August 08, 2013, 6:00 AM —
After all the noise and drama around the Xbox One release event and then E3, things have calmed down a bit and we gamers are in a kind of holding pattern as we wait for Microsoft to dish out more big answers (like, for instance, a release date). But some news continues to trickle out and this week we've learned a few details about the Game DVR feature of the Xbox One.
Game DVR is Microsoft's name for the system that is continuously recording your gameplay so when something notable happens you can capture a video and share it with friends. It's a neat idea (and one that Sony is offering on the PS4 as well). Unfortunately both bits of new info are in the form of limitations, one of which seems completely reasonable and the other somewhat less so. Let's start with the former.
While the Xbox One is supposed to run games at 1080P and 60 frames per second, recording your gameplay is limited to 720P and 30 FPS (this comes from IGN's conversation with Marc Whitten, Chief Xbox One Platform Architect). While this may initially seem disappointing, in practice it seems to me like a nice compromise between file size and video quality.
I'm assuming that when you capture a cool clip from a game you're playing, you're going to want to share it with your friends soon thereafter. I can't say for sure how fast the upload speed to the Xbox One servers will be, but my experience in uploading videos to YouTube lends me to believe that for most of us, uploading a 1080P/60 FPS clip would take quite a while. That's because most consumers are still on broadband provided by cable TV services that offer us only crippled upload speeds.
Hopefully this is a limitation that can be removed over the life of the Xbox One, in the event that we consumers ever wriggle out from under the oppressive thumb of the cable companies, (oh, how I miss my old FiOS service) but in the meantime I think 720P/30 FPS is a reasonable compromise.
The other Game DVR limitation is more disappointing, though not unexpected. Game DVR functions are only available for Xbox Live Gold members. This isn't really news so much as one of those features that seems to have escaped our notice until now. The folks at OneHitPixel saw this info on the Xbox Live Gold Features page and confirmed the info with Microsoft.
Microsoft is infamous for gating services behind Xbox Live Gold, even services that cost them nothing to offer (such as Netflix), so it should come as no surprise that they aren't going to devote cloud storage space to non-paying Xbox Live Silver members. But if you hoped the launch of the Xbox One would be when Microsoft started easing paywall restrictions, well consider your hopes dashed.
That same features page points out that the OneGuide system is also restricted to paying members. OneGuide is the integrated TV listings feature that Microsoft showed at the Xbox One reveal.
Bottom line, really, is that if you're going to buy an Xbox One and want to take full advantage of its features, you should pretty much resign yourself to that $40-$60/year (depending on how much you shop around for deals) expense for Xbox Live Gold.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.