IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Microsoft defends Xbox One's maligned design

When Microsoft first unveiled its next-generation Xbox One console earlier this month, the gaming press met the new device with trepidation, if not outright ridicule. The tech giant might have given itself a leg up on its close rival Sony by actually showing people what the console looked like ... but most critics don't like the look of the Xbox One. Almost instantaneously, naysayers began posting
Xbox One Design
Microsoft defended the controversial design of its Xbox One this week, insisting that the new console's look will help the device fade into the background to let users better enjoy the actual entertainment content it has to offer.Microsoft

When Microsoft first unveiled its next-generation Xbox One console earlier this month, the gaming press met the new device with trepidation, if not outright ridicule. The tech giant might have given itself a leg up on its close rival Sony by actually showing people what the console looked like ... but most critics don't like the look of the Xbox One. Almost instantaneously, naysayers began posting pictures on Twitter comparing the new gaming gadget to a 1980's-era VCR.

Well, Microsoft has officially had enough of all the jokes. In a long statement posted on the company's site "Xbox Wire," Microsoft this week defended "the beauty of the Xbox One."

While its detractors have called the device a retro machine at best, Microsoft insisted that, really, the Xbox One showcased "a new approach to design."

Apparently, this meant that Microsoft's design team — led by Carl Ledbetter, who oversaw the design of the current-generation Xbox 360 console as well — wanted to bring the boxy approach of Microsoft software to the hardware level for the Xbox One. The company said it went through "dozens and dozens" of prototypes before arriving at the final vision of a sleek black rectangular shape, one part matte and one glossy.

While Microsoft steered clear of any mention of a VCR, it did note that the designers took inspiration from "high-definition TV manufacturers" to make the device unnoticeable. They chose "liquid black, the blackest black creatable, as a color palette for the brand," to make both the console and the Kinect, much like a user's TV, fade into the background.

"Dark colors accentuate content and bring the entertainment experience to the forefront," Microsoft reasoned. And for the Xbox One's redesigned controller, Microsoft hoped that this blackest of blacks would help the brightly colored gamepad buttons stand out for users.

But more importantly than its functionality for gamers, the Xbox One's redesign signifies Microsoft's new strategy to turn the game console into something that's more than just a game console.

Ramiro Torres, creative director of design for the Xbox One, said in a statement that his team "wanted to think for a holistic perspective" to support its rebranding as a general purpose entertainment device.

“Xbox has always had something to say. It’s always been bold with a strong personality,” design leader Ledbetter said in a statement. “Xbox One needs to serve our most loyal gaming fans and deliver unique entertainment experiences, so its design has to make an appropriate statement that reflects its capability as an all-in-one entertainment system."

But will these "most loyal gaming fans" appreciate the change? As many a parody video of the Xbox One reveal showed, console gamers feel betrayed by the company for the way it chose to focus on things like television and sports instead of the actual games. Microsoft can stand behind its design choices for the Xbox One, but what most fans really want to see are the games Microsoft has promised to talk about in greater detail come its July 10 press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.


Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: ylejacq@gmail.com.