Screw You Too, Microsoft.
May 23, 2013
I actually had to take a day to collect myself after the Xbox One reveal. It played out as if someone had taken everything I hated and feared from the game industry and combined it into a super console; creating the Devastator of crooked ideas. Microsoft is already backpedaling as hard as it can from a lot of what was said yesterday, but if even half of it is true then we need to form some sort of fellowship purely for the purpose of throwing that evil system into the fires of a volcano. Lives will be lost, bravery will be tested, but overall I think it’s better to scour this system from the face of the earth than to endure its existence.
Where to begin? Well, they’re already trying to back away from the statement, but requiring a fee from people who buy used games is pretty awful. I guess we all know why EA dropped the policy, as the entire console is going to be enforcing online passes for everyone now. We’re not talking a lock out from the online portion of the game, though, but the whole game. Picked up a used copy of the game from a friend or off some online service? I hope you like the decorative disk you just bought, because until you pay the online fee on your Xbox One you aren’t playing anything. Considering that statements about buying a new-ish used game estimate the said fee will be the full price of the game, I hope you enjoy paying for things twice.
I can just see the board room laughing at this decision. I bet they were thinking that no one had ever devised a system that screwed the used game market so unbelievably hard before. Doubling up the cost of a used game sure does render the market completely useless, effectively keeping all of those poorer people from buying video games. Screw you, kids and people without decent incomes. More specifically, screw you demographic that support a lot of our game development. Microsoft doesn’t care that you’ll never be able to experience video games unless you’re within a certain economic class any more.
I’ve already complained before about how anti-used game policies hurt game developers, so there’s not much need to go into certain aspects of it again. The Online Pass only inconvenienced the poorer classes of gamer, though. This policy is a direct hit, locking out anyone who isn’t making a decent income. Forcing poorer classes to buy the game and then pay a fee to play that game is just another way of saying that you can’t play video games unless you’re comfortably well-off. Considering this policy is coming from an industry that is dying to be inclusive to everyone so they can take everyone’s money, this is downright baffling.
Also, this policy WILL NOT make any developers richer. You will get a slight rise in sales from the handful of people who can afford to decide to buy new instead of used, but for the most part the people who can’t afford new games will still not be able to afford new games. Cutting them out of the loop entirely will just mean that these people will find other games to play on other consoles or PC; never to return. Enforcing a policy like this does not suddenly make all these people able to afford sixty dollar games. All it does is make them never want to return to your games or platform ever again.
Also, I myself make a comfortable income, but beyond the parameters of my reviews I cannot afford to buy more than one game a month, if that. I fill in the gaps by buying used games for dirt cheap, as it’s the only way I can justify buying any more games on my budget. If I had to pay an additional fee when I got the game home, I just wouldn’t bother. I wouldn’t suddenly switch to buying more new games because I had no other options. I would just stop playing games on the system that tried to force me to buy them new. There are lots of other avenues open, and even if every new system were to close them off there’s still an entire catalogue of classic games to pick from. My backlog isn’t getting any smaller, either.
On the subject of backlogs, it sounds like one of my big fears is coming to bear. Back when I first started posting my thoughts online I spoke about how worried I was as I plunked down my money to buy Bionic Commando: ReArmed (I mention Mega Man 9, but that’s the game I was considering buying). I really liked the game and wanted to play it, but the idea of buying digital content didn’t sit right with me. I was afraid that the people at Microsoft could just flick a switch and that my game wouldn’t belong to me anymore. I’ve realized that fear was completely valid more than once when I was trapped offline and couldn’t play the games I had paid for. I needed to update the licenses to play the offline, but given there was no mass way to do that after I’d bought a second new system from that company, I just hadn’t bothered. With a few hundred games on my console, I still haven’t managed to re-download the permissions for them all.
Not one of those games is transferable to the new system. I figured that backwards compatibility was going to be an issue with the disk games, but the digital stuff? The games I trusted you to curate when I gave you my money? You can tell me that it isn’t fair to expect the company to take care of the games I own forever, but that was the task they took on when they went digital. I still have games that are older than I am that I’ve taken very good care of. I keep most any games that I buy, and there is a strong classic gaming market that tells me that other people do as well. These games will last as long as I’ve taken care of them, and work just as long. If Microsoft and the other digital distributors didn’t want this responsibility, they shouldn’t have gotten into the market. I expect the games I pay for to be around as long as I want them to be.
Instead, I’m told that those digital games I was so scared of buying are all just going to disappear someday. If my console putters out, I can’t just go out and get a new one to download all my games again. Once the network goes down, and it will someday, I won’t have any avenue to replace all of the stuff I bought. The new console certainly isn’t going to concern itself with making the games I bought available, and unless I manage to maintain a system known for being faulty, I doubt I’ll be able to keep them forever. Also, when Microsoft does shut off the servers and everyone is locked out, what will happen to these games? Aren’t there many of them important enough to preserve? Are we just going to be like the early film industry, hoping that someone miraculously kept a copy?
But my Gamerscore will transfer over. Lucky me.
