On May 21st 2013, Microsoft finally revealed its contribution to the next generation of gaming: the Xbox One.
This was to be the third addition to the Xbox family of consoles that would compete with Nintendo’s already released Wii U, and Sony’s Playstation 4, that has been announced, but yet to be released.
And how did the newly christened Xbox One stand up when released to the gaming community?
Not too good. In fact I dare say it was probably a disaster, perhaps indirectly giving the Playstation 4 and PC gaming in general a substantial headstart.
Ironically, most of what has a lot of the gaming community inflamed is the information about the Xbox One NOT included in the reveal.
So I’m going to address what I consider the biggest peeves and problems with the Xbox One reveal, and how I feel about them.
First off, perhaps the one big fear that was confirmed, which is the blocking of used games: I do sense a little confusion that reminds me of the raising of University tuition fees, but here is the basic process.
When you buy a game, new and fresh, when you put it into the system, it is registered not to the system itself, but your Xbox Live account, and then the game itself is installed to the HDD.
If another person tries to use the game disk for another account, they will encounter a paywall, demanding that account holder to pay an activation fee to install and play the game (This activation fee is apparently the full retail price of the game, for example if you bought Call of Duty pre-owned at £10 with a retail price of £40, to activate the game you would have to pay £40 as well).
Now as much as I hate this idea, let’s see if I can try to understand why such a measure has to be taken.
Pre-owned games can be considered a problem by developers, since used games are the same thing as new games, only at less monetary value, therefore developers do not get their full money back when pre-owned games are purchased.
Also consumers can sell off these games to other consumers through places like Amazon, GAME, ceX and others, it means that developers do not get a bite into the apple, or at best a substantial bite.
Even so, it is naive to say that it the spread of used games is the primary reason why the gaming industry is in decline: The backlash from the fanbase of Devil May Cry on Capcom’s remake; the flood of HD Collections (which I will admit I liked the idea of it, when it was not being abhorrently exploited-yes I’m glaring intentionally at you Konami); Call of Duty clones; the list of problems can go on.
There are always going to be gamers that are dissatisfied with their purchases and wish to give it back, expecting some form of compensation.
There will always be people who wish to rent or borrow games due to being unsure about whether this game will turn out to be money well-spent or wasted.
And even if it is the main problem, surely there is a better, much more efficient process than one which will only be widely accepted if compromise to the point that it becomes pointless.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Steam, but many have regarded it as the prime example as to how this problem can be regulated and sorted.
But I’ve gone too much into this, so let’s look at the other notable details of the Xbox One.
The Xbox One is not backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games, since both consoles use different core architectures.
Although a technical problem, Microsoft’s VP Phil Harrison’s comment that ‘backwards compatibility is backwards thinking’ does not exactly help matters.
I would be lying if I said that I was completely against this, since backwards compatibility was already in decline by the seventh gaming generation: Xbox 360 was backwards compatible with only a select number of Xbox games, Playstation 3 were quite specific with what gigabyte sized system could play PS1 or PS2 games through disks.
It’s only really handheld consoles (Nintendo DS) and the Wii which enjoyed almost full backwards compatibility.
Even so, I can’t say it’s a good idea to completely do away with it, especially since the Playstation 4 will not be backwards compatible either, unless they really go into making past generation games available, but I would say keep your PS3s and Xbox 360s stored somewhere, just in case.
The Xbox one will be an All-in-One entertainment system, including TV, Internet, social networking, Skype etc.
However many of the exclusives, such as sports featuring the NFL is only going to be available in America, so I don’t really have an opinion on it.
All I can say is the TV part does not really sway me. Kinect usage with the Xbox One being mandatory is another small peeve with me, because I never used Kinect and never really wanted to, so to me it’s going to be dead weight, and a waste of electricity, since it apparently has to always be turned on.
Speaking of which, it is also mandatory that the Xbox One be connected to the Internet at least once every 24 hours, since it will be highly dependent on downloading content and updating the system.
It’s not needed when playing single-player games that don’t require connectivity to Xbox Live, but it can restrict those in certain circumstances from the full experience of the system.
And that is probably the biggest weakness of the new Xbox One, at least from what was gathered at the reveal: It feels too restricting, in the way that most of the exclusives from TV and Sports is only available in America, the current inability to borrow, sell or rent games, mandatory Kinect usage and Xbox Live connectivity every 24 hours.
My overall opinion? I can understand broadly the reasons why Microsoft had to take such measures concerning the problems posed to them. However I can’t say that the solution put forward by them is the best, and for that matter, the way it was presented and addressed was poor, not helping the current situation at all.
The Xbox situation in the console competition looks very bleak indeed, unless they have the biggest and best exclusives to bring out at E3, or Sony makes even worse mistakes concerning the Playstation 4, and even then, it will turn some gamers towards PC Gaming, instead of merely to another console.
Only time will tell, but from my perspective, nothing but a miracle will bring the Xbox One victory in this gaming generation.
One E3 2013 later, and now there is more news concerning the Xbox One:
The Xbox One will be released in November this year, starting at a retail price of £429.99, remarkably an even bigger price tag that the PS3 when it was first announced.
There will be a 24-hour DRM imposed on home consoles, meaning that the Xbox One must be connected to the internet once every 24 hours, otherwise you will not be able to play games.
If not on your home console, but on your account, it will be a one hour DRM instead.
So it looks as if an Internet connection is necessary for the optimal gaming experience.
You will not be able to rent games, loan games or take part in any private sales of games, unless you are selling one game in your library to someone who has been on your friends list for 30 days or more.
You will be able to a game to a friend for free only once if they have been on your friends list for 30 days.
Whether you will be able to sell/trade games into stores will be up to the publisher, and only at ‘participating’ stores. This reminds me a little of the raising of tuition fees, when the range of fees was from £6,000-£9,000, but everyone knew that most universities would go for the maximum amount. I’m getting the feeling that most publishers, if not all might refrain from allowing trade-ins.
Up to 10 people considered your family members can play games from your library at any time. Of course, how will the system know who is your family and who isn’t?
The system of purchasing digital products with Microsoft Points will be replaced with real money, which honestly, sounds like a very good idea since it just simplifies the whole process.
As for game exclusives, there will be an Xbox One edition of Minecraft, which is not really an exclusive but it’s still a new edition!
Dead Rising 3 will be released exclusively to the Xbox One, along with Halo 5, and Battlefield 4 on Xbox One will receive an exclusive downloadable map pack known as Second Assault.
As for completely new games exclusively going to the Xbox One, many names were announced such as Ryse, Below, Crimson Dragon, Quantum Break and D4.
And so, as of a few minutes ago today, 19th June, less than one month after its reveal, Microsoft has now announced that they have listened to the complaints and the cries of outrage from gamers, and have posted on their website that the 24 hour DRM and the used games fee has now been removed.
It seems that in the words of Don Mattrick himself, ‘Your feedback matters’.
Since this new announcement, the atmosphere of the console wars have now become a lot more competitive, with many flocking back to the support banners of the Xbox One.
I will confess, that I’am a little tempted to consider buying the Xbox One, even though knowing my budget it won’t be happening anytime soon. But it does raise the possibility, that these features that were removed could be brought forward again when the ninth generation of console arrives.
Also it does not change the fact that the Xbox One is still currently the most expensive console in this generation and the Kinect is still mandatory.
As much as I’am glad that Microsoft can see when they have made their mistake and have the sense to make amends before they really doom themselves, but is it too little, too late?
Only time will tell, as this news sinks in.