in-one entertainment system that will enable users to quickly switch from playing games to watching television to listening to music — and back again — by using their voice.
“One of the goals we have for Xbox One is for it to be the games and entertainment system for people in their homes,” Xbox Marketing Director Jose Pinero said as he demonstrated the new features this week in Venice.
The Xbox One — scheduled to come out Nov. 22 — seeks to improve on the cumbersome electronic program guides and remote controls that people use to make viewing selections with a new type of navigation.
The Kinect controller recognizes a user when he or she enters the room, and it automatically fills the screen with that person’s favorite channels, applications or games. The device also responds to voice commands, enabling the user to change TV channels or the volume or launch a video game, stream a show on Netflix or Hulu or listen to an album.
The next-generation program guide, dubbed the Xbox OneGuide, works in concert with the Kinect controller, allowing viewers to call out the name of the show they want to watch instead of scrolling through a long menu of options. It also contains shortcuts to the most popular channels, making channel surfing more efficient.
The home screen borrows the look of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system — with its distinctive colorful square tiles — to help choose among their options, such as watching a television show, to calling a friend via Skype and accessing a movie through Amazon’s Instant Video.
A section dubbed “Favorites” allows people to pin tiles representing oft-visited TV networks and entertainment options, much as users of the Pinterest photo-sharing social network attach significant images to their pages.
Longtime video game industry analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said Microsoft’s emphasis on the Xbox One’s entertainment features might be confusing to the devoted gamers who are among the first to line up for next-generation consoles.
“Microsoft is trying to do too many things,” Pachter said. “Everything they’re trying to do is swell, but they’re doing too many things to communicate clearly.”
Retailers said there is avid anticipation for the Xbox One, which retails for $499 and comes with a 500-gigabyte hard drive, a Blu-ray disc player, built-in wireless connectivity, the new Kinect and one wireless controller.
The Microsoft game system, as well as Sony Corp.'s forthcoming PlayStation 4, are among the most wished-for video game items on Amazon.com, where preorders are nearly two times that of video game sales on Black Friday.
“Customers have been waiting for console innovation from Microsoft and Sony for a long time,” said John Love, Amazon’s director of video games. “Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 in 2005 and Sony launched the PS3 in 2006. When you consider that most cellphones, TVs, tablets and PCs have new models every year — this is a very big event in gaming.”
Retailer GameStop plans midnight launch events later this month at stores across the country, where it will hold contests, award prizes and provide customers with live music and food trucks as they wait for doors to open at 12:01 a.m.
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