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The Problem with Microsoft's Position in the Next Generation


We sit here now knowing more information about our future in gaming. Microsoft and Sony have tipped their hands to give us a look at what their plans are, and the two could not be on further ends of the spectrum.

I've sided with Microsoft over the course of this last generation for a number of reasons:

  • The overall stability and feature set of Xbox Live
  • The Microsoft exclusives (Banjo-Kazooie, Halo, Alan Wake, and a handful of others)
  • I liked their controller a hell of a lot more
  • Xbox Live Marketplace and its plethora of fantastic downloadable titles
  • It's the console that we chose to carry in our gaming center (meaning I didn't have to buy a console)

Nothing that Sony had offered with the PlayStation 3 tickled my fancy. Well, there's that and the fact that Dark Cloud 3 was never announced. Personal issue aside, PlayStation 3 seemed like a high-price Blu-Ray player, and I'm more of a digital content type of guy. After they were hacked, things drastically improved for the PlayStation 3 and I began to see the console that I wanted Sony to make this whole time.

Now that we've seen what Sony and Microsoft are both offering, it would seem that Sony learned from their own hubris and mistakes...and they fully have plans to fix those and get right with gamers again. Meanwhile, after the Xbox One reveal conference today, I have this deep down feeling that Microsoft doesn't understand the depth of the mistakes they are about to make.

From here on out, we will be talking about some things that are merely rumors, some things that are confirmed kinda but not really because something or another things but they are basically confirmed, and things that are definitely confirmed.

The first problem that Microsoft has deals with their approach to "always on." Phil Harrison stated in an interview (that has since been kinda-sorta debunked by Microsoft support but Harrison keeps pushing that it's correct information) that you will need to turn on your Xbox with an internet connection enabled to it at least once every 24 hours. This sounds like a lame duck "authentication" DRM attempt. Either have it one way or the other, but don't middle of the road this shit on us. If you want an always online DRM, then make it require an internet connection at all times. If not, then don't include the function at all and move on.

However, the deeper problem with this comes from the potential of alienating audience. What happens if I have my internet shut off for a couple of months because I decided that my internet bill money could go somewhere more worthwhile? As it stands, internet is a LUXURY, not a NECESSITY. Hell, what happens if I forget to do this "turn it on once every 24 hours" thing for three days because I'm on vacation? What kind of punishment will I face? An Xbox Live ban? A fee that I have to pay in order to re-authenticate everything? Nothing at all? It's a very bad thing to leave people guessing about potential punishments due to one of your silly policies like this.

The second problem deals with their general approach at this press conference. Yes, we get why you are calling it Xbox One. It all has to do with your "new age" metaphoric bullshit need to say "it's the one box for everything." You said the same shit about the Xbox 360 also, and by all means, I'm not going to be the one that tries to deny Microsoft completing that mission fully. Show of hands how many people had a console doing their movie streaming, game playing, social media aspects, and multiple other services? However, this press conference did nothing but assure people "hey, we're going to offer television, streaming, television, sports, television, Call of Duty, exclusive television series, sports, Call of Duty, television." Included is a compilation that highlights these points:

See the problem here? Sony focused on the thing that matters to gamers: the games. They gave us some talk about the system itself, but they made sure to point out "hey, you like games, so do we, let's play some fucking games." The deeper problem, Microsoft, is that your focus was on everything BUT games. Yes, I'm aware that you are talking about games at E3, but as part of your initial reveal, showing more than a Call of Duty trailer would mean a lot. Right now, the information and buzz out there is not good. You've shot yourself in the foot.

Third, we'll talk about the "used games/borrowed games" rumors. You are going to make a fee...equivalent to the full price cost of the game play it on another profile? You are fucking high. You literally puffed on some incredible shit and have gone batshit-lost-your-fucking-mind. Yes, I know that the used game industry (places like Gamestop) can hurt the bottom line of some publishers, but honestly, we do not exist in the same time as we used to. Back in the day of the PS2, there wasn't a downloadable game space. You didn't hear all the whining about used games then. Why? That is due to this generation having a strong presence of downloadable titles right at our dashboards costing $10 or $15 which could equate to the same level of value that a full $60 game could present. Because of things like this (as well as economic issues in the United States), $60 is a steep asking price. People are looking for values. Here's a better solution: publishers work with places like Gamestop, garner licensing deals for selling those used games. This would means the publisher is still making some money overall, and it could possibly keep a couple of studios alive. I'd like to think that Bizarre Creations would still be alive if this were the case.

Instead, you wish to alienate more of your audience. If you are going to charge the same price as a full copy of the game, why not just buy the full copy of the game? Okay, that's the point. We get it. However, why not just stay on PC? Hell, it costs about the same amount plus about $100 to build a PC that will run all the third party shit you offer on your box, run all the same services that will be on your box, literally do EVERYTHING your box does outside of exclusive titles. However, I can buy my games at literally FRACTIONS of the price. My new copy of Bioshock Infinite was $35. My new copy of Dishonored? $30. My downloadable games? Wait until they go on sale and pick up Mark of the Ninja/Deadlight/Iron Brigade/Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet/Toy Soldiers for $10. Not only will I have the game available to me whether I'm online or off (in most cases), but I can also plug in YOUR controller and play them...with better graphics...better frame rates...and generally better experiences.

Is this going to stop piracy? No. If anything, it will promote people sharing their Xbox Live profile email and password, allowing anyone to download the profile and play whatever games they want. You are exchanging one way of trading for another. The only issue is that you will now be pushing people towards compromising their secret information, which could lead to security issues on the user's end as well as your own. It's a downhill idea, and nothing short of "dump this used game policy crap completely" is going to make it easier on you.

A deeper problem that you face? You got accidentally lucky with the Xbox 360. There weren't tablets, smartphones, and primitive mobile gaming devices at the time. In this day and age, why do I need your box to watch television, to search the internet, or to play downloadable games? We have a myriad of devices at our disposal to take care of their wants. What makes your console special? It has to be the games, and right now, you've shown nothing. That could change at E3, but unless some of these policies change, I doubt that will happen.

Let's address a patent that you offered back in November for the Kinect, something you didn't offer a lot of focus on. First off, the fact that you HAVE to have the Kinect attached to your system for it to work is silly. However, when looking at that patent, we can start to understand why. The idea that there are companies who use your browser cookies in order to direct advertising to you is already a little creepy. However, the idea that your company is going to be spying on how many people are sitting in my room while we watch a program on your box? Are you seriously out of your fucking mind?! Do you think that will actually fly? I say this while living in a country that allows cameras on top of street lights and street corners, etc. Maybe people won't have an issue with that, but many of us do! If there are too many people, you will prompt me to pay more money? How about we just unplug your box and throw it in the trash instead?

The mainstream of casual gamers out there may not realize what you are doing at the moment, but we do: you are just hooking a PC up to a TV. That's what consoles have always been: underpowered PCs. However, the parity at this point is really hard to not correlate. The issue is that you are creating a highly restricted PC.

As it stands, Microsoft is fumbling into this generation...HARD. Hopefully E3 can reveal stuff that changes my mind, but as it stands, really fucked the pooch on this one.

Thank you all for reading, and please, share your thoughts in as civil of a manner as possible.