As I've often observed, the best way to tell the true value of any technology upgrade is to go back and use the previous version. And this past week, I used my Xbox 360 for the first time since the Xbox One came out. Your mileage may vary based on how you use the console, but for me, it was a bit surprising how little different the experience was. The Xbox One is in no meaningful way worth the $500 premium it commands.
If it helps, I also reevaluated the PlayStation 4 this week, and I stand by my original assessment of that machine vs. the Xbox One: the Xbox One is superior. Whether it is $100 better is of course up to the buyer. So far, it seems like more have chosen the PS4. But I'll just point out that the PS4 remains a much more Spartan environment than the Xbox One, and its fan is quite a bit louder. Not as bad as the 360, but much louder than the Xbox One.
But the PS4, of course, is not my concern.
The real issue here is whether the Xbox One represents an obvious upgrade for existing Xbox 360 users. Someday, it may be. But today, about four months after the console's launch, it's kind of a mixed bag.
The price, of course, is exorbitant. I didn't just discover that this week, but it's worth mentioning. There are indications that Microsoft is finally scaling back the crazy, but even with a price cut—you can typically get a Titanfall bundle for $500, a $60 savings, and there is at least a temporarily price cut on Xbox One to $450 at places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy—this is a premium product. (So is the PS4. Whatever.)
The Xbox One user experience is "better" than that of the 360 overall, but it's still ponderously slow. It seems like there's a one second pause between every button tap and the corresponding onscreen response. Some bits just aren't well thought out. While you could quickly access your friends list while playing a 360 game, doing so from the Xbox one is a multi-step affair that involves a "whack a mole" process of exiting the game, returning to the dashboard, navigating to the Profile tile, and selecting it.
And before anyone tells me that it's somehow quicker or easier via Kinect voice command, I'll just mention that it stops working periodically. Or it will humorously kick in a minute after intended, screwing up a kill streak or whatever it is you're doing in-game. Hilarious!
(I also get annoyed when the Kinect doesn't auto sign me in. It doesn't happen every time, but often enough that I don't trust it.)
With the advent of "Titanfall," many will argue that Xbox One finally has its marquee title, the type of gotta-have-it exclusive that is not available to PS4 users. That's semi-fair, though I'll make two points to that. One, I don't think Titanfall is all that amazing, personally, and it's certainly not the type of generally amazing game that will appeal to non-shooter fans. Two, it's only one game. And unless you waited until now to get an Xbox One, it's an additional $60 for a multiplayer-only shooter title. Hope you "Day One" fools don't mind. (Relax. I'm on that list. Twice.)
And Titanfall will ship on the Xbox 360 next month, too. Another reason to wait.
But regardless of Titanfall—a wonder of marketing more than game innovation, really—it is of course the games that really kill the Xbox One value proposition. The console shipped with a handful of games that you can also get on other platforms, including the Xbox 360 (like Call of Duty: Ghosts, where the Xbox One features noticeably but also slightly better graphics quality). But what it doesn't ship with is Xbox 360 compatibility, so that huge selection of available games just isn't there. Neither are the two free "Games with Gold" games that 360 users get each month. It's a wasteland, overall.
Xbox One also doesn't include many Xbox 360 features, including such basics as the ability to utilize USB-based storage. Fixes come every month, of course, but then that's the problem: Fixes come every month. It needs to be fixed.
Looking back over my Xbox One review, my original advice still stands: The Xbox One is both superior to and a better overall value than the PS4, but if you haven't yet pulled the trigger, you should wait and eek more value out of your 360. Prices will come down—they already are—and games will be released. Fixes will be made. Time will pass, and the Xbox One will edge closer to no brainer territory for Xbox fans. But today, the value just isn't there for upgraders.