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Lava Lobsters vs the Xbox One


Now that both new gaming platforms are out and the dust has had a chance to settle, I would like to give my early impressions. While some are focusing on the PS4 outselling the Xbox One worldwide and on the various hardware issues both platforms have had, I have not experienced any hardware issues with our new Xbox One. In fact, we love just about everything about it. The voice command and greatly improved Kinect are both welcome additions. Thus far, I have played Call of Duty Ghosts, Forza 5, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and think that each is well worth adding to your collection.

The first thing you notice are the graphic improvements in every game. Each has its own style and focus and collectively do a good job of illustrating the capabilities of the new technology. The next generation of games such as Tom Clancy’s The Division and Titanfall will undoubtedly take the graphic development even further.

We installed our new Xbox One in our main TV room where we have been playing our Xbox 360 Slim. Both Xboxes are hooked into a surround sound amplifier and the FIOS signal is now passed through the Xbox One. We also have an older white Xbox 360 in the playroom next door. I have been wondering over the past few weeks how the systems would be used now and what my boys would prefer. Thus far, the 360s are still getting a decent amount of use thanks mostly to Minecraft and BattleBlock Theater, neither of which are currently available for the One. When we have had a chance to play together, which has not been that often with the holiday activities, we have concentrated on COD Ghosts. We really are enjoying the online Squads mode. It is perfect for playing with kids (and adults who just don’t need the language, general offensiveness and getting their asses kicked in the standard multiplayer mode).

On my own I have completed the COD Ghosts campaign and am well into the Battlefield 4 campaign. I have made solid progress in Forza 5 and am now at level eleven. I am deep into the world of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and am really enjoying the experience. Except for a few minor control issues that are most likely more my own fault than that of the game, this latest installment is the best by far. The seamless transitions from land to sea and back, as well as the sheer fun of controlling your ship and fleet – including hunting and diving – it’s a deep and multi-layered world of pirate fun.

While I am very impressed by the graphics and improvements in the interface as well as in the handling and control overall, the most welcome improvement by far, is the load once and flip back and forth ability of the interface. With the previous system, the idea of jumping into a game for ten minutes or less was a bit of lie that we told ourselves. By the time the system booted and you logged in your now bloated player profile and then loaded the game, your ten minutes were now two. But you wanted to play your ten minutes anyway and that’s why you were late to whatever appointment you had.

No more of that. Now you walk into the room and say “Xbox On.” The system loads quickly, recognizes your face and loads your profile – a feature of which I never tire. Once you start the game and it loads, dropping out to the main menu and performing actions like watching television in a split window are instantaneous and at any point you can drop back into the game without the need to refresh or reload anything. This is a profound change to the way you can play and perhaps because it is less glamorous than other new features, has not received much press.


My oldest son recently made a new friend who is not a gamer. Yes, there are some 12 year olds that don’t play any video games. He is not without his own obsession, however, and now my son has caught the same bug – fish and aquatic life. His new friend has ten or so salt water tanks with various species of fish. He is focused on his hobby and very knowledgeable. My son, being he sponge that he is, is absorbing all of the new information and diving in, if you will pardon the pun. He now has three tanks in his room, albeit all are fresh water. Two tanks have various goldfish and the third contains the Lava Lobster in the photo at the top of this post. The image below is one of the first two lobsters that he acquired. These were Mexican Mini Lobsters and unfortunately, both have passed. It is not due to a lack of effort as my son has pleasantly surprised me with his dedication and concern for the new biomes he has created.  The Xbox has little to fear of his losing interest. He is still playing games, but there is a balance developing and most surprisingly it is coming from within him


On the Eve of the Next Generation

XBox-One Horizon 1000This has been an important week for the gaming world. The Sony Playstation 4 was released and despite some issues is being heralded as a success. Its rival, the Xbox One is being released on Friday and with it the next generation of gaming is upon us. The flow of new games has already started with many, many more queuing up behind them. Along with these releases and announcements, there are the obligatory worries, criticisms and panics concerning what might or might not be changed or removed. There certainly has been a lot of talk. It is to be expected as this is the first major update to the two leading consoles in many years. The Xbox 360 debuted in May of 2005 and the PS3 in November of 2006. That same November saw the release of the hugely successful Wii console. Its replacement, the Wii U debuted last December but has not sold well in the U.S.

