The Microsoft Xbox One unveiling this past May 21st showed us just what the next evolution has to offer, and it’s grim. Live Television, sports integration, cross-media interaction, a far cry from what was considered an Xbox 1 years ago. We’ve stated this concern before about the Xbox One, but personally, the problems of the next generation console persists days after.
You Made a Bad First Impression
A neatly-packed video summary of the Xbox One reveal for those in need of a refresher.
This was your moment, Microsoft. Sony spilled the beans about the PlayStation 4 back in February and now, with three months of reacting, it’s high time to see what the house of Space Spartans can offer the next generation of gaming. Sports? Fantasy Sports? Sports Games? Live, TV? Halo Live-Action TV Series? Picture. In. Picture. Mode? SKYPE DEMONSTRATIONS!? Surely, another offering of annualize franchise, CG trailers of a new IP and sequel will suit the people rubbing their hands together who just can’t wait to play videos!
As you can tell, Microsoft dropped cinder blocks, boulders even, when revealing the Xbox One.
Contrary to nobody, first impressions are what life revolves around. It could lead to a promotion, a date, a scholarship or anything really. Microsoft led with the “Future of Xbox” and left gamers unsatisfied. Also by going 359 steps backward but that’s not the point. Sony wanted to show off the six plus exclusives, no matter when they will all come out we know what’s coming out the gate and be excited for. Microsoft stained the roof of our mouths, turning us bitter and cynical (yo) the more we head to E3 and the more we hear what Microsoft really has planned for us. Having that in mind, the reasoning behind pushing content for a crowd who can barely name 20 sports team names puzzles at who this conference was really for.
Targeting the Wrong People
An even neater video summarizes the reveal.
Whenever Microsoft trots out to E3 and hawks the Kinect, we’re instructed, no, reminded that this is a trade show, made for mass market appeal. Mass Market as in, you’re every day average Joe dad slaving at the office patiently waiting to head home to his family, not the informed people scouring across platforms for the latest and greatest.
The heavy push in the living room filled with sports-centered content bewilders to where Microsoft heads to with the Xbox One. The reinforcement of the NFL-integration (Fantasy Point tracking, ambiguous Smartglass/Kinect usage) and new sports game engine flaunted show this “Dad” market could be the demo Microsoft targets. Cnet wrote an extensive look at the next Xbox and saw it as a “Dad-first strategy” by Microsoft, judging by the presentation alone. Even worse, the reported $400 million price tag of the five-year NFL partnership concludes Microsoft isn’t investing for you anymore, the core audience.
Believe it or not, this commercial entity is not the group you’d want to focus on if you’re Microsoft.
As tempting as it sounds to take advantage of the thrill-(gimmick)-seeking public, you’ll eventually lose them from a competitor’s flasher object. Peddle to the fickle and misinformed population of casual users, whom hop between gadgets and doodads with no shred of “Brand Loyalty” within them. No connection involved, it’s just a game, a thing, a product to consume and move on. The Wii certainly felt that push to where units produced couldn’t leave the factory soon enough. The phenomena swarmed the states and the world to where ownership of the motion-controlled console became commonplace. Expected to sit atop shelves as a trophy, and compete with the VCR in a dust collecting challenge.
Pull up the stats and sales of individual Wii titles to see most games on the platform don’t sell well. What isn’t cynically-made garbage (cash grabs) or Nintendo developed sells tremendously poorly. The 3rd-party produced games of No More Heroes, MadWorld, and Red Steel (Only #2) suffer from this predicament. Now that the Wii U’s out for more than half a year, where’s the brand loyalty there? People are still happy embracing 2006’s version of the “Future” in 2013…
Always-On Internet Strikes Back!
The apparent “Always-on” internet connection scared us months ago when it was rumor to be a requirement in the next Xbox. Unfortunately, Xbox One sets out to be just as bad as we thought. No, we won’t have the console blackouts where a shot connection means a nonexistent working console for offline functions. Don’t worry; you only need a day-to-day dietary use of internet connection every 24 hours! Never mind the vast number of U.S. citizens (rural) rolling with dial up or the people that never wanted or managed to set up an internet connection.
The research firm of the Diffusion Group saw that 73% of Xbox 360s (in 2010) hooked up their console to the internet. Mind you, the “Casual” console barely had half their users connect with a 54%. Sure, you could say 2005, 2006, and 2010 have been an increasing amount of people with the internet compared to now, but asking for everyone to do so is ludicrous. Think of the 46% that didn’t wire in the internet for their Wii and come onto the flashy, new console of the Xbox One. What sort of reaction happens there
Then let’s not forgot about the other console buyers, the charitable kind. Nope, forget about the groups/people sending gaming consoles to the military (Hey, that’s us!) and to the children (Child’s Play). What of these military bases with no access to the web, where system-link, split-screen games were the only way to enjoy multiplayer, no chance of evading like with prior consoles just won’t work at all. The Xbox One is here shove its anti-piracy implementation down our throats this Holiday.
