Ain't no hater here.
“This is the best bad idea we have sir, by far.”
The above quote from Argo got me thinking about the recent Xbox One reveal. The context may be different – Microsoft wasn’t charged with extracting American nationals out of Iran during the Islamic revolution – but I can imagine the leader of one of the Xbox design teams ponying up to MS Interactive Entertainment boss Don Mattrick and having to break this news.
“This is the best bad idea we have sir, by far.”
Of course they wouldn’t have said it like that. After all, bad ideas never seem that bad to corporate execs until the gaming community sniffs them out and desecrates them all over the Internet. What the design leader probably said to the Don was:
“This is the best idea ever sir, by far.”
Since the close of the Xbox One conference last week, the perpetual voices of the Internet have wasted no time in joining the “Xbox, go home” whimsy, including Sumonix’ Editor-in-Chief Adam Vjestica, who spared no salvo for what he deemed to be the “Worst. Conference. Ever” and speculated that the Xbox One could be Microsoft’s biggest blunder yet. He informed me that I would have to “seriously polish this turd” to convince him otherwise.
I seem to have my work cut out for me here.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed too. There wasn’t enough real gameplay shown, and there was way too much talk about TV and fancy new peripherals. The tough questions – met with poor answers – on invalidity of used games and that daily totalitarian DRM checkup to see if you are hiding anything on your console offline. But as a whole, I think the conference worked to showcase what exciting new features Xbox One has to offer.
Now before I get lambasted about being an Xbox fanboy, I assure you I’m not. I don’t even own a 360, or any console for that matter. I game on PC and far from considering myself an arbiter of gaming’s master race, I am looking to rejoin the console movement for the first time since GameCube. And Xbox One I believe, looks the most promising.
I’ll address some of the criticisms that came up from my colleagues on the latest posts and podcast:
Nullifying Used Games
Ok we all of love playing games, but none of us love paying the high prices for new titles. The used game market is what kept some brick and mortar retail chains sustained for a few years and provided a great way for gamers to offload unused software and pick up content nice and cheap. What’s wrong with that?
A lot of things. For every resale of a game, no further revenue goes to the publisher and more importantly, no further compensation is given to the developer. Coming from my daily marketplace on Steam where every game is linked exclusively to my account and can’t be shared, I’m used to this. I see no issue with the used disc requiring a code for a fee, providing that fee is reasonably priced. A middle man should not be reaping the entire profit of the used game resell, that model has been flawed from the start. Is phasing out used games archaic? More progressive I feel. The more money heading back into the community that designs and publishes games the better. Screw the retailers.
Where Are The New Games?
There were a few demonstrations of the hardware capabilities, notably Forza and CoD: Ghosts, but overall the conference was weak in showing or even talking about the upcoming 25 exclusives (eight of which are new IPs) in favour of showing off fancy new ways to interact with other forms daily entertainment.
Let’s not forget E3 is less than a month away and Microsoft are probably, (hopefully?) saving their big game reveals for then. But you know what? I was impressed by the new technology, at least if it works as well as it did in the demonstrations. I don’t have any football and basketball fantasy teams but I have friends who would go nuts for this stuff. Just because Microsoft branched out from doing things other than just games doesn’t necessarily mean they have sold out to broadcast networks. Innovation is innovation. And for all the conspiracy theorists worrying about a camera in their living room spying on them 24/7 – keep your pants on. A third party Kinect shroud, with holes for the microphones is probably already in production in China somewhere.
The DRM Thing Again
So the console officially doesn’t always need an online connection – check. But it will connect once a day to make sure you are keeping legit. Cue the anti-DRM activists.
This whole thing was handled very poorly by the Microsoft execs leaving them open to relentless slandering about gamers’ rights to the content they paid for, regardless of their network connection. Personally I am quite indifferent about this issue. The first few times my Internet went down and I was left locked out of my Steam library I was understandably upset, but then I realised in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal, at least not for me. I have many other forms of entertainment available, including other non-Steam games, and even books.
I have experienced the flaws of games forcing DRM onto players in both Diablo III and SimCity, which my unreliable download speeds – which are known to be clandestinely throttled here in Canada – sometimes struggling to keep me up with the action. Having my Monk float in a time warp, only to be found dead once the latency catches up was indeed frustrating and one of the reasons I never played in hardcore mode. But if my console needs to connect daily to verify my content and update, so be it. It doesn’t sounds like it is going to interrupt my gaming too much and everyone relies on their Live accounts for daily browsing anyway. Sure the Miiverse might do all that better, but who the hell owns a Wii U? (Ed. note: After the Xbox One reveal, I’m sure they’ll be many more Wii U owners soon, Vince!)
“If You’re Backwards Compatible, You’re Backwards”
Don Mattrick came out and said the above in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, stating that only 5% of gamers play older games on new consoles. This is a hard one to defend, as there will be a heap of classic Xbox 360 games left to gather dust unless you have your old 360 hooked up as well. The new servers and cloud dependence does leave me skeptical that my current bandwith will require upgrading, but this feature is too early to judge.
Check My Package
So I thought this was a bit of a silly discussion, but is the packaging really that bad? Sure it’s bulky, but so is my gaming PC. If I wanted a sleek, underpowered and overheated and overpriced device I would wait for Apple to reveal their gaming console. If gamers are afraid of larger form factors with their products they can stick to gaming on their phones and tablets.
So there is my flipside argument to the entire gaming world flipping the bird to Microsoft. I’m still as skeptical as the rest of you about a lot of things, hampering the delivery of indie content being one of my chief concerns. But as far as the bad ideas go, Xbox One is so far the best bad idea of the year.