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(Selected) Total Gaming Platform Sales | 11/20/13

Pos Platform North America Europe Japan Rest of World Global
1 PlayStation 2 53.65 55.28 23.18 25.57 157.68
4 PlayStation 38.94 36.91 19.36 9.04 104.25
5 Wii 44.95 33.47 12.75 9.28 100.45
7 PlayStation 3 27.45 32.26 9.6 11.24 80.55
9 Xbox 360 44.86 24.87 1.65 7.77 79.15
16 Xbox 15.77 7.17 0.53 1.18 24.65
23 Wii U 1.64 0.87 1.15 0.27 3.93
Source: | For more poll details

Many predictions have been made about the success of the new consoles and polls have been taken to gauge public reaction. I have written about what I consider unexplainable biases present in some of these polls in earlier posts. Cast Your Vote: Consoles and Cast Your Vote: Xbox One Anger – Is it Genuine? While understand that some of the policies initially presented at the Xbox One’s launch were received badly and that the One costs $100 more than the PS4, I consider these fairly moot points as Microsoft has rescinded the most egregious of the policies and the cost difference is easily lost in the enormous expense of buying games and peripherals. In any case, I simply cannot understand why so many who responded to the surveys were turned off by buying any new console.

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Poll of the Day | 11/10/13

With the launch less than two weeks away, do you plan to buy an Xbox One?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 2.58% 907
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 2.17% 763
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 0.56% 196
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 5.4% 1901
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 89.3% 31428
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day | 11/09/13

With the launch just a week away, do you plan to buy a PlayStation 4?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 7.36% 2372
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 5.94% 1914
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 2.28% 735
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 23% 7417
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 61.42% 19805
Source: | For more poll details

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If these numbers accurately represent the gaming public, then I feel badly for Sony and Microsoft and for the industry as a whole.

Despite the GameFaqs polls, the industry is doing well. A recent report aired on NPR’s “All Tech Considered” stated that the gaming industry has grown to $20 billion a year – that is twice what Hollywood brings in. Some close to the industry expect this total to rise to $70 billion by 2015.

I for one am looking forward to the new games and new capabilities, but I can’t escape the feeling that the general gaming public is spoiled and jaded and expects that everything will be perfect at launch. They are ignorant of the fact that the consoles are not the money makers (as it was released this week that Sony spends $381 manufacturing each PS4 which they sell for $399) and that many of the new games do not fully take advantage of the power of the new systems.

For me, the Xbox 360 was a significant milestone for many reasons. It was my return to gaming after a long absence. It was my first gaming console since I was a teenager and most importantly, it is the console that my children are growing up using. When we purchased our first 360, back in 2006, my eldest son was five years old and my twins were three. My eldest took to it like water and I tend to forget just how well he did playing games, some of which are still challenging for adults today. I think of all three of them playing MotoGP 2006 with me. It is still a beautiful and excellent, but very demanding game and I doubt that they would put up with it today. As new games came out and the boys grew, they each found games that appealed to them personally and today they all have their specialties. There are still many new games that they all play together such as Minecraft and BattleBlock Theatre.

My first post, in fact dealt with this feeling related to Pixar’s ”Cars” games (Nostalgic for Cars) and I can easily think of several times when the boys and I all focused on a single game together. Past favorites included Castle Crashers, various Halo iterations as well as the music games, Rock Band and Guitar Hero

But the point is, I have literally watched my boys develop and grow using the 360. They have become better players and in many cases learned valuable lessons about how to interact with those sitting next to you as well as those with whom they play remotely. (My twelve year old now spends most of his time playing with friends on Xbox Live.)

So I am looking forward to the new generation and all that it its expanded technology can bring. The increased graphic capabilities, the levels of interactivity, the integration of the television all have potential to elevate the experience. It took six or seven years to get where we currently stand. I bet that looking back in 2020, when my boys are nearly independent adults, we will have a similarly nostalgic feeling for this time and this new generation of consoles.

Cast Your Vote: Xbox One Anger – Is it Genuine?


I know that gamers are an emotional group with strong opinions but once again I just don’t believe the numbers. Spending some more time looking into what gamers plan to do concerning the upcoming new consoles I found more poll results that just do not add up in my head. The polls listed below are all found on, a site frequented by visitors with seemingly very negative views of the Xbox One and Microsoft in general. Perhaps it is only the PlayStation regulars that are voting. I simply cannot explain the results of the polls listed below and want to gauge in my own small way, whether this information truly reflects public opinion.

Beginning at the bottom of the page on 05/21/13 with the question “What are your first impressions of the Xbox One?” the audience seems vehemently anti-Xbox with nearly one-third voting “Just awful, it has nothing I’m interested in” and more than one-third more voting “Meh, I’m not that impressed with it”. Really? Two-thirds of the public vote negatively? Maybe my friends and colleagues are not representative of the rest of the gaming public. Fine, lets move on.

