Thursday, May 23, 2013

XBox One - The Fallout

Yes, it's off-center, yes it bugs me

So, Tuesday was the day.  The day when Microsoft threw off the veil of the NeXtBox and dispelled all of the negative rumors that were swirling around it, tarnishing its image before it was even anno-

Oh, right.

That is not what Microsoft did at all.  In fact, it only seemed to confirm a bunch of rumors that were almost laughable to consider as rumors, not to mention the actual, honest truth.  And what it didn't outright confirm is still in a sort of nebulous half-truth-nobody-is-sure space that only Microsoft (and to a degree, Sony and Nintendo) can actually manage to do with this sort of thing.  Perhaps it's inherently tactile, some of this knowledge, but not a whole lot of it.  Certainly not the information that is the most important, which is what I'm going to head this up with - the information about the Anti-Used Game deal.
Much like the Always-Online thing, I don't know what to say about the Anti-Used thing going forward.  I sort of already said how I think they might spin it if they run with it, with the "Incentivised Purchases" or however they'll state it, but it's a hard thing to consider, because it's hard to figure how they won't make it positively Draconian.  Project Ten Dollar, the thing that sort of started Online Passes (for consoles at least) to 'combat the Used Market' is officially being put out to pasture but, being EA, nobody is very interested in thinking that this move is because EA cares.  Which lends credence to the idea that the NeXtBox might have this functionality (so that EA won't have to mandate it themselves) and as a result, EA/Microsoft might be really really tight Next Gen.  Which would, of course, give Microsoft a very nice incentive right there to do it, since it'll likely mean a lot of stuff that is exclusive to the NeXtBox from EA as a whole.  It'd be an unprecedented partnership (ha!) and it would be very, very dangerous for Sony and Nintendo (though not the PC market, since they'll likely get it on Origin anyway).

-Me from This Post, "Let's Speculate About the NeXtBox"
I am going to say that, more or less, I friggin' called how this was going to play out....if not for this particular sentence that finished off that paragraph.
For my part, I'm saying it won't be there, but whether or not that's more hope than thought is up in the air.
Oh, how naive I was.

To be fair, the only part that I was 100% on for sure that we know of at this point is that EA and Microsoft have that 'special partnership' that I speculated about, what with coming out in force to the event today, speaking of and showing off no less than four games, while also stating that something to do with the next FIFA will be Exclusive to The One.  Depending on how this whole cluster-fuck plays out (seriously, 24+ hours later and we still don't have a clear fucking answer because Microsoft doesn't even know), that may very well just be the norm for the generation, since this functionality is built directly into the XBone (that is what we're calling it, btw) and may or may not have been EA's dark bidding if we're buying into conspiracy theories.  Though the curious thing is that a lot of defenders are coming out and saying, "Well if the XBone has it, the PS4 -definitely- has it." and no, it doesn't definitely have it.  Allow me to quote myself.  Again.
Let's all remember something about EA. EA wasn't at the PS4 reveal. EA was at the One reveal in force. So, yes, maybe we can assume that Sony might not actually adopt this Used Game thing. And maybe we can assume Microsoft did it to score a ton of EA exclusives for the entire up-coming generation. Because if you are EA, this is fucking majestic.

-You can still release whatever you want for both the PS4/One.
-People -might- choose the One version of EA Sports Game because of Exclusive stuff, but you're still getting people buying PS4 versions of your games. Namely, everyone who didn't want to buy the One.
-Sweet, sweet Microsoft cash.
-You get to do away with a program that was only causing sustained PR backlash against you and was confusing your customers.

It is Win-Win-Win for EA. Microsoft thinks it's Win-Win for them as well since the Exclusive content might sway some buyers between versions. It still might be.

-From my post on the matter in the Penny Arcade thread for the XBone
It is a ridiculously good coup for EA if this is the scenario that's going forward, which I could really, truly imagine is the case.  Game and Console developers have selective and short-term memory, so they will take the fact that third-party software has sold the best on the 360 this gen and literally make decisions about next gen on -that- piece of information alone.  It's like the Wii U situation, but in reverse, yet it is still a large thing of bet-hedging and it still carries the massive risk for backfire.  So, is it possible that Microsoft went "Hey, EA, we sold a bunch more of your games than the PS3" and EA went "Oh, yeah, you did.  So, hey...let's talk shop" and thus the idea was born.  It is entirely possible that a Microsoft/EA partnership is an attempt to solidify Microsoft's tenuous hold on this generation and to make a foothold in the next that will leave Sony out of the equation entirely.  It is entirely possible that this is going to backfire tremendously!

