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Opinion: Mobile missing-in-action as Microsoft and Sony blunder into next-gen

Opinion: Mobile missing-in-action as Microsoft and Sony blunder into next-gen
"Microsoft's next Xbox will be the first major console to focus on delivering a platform that spans multiple forms of hardware, including smartphones and tablets," boldly predicted PocketGamer.biz in the hours ahead of Xbox One's big moment.

"Opening up the next Xbox to smartphones and tablets already in consumer's hands, from Windows Phone to Android and iOS, seems like the logical approach."

There's every possibility, of course, that our early take may prove to be true. Microsoft's Xbox One reveal has, in general, been slated by portions of the press and users on Twitter because, in essence, it told us very little.

There's a focus on film, TV and other media. There's a new Kinect. There's a Blu-ray drive. There's a few swish games from Microsoft, EA and Activision. But that's about it.

After Sony's lacklustre PS4 reveal – in which mobile, seemingly a core part of Sony's business, got only the briefest of mentions – Microsoft had a huge opportunity to take the lead and signal an intent to merge its console platform with its mobile offerings.

This, my friends, is the future. This is where gaming is ultimately going. But you wouldn't have guessed that from either Microsoft or Sony's presentations.

'In passing'

Indeed, in much a similar way as the PS4 reveal, mobile – or, rather, SmartGlass – was mentioned only in passing.

Xbox One, Microsoft claimed, will enjoy a natural fit with smart devices, because unlike its predecessor, it's been designed from the ground up to work with phones and tablets.

However, strip back the marketing speak, and what you're left with is an admission by Microsoft that SmartGlass is, in its current form, a bit pants.


Xbox One will come with the new improved Kinect as standard

With this announcement, Microsoft has effectively admitted that SmartGlass on Xbox 360 is a bit of an experiment. The firm's essentially saying, 'Put your trust in Xbox One, and we'll get it right this time.'

Of course, while SmartGlass may have been a worthy experience for Microsoft, the negative – or often pointless – experience garnered by gamers may have potentially put large portions of Xbox's userbase off further integration.

Frustratingly, it seems logical to us on the mobile side of the industry that closer ties between smartphones, tablets and console is the next step.

I refuse to believe that Microsoft don't realise this, as well – Pocket Gamer was itself told that it was "safe to suggest" that the ties between the next Xbox and its mobile and tablet platforms were only likely to get closer.

Yet mobile had no major role to play during Xbox One's big day.

'Early days'

Of course, for both Xbox One and PS4, this is early days.

The main problem with both systems right now is that neither seems to offer anything that's distinct from their predecessors, or reflects what's happening in the games market today.

As things stand, both merely offer incremental improvements on the systems already on the shop shelves – better graphics, slicker media integration, refined control pads et al.

Neither has that killer new feature that's likely to encourage the missions of Xbox 360 and PS3 owners out there to upgrade.

Or, at least, not yet. With E3 a couple of weeks or so around the corner, all this could change.



There's likely to be games aplenty at Microsoft's E3 splash, and - perhaps - also a little time for the Redmond giant to cast light on closer ties between its shiny black beast and smartphone platforms, integrating not only with Windows Phone and Windows 8, but also – if it has any sense – iOS and Android, too.

And, while Sony may not have its own mobile platform to integrate, PlayStation Mobile is clearly central to the company's plans longterm. Indeed, we've not even seen the PS4 in full yet, so there's every chance it may also have mobile integration at its core.

There's a long way to go, and we undoubtedly only know a fraction of what both new systems will have to offer come launch.

It's safe to say, however, that for those advocating a connected future – an industry where the borders between console and mobile games are almost indistinguishable – this hasn't been a good start.

Contributing Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

Comments

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Robert Green
I'm curious as to what you guys expected. It's one thing to say "there was a massive opportunity from Sony and Microsoft to truely embrace mobile devices and take the lead here.", and it's another entirely to actually explain what this would involve.

Are you suggesting perhaps the ability to interact with games using a touchscreen device? The Wii U's reception suggests this isn't something people find that exciting.
Perhaps you want more 'Skulls of the Shogun' style games, which work on any platform? Not a completely unreasonable request, but if you're trying to show off a new piece of high-end hardware, saying "and you can also play these games on a device you already own" isn't exactly a great strategy.
Or maybe you want to control the Xbox One's interface primarily with a tablet? Fine, but explain why this would be a good solution to a problem with the proposed setup.
Or perhaps I'm missing another possibility?

Because right now, I'm seeing some of the same kind of flawed philosophy that lead to SmartGlass - the ideal that because people are already using their mobile devices while watching TV, that they must be looking for some product that would use both of these at once. Of all the things MS may have done wrong this week, not focussing on mobile doesn't seem to rank very high.
Simon Edis Game Designer at Ezone.com
I agree Jon. Apple has to be thinking AppleTV as a game console - it would be a big mistake to sit back and let Ouya and GameStick take over the living room. We are currently building bluetooth joystick support into all our games so we'll be ready to hit the ground running when Apple announces their controller. I'm expecting a bluetooth gamepad framework in the next version of the iOS SDK.
jon jordan
Good point Phil.

Although no one else believes me, I'm still hearing rumours about Apple's controller and a wider games push with what the TV strategy is. More at WWDC I guess.
Keith Andrew
I think the interface was one of the plus points, to be honest. Looks lovely.
PS Vita Roundup
This speaks much of Apple's singular focus on design, while here we have Microsoft trying to appeal to a hatful of different audiences at once. Jumping through all those hoops compromises the hardware (add-ons), interface (the same as the last one to fit into a design not meant for a console), function (three OSs needed) and that's before a real gamer has actually touched it.

Hope it all works out, but this has big compromise written all over it.
Phil M
@Keith

Yup, there really was and it leaves the door open for Apple.
Keith Andrew
I think part of being that Media Centre, however, is linking out to other media on other devices.

The hint at SmartGlass was there - and I think it's still noticeable that we're seeing the 'Xbox' logo on its own, and Xbox One merely refers to the machine, suggesting a wider platform is in development - but I think there was a massive opportunity from Sony and Microsoft to truely embrace mobile devices and take the lead here.
Phil M
It's fairly obvious what MS are trying to achieve with this. When you look at the new design it looks like a what? yes a traditional DVD/Blu ray player. That's what it is, it's a media center, which happens to play games.

Totally agree with Jon, how can these companies ignore a situation where these games are making $2-3 million per day but where developed for a fraction of the cost of say COD (I presume).

There still is a big opportunity for Apple in the living room I think, if they choose to take it.
jon jordan
I think the problem for both Sony and Microsoft is you don't launch a new console and talk about mobile, even though it - esp. tablets - are the elephant in the room when you look at companies such as Supercell and GungHo who are making $2-3 million a day on games that won't be available on these new consoles.
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