Backwards Compatibility and the Resulting Arrogance
The lack of backwards compatibility further proves Microsoft’s segmented target market, the people where disposable income is disposable in the most literal of senses. Don Mattrick, President of interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, saw fit to point out that “Only 5% of customers play older games on a new videogame system anyway, so spending time and money to develop technology to allow them to play older games isn’t worth it.” Only 5% of 360 owners use this pedestrian and outdated concept. Crunch the numbers into the 70 million 360s sold worldwide and see that puny 5% yields 3,500,000 Xbox users popping in a last gen game.
Sure, the PlayStation 4 also knocks off the same concept. Sony even announced it in a “tail-between-the-legs” way with indication of aid by way of cloud support, not sneering at their user. What really stings in this was the response Mattrick had with the outcry of the booted concept. “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards” Mattrick said condescendingly, presumptuously, and utterly smugly. Hear that 3.5 million people? You’re considered inferior to the eyes of Microsoft.
As stated here, the Xbox One won’t allow for independent developers to self-publish on their system. This is huge, another notch (him too) to the sharp divide between Sony’s open arms and Microsoft’s maniacal laughter toward indie devs. To realize the magnitude of this, the headmaster of one of the few developers making good use of the Kinect, Tim Schafer, responded to this news.
— Tim Schafer (@TimOfLegend) May 22, 2013
A series of denunciating “boos” from Double Fine’s Grand Poobah. Hell, he’s not the only one teary eyed and enraged. Robert Boyd, creator of the Penny Arcade games, plainly said “Microsoft just handed the indie dev community to Sony, Nintendo, and Steam on a silver platter.” And make no bones about it the power to self-publish is the reason why we get games like Thomas was Alone and Guacamelee.
The lack of self-published games defeats the whole purpose of going completely independent. Basically getting a parent’s permission to go to a party when you’re 38, restricting activities at the party (design decisions) and demanding to be home at a certain time (release date centered on their schedule). However, let’s face it. The telltale signs and writings on the wall were already there. Microsoft sectioned off the indie game channel and self-sufficient indies with every dashboard update, and this finally lets the bullet reach the brain.
Where’s the illumiroom!?
This bit’s a ways away, but where does the illumiroom fit in this Xbox One equation? When does Microsoft’s next pet project become a reality for gamers? Or even a glimpse of it? I will say this, it trends on murky waters. Little info came out after the CES showing of the illumiroom and researchers of said device stated a working demo won’t be ready until July. (If the name escapes you, check out the video above/below or follow this link). Granted, the Kinect conceptualized way back in 2005, five years before its “Natal” announcement. Actually, it may be smart of Microsoft to not make promises they can’t keep until five years down the line.
Still, the insurmountable possibilities weigh more than you can think. I’m not saying start handing IOUs of the device, give us a taste of it to differentiate between the PlayStation 4 and Wii U. Yet, the amount of tech demos shown at last generation’s reveal begs to differ on not making promises. Because this could prove you can apply the word “Immersive” without sounding like a shill, gawking at the spectacle of the tech and writing pretentiously is allowed in this situation.
The illumiroom inspires hope, like the Kinect did years ago, yet with more practical implications. The projector adapts to your environment and emits an expanded view around your Television for various immersive opportunities. Not only that, you’ll have the same effect the Wii had with a heavy draw and intrigue you just have to see to believe. Show off a demo of it in action or comply with the surrounding content and throw up a video. See the impact of something conceptually simple, though, complex, genuinely enrapture both core and casuals alike.
This could single handily swing people. Nintendo’s vast established franchises always sway console buyers because of the eventual addition to a series. There hasn’t been a Nintendo home console without a Smash Bros/Mario/Zelda game, which leads to day one buyers investing early. This Illumiroom could coerce many naysayers of the Xbox One and be the reason to own the system, at least invest early in it.
Tradition of Microsoft, bury press events within worthless apps and doohickeys to cater to the novel one-timers. This time, the level of ass-backward design is at an all-time high. Rather being a gaming console, which we’re led to believe, it’s an entertainment device that also plays games on the occasion.
Whenever glossing through the features of the Xbox One, ask yourself, have I seen this before? Does this concept work with another device? Can I watch live TV somewhere besides an Xbox One? We’re essentially paying for a game console that works as an input button. Smart TVs, Apple TVs, and a damn computer do everything Microsoft attempts to shill with the sincerest of smiles.
