Thursday, May 23, 2013

Xbox One: One step in the Wrong Direction

Microsoft unveiled the next generation Xbox, the Xbox One, Tuesday in Redmond, Wash. to a tent full of journalists, planted Microsoft cheerers, and to the world via livestreams. The world awaited for Microsoft's answer to Sony's Playstation 4 reveal but certain rumors about always-online connectivity and no used games set a dark cloud over the entire event. Instead of subsiding these fears, however, Microsoft reinforced them by confirming daily-online connectivity, used game fees, a focus on television and sports, and having no games showcased other than EA sports titles and Call of Duty: Ghosts.  It became instantly clear that the Xbox One is not only forgetting to keep the wants of the core game enthusiast in mind, it's leading the industry on a path that will hurt the consumer and the video game market as a whole.

Daily-Online Connectivity:
One of the main concerns people had with the new Xbox was a rumor circulating that it would require a constant connection to the internet to be able to continue to play games. This would be a form of digital rights management, most commonly implemented for game distribution services like Steam and Origin, that safeguards against piracy. This may sound like a good idea on paper but when a game requires an always-online connection this causes problems most notably with games such as Sim City V and Diablo 3 where if the game detects a lost connection it will boot them out of the game entirely even during single player mode. This greedy form of safeguarding compromises the comfort of the player in order to prevent piracy and displays a total distrust of the consumer.

The entire subject wasn't mentioned until after the conference when Geoff Keighley asked Don Mattrick about the shady subject to which he responded by saying that an internet connection is necessary for the many functions of the Xbox One but it won't prevent you from playing the games.  However, later in the day, news articles began popping up about how Mattrick restated that the Xbox One would indeed need to have an online connection once every twenty-four hours.  It wasn't clear what would happen if the Xbox One fails to detect an internet connection and while it may not seem as bad as how certain PC games have it currently, this is all a slippery slope. If the Xbox One is successful then it'll give Microsoft and other companies the go-ahead to implement harsher DRM in the future.  This could lead to future consoles becoming always-online machines in the future which will blur the line between owning purchased software and just borrowing it from the publishers.

Fees for Used Games:
Another concern about the next Xbox was that used games would be unable playable on it. This ended up being true. Microsoft confirmed that in order to play used games the consumer would have to purchase the ability to install the game onto the hard drive. Microsoft confirmed that the price for a used game would be the same as its retail price. Taking a look at the 360's track record of lowering prices on their on demand service some games take up to two years to lower in price. This means if a game costs $30 dollars at Gamestop, it would cost an additional $60 or so to be able to activate it on your console. This model would definitely put a dent in sales in video game novelty stores such as Gamestop. While it's not yet sure how Gamestop will adjust to Microsoft's model for selling used games, it can be expected that consumers will not find it convenient to pay over retail price for a game that not only has been on sale for years but is also used. Gamestop might end up just ending all trade-ins of Xbox One games altogether.

The inconvenience will not end there. Imagine asking a friend to borrow a game. He gives it you and after you pay the $60 installation fee, you download it onto the hard drive. Your friend then calls you and complains that he can no longer play his game that he too bought for $60 at the store. After you're done, you give it back and your friend has no choice but to pay an additional $60 in order to install it back onto his Xbox One. It all, once again, displays a total mistrust and control of the consumer.

No removable hard drive:
The Xbox One is reported to have a 500GB hard drive but unfortunately it cannot be removed. Considering that every game must be installed in order to play, that hard drive is going to fill up quickly and the only other option is to connect an external USB hard drive dedicated solely to Xbox One games in order to expand the memory.

A Focus on Television:
The Xbox reveal event was a little more than an hour long and more than half of it was dedicated to how the console can also work as a television. The first thing shown was Yusuf Mehdi's attempt to showcase how well you could watch The Price is Right on the Xbox One. Later on, they revealed that a Halo television series is in the works. Not a new Halo game or even an expansion, but a tv show. They advertised a television program during a video game conference. Microsoft proved through their reveal conference that being a glorified DVR comes first before being considered a video game console.

Video Games on the Backburner:
I've come to expect Microsoft presenting anything but video games at their e3 conferences. They literally Ushered in a new age of gaming at last year's e3 conference. From pushing the whole television gimmick to showcasing nothing but EA sports games and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts (which is going to be multiplatform), the desire to create innovative, original, and compelling titles is not needed for the new console. Instead the consumers are getting annual franchises that have brought nothing new to the table for a decade. Microsoft did announce 15 exclusive titles coming to the Xbox One, but my concern is just how many of those will be Kinect titles. Just like this article states it; "Xbox One is the first games console for people who don't like games."

Kinect Focused:
Ever since e3 2009, Microsoft has had a goal of putting emphasis on Kinect games in every conference. Kinect has proven to either not work or the games never live up to expectations.  Kinect should have been a dream come true for gamers yearning innovation but ended up being a broken mess and with every Xbox One coming package with a Kinect everything will based around it. Not saying that it will totally substitute a controller, but the always-on Kinect may cause some problems with the overall system. Even during the livestream of the conference, those people watching on their 360s would be cancelled out whenever the presenter would make commands using the Kinect. With  broken technology being on the forefront of the new console, the Xbox One's future looks dull.

No Backwards Compatibility:
We should be used to no backwards compatibility by now as only the first batch of PS3 units could play PS2 games and only a select few Xbox games could be played on the 360. However, Microsoft takes it to a whole new level; not only can you not play 360 games, reports say that you won't even be able to transfer previously purchased Xbox Live Arcade games over to the new console. It's another tactic to get consumers to buy games that they already own except now they have an "HD Remake" sticker attached to it. It's a shame neither Sony or Microsoft has embraced Nintendo's view of backwards compatibility.

Aside from no gameplay being shown in the gameplay trailers, Call of Doggie, Sports galore, water coolers, the Xbox One is a frightening look into the future of the video game industry; a future where total control is taken away from the player and put into the company's hands just to ensure no dollars or cents will slip through the cracks. One can only hope, Microsoft considers these concerns travels down another path. A video game console should be just that; a console made for video games. Video game innovation should be the highlight of the conference, not tv shows. Give me the video games first and let everything else be icing on the cake, not the other way around.

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