The reaction from Microsoft’s reveal of the XBox One has not been a positive one. There has been a lot of noise surrounding the device’s restrictions regarding sharing/second-hand sales, having to check-in with the mothership every 24 hours, required Kinect usage, and snubbing smaller developers. Unsurprisingly, some have shrugged complaints off as just another example of the entitled hardcore gamer crying. While it is true that some just don’t adapt well to change and some look for any reason to hate Microsoft, I have only one reason that I am not looking to purchase the successor to the 360.
There is something you need to know about me before we get started, and many of those who visit the site or listen to the podcast may already know: I’m a PC gamer. Or, as I like to put it, a member of the PC master gaming race. If Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony failed to release another console it would not bother me in the least. There will be no console more powerful than PC and I don’t have to worry about “generations”. That being said, it is not the reason I’m not looking to purchase an XBox One. With the exception of the Wii U I’ve owned every console that has been released for almost 20 years, so it’s not like I have something against consoles.
Out of the current consoles I have hooked up I would say I definitely favor my PS3; this again not being the reason for my statement. I’ve only favored the PS3 over the 360 for about a year and a half now, partially due to Playstation Plus and also due to Microsoft’s switch to the Metro dashboard. However, that still leaves a good 6 years or so that I primarily used the 360 as my console of choice. There are still certain games (primarily racing) that I’ll buy for the 360 because I enjoy the control configuration better. So if you think I’m saying this because I’m some enraged fanboy, please stop. Just told you – PC master race.
So it has to be one of the things they announced, right? I have to be mad about used games or something, right? Nope. I VERY rarely buy used games. The only time I will buy a used game is if it’s impossible to buy it new, and usually at that point it’s dirt cheap to buy it used. I think Gamestop’s practice of purposefully limiting new game stock so that players will be forced into the used game rotation where Gamestop will buy back a game at a very low price then flip it at a high profit margin (making Gamestop metric shit tons of money) deplorable. Therefore, the hoops involving used games are ones I don’t need to jump through and they don’t affect my non-purchasing decision.
Sharing games is something else that doesn’t concern me. Most of my gaming friends are spread out pretty far geographically, so I almost never have someone borrowing my stuff. To be honest, most of my gaming friends are adults with good jobs, so we just buy our own stuff anyway. With all this being the case, having games locked into your XBox Live account is actually not that big of a deal to me. It would be annoying to have to put a key in for every game I want to play, but honestly, is it all that different from Steam (the locking games to your account part, that is.)? In my case, no.
So is it the fact that the XBox One (allegedly) needs to check back into Microsoft HQ every 24 hours? Not really. My internet very rarely has problems, so I’m not too concerned about it cutting out and not being able to play my games. In the event that I had some type of outage and my XBO didn’t check in for the day it would indeed be frustrating, but since I would have a PS4, my Vita, 3DS, Wii U (at that point), and most importantly my PC, would it really be that big of a problem? I think not.
How about the single player games where you will be required to stay connected to the internet the entire time? Eh, not really. While it’s been proven over and over that requiring single player games to have an internet connection (I’m talking about for gameplay reasons. The DRM reason is just plain stupid.) is a bad idea, it’s not a problem that’s going to last forever. We’ve seen some early struggles with the practice (hello Sim City), but with strides in technology and specifically virtualization, I think it’s a problem that can be overcome (For those of us with steady internet connections, that is). It will continue to be a bad idea until the infrastructure in the US is improved, but for now we are talking about me, guys.
I even like the idea that XBO is built with cloud computing in mind. While using it right now would be tremendous overkill, it will help the console stay viable in the future when newer processors are making the current processor of the XBO look like a rotary phone. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but I think it’s a hard concept to appreciate unless you are familiar with technology. Cloud computing can be used to make AI smarter, render larger levels, process amazing effects, and a bunch of other things. It’s actually a pretty good trade off…if you have a steady internet connection. Of course there will be early troubles dealing with server load and the massive outcry that will happen when the Azure cloud goes down, but like I said, these aren’t perpetual problems. Bottom line, requiring internet connection doesn’t affect me much.
So, if none of this bothers me, what is the exact reason I’m not looking to purchase an XBox One? It’s because, collectively, all of these decisions Microsoft has made show me one thing: they are not putting the gamer first. It’s clear just from the presentation that Microsoft had at the reveal that they are not focusing on gamers. Their main focus is entertainment as a whole, and whether you are a gamer or not, they want an XBox One in your home. The reveal felt like something that should have happened right before CES, not E3.