On 06/08/13 the question “Do you currently own an Xbox 360, and do you plan to buy an Xbox One?” is asked and once again the Xbox does not fare well. 35% of voters indicate that “Yes (they currently own a 360) and no, I don’t plan to stick around this time” and another 41% voting “No and no, Microsoft hasn’t won me over this round.” More than three-quarters of respondents count the new Xbox console out before it’s even on sale. Seems unusually high to me.

So maybe the voters are just negative about all of the consoles? Well, no not really. When asked on 06/09/13 “Do you currently own a PlayStation 3, and do you plan to buy a PlayStation 4?”, nearly a third voted “Yes and yes, I’ll be sticking with Sony in the next gen” with another 28% voting “Yes and maybe, I’m not sure I’ll move up to the PS4”. On 06/14/13 when asked “Have you pre-ordered a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One yet?” although the majority answered no about both consoles, the PS4 was the clear winner with respondents voting to buy one eventually 44% to 2%. Surprisingly, more than a third of voters stated that they would not be buying either at the moment.

Perhaps the issues were the connectivity and digital rights management (DRM) limitations that Microsoft first proposed at the reveal. These included a requirement that the Xbox go online every 24 hours and that users had to have an active network connection in order to play even offline games. Limitations in users’ abilities to share, sell and buy used games were also going to be imposed. On 06/14/13 the poll question was “After all of the outcry over the Xbox One’s online and used game rules, do you think Microsoft will back down before the system launches?” Again, its appears that Microsoft has a serious public relations problem with two-thirds of respondents selecting either “No, and it’s going to be a complete disaster” or “Probably not, because they’ll sell millions anyway.” Can you feel the negativity? Obviously Microsoft must have, because not long after that their (then) president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick sent out the following:

Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray…

So great, the users’ concerns were heard and changes were made. Problem solved, right? Apparently not even close. On 06/20/13 the question “How do you feel about Microsoft’s complete reversal on their online check-in and used game policies?” garnered another seemingly angry result with 41% responding “I’m amused, I’m amazed they tried such a dumb idea in the first place” and another nearly 30% voting “I’m suspicious, I still don’t trust them and won’t buy a One because of it.” Suspicious indeed. It seems as though Microsoft cannot win.

The next day on 06/21/13 the poll question “Has Microsoft’s reversal on the Xbox One’s DRM policies made you reconsider buying one?” received less than 10% positive feedback with 18% voting “A little, I’m not sold on it quite yet, but I’m warming up” and more than 55% voting “Not really, I’m still not planning to buy one”. To add insult injury apparently, nearly 17% responded “Not at all, I’m probably even less likely to buy one now.” “Even less likely”? How does that even make sense?

As I said, I understand that this is an emotional group and that there are strong allegiances to platforms and their related networks but where are the Xbox fans represented in these votes? Before you accuse me of being overly pro-Microsoft, please understand that at one time I was the first to accuse Microsoft of being the “Evil Empire” (a position apparently usurped by EA), but that was when Microsoft ruled the PC world with tactics that got them into trouble all over the globe. Things change. Markets change. Also, its not like Sony hasn’t had serious issues in the past as well. Maybe they were not of the same kind of problems, but has everyone forgotten the network hacking incident in 2011 when millions of accounts were compromised and the entire system was brought down? I am not here to knock either system, but to try to learn why there is such a strong anti-Xbox sentiment or really to determine whether it truly exists at all.

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Poll of the Day  | 06/21/13

Has Microsoft’s reversal on the Xbox One’s DRM policies made you reconsider buying one?

I was planning to buy one anyway, so it didn’t change my mind 5.18% 1984
Yes, I was hesitant before, but I’m definitely getting one now 3.9% 1494
A little, I’m not sold on it quite yet, but I’m warming up 18.05% 6911
Not really, I’m still not planning to buy one 55.92% 21411
Not at all, I’m probably even less likely to buy one now 16.94% 6487
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 06/20/13

How do you feel about Microsoft’s complete reversal on their online check-in and used game policies?

I’m thrilled, it’s good to hear they’re listening to gamers 10.46% 4736
I’m relieved, I couldn’t believe they were moving forward with this 12.28% 5562
I’m good either way, I was fine with the old policies before they changed them 4.44% 2009
I’m amused, I’m amazed they tried such a dumb idea in the first place 43.32% 19618
I’m suspicious, I still don’t trust them and won’t buy a One because of it 29.51% 13365
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 06/14/13

After all of the outcry over the Xbox One’s online and used game rules, do you think Microsoft will back down before the system launches?

