January 18, 2016

792 words 4 mins read

The Xbox One on-boarding kinda sucks

Way back in 2001, I was lucky enough to get an (original) Xbox shortly after launch. At the time, the Carson City Target was not a terribly popular place to buy video games. Jumping up to 2005 I had become a fairly solid fan of the platform and managed to get an Xbox 360 a few months after launch. However by the time the Xbox One came around, real life had struck and I had much less free time and money for video games. There was always a longing for the XBone but never strong enough to actually get one. That was, of course, until this Christmas when my girlfriend got me the Xbox One Elite Bundle. However, this is not a story of love so much as it is a study of on-boarding.

It might sound like a strange thing to nitpick, but my Christmas excitement of receiving an Xbox One was tarnished by the process it took to get started playing games. After the fact I found out that my experience was “fairly common” which isn’t a Good Thing™ in my book. So let’s setup the premise, shall we? It’s Christmas Eve and we’ve just gotten to my girlfriend’s parents’ house. She promptly surprises me with the new XBone and allows me to tear into it. I get it opened, unpacked, and hooked up to the TV in her bedroom. The house wifi isn’t very strong in the bedroom which combines with Comcast for a sluggish internet experience.

As soon as the console is up and running you need to get it online, not a problem so far. Punch in some Xbox Live account information (Dormant from my 360 days, but still ready to go) and enter a new Xbox Live Gold trial, and you’re almost off to the races. Except… it wants to update. And you can’t skip the update. A one gigabyte update at home would be just a few minutes but sadly this will take an hour or two so it’s off to bed while it downloads (and then eventually updates itself). Turns out the process of applying the update (which I saw some of) was not short either.

On Christmas day there were festivities to participate in, but by midday I had swung back around to the XBone. This was exciting since I finally got to pop in the Halo 5 disk and get ready to play… or so I thought. I was sorely disappointed when the console requested, nay, demanded that I install Halo 5 first. The install is huge, something like 50 GB and took several hours. Nothing I tried allowed me to get around this requirement and go directly to playing. It was quite disappointing since I had really wanted to take the new console for a spin.

Then it got even worse, the game required a 15 GB (IIRC) patch. In the days of 360 you used to be able to decline patches and it would simply log you off of Xbox Live while playing the game. Apparently with the XBone this is no longer the case. It’s probably possible that I could have deleted the wireless setup off the console and then played, but I had already resigned myself to not being able to play much, if at all, that day so I let it download/install.

Finally after more than 24 hours, I was finally able to shoot me some covenant. Or I would have been if my girlfriend’s 8-year-old nephew hadn’t insisted on playing first. Unfortunately discretion is the better part of valor and I left him with the controller. He enjoyed the game immensely and I was happy to see the console finally in action. However that doesn’t make the initial disappointment of needing to wait 24 hours to use a console any less.

Yes, most digital devices require some sort of update when you first unbox them. A brand new iPhone (if it’s more than the first few weeks of launch) or Android is going to require a system update. A new computer is going to require software be installed before its truly useful. However a game console is just that, a device for gaming. I should be able to turn it on, stick a game in, and play. The device shouldn’t force you to run through updates and installs and whatnot before it even allows you to utilize its core functionality. Maybe it has reduced functionality if you don’t update (EX: Won’t go on Xbox Live), but it shouldn’t lock you into the updates. At least I’m an adult, imagine if I bought this for a kid? You tell a kid to sit there and wait for 24 hours to use his new toy. No thank you.