When a new generation of consoles launches, there's only one question that really matters: what kinds of gaming experiences can the new consoles create that weren't possible on existing consoles? That's exactly what I asked a bunch of developers during a recent Xbox One preview event, where representatives from first- and third-party developers were on hand to demonstrate final and near-final builds of a number of Xbox One launch window titles.
The answers run the gamut from graphical improvements to Kinect control features to online services and more. Sure, some of the answers veer into the kind of pat, focus-grouped PR-speak that game company representatives are fond of throwing around at events like these. Still, these answers represent what developers see as the best reasons currently available for a gamer to upgrade to an Xbox One at launch. Hopefully, they will help clarify whether an upgrade is worth it for you.
I think having Kinect everywhere is the main feature that truly differentiates [the Xbox One]. The Xbox Live integration is cool, but it's not something that wasn't there before, and the graphics resolution is higher, but it's always higher. I think doing something with Kinect that you can't do anywhere else is a huge thing. All of us developers are figuring out "how do you really emotionally connect with people?" and I think you saw the reflection of the face [in a monkey that imitates your facial expression]. I think there's something there; I think it's the beginning of something...
I think [having the Kinect] is important in that you can go a little bit farther than you could go otherwise. I think voice is extra convenient, honestly. It's what I do—I lean back and just give my commands and it does everything. The gesture stuff—we did a bunch of Kinect games where we did gesture stuff, for example Kinectimals, and I get e-mails from people with two-year-old daughters... and Kinect couldn't pick up everybody. So that's why we did both. When you want to, you can use [gestures], but you don't have to. I think that's a better approach.
-Jorg Neumann, executive producer, Zoo Tycoon
I think it's just the fidelity of the game, just how far we can push the art. The artists have just been dying to get their hands on these consoles. As you can see, it does look amazing and that is definitely something we're really pleased to have.
-Luke Herbert, designer at Need for Speed: Rivals developer Ghost Games
For us right now, the [feature] we're most excited about is DVR... DVR is really exciting. People that play Peggle like to record their shots, share them and stuff like that. It's just a really good starting point for Peggle 2... Obviously the controller is really nice and really precise and really good. The system is really powerful... We have a lot of 2D, but we have a lot effects. It runs really fast. It's easy to develop for. As far as consumer-facing stuff, we're really excited about watching what you do and seeing if it's a good shot and recording it and letting you share it.
- Sylvain Dubrofsky, lead designer, Peggle 2
Definitely better graphics, and having more, stronger content. We're able to make games larger for the Xbox One Marketplace versus the Xbox 360, so we didn't have to pare down the game and ruin the integrity of it by making it smaller.
-Jay Stuckwich, marketing director and PR director, LocoCycle developer Twisted Pixel
My favorite feature is the game DVR. How many times have you played a golf game and you've got an amazing shot, a hole in one, and [your friends] go, "Eh, you've got no proof." What happens with this game is, as soon as you get an amazing shot, the game tells you, records it, and puts it on your channel on the dash so your friends can see it... You can say, "Xbox, record that" and then say to your friends, "Did you see this 90-foot putt? I was a millimeter away from it!" That for me makes it so social, because you can actually show your friends what you did, play against your friends. For me, the game DVR and the cloud take us to a new level.
- Craig Lee, design director, Powerstar Golf
We're really focused on the visual fidelity on the Xbox One. It's 1080p, we've really pushed the graphics way beyond what they are on the other systems. There's more visual detail in the environment; you can see the tiniest of details. We pushed the lighting, the visual effects. It amounts to trying to create an experience that's more like a kids' feature film to immerse you in the environment with all the lush detail.
-Dawn Pinkney, producer, Skylanders Swap Force
This new engine is rendering, it's physics, it's AI, it's animation. All of these things are really at the heart of the new console. You get more animation memory, more variety, more intelligence from the players in what animations they choose to perform different actions. You have more rendering capacity and more animation memory even in the crowd. You see it now—the crowd are 3D characters, 3D models with proper animations driven by the AI, so the way they follow the play is a lot more realistic. Also, because we have a lot more memory in terms of rendering, outside the stadium we can create more of a living world outside of just what happens on the pitch.
-Santiago Jaramillo, producer, FIFA 14
The opportunity as a sports game to provide our consumer with updated content throughout the NBA season and to immerse them the same way you do when you're online or watching television with relevant stuff that's going on in the league and then give them the opportunity to interact with that. We have a number of features and modes that support the idea of staying relevant and having a commitment to our consumers to make sure that we maintain those updates, whether it's a content update for new shoes, whether it's new music, whether it's updated commentary by Jalen Rose. Then, with our partnership with synergy sports technology, having new data that comes in on a daily basis to drive the way the game plays.