Don’t get me wrong, the entertainment features of the XBO are actually pretty sweet. Instant switching, the guide, and the multitasking right on your TV screen are pretty cool features to have. Too bad they aren’t really needed. It takes very little effort for me to pick up my phone, tablet, or even laptop while watching TV to look up additional information or even control my TV (I use the Tivo app religiously these days).
Switching inputs isn’t that big of a deal, typically because I don’t switch back and forth every few minutes. Being able to speak to the Kinect isn’t that big of a plus either, since using some type of remote input still keeps me in my chair and all I have to do is move a few fingers. Everything Microsoft mentioned during the reveal are great pluses, but they aren’t features that make me want to buy the console. Why do I buy consoles? To play games; that simple.
With these additional features, all Microsoft had to do to get me to purchase the XBO was show me that they are putting gamers first. How could I possibly think you are putting gamers first when you don’t even do something as simple as show a game with real gameplay footage? It would be nice to know what type of graphics we will be looking at (even though I already have a pretty good idea). When the first features you talk about on your GAME console are entertainment features that mostly help TV, movies, and music, how could I think Microsoft is putting gamers first?
While locking games into player accounts doesn’t bother me much, what about all of the gamers that share games with their friends all the time? What about the gamers that don’t have a steady internet connection so checking in may be a problem? Let’s not even talk about having to stay connected so you can receive those computations back from the cloud. Did they even think about soldiers overseas? What about social gatherings? Most of the time a few people bring the hardware while other people bring games. That’s not going to happen anymore (at least not with the XBO).
What about gamers who can only afford new games by trading old ones in? Or can only afford to purchase used games? And yes, I do realize that both Microsoft and Gamestop have said there will be a system in place for used games, but do you really think Microsoft is going to let that slide without putting their hand in that pot? There are rumors that now MS, the publisher, and Gamestop get a cut of that used game sale. Obviously this will lead to retailers getting a smaller piece of the pie, so does Microsoft really think that they will offer the same trade-in values or charge the same for used games?
I can think of so many scenarios where the current policies of the XBO negatively affect gamers that I could make this article five pages long. When I put all of this together it’s clear to me that Microsoft is not putting gamers first when it comes to the XBox One. Why does it matter, though? Making statements about Microsoft not putting gamers first may sound like something I’m spouting from my moral high horse, but it actually goes deeper than that.
I spent the first half of this article explaining how the policies that people are complaining about don’t bother me too much, so why should they stop me from purchasing the console? If Microsoft doesn’t put gamers first then they aren’t looking out for my best interest in regards to my purchase of the device. Their core strategy is entertainment, and gaming is just part of that strategy; not the focus. This means down the line when decisions come down to being better for the entertainment audience versus the gaming audience, the entertainment audience wins out; making it a very real possibility that Microsoft will make decisions that could degrade my use of the device.
We can see it in the decisions they’ve already made. The internet connection requirements aren’t helping gamers – they are helping Microsoft and the publishers. How about not allowing developers to self-publish? How is keeping indie devs off the console helping gamers? Microsoft decided to go with DDR RAM instead of GDDR on a machine whose main purpose is supposed to be high end graphics. It’s also rumored the 3gb of the 8 are supposed to be reserved for the OS. Both of those items point to Microsoft sacrificing game performance in favor of other non-gaming features. I don’t want my (more than likely) $500 purchase going to waste due to Microsoft changing policies (or dashboards) to the point that I don’t want to use it anymore.
I think the worst thing about Microsoft not focusing its console on gamers is the fact that it will use gamers’ dollars to push the console forward — further reaching out to that broader entertainment marker even at the expense of its patrons. The XBox brand is associated with gaming, and will continue to be for a long time. Who do you think will be buying XBO’s on launch day and for the first few years? Not some person who doesn’t play games. Sure, once word spreads and the price comes down a bit those interested strictly in its entertainment features may start to pick them up, but that’s going to be some time after the core gaming audience has supported the console; allowing it to make further developments to attract non-gamers.
I may sound like I’m whining here, but like I said, I’m not looking to pick one up at this point; so I’ll be speaking with my money. And you know what? If Sony takes the same course, the PS4 is another console I won’t have. At this point that doesn’t seem to be the case; Actually, Sony appears to be doing the exact opposite of Microsoft by really focusing on games and gamers with the fourth generation of the Playstation. I’m not going to sit here and act like I think these companies actually care about us, though. We are dollar signs to both Microsoft and Sony, but if I’m going to pay for something, I’m at least going to make sure it’s working in my favor.
Who knows, maybe Microsoft will change a few of their policies since this appears to be blowing up on them. I really don’t care too much about what Microsoft has to show at E3 because they have already confirmed so much that shows where their true focus is. If that’s what they want to do, it’s fine by me and I can certainly understand why. They just won’t be getting my money; which probably works out best for all of us.