Such has been the runup to the release of the Xbox One, which has featured more reverse-ferrets than a mirrored petting zoo – and all of them self-inflicted. Thursday brings another, but this time wrapped in the more interesting news of what exactly gamers will get for their investment of £429 – outlined in that most modern of formats, the "unboxing video".
If you can't spare a few minutes of your life to watch big-budget QVC, fear not. The headline change here is the inclusion of a chat headset, because back in June Microsoft announced customers would have to buy it separately. The newly packed-in headset enables voicechat with three times the sampling rate of the Xbox 360 equivalent (ie clearer, a very welcome improvement), has in-line controls, can be worn on either ear, weighs a light 44 grams, and despite the "liquid black" finish still looks cheap as chips. But it'll certainly do the job.
Thursdays other new details perhaps have more to do with the dazzle of jargon. The Category 2 HDMI cable in the box is capable of outputting on 1080p, 3D and 4K displays. This is arguably no less than you'd expect, but Microsoft could have plumped for a cheaper option – so fair play. Equally welcome is the step up in Xbox One's wireless adaptor, which now works on dual-band 2.4ghz and 5ghz frequencies.
Also included is the new version of the Kinect sensor, but after this we get into the kind of territory that may have your eyes drooping – for example, the inclusion of a power supply. The Xbox One controller (also included) features more than 40 design improvements, it was reiterated, though the video somehow forgot to mention that the play & charge kit (ie a bespoke rechargeable battery) is sold separately. There is also the bizarre boast that Xbox One's pad can be used without batteries – if you buy the aforementioned play & charge kit, and use the cable included therein. What was that thing about razorblades and razors?
Known quantities were re-stated; the console will have a 500GB hard drive, a slot-loading Blu-ray optical drive, HDMI input and output, three USB 3.0 ports, a Kensington security slot, IR blaster port, and a S/PDIF interface. Following the recent "increase" in Xbox One's GPU speed from 800 to 853MHz (a tit-for-tat announcement designed to stoke fan wars), this means that the only major spec left unknown is the speed of Xbox One's 8-core CPU, which will likely be announced at Gamescom – the rumour mill says to expect something around 1.6GHz.
For me the greatest part of Thursday's announcement, the cherry on top, was a glimpse of the redeemable code included only for "Day One" purchasers, as Microsoft calls them. This code will grant its owner an "Achievement" [sic] upon entry – branding them among the community, if you will, forever after. And that's not all.
Hand-in-hand with this is the Xbox One's embossed controller, which bears the legend "Day One 2013". This is an interesting phenomenon. It is as if Microsoft looked at the fetishisation of say, Apple products, and thought the Xbox One could do with a bit of that. The only difference being that the Xbox One is a big black rectangle rather than a svelte design masterpiece. These Day One bonuses clearly aren't aimed at me – that is, an adult – though one does wonder who goes in for this stuff.
You sense that, in years to come, marketing students will look back on Xbox One's launch as a famous example. What could have been done better? With another policy reversal on Thursday, the answer is clearly "lots". But it is also important to give credit where it's due: as with Xbox One's always-online functionality and draconian copyright enforcement, it seems that the loud protests have been heard by Microsoft and, more importantly, acted upon. Such an attitude doesn't hide Xbox One's mistakes. But it does suggest that, once players are unboxing the thing rather than Major Nelson, there will be far fewer.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010