Grizzly Gaming

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Microsoft changes gears on Xbox One but will they change anyone's mind?

Huzzah! We did it guys! It seems like if you can get enough people complaining on the internet, things really can change!

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet lately and have the slightest care about the next round of the console wars, you no doubt have been closely following all the shenanigans surrounding Microsoft, Sony and their next console offerings. I’ve done a few pieces on this site already, but I’ll recap it just for effect.

When Sony’s Playstation 4 was announced, to gamers, it largely sounded like the Playstation 3 – just more powerful. Which, as most gamers can and will attest, that’s really all we want out of a next-generation console. We want it to do the things it already does but do them better. Not so much to ask, right? Not so difficult to figure out either. Well, I would’ve thought it wasn’t so difficult to figure out.

Microsoft, I guess in an effort to go above and beyond expectations, announced their next-generation console – the Xbox One – not so much as a gaming device, but the center of your home entertainment system. And that’s fine, I guess. Microsoft has been trying to push the Xbox 360 into that realm for some time now, regardless that most gamers really only want their consoles to play games. At the Xbox One’s reveal, numerous Microsoft representatives touted the console’s ability to function as a cable box, a video chatting device, and a whole other host of uses that most gamers could care less about. Immediately following the reveal, the internet was abuzz with gamers repeating a similar sentiment, “What about the games?”

Yes, Microsoft spent very little of their reveal actually talking about their video game console’s ability to play video games. Many thought to give the company a pass – they were probably just saving up the game talk for E3, right? But once Microsoft did actually start talking about games, things only got a whole lot worse.

Microsoft, demonstrating an understanding of the term "bias"

The Xbox One, according to reports from Microsoft, would need to be constantly connected to the internet to function. A claim Microsoft denied and cleared up by saying that the console didn’t always need to be connected to the internet to play games, silly, it just needs to connect at least once a day. Or your console won’t work.

The Xbox One, according to reports from Microsoft, would require every game to be installed to its internal hard drive in order to function. And once a game was installed, it would be permanently tied to your account. You wouldn’t be allowed to play your copy of your game on another Xbox One, because it’s tied to your account. You could activate your account on another console, sure, but even then there was a system in place to make sure you couldn’t leave your account activated on a friend’s console indefinitely. And forget about lending your games to friends. Microsoft also sidestepped most concerns about how this system of ownership would affect the used game market, concerns that Microsoft only met with the vague response of, “We have a plan for the used game market.”  

The Xbox One, according to reports from Microsoft, will also make use of new-fangled “cloud computing” technology. According to Microsoft, this cloud technology will allow for Microsoft servers to handle certain amounts of processing for each Xbox One player, essentially giving you more gaming power than a solitary console could handle on its own. Forget the fact that Microsoft won’t detail how this is possible. Or the fact that many industry types have questioned how these claims could at all be possible, with some going as far as to say that Microsoft’s claims of “cloud computing” were suspect at best and spurious at worst.

The Xbox One, according to reports from Microsoft, would also come packaged with an updated Kinect motion-tracking system as a standard piece of equipment. The Kinect, which is being pushed as necessary not just for the console’s operation but necessary for many games as well, will also allow you to issue voice commands to your Xbox One such as, “Xbox, turn on” and “Xbox, go home.” (I guess because pressing buttons to achieve these ends was a huge problem for gamers.) The Kinect’s new functionality has more than a few people worried, mainly with concerns to their privacy. The Kinect will, essentially, always be on and always be watching. Microsoft has assured gamers that the Kinect won’t always be watching but rather, on-call, I guess, and listening for certain phrases. And it definitely isn’t collecting data on you or your habits of using your Xbox One.

It might sound like I’m picking on Xbox One, but I’m really only stating facts. Compared to Sony and the Playstation 4, Microsoft is instituting a whole host of features and restrictions to the Xbox One that range from odd to infuriating. Whereas Sony is giving gamers what they want – a more powerful console and great first party games. Even after E3, the only Xbox One game that held my interest at all was Titanfall, and that’s only because I’m a sucker for giant robots of any shape or caliber. Fan reactions to Microsoft’s announcement generally ranged from “Wow, this is bad” to “I am never giving Microsoft any money again” with almost nothing in between – and definitely nothing positive.

Sony even got in on the action of joking about Microsoft's new stance on game ownership, releasing the above video during an E3 press conference.

But one day a few weeks ago, Microsoft pulled a more abrupt 180 than has ever been witnessed in any “Fast and Furious” movie. It would seem that the internet’s almost universal hatred for every announced Xbox One feature made Microsoft more than a bit nervous. I mean, why else would they backtrack so quickly and so thoroughly?

At first, it seemed like Microsoft would stand staunchly behind their product, ridiculous features and all. They even went so far as to publicly state that they “have a product for people without the internet – the Xbox 360.” Eventually, something gave way and Microsoft changed their tune. Games will be played as they always have. Games will also now be able to be loaned or sold without having to get Microsoft’s consent first. The Xbox One wouldn’t need a constant/daily internet connection and there would be no regional restrictions.    

The Kinect, it seems, is non-negotiable and still a mandated part of the Xbox One. Oh and the Xbox One is still going to be $100 more expensive that the Playstation 4.

Despite Microsoft’s U-turn on the Xbox One, I still think I’m going to back Sony in the next round of the great console war. Honestly, it’s almost worse that Microsoft would have such a quick change of heart. Look at it this way – there was a point in time when Microsoft thought gamers legitimately wanted to use their gaming console to watch TV and that we wouldn’t care about restrictions on how we use products we have bought and paid for. That they legitimately thought these things would fly, then to turn around and essentially say they were just kidding about all that stuff when the outrage reached a boil is borderline insulting.

I’ll be buying a Playstation 4 in the fall. It’s cheaper, the first party games are just as good as Microsoft’s (if not better) and Sony is and always has been focused on gaming. They know their market and they know better than to try and make drastic changes to what that market expects. And the new PS4 controller actually looks pretty decent, surprisingly.

Sorry, Microsoft, but you dun goofed. (That’s still a relevant meme, right?)


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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