NXE by itself isn’t going to completely reinvent how we live our lives upon its release today, but it certainly does give us a few indicators as to where the future of both media and social interaction might be headed in a future that’s much closer than we think. Here are five NXE features that I believe are glimpses at mass changes in society that are already underway.
1) No More Hard Media
This has been on the horizon for a long time now, but it’s never been as obvious as today. Now that NXE is officially streaming Netflix HD movies over Xbox Live, I see no reason to ever buy or rent a hard copy of a movie ever again. Just like iTunes (well, Limewire) is bludgeoning CD sales to death, ideas like streaming Netflix will kill DVD sales as more and more people start owning game systems or cable’s OnDemand features get even broader in scope.
The same is also true for hard copies of games. With NXE you can now download games straight to your hard drive for shorter load times and smoother play. Many old games are already sold on the Xbox Live marketplace, so what’s to stop ALL games from being sold directly on Xbox Live right when they are released?
As long as there is some sort of insurance policy to make sure a hard drive won’t permanently lose all downloaded media upon crashing, it will soon be considered old-fashioned to actually have hard copies of any media, whether it be movies, music or games.
2) Rise of the Avatar
Hey at least they have attached arms and legs now.
Avatars have technically been around ever since you got your first buddy icon and screen name for AIM. Then it progressed to games like Second Life and the Sims Online, and to an almost greater extent, Everquest and World of Warcraft. But now as NXE demonstrates (although it did blatantly rip it off the Wii), avatars are coming for those who have been able to successfully avoid them thus far.
I’ve never had an interest in any of the above games, but I’ll be damned if I’m not a little bit excited about trying to create an avatar with my stunning good looks and favorite shirt with NXE’s extensive character creator. And now I’ll be able to hang out with my other virtual friends (many of whom are in fact my real life friends) in the NXE lobby and chatting like they were next to me.
Expect to see interest in this kind of avatar system increase exponentially in the coming years, and NXE will be one of the primary reasons. Everyone wants to be someone else, or at least a better version of who they are.
3) One Device to Rule Them All
You laugh, but it’s coming.
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand the past few years, you can easily see that gadgetry is condensing. I think it’s reasonable to say that relatively soon, you will only need possibly two devices, an iPhone-type portable device, and an Xbox-type home console. The iPhone has already combined a phone, an MP3 player, a camera, a calculator, a GPS system, a portable web browser and an infinite number of other things into one tiny package.
So what has the Xbox become? Well, it used to be a DVD player, but as I’ve mentioned DVDs are fast becoming obsolete thanks in part to NXE, and the same goes for games. How far fetched is it to imagine the Xbox merging into a full fledged computer, with an actual Windows operating system and legitimate web browsing capabilities, all of which would be viewed through your TV as you sit on your couch with a wireless keyboard?
Yes, you can rig up systems of “computer through the TV” if you want to now, but it’s definitely not a widespread practice. But once the Xbox becomes your central home device for well, everything, it will change the way even regular folks use both television and computers irreversibly.
4) Virtual Accomplishments Superseding Actual Accomplishments
Bah! Only 7180? What a nerd.
Xbox Live has created a new order of social standing not based on looks, athletic prowess or any of that. It’s all about on Gamerscore. As strange as it sounds, it’s become a subculture unto itself, and now friends and rivals alike compare virtual resumes of racked up in game accomplishments.
Now with NXE attaching the Gamerscore to your digital avatar, it’s even more personal and it will become more and more intertwined with your developing online persona. No one cares who you are in real life, you could be a lawyer making $200K a year, but you’re still a bitch if I can kick your ass at Halo.
The only betrayal of your real life loser-ish identity will be the fact that your voice sounds like a 12 year old girl over the headset, but I predict that a series of voice mods will be in place at some point to rectify that and fully grant anonymity to the masses.
5) Redefining “Social Interaction”
“After we’re done here want to go out for a virtual drink?”
I remember growing up, my mom used to say to my friends and I when we were playing videos games, “Why don’t you go out and do something together?” And the response was always, “but we ARE doing something together.”
And now the paradigm has shifted yet again, and my friend no longer even has to be in the room with me for us to be “doing something together.” The advent of online play means that it’s almost better for your friend to be elsewhere while playing, so that you can have the entire screen to yourself.
It’s kind of hard even imagine four player split screen at this point isn’t it? This behavior is already seen demonstrated in games like WoW where friendships can be formed through guilds, even though no one has ever actually met in person. This may appear to be fringe behavior now, but it will move towards the norm as the practice undoubtedly becomes more widespread.