Buckle your seat belt
We've seen Microsoft tout its 2015 lineup for some time now, as it should. The likes of Halo 5: Guardians, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and Forza Motorsport 6 far outshine Sony and Nintendo's exclusives for the rest of the year, but Microsoft's also got quite a slate of accessories and system updates coming this year, too.
From long-requested gear to console-transforming upgrades, you might get your fill of Xbox One fun this year without even touching Halo or Gears. Though I don't recommend ignoring those likely hits.
After playing previous-generation games went without discussion at Microsoft and Sony's console reveals two years ago, we just assumed that Nintendo would be the only system this generation to support backwards compatibility. That's why the revelation that the Xbox One would have backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games came as such a shock when it was revealed at E3 this year.
While the early days of backwards compatibility testing has us a bit worried – a preliminary list of games revealed at E3 was filled with dusty, early-360 relics, like the original Mass Effect and Viva Pinata – we've seen a few clamored-for games, like Shadow Complex, added to the list. Plus, Microsoft has assured the public that the simple emulation process won't require much more than the "OK" of third party developers. Hopefully, Microsoft makes it worth their while to enable the resurrection of their old(ish) works.
DVR capability is on the way
The Xbox One has proven its worth as a cable box alternative, if only due to the sheer quantity of TV-substitute apps, like Sling and Hulu. But the HDMI-in television integration touted so vociferously during the initial console reveal has fallen a bit by the wayside.
After all, if you have a cable box that has DVR capability, why would you route it through your Xbox where shows can't be saved? A similar complaint came alongside the recently released antenna tuner accessory. While it's nice to get free TV with a snazzy schedule overlay thanks to OneGuide, the Xbox One can only currently record for 30 minutes total – and the archive is deleted the moment you change the channel.
Fortunately, those who have external hard drives can now use their storage devices to serve as a DVR for the Xbox One. There's still some particulars that we need to know (like if partitioning will be possible to divide large drives into gaming and DVR storage), but just the thought of a console-based DVR is a good start.
Seagate's spacious 2TB hard drive
If you need to find some space for the upcoming DVR functionality or backwards-compatible games, Microsoft has just released an officially sanctioned hard drive from Seagate that makes up for its slightly higher price with a neat aesthetic and ease-of-use benefits. While the green-clad hard drive enclosure doesn't really match any current Xbox One design, the color has remained so synonymous with Xbox that it doesn't seem all that out of place.
There's also little need to worry about incompatibility, connection, or optimization issues, as this hard drive has Microsoft's seal of approval . Sure, you might be able to find a cheapy, no-name 2TB drive for 20-30 bucks cheaper on Amazon, but the peace of mind that comes along with an official product is often worth the premium.
The Xbox One Elite Wireless controller
In addition to the notable updates recently bestowed upon the already impressive Xbox One controller (like a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, improved bumpers, and wireless firmware updates), there's also a new official controller in the works for serious gamers. The Xbox One Elite Wireless may be a pricy $150 (£120, AU$200) investment when it releases, but nearly every facet of the item has been improved for the pro gaming community.
Both analog sticks and the directional pad can be switched out to fit your needs, while a hair-trigger mechanism allows for quicker pressing of the bumper and shoulder buttons. Don't be surprised if you see this neat bit of tech pop up at major e-sports events in years to come.
The Xbox One chatpad
If you never owned an Xbox 360 chatpad, you probably don't understand all the hubbub that developed among a certain subset of Xbox fans when the Xbox One version was announced. Even with Xbox One Smartglass allowing for easy text entry and gift cards containing Kinect-compatible QR codes, having a mini-keyboard nearby when you need to send a message to a friend or cash in a 25-character long redemption code is plenty convenient.
Here's to hoping it takes after its predecessor and can function during text-entry functions while in-game, too. Just think of the hours you'd save by not having to navigate an on-screen keyboard when re-naming your custom-created Madden players.
Cortana will give Kinect a boost
Even the most ardent Xbox fans have to admit that the second go-round for the Kinect has been a bit of a bust. While the Xbox 360's motion-sensing device wasn't perfect, it at least had a fair amount of compatible games.
This time around hasn't had nearly the amount of memorable gaming experiences, but those who bought in on Xbox One when it included Kinect will at least get Windows 10's voice-activated assistant (and Halo-inspired) Cortana delivering answers to queries and smart search results, a la Siri. Even if Windows 10 on Xbox One doesn't end up as a substantial improvement, having a speaking service help find the games and videos we want will be a great new feature.
The new Xbox One experience will be Windows 10
Much like how the Xbox 360 evolved from blades to tiles to its current design, the current Xbox One interface is set to change in a big way. Powered by Windows 10, the often-confusing tile-based system will be drastically overhauled this fall to put the games and apps you use most front and center with the most vital of information put right next to each item.
Which of your friends are also playing it now? Has there been any major DLC lately? Instead of diving deep into extra menus, that data is front and center. If you need to find your friends, accessing your buddy list and messages is also just a button-press away instead of needlessly tucked away in another menu. It certainly looks new and fresh, but we can only hope that Windows 10 works just as well on a game console when the upgrade rolls out later this year.