Yes, they’ll fold faster than Superman on laundry day 6.51% 2895
Very probably, they’ll back down sometime before launch 9.78% 4346
Maybe, but maybe they’ll just drop the launch price instead 15.82% 7028
Probably not, because they’ll sell millions anyway 33.84% 15036
No, and it’s going to be a complete disaster 34.05% 15131
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 06/13/13

Have you pre-ordered a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One yet?

Yes, I’ve already got both of them pre-ordered 1.62% 776
Yes, I’ve pre-ordered a PlayStation 4 10.59% 5058
Yes, I’ve pre-ordered an Xbox One 1.39% 664
No, but I plan to buy both systems 2.22% 1061
No, but I plan to buy a PlayStation 4 44.24% 21137
No, but I plan to buy an Xbox One 2.25% 1077
No, I don’t plan to buy either console right now 37.69% 18006
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 06/09/13

Do you currently own a PlayStation 3, and do you plan to buy a PlayStation 4?

Yes and yes, I’ll be sticking with Sony in the next gen 32.91% 15219
Yes and maybe, I’m not sure I’ll move up to the PS4 28.04% 12965
Yes and no, I don’t plan to stick around this time 4.99% 2309
No and yes, I’ll join Sony in the next gen 5.36% 2479
No and maybe, I haven’t decided anything yet 15.96% 7380
No and no, Sony hasn’t won me over this round 12.74% 5890
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 06/08/13

Do you currently own an Xbox 360, and do you plan to buy an Xbox One?

Yes and yes, I’ll be sticking with Microsoft in the next gen 4.24% 1924
Yes and maybe, I’m not sure I’ll move up to the One 15.3% 6950
Yes and no, I don’t plan to stick around this time 35.52% 16138
No and yes, I’ll join Microsoft in the next gen 0.18% 81
No and maybe, I haven’t decided anything yet 3.42% 1555
No and no, Microsoft hasn’t won me over this round 41.34% 18780
Source: | For more poll details

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Poll of the Day  | 05/21/13

What are your first impressions of the Xbox One?

Just awful, it has nothing I’m interested in 31.19% 7656
Meh, I’m not that impressed with it 35.68% 8758
Interesting, but way too early to judge right now 22.52% 5528
Neat, I could definitely see myself playing one 7.88% 1934
Wow, just wow, it’s everything I hoped it could be 2.73% 669
Source: | For more poll details

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You and Your Console(s)


This is a big week in the gaming world. Yesterday, we learned much more about the upcoming Xbox One and the fantastic games that it will play. But that is not what this post is about. If you want to learn all about what is coming this November, there are multitudes of sites and blogs with recaps of the entire presentation. VG247Joystiq and The VideoGame Blog, for example all have extensive coverage. All of this talk of the new versions of the Xbox and PlayStation remind us of the importance of these platforms and the hardware that run the games that we play.

The photo above is not the happy occasion of unwrapping a new console, but the much sadder reality of sending a damaged unit to be repaired. I am not Xbox bashing or even complaining really. We have two Xbox consoles in our house and they get regular play every single day. Many days, they run hour after hour as my three sons play together or one after another and then run late into the night when I take over. This hardware takes a pounding and for the most part runs without much ado.

Having said that, I cannot recall the number of times that we have a Xbox repaired, it is either four or five times now. In the days of the original white Xbox 360, the red ring of death was the culprit several times and there is no question what you must do. There is also no warning typically, so the transition is abrupt. With the newer black Xbox 360 S model, our issues have been less absolute. The laser seems to go out of alignment and only reads parts of the discs correctly. The result is that the console can play installed games, be they Xbox Live arcade games or disc-based games installed on the hard drive where the disc is just read for confirmation and then stopped.  Unfortunately, no new games can be read and so the unit was sent for repair.

This is always an emotional time that reminds us of our deep connection with gaming. It also means that four of us need to share a single machine for three weeks. I am happy to report that the unit has been repaired and should be back this week and that no one was hurt in the process (although tempers may have gotten a bit heated a few times between the brothers). We are attached to our hardware not only because of the games that it enables us to play but because it defines us to the gaming world. Much like which car you drive gives the outside world a view (however inaccurate) into who you are or who you or who you wish to be, which gaming system you choose defines the gaming experience that you wish to be a part of.

At my house, we are strongly skewed towards Xbox, PCs and Ipads, but we have a GameCube as well. My sister has multiple Xboxes as well as PS3s as well as GameCube and Wii. There are few limits to the gaming experience at her house and her multi-system experience gives her a much broader view into the differences between the communities that play on each system. There is no doubt that the online communities are different as are the audiences that play the various popular games. But one thing all gamers have in common is the desire to have a comfortable and familiar environment in which to play. This environment is made up of the room, a favored chair, the console and peripherals, etc. Once you get your space outfitted it is always a bit unsettling to have part of it changed.

