Microsoft have attempted to “clarify” the key issues surrounding the Xbox One and the news is mostly all bad. The Xbox One is shaping up to be the most anti-consumer device yet, built around maximising profits for publishers, whilst offering no tangible benefits for consumers. Questions and rumours have surrounded the new Xbox ever since its disastrous reveal and post show comments from Microsoft executives claiming they were still ironing out the controversial details. Well Microsoft have made things a bit clearer – they don’t care about the consumer.
Breaking down what Microsoft have announced (and through the corporate spiel):
– Xbox One consoles require a check-in online at least once every 24 hours. After this time period elapses, you can’t play games. Period.
– The exception to the above is if you are playing through your profile on a different console. For that you must check-in once every hour.
– Microsoft have attempted to pass the buck over used game activation fees claiming that it is up to the publishers to decide. However, the aforementioned online check points to Microsoft building a system around this.
– Game rentals and letting a friend borrow a copy of your game will not be available at launch, but Microsoft claim to be working on a solution.
– Kinect will not record you while in standby mode and won’t send data back to the Microsoft unless you opt-in.
– You can gift one of your games to a friend once, as long as they have been a friend on your Live account for more than 30 days.
The pivotal point from this announcement is that game ownership is now well and truly out of the hands of the consumer. You do not own the discs you buy, you are merely buying a license to use the content. Microsoft or the publishers can restrict what you do with this license, preventing you from sharing with friends, using the game offline or even reselling the game should you so wish. Microsoft claim that this will benefit the game developers, giving them a return for their hard work as well as preventing piracy.
Let us break down those two points. As we have seen with the prevalence of online passes towards the end of this generation, developers now claim that they should be receiving compensation for second hand sales. Apparently, the money they receive for every brand new copy sold is not enough to continue keeping development studios afloat. So in order to maintain the status quo of grossly over budget games that appeal to the lowest common denominator audience; gamers who buy second-hand games should be punished. This flaw in logic fails to recognise that it is precisely this development model that is entirely unsustainable, not the small second hand market.
As developers continue to chase the “Call of Duty” audience, releasing the same game year after year with little change, they fail to offer any compelling reason or value for purchase or for keeping hold of said title. People simply cannot justify spending £45 on a game that will last them only a few hours. Developers should be focussing on creating compelling experiences that keep gamers coming back for more. They should scale back their production costs, not every game has to be a mega blockbuster title. Above all they should offer value for money and if developers are feeling the pinch over used game sales, then they are simply not offering the aforementioned value.
The second point that restricting game ownership will prevent piracy is one that we have heard before – from the Music and Movie industries. Representatives on their behalf have waged a war against piracy which almost brought the industries themselves to the point of collapse. It was only after realising that restrictive DRM is more harmful to them than helpful that we saw a move to more consumer friendly services like Spotify or Netflix that have flourished. While some may say that these services do not grant ownership, the key point is that they offer a cheap entry point and they can be used in a supplementary fashion to the more traditional services like buying, renting or sharing CDs and DVDs.
The fact that there is no alternative to Microsoft’s restrictive, online only services is likely why we have seen such an explosion of anger. The addition of cloud gaming functions and the avoidance of DVD or Blu-ray disc access times are not good enough reasons for people to move to this services only model that Microsoft are pushing. There has to be compelling reasons, as well as healthy alternatives and the Xbox One offers neither.
I haven’t even really covered the other controversial point yet, in that because of these used game policies, the Xbox One has another undesirable restriction. It must be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours. If for any reason you are without connection for longer you will simply be unable to continue gaming – even in single player. Many may say that this wont affect them in the day and age of a connected world, however, when you spare a thought for developing countries, or even look at the infrastructure of the UK outside of cities, it seems that this is an awfully big audience to neglect.
There will be a case of “people wont care until it affects them”. Anyone who has moved house will attest to the length of time you might be without connection. For this time with the Xbox One, you will be able to watch TV (yes you can do that anyway) or play Blu Ray movies. Imagine your phone being inoperable without a signal and you get the idea. When you take away the core purpose of the device through a restriction that is not necessary then you are opening up another can of worms.
Put simply there are far too many restrictions being placed upon gamers for little reward. Gamers “may” be allowed to trade in their disc licenses, but only at select retailers. Gamers can share games with friends, but only once and only with someone who has been on your friends list for 30 days. Gamers cannot rent games. Gamers cannot play offline. The few benefits on offer do little to outweigh these harmful set of circumstances and Microsoft have faced the ire of gamers worldwide. Will this mean things are likely to change? No. As Microsoft’s own Adam Orth showed, people without internet should “#dealwithit” and this is an attitude that is symptomatic of a corporation that is out of touch with its consumers. Innovation and change will only succeed they are of universal benefit and unfortunately what the Xbox One offers is a generation that most gamers want no part of.
Thanks for reading,