Yesterday. I couldn't help but notice another new and exciting non-game Metro panel had somehow magically appeared on the now ghastly, abortive Xbox Dashboard. "TV Shows Now On Zune!" it screamed at me, celebrating the fact it had probably barged in the way of a perfectly decent advertising panel for a new videogame I should really hear about. But no. TV Shows! Now On Zune! I painfully navigated my way to the page in question and sure enough - there they were. Whole seasons for me to "own", if you can actually "own" a bunch of electrical data. Boxed games are so passe, right?
The onslaught of this constant attempt by Microsoft to neuter all of its videogame content from its supposed videogame-playing console is relentless. More and more non-game apps appear for you to check out, more movies to watch via Zune or Netflix or Lovefilm. More music. More non-game content. The app process, by the way, is a lesson in how not to do User Experience. Case in point - you see a new tile for a new app. Interested? Click on it and - oh. It's downloading already. No confirm, no details. There it goes. Well, I suppose I can - oh, an update? Okay. I'll get that too then. When you eventually get to the app itself, you know - the app you paid for the privilege of using if you are an Xbox Live subscriber - you'll discover that it is not only a terrible thing to navigate, it's also infested up the wazoo with advertising.
The whole dash is infested. People complain, Microsoft shrug their big corporate shoulders. Nothing really gets done about it. I subscribe to Giant Bomb as I love the content - the removal of adverts is a nice bonus, but still - paying for a service and paying for the advertising seems somewhat... rich.
I digress. The adverts aren't the reason why I felt like venting on this blog. The games industry has had a rum old time as of late - it's been tough. We read stories of development houses imploding, falling sales, falling share prices. At one point - and I remember this turning point as it was a big deal for me working in the games industry - consoles were relegated to the slow trudge to oblivion as people turned to Facebook in their droves and played the shit out of causal wankery like Farmville. Well, I say "play". It's the loosest term considering what little actual gameplay there is in those types of games. This wasn't the only threat. Oh, no. Look out! Here comes the iPhone with its dirt-cheap games! 99p for a game? Gee, that sure beats £40, right?
Ladies and Gentlemen. We've all been fooled. You, me, your cat. The real threat to consoles isn't all of that noise. Nope. The real threat is what I outlined a mere few minutes past.
Xbox owners. I don't know if you have managed to see what your friends are up to these days, but half my friends (and "friends") on my list are busy watching movies. Non-game related movies. Maybe some of them are watching the joys of the Mortal Kombat movies in a fit of drunken irony. They aren't playing - or buying - games. Mr. Netflix will quite gladly deliver non-game related HD content to you as long as you keep that subscription up. Or rather, two subscriptions. Which cunt thought it was a good idea for you to have to be an Xbox Live member to also watch Netflix? Or Lovefilm? Or YouTube, for christsakes. Lunacy.
At the moment, there is no greater threat to games than the likes of Netflix. Gaming machines have slowly become - urgh - media hubs. In the glory days of the original PlayStation, the CD Player part of the console was there as a bit of a jape really. Now the roles seem reversed - your media hub also happens to play videogames too. As more non-game apps appear, more non-game ads appear and continue to bury Xbox Live Arcade, Indie and full price games further deeper down the mess of the Kinect-cursed Xbox dashboard. I think back to the simplicity of the original Xbox dash. It was so easy to do things. So easy. Adverts seemed to be a rarity in those days, too. I knew it was too good to be true. The ad men always end up pasting their shit all over, well, everything.
I used to be an advocate of the Xbox dashboard and Xbox Live. Now? Guess what? The PS3 has squarely kicked the Xbox in the balls with its trusty, robust XMB. Although Sony's fortunes aren't so good these days, the PlayStation3 seems to be more of a comfortable place for the gamer to be a part of. The PlayStation Plus account joyfully festoons you with free games. It's almost as if it is encouraging you to play them! Sure, you can play BluRays and use the evil Netflix and Lovefilm (for free, I must add) to stream stuff, but here's a bunch of free games for you to never forget why you got into gaming in the first place. There are adverts, sure - but they sit discreetly in a bunch of slowly rotating tiles. No stupid Lynx video ads which crave your bandwidth. The latest PSN offerings also put the recent Xbox Live Summer of Arcade to shame. What happened, Microsoft?
These days the PlayStation3 XMB is a no-nonsense, easily navigated experience compared to the mess which the Xbox dash has become. It'll get worse too. Kinect-enabled TV adverts are only the tip of a non-game advertising iceberg. Bring back the blades. I know you think you didn't like them, but they made navigating a shitload more easier than what we have now.
Maybe Phil Fish was right. Maybe Microsoft are a bunch of cunts.