The launch of a new gaming console is always a little weak on the new game front — developers aren’t familiar with the system’s capabilities yet, and most of their money is still in projects for the previous system.
But consoles today are hardly just for gaming, and the best reason to pick up an Xbox One on launch-day Friday has nothing to do with games at all.
With a Windows 8-style customizable tile operating system, Internet Explorer, simultaneous gaming and TV watching, cable TV input, digital Netflix, Hulu and ESPN access, with a host of other features, Xbox One is as much an all-purpose entertainment hub as it is a next-generation game system.
The launch-price of $499 is cheaper than just about any computer you can buy with an AMD 8-core processor, 8-gigabytes of RAM, 500-gigabyte hard drive, 200 gigabytes of bandwidth and a Blu-ray player, with the added benefit of being in your living room.
Microsoft actually set aside a portion of the system’s power to exclusively run its non-game content efficiently. Yours apps, music and video will run free of lag from your game, and vice versa.
Xbox OneGuide lets you use the Xbox One as your cable TV input with a much smoother interface than the box you already have. You can even use your old remote instead of the controller.
And if the FaceTime screen on your phone is looking a little small, you can use the Kinect 1080p high-definition camera for Skype calling — right from the couch to chat about whatever it is you’re watching or playing.
All of the features above will be available via voice and motion activation through the camera, which will also recognize the different users in your house and automatically load their custom dashboard — though early reports claim this is a bit buggy as of now.
The advertised features will likely be a gateway to a variety of new, unreported uses once users start getting their hands on the system Friday. After that, we’ll really start to learn what the Xbox One can do, but one thing is certain already — it will be a lot more than just gaming.