Come November, many game rooms will have a new console next to the existing one. There is no doubt that this will greatly expand the experience but for now I am just looking forward to having my 360 back.

Why and What We Play


There are times when I don’t feel like playing games. There, I said it. But these times quickly pass. There is a good reason why we try to make everything in life a bit more game-like — it’s just more fun that way. Today, we gamers have an impressive array of choices of what type of game to play. There are excellent, stand-out games in just about every category. What we play and when has quite a bit to do with the player’s mood as well as other factors such as how much time is available for play. There are times when we are all charged up and want to drive 200 m.p.h. or take on the whole world in combat. Other times, we are in a more of a quiet mood or feeling a bit down. On a separate note, if you want to learn more about gaming’s role with depression, please watch “Video Games vs Depression” by Danny O’Dwyer on Gamespot. It is educational and makes some interesting observations.

Many factors go into the decision of how we spend our free time. If I have a few minutes to kill while I am waiting for something, for example, I might reach for my iPad or iPhone and play some Facebook Scrabble or The Simpsons Tapped Out. (Yes, I am a little obsessed with these two lately.) But if I have more time and am looking for a more immersive experience I sit in front of my Xbox. As I have mentioned in the past, I very much enjoy the single player modes of a wide variety of game types. Many times when I play this is my first choice. There are so many variations of these single player modes that there is almost no reason to look elsewhere. But limiting your play to single player modes ultimately makes you feel a bit antisocial.

Several of my friends and family members play online multiplayer games nearly exclusively and lately I have been joining in. The difference between playing with strangers and being in a party is night and day. It also typically effects what game you play. Often when I play  Call of Duty Black Ops 2, I play with strangers and usually due to the inane and irritating nature of the chatter, I mute the entire group. Lately, I have found myself with much less interest in leveling up in COD and it is not just due to the ever-increasing lag and tricks, both legal and hacked, that it seems so many players are resorting to these days. There are many reasons why we often focus on a single game for a while until we inevitably burn out on it and move to something else. Personally, my default has always been to play alone due to restrictions in time and interruptions that would ruin a time-sensitive, non-pause-friendly game experience like COD deathmatch.

L1020091-1000Over the last few weeks, I have been playing more with others on Xbox live, especially in parties. Surprisingly, it has not been in COD, but more co-operative games like Borderlands 2 and Left for Dead. Playing with family and friends is a completely different experience than playing with strangers. There is the opportunity for discussions about games or any other subject with people close to you with whom you too often let time just slip by. The connection of party gaming provides a very different type of space where casual conversation can occur naturally. With the reveal of the additional functionality of the new Xbox One, this sphere should become even more immersive. I am definitely looking forward to the addition of Skype and having a Kinect back on my system. I moved our Kinect to the second Xbox as that room had more space to take full advantage of the device and now have to resort to using headphones while playing in parties. I have had many issues with my headphones over the years. Currently, my Turtle Beach EarForce X42s add an irritating echo to anything I say. Others in my party sound fine and do not hear my echo but the result sours the experience. If anyone knows how to correct this problem, please tell me. The Turtle Beach website indicates that this is typically due to issues with the cable or the controller jack. As this happens with any controller, I can only assume that I will be taking these back for a new pair as well.

We have had two Xboxes for a while. We bought our first white Xbox 360 in 2006. Over the years, we have had the red ring of death three times and had each repaired or replaced. The last time it happened was approximately when the new black version of the Xbox debuted and I took the opportunity to purchase a second console. With three boys playing different games, this has proven to be a good investment. Over the past seven years, we have retired two controllers and purchased a few specialty controllers and replaced nearly all of the batteries. This is to be expected as batteries have a limited lifespan and it is hard to complain about replacing controllers that get daily use for four or five years. We definitely got our money’s worth.

Headphones have proven to be a different story. I have purchased all of the headphones that we use from BestBuy and I was lucky to be smart enough at the time to spring for the Black Tie Purchase Protection plan which allows you to swap for the same or equivalent product should you have any issues. This has proven to be invaluable as I have returned three or four pairs of headphones, just about once a year for the last several years. I have had different models from different manufacturers, all of which were highly rated by several sources. Ultimately, every pair developed some irritating problem, often with the microphones. Have you all had similar problems? If you have a solid set of headphones to recommend, please pass it on. I would be very grateful.

One last thing — I just read that the new Xbox One will not be backwardly compatible. While I can understand that the new core architecture doesn’t allow for the playing of Xbox 360 games, it seems more than a little ironic that the new system will replace your cable box and Bluray player, but not your existing game console.

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