Microsoft have gotten a very bad rep in the gaming space since their reveal of their next generation console – the Xbox One. Between a required regular connection to the internet (a check once every 24 hours or it will lock your games), a strict sharing policy between friends, fear of a camera always watching and a much higher price point than their nearest competitor they haven’t been winning over a lot of fans.
Microsoft first appeared on the gaming scene way back in 2001 with the Xbox (that’s the first Xbox 1, not the Xbox One… stupid name Microsoft). They were well and truly trounced that generation, with the goliath of the Playstation 2 leaving little room for competitors.
With the exception of Halo of course, the game that would essentially validate first person shooters on home consoles, Microsoft had few other must play exclusives or reasons to buy the console. Heck they pretty much paid consumers to buy the Xbox, taking a huge hit on each system sold just to bring price down and build a larger consumer base.
Flip forward 4 years to 2005 and their next console Xbox 360 jumped the gun launching a year before Sony’s competitor Playstation 3. This was huge. They got the big foothold in the console market that had eluded them throughout the last generation. They had their pratfalls, the Three Red Rings of Death etc, but it worked. Sony shot themselves in the foot, arrogant on past success they launched at an absurdly high price point that dissauded many of their fans who had already been tempted by the shiny new toy, the Xbox 360.
With the Xbox, Microsoft showed they were looking to the future. By putting a broadband-only connection in their console, they threw down the gauntlet that their platform was were where online gaming would excel. Competing with the Dreamcast and Playstation 2’s online service, Microsoft charged a subscription for it’s primitive Live service that offered far better services than it’s competitors free services.
With 360, they repeated the process. Xbox Live still required a paid subscription but due to this they could provide a secure, fluid and easy platform for online gaming. Sony, who’s service was free, could not compete. Their online network, in comparison, seemed lacklustre and the 2011 Playstation Network Outage was merely one example of a more unreliable service. Microsoft also pioneered downloadable games and DLC in the console space, something that would change the gaming landscape forever.
Now we have the Xbox One. Gamers hate it because of the previously mentioned points. One has to wonder, however, do they also hate change? Microsoft’s new console is undeniably looking forward. With an expected 10 year life span, it is not unreasonable to presume there will be near global internet connections by that point in time. Look how far we’ve come since Xbox’s archaic broadband in the last 10 years.
The online always console offers many exciting new possibilities. For the gamers, it can offer new kinds of gameplay or can streamline other aspects with use of cloud streaming. For publishers, the DRM means more money from the IP they work so hard to produce, as well as the increased viability of alternate business models. For Microsoft it gives them an almost future-proof console.
One thing is certain, the $60 disc-based business model is on it’s way out. Cliffy B, man behind the Gears of War franchise, recently said:
You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people.
Newsflash. This is why you’re seeing free to play and microtransactions everywhere. The disc based day one $60 model is crumbling.
People hate on companies for expensive DLC, costumes, online passes, shoe-horned in multiplayer etc but the fact of the matter is that most games have such large budgets to make a ‘AAA’ experience that they have to sell millions and millions of copies to simply cover that cost.
There has to be some give and take. Companies struggle desperately to cover costs (just look at how many game developers have gone under in the last 2 years) and people buy used games and play the title while giving no money to those who made it.
Is Microsoft doing the right thing by getting rid of used games and ensuring that publishers and developers get some money for the work they do? It depends on how you look at it. Are games a product, that once purchased you can trade willingly and with profit to yourself, or are games an experience that you consume and should have to pay to consume?
If you went to the cinema then came home and spoke to your friend about it, you would not be able to give him the experience of seeing the film. You could relate it, but for him to truly experience it he would need to purchase a cinema ticket and see it himself. Should the same be true of games? I would probably fall into the former camp but it’s something to consider. As it the fact that there haven’t been used games on the PC for years now and Steam is a thriving business platform for many developers and much beloved by consumers. One has to wonder why this would not work on consoles.
I understand the hate towards Microsoft. People are angry that they are treating the gamer, their bread and butter consumer, with something nigh on contempt. At least in the eyes of said consumers. Sony, on the other hand, is pandering to their every need. It isn’t necessarily the change people are angry with, but the way Microsoft have gone about it.
Before you cry XBOT and other derogatory terms in the comments, know I haven’t played my 360 in about 3 years and my current-gen console of choice is Playstation 3 through and through. I love the Sony exclusives and I have a Playstation 4 pre-ordered.
It is silly to rule out the Xbox One however. It is a forward looking console. I’m not getting one at launch, I’ll be more than happy with my PS4. But I see no reason not to get one 4 years down the line when it’s cheaper, has a bedrock of quality exclusives and technology and internet connections have had more time to catch up to Microsoft’s vision.
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer said “This isn’t a sprint.” I believe him. I think the Xbox One has enough great possibilities that given time it will be a fantastic console. When the fanboy fires have had time to cool down, I think people will see that Microsoft had the best intentions to drag this media that we all love so much forward into a new age.
Unless it turns out to be a creepy HAL 9000/Sky-Net monster and ruins us all.