Xbox One users will have to pay extra for Skype and gamer-gratifying DVR

Microsoft has released the first unboxing video of its forthcoming Xbox One console, along with details on its pricing policy. The bad news is that gamers will have to pay extra for some features, but on the plus side they get a free mono headset.

When the Xbox One was shown off for the first time, Microsoft’s Don Matrick, then president of Redmond’s interactive entertainment business and now CEO at Zynga, extolled the new features of the console. These include Skype, a gaming DVR system that lets you record gaming triumphs, NFL game streaming, and a system called Smartmatch that will find suitable opponents for players.


What he neglected to mention, and what Microsoft has now confirmed, is that all of these will require owners to pony up $60 a year for an Xbox Live Gold subscription on top of the console’s hefty $499 purchase price.

On the plus side, Microsoft is adding more hardware to the Xbox, as it showed in its unboxing video released on Thursday. Xbox One buyers will get a mono headset with microphone included for free – an item that would have set them back a whole $20 otherwise – as well as a free Xbox sticker.

During the unboxing video, Microsoft’s director of Xbox programming Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson as his gamer tag reads, extolled the virtues of the new hardware. The controller now has “impulse triggers,” which will “change the way you game.” A 4k-compliant HDMI cable is also included, which given the $1,888.75 price Best Buy can charge these days could be a major saving.

The extras don’t seem to have impressed many and Xbox message boards are already starting to build up a head of steam from outraged gamers whining about yet another way that Redmond is shaking money from their pockets.

Sony was quick to put the boot in, as it did the day after the Xbox One launch by promising a cheaper, DRM-free console in the PS4. Shortly after Microsoft confirmed the subscription-locked features, Sony’s president of worldwide studios took to Twitter to point out that Sony would be giving features like in-game recording for free.

That’s slightly disingenuous, since Sony will now be charging $50 a year to play multiplayer games online, and the PS4’s $399 purchase price doesn’t include a motion sensor like the heartbeat-sensing Kinect from Microsoft.

But it’s still a cheaper bet than the Xbox One as a package. Microsoft must just be hoping that the Xbox One has the quality to win over buyers who are prepared to pay more.



‘Heartbroken Xbox One engineer’ criticises Microsoft, details cancelled features

Someone who claims to be a Microsoft engineer has chosen Pastebin to express his outrage against the Redmond giant’s inability to explain to consumers how the always online model of the Xbox One could have benefited them.

The angst filled note comes a day after Microsoft took a U-turn by backing off plans for the Xbox One consoles to require Internet connections and put restrictions on playing second-hand disk games after wide spread outrage among the media and gaming community and the good response to PlayStation 4 pre bookings that does not have any such restrictions.

The engineer acknowledges backlash amongst game publishers and says that the used gaming industry was killing game developers whose only source of revenue was from game buyers.

He then talks about the Family Sharing feature of the Xbox One that has now been removed after Microsoft announced a change in its policies.

The Family Sharing feature enabled Xbox One owners to share game libraries with anyone they deemed to be family, no matter where they were located. He also gives details that were not previously revealed by Microsoft.

According to the engineer, Family Sharing would only let family members access a “demo mode” of the game for between 15 mins and 45 mins, and in some cases an hour, after which it would stop and the user would be asked to purchase the full game.

He also added that Microsoft was thinking of limiting the number of times Family Sharing could be accessed for each game till it was purchased. He says that it would have generated revenue for developers and allow users to retain their progress in the game. He does mention that the feature might still be implemented at least for digitally downloaded games.

The engineer goes on to talk about another feature that Microsoft didn’t speak about, mentioning that the company was building a ‘natural social network’ with Xbox One, so that gamers could post their high scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, share what they’ve watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond through their account’s “home space” to without the need to use their laptops/ tablets or keyboard add-ons.

The engineer suggests that the Kinect 2.0 and Xbox One voice to text capabilities would be utilised for communication and though the network would be independent of Facebook or Twitter, there would be integration with the services.  He reiterates Microsoft’s message that people who don’t prefer new add ons that make the Xbox One an entertainment consumption device should probably be happy with the Xbox 360.