Just in time for next week’s E3 2015 video game and tech trade show in Los Angeles, Microsoft is dropping major Xbox hardware news on the gaming front before going into the event. It’s no secret that the Xbox One had a troublesome launch, with its initial unveiling confusing media and industry analysts, and turning away a significant portion of loyal Xbox 360 diehards.
From a PR standpoint, the Xbox One launch was a mess but swift and repeated changes to its offerings have put the Xbox One back on right track. How the system was initially purported to handle online connections and discs, allowing users to play and trade used games, was immediately changed; Microsoft quickly shutdown Xbox Entertainment Studios, their original TV programming division; and it didn’t take long for rumors to come true about the system dropping the Kinect (hands-free motion controller) add-in requirement.
By dropping Kinect, the Xbox One was all of a sudden comparable in price to the better-selling rival, Sony’s PlayStation 4, and with frequent updates and added features to its operating system – which was lacking compared to its predecessor – there was hope for rapid growth of the console’s user base. Skip forward to today, a week before E3 2015, and Microsoft has announced a permanent price drop ($349 USD price on all standard Xbox One 500GB consoles) for the standard Xbox One bundle, something they had tested with “limited” time windows in months prior.
The bigger announcement however, is for the new console version and controller. After having the most popular gamepad that worked with PCs in the Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft dropped the ball with the Xbox One wireless controller and failed to properly support it on the Windows platform – a problem made worse by the controller’s inexplicable propriety headset input that required players to purchase an adapter in order to use their standard headsets.
The theme of bad decisions made right over time happily continues today with the with the official unveiling of the new 1TB Xbox One console, priced at $399 USD, which addresses the hard drive space issues for larger video game downloads and updates (owners can still attach an external USB 3.0 hard drive for more space), and also bundles in Xbox One’s new controller design.
The new Xbox One controller, which had its specs leak last month via the Xbox Support website, includes a much-desired 3.5mm stereo headset jack (goodbye, adapter!), improves the bumper buttons, and allows users to download firmware updates directly to the new controller without having to plug it into the console directly. For volume and mic controls without the adapter, users can access these features via the console’s Settings menu. The new controller is also available separately.
And for the PC crowd, Microsoft also unveiled the USB Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows ($24.99 U.S. MSRP) which lets users finally use their Xbox One controllers effectively on the PC. The adapter is also available in a bundle with an Xbox One Wireless Controller for $79.95 U.S. MSRP.
With Windows 10 on the way and Microsoft promising to support games in a big way on PC with it while also allowing for more cross-platform support with the Xbox One, announcing hardware updates now allows Microsoft to focus on software during their E3 presentations, and that just might include a look at potential dashboard updates for the console.
The Xbox 360 interface was overhauled more than once during its lifetime, and with the free Windows 10 upgrade coming later this summer for Windows 7 and 8 users, it’s a safe bet Microsoft will be aiming to have it available on mobile devices and the Xbox One around that time as well. Windows 10 was announced in 2014 and at an official presentation in January, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that the new OS would make its way to Xbox One.
Knowing that rival Sony will be likely be showcasing their PlayStation 4 Project Morpheus virtual reality headset at E3, and Microsoft’s Windows 10 HoloLens “mixed reality” holographic computer seemingly a long ways away, Microsoft must bank on the software side, and they’re promising to “showcase the best lineup in Xbox history” next week.