It occurs to me that I haven't even explained this whole Used Games thing, so I should rightly get to that.  Of course, I will only be explaining the version that Phil Harrison initially stated (I am loathe to source Kotaku, much less Jason Schreier, but everything since is running with the back-peddled statements) because it is the only version of this whole scenario that was coherent and while it was later contradicted by Phil Harrison himself as well as like every single branch of Microsoft's Gaming Division PR, it was only contradicted in opposites ('oh no, this is not the case at -all-') or with vagueness ('we will reveal the actual plan at a later date') and is thus unreliable contradiction even though it casts doubt on the original statement.  You might want to strap in for this one.

So, the example provided is that you go and buy the latest greatest game for your XBone, go home and open it up, eager to play.  You slot the disk and it 'instantly' rips the contents of the disk to the HDD, much like a PC, while also asking you for the code that's located in the case.  This is something we're use to by this point.  Then something else happens, however.  The code authenticates through the internet and that game, and that disk are tied to your XBox Live account.  That means exactly what you think it means - that disk is -yours- now.  Furthering the example, you take that disk to your buddy who also has an XBone and slot it in.  "I want to play it on my account", he says, which is perfectly reasonable since it is his XBone.  The prompt comes up an informs him the game is tied to a different account, but if he would like, he can pay the Full Retail price of the game to have access to it forever.  His friend has essentially become a GameStop delivery-boy, bringing him the disk so that he may spend the dollars in the comfort of his own home, sparing him all of the hassle of the outside world and possibly physical currency.

This is obviously the step put in place to keep you from just installing the game onto your XBone and selling it straight-away.  PC gamers have been used to this for 10+ years.  It is obviously the step EA feared implementing with Project Ten Dollar, as they simply resorted to making your disk worth -less- (rather than worthless, see what I did there) without a slip of paper that hadn't already been used.  Which is pretty much why I'm still suggesting that this is an EA idea through-and-through and that it's attached to the XBone which just so happens to have EA's full backing (whereas the PS4 and especially the Wii U don't) through no coincidence.  People thinking that Sony will reveal similar plans around E3 time are only moderately right to be worried (which basically accounts for paranoia and the thought that anyone, Sony especially, will always screw up given a golden ticket to -not- screw up with).

This is unquestionably the biggest thing that came from the conference, which is hilarious since nothing was actually said about it -during- the conference that went on for-fucking-ever to no avail for people looking to be interested in anything.  In fact, no single thing aside from the name are things that came from the conference itself that are actually being talked about.  Nobody cares about the NFL partnership, especially everyone who doesn't live in North America, nobody cares about TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV, especially everyone who doesn't live in North America, and the games they showed off were not only expected, but wholly underwhelming in terms of number shown.  Because the number (EA not counted because, again, SPORTS) was three.  Two of them exclusive - Forza and Quantum Break - with the third one being Call of Duty:  Ghosts which was announced, what, a month ahead of time?

It's an unfair truth that people care more about negativity than positivity, but it's a truth nonetheless and you are always in a constant need to overcome that when you're announcing anything.  Microsoft didn't consider this at all, or, worse, they honestly thought being able to play Fantasy Football on your XBone while integrated with NFL '14 would be exciting enough to pull away from some of the other things they decided to speak on after-the-fact.  That being able to use a TV Guide through Kinect would make up for the used games thing.  That a Halo TV series directed by Spielberg was going to assuage the fact that it has to check-in once every 24 hours so you can use it.  That the new-and-improved (supposedly) controller with a better D-Pad would make up everything else because I cannot glean any other single good point from the whole of it, manufactured by them or not.

The unfortunate reality to it is that Microsoft simply did not pull off a good presser on any level and anyone who doesn't have the utmost confidence and faith in Microsoft's ability to put out a 'good' product (subjective use, of course) can see that.  This isn't a 'fanboy' thing even though it's very obvious that I have a very Sony slant and openly admit that.  There simply wasn't enough in the presser (hell, even in the after-talks where a couple nice things actually were mentioned, like Ryse being confirmed as a game exclusive to the XBone and the friend limit getting increased to 1,000, which is actually kind of staggering) to make it entertaining for anyone.  Gamers, tech-heads, sports fans, none of them.  I'm well aware that there are the defenders of it out there and I'm not even saying they're wrong - they're just excited for the system and more power to them for that - I just don't understand it, even on an objective level.

I can't even say "We'll just have to look forward to E3 and see how they fix it" because I don't see how any of this can be fixed unless the actual system is completely changed - which would be a worrying idea this close to launch anyway.  Their showing at E3 will certainly be interesting however, and while I'm sure at least one of their exclusive games will be a big deal (I hope, at least), I don't rightly think they can pull out anything, anything that will be holy-shit-big-enough to do anything to really improve themselves in the public eye.  Still, I think it's, hilariously, going to be less about the games and more about the damage control that will keep things from getting too catastrophic for them.  Yet, I'm just curious if they'll manage to say and promise the right combination of things (and mean them) to get back to the level where their machine actually makes sense.

really, the 24-hour check-in is the most offensive thing to me personally at this point, but the rest is still bullshit

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