Xbox One hype is reaching fever pitch as the day approaches when the console is launched on November 22. The new console is being touted as the new all-in-one entertainment system. It seems that consumers have forgotten, or do not care, that the Xbox One puts Big Brother in your home. Xbox One may well be the console of the future, but is it also a useful tool for the NSA?
Concerns about invasions of privacy first came about when Microsoft announced that the console had to be hooked up uninterrupted to the internet. Then questions about the Kinect were thrown into the mix. Could this device, which uses voice commands and can be used to talk on Skype, listen to you, or even watch you, while going about your daily, and nightly, business?
This apparent negative publicity was forgotten when Microsoft had to furiously backpedal on their restrictive, and unrealistic, criteria of being “eternally” hooked up to the net. In most cases, world wide internet is not that consistent or stable. With Japan and other Asian countries having the only “decent” internet in the world (their light fixtures increase broadband width) it was an asinine requirement.
Added to this edict of constant hookup to the world wide web, was the disturbing news that congress almost passed a bill that would have put the US government in charge of the internet worldwide; called variously SOPA and then CSIP. It was only by a narrow margin that both these bills were defeated. Do not rest easy, internet users, the same bills are being reintroduced in other guises that will, eventually, give the government the same power.
Look hard enough into this heady mix of control seeking and you will find admissions from none other than the NSA that not only Facebook and Google have been delivering information on you and yours, but so has Microsoft. When one adds the factor of PRISM, which was administered by the NSA, to this information gathering it becomes a very frightening specter of Big Brother not just watching, but, interceding.
Xbox One has been touted as the console of the future that can replace your PC; control your television; replace your telephone and become an all encompassing gaming experience. It could also be a very useful tool for the NSA. Microsoft want consumers to look at the new “bells and whistles” and ignore the more negative aspects of having this system in your living room.
It is not, contrary to what Microsoft would have you believe, about gaming. If it were, the new Xbox One would be able to match Sony’s PS4 in raw processing power. It doesn’t and there is no real surprise there, neither could the Xbox 360 match the PS3. Don’t believe it? Why else did games like Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls; Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, or any of the Uncharted games remain exclusive to Sony? Because the Xbox did not, and still does not, compete with Sony’s processing power.
Why didn’t Microsoft work harder at matching Sony’s superior processing? If it was about gaming experience, the company could have pushed to get that little bit more out of their console. Instead, they have added more non-gaming extras. Sure some of the extras are related to gaming. Some, like the Google Glass apps for iOS and Android, can even interact with certain games. One of the “benefits” of using this app is that you can “call in airstrikes” over your cell phone while in co-op mode playing Dead Rising 3.
Exciting? Not really. During the big “reveal” at the E3 Conference this year, Microsoft trotted out gameplay for the newest installment of the Dead Rising franchise and acted excited by gameplay exhibited that brought nothing new to the table. It is the same old FPS/hack and slash zombie apocalyptic game that has been done before and, in most instances, done better.
Machinima has posted their latest “mini-movie” on YouTube called, appropriately enough, The Console War. It is amusing, as most of Machinima efforts are and it shows clearly that it is all about the PS4 vs Xbox One. In reality, there is no “console war.” It is more of a “fanboy war,” as one wit pointed out, fans of the consoles do not use logic in their choice of which next generation gaming experience they purchase.
There has always been a fight between fans of the two “giants” in the gaming industry right now. Make no mistake, it is all about Sony and Microsoft. As noted, hilariously, in the Machinima video, Nintendo is nowhere near being a contender with its family friendly Wii U. But, again, it is not about the gaming experience.
What it is about, in the case of the Xbox One, is the extended experience that Microsoft offer in their new all-purpose gizmo of a console. A toy for the really lazy who have no wish to use a remote control on the television. A device that allows one to access their favorite TV programs without even reaching for a small controller. The ability to simultaneously play a game while checking the latest sports scores or the newest episode of The Walking Dead.
Sure the Xbox One with its all-purpose console can transform your living room’s entertainment center into the latest in technology. It also has the capacity to let Big Brother into your home to possibly watch and listen to what you are watching and listening to. This console for the future could well be a tool for the NSA. All for the price of $499 from your local Gamestop or retail equivalent.
By Michael Smith