If you're anything like me, your penchant for gaming has probably dwindled over the years. And, as I stand on the precipice of unloading an ungodly amount of money on either Microsoft or Sony's next generation console, I ask myself if I should upgrade to either, or just opt for a media streaming box? The answer: I'm getting an Xbox One. Here's why.
Thinking Inside the Box
If gaming's not your main obsession, there's really no contest between PS4 and the Xbox One. Over the years Microsoft has wheeled and dealed its way into a treasure trove of non-gaming content that Sony simply hasn't been able to match. The Xbox has transformed itself from being just a gaming console to a family-friendly do-it-all media hub. It's something Bill Gates has envisioned since before the Xbox 360 launched nearly eight years ago.
In a 2005 interview with Time Magazine, Gates had this to say about the Xbox and its place in the home:
"You can't just sell it as a convergence device," Gates says. "You gotta get in there because certain members of the family [i.e., teenage boys] think it's a must-have type thing. But the way to cement it is as a family experience. And the way that it really makes sense for Microsoft, and we justify this sort of circuitous route that we went down, is because of how it fits in the living room."
Xbox One now offers Netflix, HBO GO, ESPN, Vevo and a heck of a lot more than just the ability to play DVDs and CDs then when the 360 first launched. You can even watch live TV on it if you're a Comcast customer.
Sony's offerings aren't nearly as far-reaching, and now that the Xbox One will be Blu-ray compatible, the PlayStation has lost its primary media advantage. Sony doesn't offer HBO GO, among other Xbox-friendly content options. In terms of breadth of services, it's not even close.
In fact, if you navigate to either Xbox.com or PlayStation.com, it's interesting to see how each of the two companies is marketing their respective black boxes. Gaming is the last value proposition in a laundry list of things that Microsoft boasts about the One. Sony, meanwhile, wants you to know that it's all about games and gamers and gameplay. Sadly, I'm not that interested in just games anymore. Why can't I have the best of both worlds?
One could opt for a media streaming box like the Apple TV or Roku, but what about those of us still using optical media? My apartment is cluttered enough with electronics. I really just want one box to rule them all. And while I don't game as much as I used to, I'm still up for the occasional round of Gears of War.
The only shitty thing is that Microsoft has the best content deals around but maintains that every additive feature requires an Xbox Live Gold membership at $60 bucks a year. Somewhere along the way the multiplayer service turned into more than just that, and now includes anything fun and/or cool. Without Gold, the Xbox is actually pretty lame. With Gold, you have to pay a subscription fee just to access the Netflix subscription you're already paying for. It's sad but true.
But what other option do I have? I'm willing to pay for the redundancy to have the convenience of just one box. To me, it's worth it. If it were just about gaming, then there's no doubt that the PlayStation 4 would have won me over. This isn't a war about which console is best anymore, at least not for me. It's about which one has better content, and Microsoft is winning.
While Gates might not ever be remembered as a visionary the way Jobs was, you can't argue that he hasn't delivered on his vision for the Xbox. In that same interview with Time, Gates succinctly predicted the Xbox's place in the home: "Think of it as not taking over the digital ecosystem but being a prime player in that digital ecosystem."
Mission accomplished, Bill. Now take my money.