This is the last move they should be making when they’re pushing a digital download system. What, you didn’t notice? When you’re selling me disks that are functionally useless beyond providing me a way of installing a game and then punching in a code, you’re selling me a digital distribution platform. The disks you can buy in the store are useless beyond making it easier to install the game to your console, but that install is mandatory and you still have to put in an authentication code to start the game up. It’s the most pointless, roundabout way to have a digital distribution console, but that’s how they’re convincing people that’s not what they’re up to. Yes, you have to have the game installed on the system and you also have to authenticate it online, but you can buy the install disk in stores so it isn’t digital download.
These are the steps that lead into a pure digital distribution model. It makes things nice and comfortable for those of us who like to think we own our games, though. This is something else I’ve already complained about but Microsoft, among other companies, is stealing away the rights you have when you buy a game. User agreements and the like have tried to take my ownership rights away from my games for some time, but too bad for them if I have a disk copy of the game and just unplug my system from the internet. You can complain all day that I have no rights to the disk I bought, but my ability to play it as I feel says otherwise. Companies like Microsoft know that, hence the switch to this new model. It lets people think they still own their games, but all they have is an install disk that doesn’t do a thing. That Online Pass just went from being a nuisance to completely controlling whether you can play a game or not. It’s that digital right that matters to what you own, and not the actual, physical media. If that isn’t digital distribution, I don’t know what is.
So, now I need that digital permission to play my game at all. When the next systems beyond the Xbox One start to pop up and backwards compatibility gets tossed, what do I do with my pile of useless disks? I can at least play many of the games I have on the Xbox 360 until it breaks, but I won’t even have the option on the Xbox One if my games aren’t authenticated or the system’s rights management goes offline. We’re hoping that corporations will care about the games we own well after they don’t make a profit from them anymore. I doubt anyone at Microsoft will even hesitate to make the decision to invalidate years of my game purchases when the time comes. They’re already getting ready to do it now.
Always-online has been dialed back, but it’s still there. It needs a daily authentication, which is something that’s not too bad unless you live in a country or state that has lousy internet. It’s a fine development for anyone who has no intention of going online with the console. I certainly keep mine hooked up to the internet all the time so I can get the latest ads, since I don’t play multiplayer games and have no need for it otherwise. Without the ads on my system, how would I ever know that they were making another Call of Duty? Thanks Microsoft! I can totally see why I have to be online on a system I rarely do anything online with.
It’s not so bad, though. It just wants a little peek, sort of like how the mandatory Kinect will want a little peek at what you’re doing and what you’re talking about. It’s all well and good that the console is going to package the Kinect with the system so that devs can implement it more, but I think most of us can agree that we’re done with motion games. So, we get a system that we can talk to, something that works great when you’re trying to play a game or watch a movie while your partner’s asleep. I really want to sound like some moron talking to his Xbox in front of my friends, too; especially when I try to speak over a crowded room. So glad that stuff like this is becoming mandatory. I can’t wait for motion controls to resume bothering me by infringing on games they don’t work in again.
And it does TV! Sweet, because I don’t already have a television that I don’t watch sports or play sports on. I also don’t watch much TV on the Xbox either, probably because I use it to play video games. Should I ever want to do any of those things, I have lots of other devices that do a superior job. Before you start up the whole smart phone argument, I want you to realize that your phone is 1) portable and 2) probably still your last resort. Being able to do a lot of things in a portable way is very handy, but when I’m at home I have devices that do a vastly superior job of anything my phone can do. When I walk in the door my phone is on its charger, never to be seen again until I leave the house. I have other machines that do the job the Xbox One wants to do, except for the Xbox One to do most of those jobs I still need the devices themselves. Odds are good I can already watch television and surf the internet if I am even considering buying an Xbox One. The device just adds another step I don’t need.
I won’t need it for Indie games, either. While no one will argue that the indie game market on the Xbox 360 works, at least there was a place where an independent developer could put out their work. Instead of assigning some people to monitor it for quality control, Microsoft has just done away with it (It seems like it will still be there, but I don’t know how you’d develop for it when the company no longer sells the necessary tools). Self-publishing had its problems, but there are a lot of independents who can only manage to self-publish while getting the word out on their games. It’s through this self-publishing that they can gain some traction and get noticed. Creating a better system could have fixed this, but instead Microsoft just closed off another avenue to the starting indie developer and given me one less reason to want the system. Since both of the other systems are beginning to implement indie games, it’s a wonder Microsoft isn’t trying to include them.
A lot of these are just ‘potential scenarios’ according to an email from Microsoft to polygon.com. I’m sure they all became potential scenarios the moment everyone lashed out at them and Sony’s stock took a nice jump. The entire reveal was a disaster, pushing out statement after statement that made me want the system less. They couldn’t open their mouths without saying something that sabotaged my interest in the console. I think they know it, too, and I hope they’re seriously considering how wrong they’ve gone with their terrible new console. They’re on damage control, but I hope some little voice in their head is telling them why. Don’t just placate me and do this crap anyway. Actually listen to the public that is crucifying your system right now.
Images courtesy of indianexpress.com, xbox.com, marketplace.xbox.com, venturebeat.com,