Opinion Piece: Follow up on Microsofts Xbox One. Responding to feedback, it’s good to listen, better to correctly inform to begin with.

Where did it all go wrong?

I’m no expert, but it’s safe to say that Microsoft has had a heavy amount of abuse since it’s E3 presentation and announcement of the Xbox One console. This isn’t to say that they were announcing a terrible product, more that they were simply explaining it wrong.

Since then the internet has been awash of rumours, miss guided information and to be honest, just a complete storm of people screaming and pointing fingers to problems which didn’t exist in the first place.

They knew that these changes were huge, probably the biggest change that console gaming has ever seen. They knew that educating people correctly first time was a must and that failure to do so would mean disaster, yet they still couldn’t get it right. Let backpack through a few points.

Lets solve a few old rumours really quick

*Please note these are all based on the ORIGINAL announced, not the one announced on Wednesday, I’ll explain that more later.
  1. Xbox One requires always on internet.
  2. False. It requires initial activation and then a ‘check-in’ once every 24 hours for license checks. This uses BYTES of data and could be easily done over a tethered mobile phone or even on the most unstable of internet connection

  3. It is not possible to trade in used Xbox One games.
  4. False. First party games would be allowed to be traded and sold on. Microsoft announced this from the beginning. All first party games would not have the DRM restrictions on trading. Third party developers and publishers could choice to use this technology, at no cost to them and not to Microsoft gain, if they saw fit. They were in full control of how much users would be charged and when.

  5. You can’t rent games.
  6. True, at launch anyway. Microsoft announced that the ability to do this would come, but would not be ready in time for the launch of the console.

  7. DRM is restrictive and a pointless money grabbing scheme! BURN IT WITH FIRE.
  8. False. In fact it is quite the opposite, as I stated in my previous article most of you are probably already always connected to the net, so you wouldn’t even notice the DRM taking any affect, if you have ever bought a game off Xbox Live Arcade, you have already been using Microsofts DRM which is actually amazingly flexible, as long as you can authenticate via the internet.

    What their DRM enables is a mass of possibilities. It would mean you could take your game library with you where-ever you went, at all times and you would never need to take that extra effort to put a game disc into the console to play a game. Downside, no offline gameplay however allowing you to play with the disc in offline would solve this problem.

    Xbox One Game Circles also spawn out of the DRM. This feature allows you to share your game library with 10 family and friend members. Everyone can access your shared games but each game can only be played by one person at any given time. This is a fantastic idea and is a great solution to those households with more than one Xbox in the house. DLC would also be shared throughout the circle.

  9. The all seeing Kinect eyes and ears are always on.
  10. False. The privacy settings from the current Kinect will still be available with the added option of being able to ‘pause’ the sensor for a session. So you will still be able to turn it off and stop it listening for them special keywords, even when it is off. You can also control one or the other, if you only want it to see you, or if you only want it to hear you then the settings are all available.

  11. Why should an accessory I don’t want be built into the price?
  12. This ones tricky. The Kinect used to be an optional extra but is now a mandatory part of the Xbox One. Why is this? Simple… ish. Microsoft has spent a heap of money on the platform and wants it to be made use of, at present there are around 25 million Kinect sensors out in the world compared to 72 million Xbox 360s. This means that if a developer wants to make use of the Kinect features they have immediately cut their target audience by a third; which is bad news. By making sure every Xbox One has a Kinect, then developers will start building high quality games with the Kinect in mind instead of all the Nintendo Wii rip-off games that we saw coming out for the original Xbox 360. For example, ‘Dead Rising 3’ will be affect by the noises made in your environment, so the world you live in directly affects gameplay and could have you running for the hills if your next door neighbour decides to turn up the bass mid game. It also could become a required tool to setup Illumiroom, a new technology Microsoft have been working on and one that I see as become a key feature of the Xbox One in the future. This is a great move, but it does mean that the Xbox One is £80 more than the PlayStation 4, which is bad news in the eyes of those comparing price alone.

What does this new update mean?

The update today basically sets new policies for the Xbox One and brings it back in line with those of the Xbox 360. This means that the 24 hour online authentication checks are no more and they will not be giving third party developers and publishers the ability to restrict second hand sales.

Microsoft also said the following:

“These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.”

This is the key part of the update that might end up being overlooked. In a nutshell, most of the awesome features I have stated above are now NOT going to be available to the Xbox One due to this reversal. This is a disappointing move and one which may appear to be a great move on the surface but deep down may hinder the experience of the console. It has changed a lot of core functionalities that I was looking forward to and means that the platform has actually become a lot more closed that it was appearing to be. Without the checks, none of the ‘Game Circles’ features will be available now for example.

Shoot the script writer

The problem is that Microsoft didn’t explain all this with the average consumer in mind, so everyone heard them mention something that sounded like DRM and immediately thought of EAs catastrophe with ‘Sim City’ and grabbed the pitch forks.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”

Don’t judge a product on the sales pitch.

Planning for the future, forgetting about the present

The Xbox One had a proposal for a platform that was heading to the future. We all keep hearing that the future is in the cloud but console gaming keeps on staying well and truly flat on Earth and with this update, the Xbox One has plummeted at full speed with no parachute. It is no longer heading for the future, but staying in the present.

I understand that these features will show their head again, but I seriously doubt it will be for another generation of consoles now, which means services like Steam will have the advantage to take their heavily cloud based platform to the living room, and build a console that has been rumoured about for some time.

To sum it up

At the end of the day people don’t like change and the only way to move forward is sometimes to dive right in with a firm backbone believing in the product that you have created. Due to how Microsoft have handled educating the mass audience of their console on these new features and policies the backlash was unbelievably negative and this new turn of events may show that Microsoft have the ability to listen to their customers, but also may be in doubt at whether they believed in the product to begin with or if they just gave up on attempting to educate people.

We shall soon see if this decision was worth it and has effected the pre-order ratio which was originally listed at 1-9 in Sonys favour. Either way this is one nightmare that they are not going to forget any time soon.

Signing off

that sdmix guy Matt Allen

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