Its been twelve long years since Microsoft’s first Xbox console made it to the Indian market, albeit on the grey market. At the time, no one thought it would last for fears of piracy and a limited appeal. Fast forward nearly 100-million-worldwide-units-sold later and Xbox has grown to become a monster in India since 2006. It has gone on to nearly outstripped Windows as the most lucrative revenue source for Microsoft in the global scene.
With over 40 million members on its revolutionary worldwide Xbox Live platform, Microsoft was the first to make a break through in digital content delivery for console devices. Now, after years of anticipation, Microsoft is about to launch its latest console – Xbox One – widely claimed to re-imagine the way gaming is done. Or so they say.
Releasing just a week after Sony’s competing Playstation 4, the Xbox One is clearly more than just a gaming console. Despite its fierce competition from Sony in the gaming category, Microsoft has designed the Xbox to have an edge over the Playstation 4 when it comes to the larger choice consumers have to make – for entertainment.
Where Sony’s Playstation 4 is a finely crafter machine that promises to deliver cutting edge gaming experience, Microsoft’s Xbox One is the quiet self assured system that aims to provide a wider range of entertainment options – not just games. Targeting a market that extends beyond the hardcore gaming community the Xbox One can connect to your TV box and provide a single interface for your entertainment needs.
The Xbox One also features access to a complete set of cloud entertainment experiences such as internet browsing apps, video chatting, video on demand and streaming movies, along with its online community gaming platform – Xbox Live.
The Xbox is priced a hundred dollars higher than Sony’s Playstation 4 but comes packaged with the Kinect camera system, which in Sony’s case – the PS4 Camera – is a separate accessory that costs an additional $60. Taking advantage of the Windows and Xbox Live ecosystem, Microsoft has also positioned the Xbox One to compel any indecisive buyer to side with Microsoft over Sony due to the sheer value for money and entertainment integration that the device offers. However, this appeal only works in highly developed internet friendly markets.
So does the Xbox really work for the Indian market?
As an entertainment centre the Xbox One is heavily reliant on high speed internet access; with apps like Netflix and HuluPlus which are based on video streaming via internet. Unfortunately, both these apps work only in a select number of countries,India and other countries excluded through geo-targeting techniques.
In addition to these restrictions, Microsoft’s plans of launching a host of entertainment apps such as ESPN, FOX Now and other Video on Demand services are also likely to be restricted.
Compounding the problem of online international payments is the significantly limited access to high speed unlimited internet connectivity in most areas of the country, where streaming videos in high definition still proves to be a struggle. In such a scenario, multiplayer gaming in high-definition also becomes an effective impossibility.
Even in those parts of the country where high-speed access is available, the cost of unlimited plans is a significant investment that would bloat anyone’s home entertainment budget. And although the Xbox’s entertainment potential is immense, with its many features from Kinect gaming – where your heart rate and movements make the game come alive – to playing Blu Ray discs and other entertainment media – there is always the question of value for money. Note: 3D Blu Rays and USB media isn’t supported.
Another feature that will persist in the minds of gamers is backward compatibility – will your Xbox 360 games work on the Xbox One? Quick answer is NO – which is true of the Sony system as well. However, with Sony’s Gaikai rumoured to provide old games via streaming, Microsoft would surely follow soon enough.
Its also worth mentioning that if you really want to sink your teeth into the Xbox Live universe you will need to pay up $60 (Rs 3650) to Microsoft every year. And although the PS Network use to be free it is now split in to free and paid subscriptions ($50 or Rs3000 per year). Keep in mind that although the free goodies on PSN are fun they’re nothing close to the paid options.
The Sony’s Playstation 4 is priced lower and isn’t as Internet dependent as the Xbox One. As a simple matter of fact, the PS4’s gaming performance is also slightly better, and since most games are now available on both consoles the issues of missing out is more or less negligible. Adding to that, Sony’s PS Network has great indie game options which Xbox Live has yet to match.
The final word comes down to the fact that in India value for money wins above all else. For those select few who can afford high-speed unlimited internet at home and make online international payments for all of Microsoft’s goodies, then the Xbox One (expected at Rs 32,000) is the decidedly certain choice for home entertainment.
The common masses or hardcore gamers who are looking for a cost effective gaming solution that will sustain them at no extra cost (except new games of course) for the next 5 years, then Sony’s Playstation 4 looked set to be the clearest bet. But with a steep price tag of Rs 39,990, all bets are off.
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May 28, 2015