May 21st was an exciting day for me. I finally got to hear some news about Microsoft’s newest console and how they expect it to change my life.
The Xbox One is a console that has the ability to run your television signal through the box with an overlay of Xbox data helping to curate the things you like. In conjunction with that, the console allows multitasking, which permits two programs to run at the same time. It has the expected graphic bump and features a more robust Kinect that comes as standard and a bigger hard drive. I can’t say that I was surprised by anything Microsoft showed me, but the internet has led me to believe that I’m far more optimistic and mellow than I previously thought.
If you have spent any amount of time on the net, you will have no doubt seen the very angry and sometimes prolifically profane comments that are being made. Even most of the game journalists I follow for news and information came away with a largely negative reaction to it. Since I seem to be in the minority of being excited for this console, I thought I would lay out what I think they did right and wrong.
Less is More, Unless You Tell Us Less
Part of Microsoft’s problems actually began well before the announcement. Somewhere on the internet, a rumor or leak got everyone up in arms about DRM and how used games would work in this new console generation. This immediately put MS on the defensive and the problem was that they didn’t actually dispel or explain away any of these rumors. If anything, they made it worse by giving an inconsistent message to journalists. Half answers and even outright avoidance have led to even more confusion as to how used games will work and whether the console will require a constant net connection. As we all know, confusion tends to turn into anger and, when you put that anger through the anonymous filter of the internet, you get some pretty hateful stuff.
The more prevalent complaint I’m seeing is that MS didn’t show enough games, or that the games they did show weren’t indicative of the audience who might have been tuning in to see their press conference. This is where I am well and truly baffled. I personally believe that the primary audience MS were trying to reach with this conference were techies who read tech blogs and publications like the New York Times. These are typically working individuals aged 25 and up who may also have a family and more needs than simply wanting to play core games. These people may not have a lot of time to dedicate to strictly gaming but chances are they would use this device to watch streaming services or sports coverage.
The PS4 sold itself as the “gamer’s console”, as so many journalists are fond of saying, which quite frankly is insulting to me. The implication that if I am also interested in a device that centralizes all of my entertainment this makes me less of a gamer annoys me. I can see where Sony is coming from as by most accounts they didn’t fare too well during the last console generation, but rather than simply showing me what their new device could do, they tried to spin it. I don’t like being manipulated, we all know that “core gamers” are among the most early adopters, but it was the “casual” demographic that maxed the install base of the 360 across the United States and made Microsoft’s console dominant. They won that position by offering more value than just the ability to play games, so it would have been crazy for them to go off-message for a new device.
U Mad Bro?
I don’t feel that the hatred and distrust towards Microsoft and their newest console is justified. Microsoft charge for the Xbox Live service and I have been a subscriber to it since the first console. They have never stopped trying to find and include additional value into that membership. Today, an Xbox Live subscription has far more value than during the first Xbox generation and they’re still charging the same price for it. Some will try to point out that Sony doesn’t make you pay to play online on their console – and they shouldn’t. Most of the reports I’ve had from friends show their infrastructure to be shaky at best. The wonderful thing about paying for a service is that you have the ability to complain when it doesn’t work, but I can’t remember a point in my ten-year subscription history that my access was significantly impacted. The same can’t be said about Sony’s service. I don’t point these things out to prop up my personal choice of console, I fully support what Sony is trying to do and they have made some great games just as Microsoft has. At the end of the day you like what you like, but it behooves us to consider both the past, present and possible future of a device before writing it off. We will hear more about the games for Xbox One at E3 in a couple of weeks’ time and we shouldn’t consider their press conference “over” until after their keynote at E3.