As you can see, ironically, the Xbox One places itself as a direct competitor to TVs, when the very place you solely use the Xbox One is a Television. It’s as if somebody shoves a satchel inside of a backpack, both carry the same features of carrying items to and from destinations. However, the difference remains as the number straps and pockets you’ll never use. We’re conducted to another viewing of “See what Voice commands could do” and things easier done elsewhere.
Killing the Used Market
The used game market is a treasure trove of forgotten gems, introductions to series, and, above all, an affordable way to play games. Through which used games and trade-in bonuses actually allow for an increase in income and a *gasp* higher probability of buying a brand-spanking new game. The president of GameStop admitted and gone on record of saying 70% of traded-in credit applied toward a new game purchase. And Microsoft looks to gut it by end of its silver-tipped bayonet.
Microsoft hides under the suspicion that we, the humble consumer, can afford to slap down full MSRP weekly, biweekly, and monthly, which to anything who knows how to handle money like a normal human being, is out of the question. What they don’t realize by stifling used games and harming the people involved, you’re killing places like the Gamefly’s and GameStop’s for your own greed and cynical motivations.
The largest retailer for videogames, GameStop, employs thousands of people and does an efficient job of advertising new games. Microsoft relies on them to sell units, supply pre-orders, and promote future content. Can you imagine if the “fee-to-pay” barriers of the Xbox One’s used games become true and the resulting action of GameStop cuts off any sort of Xbox One games? Hypothetically possibility at best. Still, how can you work with someone with utter disdain for your business practices and plot your demise?
Now, we’ve recently got news that the console won’t be including fees. Polygon reports from Xbox One sources that the system only needs a online spot check with no fee. Huh? So, that, whole rant earlier means nothing? We got confirmation from high-ranking Microsoft employees days ago, and they’re wrong?
Clarity (lack thereof) of Rumors
Public relations at Microsoft were not prepared at all for the Xbox One. Bold remark to say and question the credibility of a group of people from the comforts of cheese-dust encrusted chairs, though not answering any questions would have been a better result. What we got were stark, variant answers to seemingly simple questions. Phil Harrison, vice president at Microsoft, led the charge of confusing terminology and massive misunderstandings with officially quelling the rumor of the Xbox One’s always-on internet connection, or so we thought. We were, at first, told the Xbox One won’t require a functioning and persistent connection to work. Ok, fantastic, no need to worry about killing/enraging parts of your audience with a concept not ready for toda-Except, it is. What? Then Polygon reported that Harrison clarified it’s a “Potential scenario”
Another retraction by Harrison was the state of the used game market, which went down in a tirade of horrible possibilities we never imagined could happen in our wildest nightmares. Harrison originally states…
“The bits that are on that disc, you can give it to your friend and they can install it on an Xbox One, They would then have to purchase the right to play that game through Xbox Live.”
Reporter for Kotaku, Jason Schreier, asks if this “Used” pricing matches the original and got this eye-opening answer from the VP of Microsoft. “Let’s assume it’s a new game, so the answer is yes, it will be the same price,” Harrison said. Larry Hryb further befuddles the populous with this statement dancing around if we have to pay full MSRP price for Xbox One games we own, but lend/sell to others.
“Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”
As it’s looking right now, either Microsoft tries to skirt around the reality or they’re completely clueless.
Contempt towards your audience and loyal customers only leads you nowhere. See, Steam can get away with murder because of its fierce customer loyalty and appreciation. Valve levels with you, they cuddle up to you with discounts before and after release, wishlists, and the ability to only advertise what you’re there for, games. Steam’s completely transparent, look up a game and see everything you need to know in a neatly-packed page. The PS4’s announcement shifted Sony into that direction with a more consumer-friendly appearance, able to reason with us and developers with no sense of arrogance. Sony’s harkening the point of the PlayStation 4 being a gamer-centric system tailored with developers in mind, coming to them and asking “What can we do to help you?” The focus led to an indie game developer frenzy of support just by revealing patron saint of Indie games, Jonanthon Blow, on to the stage with his new game exclusively for the PlayStation 4.
Think of these companies as people, which we’re told they apparently are. To do so, picture the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as identical twins. They’re both similar in terms of guts, but differ in personality. One sympathizes and supports you in difficult situations, giving the look that they do care. The other callously and cynically passes you off, pulling out excuses to get what they want and use you, abuse you, and consequently, lose you in the long run. What’s the point of having the latter around? There’s no reason to when you have a person disregard and piss all over you, even since the person functions similar to its kindlier sibling.
Over 2,000 words of harsh? Yeah, probably. Hopefully Microsoft responses and acts towards these issues at E3 and beyond. Or at the very least make us forget it with a live-action Spartan handing out high fives.