Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This Post Has to Have "XBox One-Eighty" in the Title

I do believe that the Earth quaked a little earlier today when Microsoft announced one of the biggest backpedals in recent memory, vowing that most of the policies described as "Toxic" about the XBone will be absent from the console at launch.  Instead of the XBone being this thing that acts as a sort of hub for your games (since it would rip them to the HDD) with all sorts of restrictions on it, it has now become....well....a game console.  A game console that has a bunch of extra stuff that we've also been whinging about from day one (TV stuff, I'm looking at you as know....every not in North America) but a game console nonetheless.  Finally.  It is...something of an absurd situation, much like the celebration of Sony's PS4 announcements, when this has to be something brought up and explained.

Specifically, the list of changes looks like this:
  • No more 24-Hour Check-In
  • No Mandatory Internet Connection at all aside from games that require it (Obvious) and a first-time connection when you set up the console
  • Disks work like today and like they will with the PS4 - Buy them, sell them, trade them, loan them, the game is on the disk and the disk is your key
  • Disks will not rip to the HDD, thus you have to have them in the console to play
  • Family Sharing Plan thing is dead, dead, dead
  • Digital Games work just like today in that you cannot sell or trade them
  • The Console is Region-Free (Which I don't think it was ever stated as it wasn't?  This is probably due mostly to, y'know, blu-rays anyway)
All in all, it's a win for consumers.  So, basically this has been met with overwhelming positivity, right?


If anything, this has simply made people angrier as a whole than anything else and it's all at once completely understandable and not.  Fans of what the XBone was going to be are now angry because "whiners" have ruined their "perfect digital console" and are further incensed by the people who are still not buying an XBone because they're still suspicious of a company that was ready to go full-steam-ahead with these ideas until they were very loudly shouted down.  They're mostly incensed because they view these people who were 'never getting an XBone anyway' as non-essential - they were not part of the 'target market' (I'm really running with the air quotes, huh) so their opinions should have never factored into it.  All of these thoughts and opinions have me feeling and thinking so many different things that I find it's far, far too difficult to really condemn or defend them, but at least try to explain the sides and facets to them.

While it's true that every product simply has some people that just won't buy it no matter what - you're never going to sell your new chicken product to a vegan, for example - and they should really be factored in, you need to keep in mind just what your target market is and be able to determine if your target market is large enough and willing to buy in.  The target market for the XBone as it was was basically:  People who had reliable, stable and fast internet, people who have no qualms about digital purchases and sharing (and also have reliable, stable and fast internet) and people who live in the countries that Microsoft can reliably support with such a plan.  That target honestly smaller than many people would like to believe thanks to the poor state of global infrastructure, and even a bulk of the people -in- that market weren't willing to buy in, meaning it was an even smaller one to begin with.

Conversely, it was completely within anyone's rights, interested buyer or not, to complain about how the XBone was shaping up, because it was a terrible machine for this point in time.  As far as I'm concerned, it was a terrible machine for -any- point in time, because I don't think Infrastructure is going to get to the point that everyone pushing digital is assuming we are anytime soon (soon meaning decades here) but I'm in the minority there.  The internet is not a right.  It's not water, it's not food, it's not housing - it's not classified as something necessary for your quality of life and as long as it's in the hands of the same people that refuse to improve upon it because they're making mad bank as it is, it won't be.  So this goes for everything as far as a 'digital future' involves, not just gaming.  Online banking, purchasing, straining out physical media more and more as time goes on is silly, but I worry that we're not going to figure that out until someone's gone over a cliff, so to speak.  Microsoft curiously toed that edge with a machine that will not work without the internet and thankfully was talked back from that precipice (because of pre-order numbers, I assure, not care for the consumer personally) but it sets a dangerous precedent all the same.

This was Microsoft's vision of the future today.  This missive from the company clearly states that it has not lost that vision of the future,
For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future.
but rather insists that you'll be fine with that vision anyway since you'll abide by what the restrictions were regardless,
While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.
which simply means, to me, that we'll have to worry about Round Two of this nonsense whenever the XDeuce is announced.  That's...not particularly appetizing to me since I simply see trends continuing as they are, meaning the five, six or seven years between now and then might be the difference in a lot of people standing up for consumer rights and instead adopting the 'fuck you, got mine' manner of thinking that many XBone supporters were clinging to.  That's likely a little unnecessary at this point, granted, since it's hard to tell what'll happen next week, much less in the next half-dozen years, but I'm sure it's something that a lot of people with the distaste of the XBone as it was before today are considering as well, given the level of Microsoft-distrust that still exists.  It can't -all- be simply residual, after all.

Regardless, what this honestly means is that the XBone has been elevated from this very niche market to something that is as accessible as everything else, meaning it's much, much more attractive to quite a few people out there.  Not everything is fixed with the console as Mandatory Kinect is still something many folks have been grumbling about, rightly or no, and will continue to grumble about because that's not looking like it'll change.  Combined with a higher overall price, the fact that many, many people have been indoctrinated into the wonders that is Playstation Plus and the idea that a lot of people have simply found reasons to attach to the PS4 means that this might not do a -lot- for Microsoft in the short-term, but thankfully it might in the long-run.  I know I've personally elevated the XBone from "Never buying it ever" to "Might get on the cheap for exclusives" like Project Spark (even if I'm still grumbly about the Fable filter) and there are likely plenty of people who -wanted- to like Microsoft, but couldn't and now feel that freedom with these policies taken down.

Personally, I'm just....disappointed by it all, really.  The fact that the XBone was presented as it was as a viable machine in the first place speaks more to a dissonance between companies and consumers than anything else possibly could, aside from the abysmal PR that's gone on since then.  And the basic fact is that we got lucky.  Microsoft was very easily in a position to force the XBone as it was down all our throats to attempt to make it the standard and the resistance would've been fierce at first (obviously since it was), but, well, people end up moving on.  Nobody was going to press the issue everyday it existed, much less multiple people and eventually fatigue sets in for the people who -can- run with that model but don't particularly want to, so long as the games were there.  Microsoft clearly flashed a lot of cash to developers and probably could've continued to do so for a year or two which would've been all that was needed for the final "ugh, fine" moment.  I'm obviously glad that none of this is going to transpire, but if Microsoft of all companies, thought this was viable, who's next?  And how many 'next' companies is it going to take to 'force' this model to be viable?  If we continue to be lucky, we won't find out, so....well, let's just start banking on luck, folks.

I kinda bummed myself out with all this, to be honest, how annoying

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