The Xbox One reveal reminded me, forcibly, that Microsoft is the company behind the console. I mean, obviously, right? But between Windows 7 and Bill Gates building better condoms, I temporarily forgot about Games for Windows Live, Windows 8, and all the markedly cynical shit the Redmond company pulls as it endeavors to further erode all consumer surplus and out-EA EA.
Remember the always-online brouhaha? Well, the new Xbox doesn’t require an always-online internet connection. Except when you play a game for the first time. Or if the game company feels like pulling a Maxis and “off-loading computations to the cloud.” And just kidding, your Xbox needs an internet connection to phone home once every 24 hours or it presumably bricks itself until you do.
So how often does it check your connection? “Depends on the experience,” Harrison said.
“For single-player games that don’t require connectivity to Xbox Live, you should be able to play those without interruption should your Internet connection go down. Blu-ray movies and other downloaded entertainment should be accessible when your Internet connection may be interrupted. But the device is fundamentally designed to be expanded and extended by the Internet as many devices are today.”
Oh, how nice of them that your Blu-ray movies “should” be accessible when your internet connection is interrupted.
In return for all of these restrictions, you get to opportunity to… pay full MSRP for all your games! There are no used games for Xbox One, there are simply game disks which will prompt you to pay a “fee” of the full price of the game to play it. Remember when we thought EA eliminating the Online Pass was a gesture of contrition and good will? Surprise! It was cynical bullshit because Microsoft is handling the Online Passes now and adding them to 100% of all future Xbox games.
A lot of the Xbox Apologists have pointed at Steam in making their arguments that things are not so bad. In fact, there is talk that you may be able to sell your used games game licenses to other people on the Xbox Marketplace, in a sort of virtual GameStop setup. Okay… details? If it is true, and assuming you can set your own price, and assuming there isn’t exorbitant fees, then great! We just had to give up renting games, letting your friend borrow your games, and in the case of Steam comparisons, getting 50% discounts on brand new games released just three months ago.
I am not an Xbox customer; I neither bought any of the prior consoles nor plan to purchase this new one. But this sort of shit will affect every one of us. We already see DLC for our PC games delayed because of “Xbox exclusives.” Ports of future Microsoft games could be pulled from Steam just like EA pulled theirs, ostensively so we can have the privilege of paying more money for no conceivable consumer gain. What we see today is what we can expect more of tomorrow – not just from companies like Microsoft, but from everyone who thinks they can get away with it.
And that sucks.
Posted on May 23, 2013, in Commentary and tagged Always Online, Consumer Surplus, EA, Fee, Game License, Online Pass, Used Games, Xbox, Xbox One. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Your last comment is unfortunately the most relevant. Companies will do this because they (think) they can get away with it, and most of the time they do. Despite the outcry from vocal minorities like forum posters, Reddit’ers, and bloggers… the vast majority of consumers will look at something like this and shrug it off as “cost of doing business” to acquire the conveniences they want. This is why mega-publishers like EA and Activision/Blizzard continue to dominate the market despite the multitude of issues the aforementioned vocal minority has with how they do business. Most people will look at the conveniences that Xbox One offers them and simply not care about “always on” Internet or the ability to resell used games.
Heck based on Microsoft’s presentation, I don’t even think GAMES are the top priority FOR the Xbox One. The name itself says it all. They want to beat Apple and Google to the unified living room entertainment experience. It’s more about streaming TV and movies than it is playing games. I think Microsoft is willing to risk the ire of “hardcore gamers” in order to reach a much broader demographic of casual entertainment consumers.
In my opinion a move like this is could bring the wrath of hackers down on Microsoft. People that normally wouldn’t even look into flashing a console might now if it offers them offline play. People will be smart and capitalize on this, come buy my flash kit and play your games offline! And much like the jailbroken iPhone scenario the temptation of pirating software will be too much to resist for some. At that point (if it happens) I wonder if publishers will lean on Microsoft to change their stance.