The Wishlist is home to our tech desires. It may be improvements to existing things, or something that doesn’t exist yet, but we really, really want.
This time we’re talking about Xbox One. It’s been a few months. There have been a small number of game releases since launch, along with some system updates, but what do we feel needs to be improved on Microsoft’s latest console?
I’m planning to largely do my game purchasing by digital download this generation. Microsoft have said that they hear people’s complaints about the negative pricing on the digital downloads (which is countered somewhat if you top-up your Microsoft account with pre-paid cards from someone like cdkeys.com, where they can be purchased for around 20% under face value) and they plan to investigate different pricing options, but the thing that annoys me more than the price is the lack of pre-orders for digital downloads. It wouldn’t be difficult for them to allow you to pre-purchase a digital copy of a game, which could be downloaded to your Xbox One in the background before the launch date, but only made visible to you when the clock ticks round to launch day. That means you don’t have to wait until midnight to trigger a download and then wait to play the game, which is better for you, and also better for Microsoft because the load on the servers can be spread over the days leading up to the launch of a new title.
While pre-ordering would be a new feature, my next wish is fixing a
bug feature that I regularly face with the system as it exists today. I have a young son who likes to play games, but frequently hands me the pad to show him how to do something. Xbox One cleverly suggests that his pad has disappeared. When playing LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, we’re always having to tell the console to keep playing as him, or hide the controller behind a cushion when he passes it to me. Things have been even worse when playing NBA 2K14 with 6 people sharing 4 controllers. The pads weren’t even changing hands during a game, but the Xbox frequently lost track of which controller should be playing for which team, and ended up thinking that there were more controllers in play than were present in the room (it only ever had 4 available, but started referring to them as 5, 6, 7 and 8 after a while)!
So I had the Xbox One on pre-order for a good 6 months prior to launch (but I suspect I was still slower than Jon!) and I was pretty excited by all of the information coming out about the console, leaked or otherwise. Now my gaming habits have changed significantly over the last 10 years where I went from an avid PC only gamer to dabbling a little bit with consoles to gaming almost exclusively (but admittedly not very much a week any more) on consoles. In the last generation of consoles I had a Wii, Xbox 360 and a PS3 but found I used the Xbox the most frequently. I found the experience of using a PS3 for online gaming to be painful. There was something so neat and easy about the online communication experience with the Xbox. You make an account, add friends via their email and then from that point on can see when they are online, can send them messages, chat with them, join their games, invite them to your games or even have private chat sessions while playing different games. The experience was great, it just worked (and lets not even talk about the Wii online experience!). I was therefore somewhat disappointed when I first used my shiny new Xbox One console and tried to join in with a friends game of BF4 only to find that the chat, party & friend experience had turned into an utter mess!
So what when wrong, surely when Microsoft were building the Xbox One they knew they had to carry all of this functionality forward? Well in theory they did, in practice however the new “appification” of the Xbox core functionality was rather woeful. Chat didn’t work properly, you would accept an invite only to be booted out of the game you were in & get stuck in “audio limbo” unable to talk to your friend. Now don’t get me wrong I can see why moving this sort of functionality out of the OS and into an “app” makes sense – you can iterate the apps much quicker than you can when they are baked in, you can get more flexibility that you had previously and it helps drive forward the ecosystem as a whole by making sure the OS has certain API’s built in that eventually other third parties will be able to exploit to build better experiences.
So what is on my wishlist? Well as you might have guessed a lot of fixes to make the chat & party join experience as seamless as it was on Xbox 360! I have seen the news that they had supposedly fixed this but I’ll wait and see and make my own mind up…