In terms of importance, most of the Xbox One features that were announced at the May 21st unveiling paled in comparison to whatever was implied at the event or right after. Really, as far as a ‘grand reveal of a next generation technology” goes, the bullet points were rather underwhelming: there was the TV thingamajig, which didn’t do anything, considering that you still need a cable subscription and a cable box to use it; a bunch of vocal channel switching and other oral stuff, which frankly, I thought Kinect could do already (notice how that hasn’t persuaded me to purchase one); some sinister NFL alliance, between Microsoft and the Goldmember; and some Live improvements that didn’t require new console hardware.
And what does Microsoft want in return for it all? That implied stuff: to introduce restrictions, in form of an ‘always-on’ setup of some sort; to enforce limitations on what we do with the games we buy; to continue charging a subscription fee (most likely) for the only paid online console service (PSN+s is optional, smartass); and of course, a few hundred dollars for the admission to this one way fuckfest. Well, it doesn’t seem like a fair deal. In fact, it seems that we’re asked to give a whole bunch of shit up for barely anything in return. Sure, there will be epic games, but in terms of changes to the Xbox or “the step forward”, I think that we shouldn’t be the only ones making sacrifices…
The reason why I somewhat agree that Microsoft might be abusing the loyalty of its’ fans is not even that last paragraph (you did read it, right?); it’s that they don’t just come out and say, “Hey, we’re about to impose some shitty things here but they will all be worth it because we are trying to do something great for you as well.” Well, they couldn’t actually say that, considering that there is no direct end-user value to any of the rumored crap, but at least, lie to us, man. Don’t be droning these new ‘features’ in, quietly, like you’re trying to smuggle some damn rat poison up your crack, trying not to rip one, while smiling in our faces. We all know it’s there, and somehow, that makes Microsoft seem like liars a lot more.
One particular feature that embodies this devious approach right now is the so called “always-on”. Admittedly, nobody’s clear what kind of setup it is (to be fair, this possibly includes Microsoft) but it’s all but confirmed that something unpleasant is coming, despite the fact that the president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattric, dismissed the rumor right after the reveal event and right before their VP, Phil Harrison, stated that the console will actually have to connect to the Internet every so often, or something… Yeah… And after that, Microsoft got mad that the gaming press was not clear about the features of Xbox One… And still did not clarify anything, promising to do so later…
Well, let’s take a wild guess here and assume that Phil Harrison is the honest one, being the annoying kid who repeats every private thing that’s ever said around the house. It still doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, the idea is stupid, considering that most people don’t have decent Internet, including 119 million Americans without a broadband connection, but it works for me under a certain condition. That condition is if they come out like Gabe Newell, vibrating stage and all, and announce that games should be a service. This would mean that most games on Xbox Live would receive massive, ongoing support. By that, I don’t mean an intrusive add which would slap me across the face with the usual: “Guess what! We went ahead and did you a massive favor by putting together a bullshit piece of DLC, in form of a $5 character skin. You’re welcome! Motherfucker.”
I’m talking a constant stream of post-release support, including non-useless DLC, which could grow and develop the games further, while leaving our wallets the fuck alone, as is the case with most recent Valve games, for example. Sure, there is no reason that would require an always-on connection but I’d feel much better about that brand of bullshit. I mean, if they get DLC situation under control and tell me that my games will be monitored to provide awesome support patches, updates, DLC’s and even mods, I’d at least feel like I’m getting something out of the deal.
Used Games Lock
A while before May 21st, it had been announced that EA was dropping its’ Online Pass. That’s when AlienLion posted a tweet clearly written by someone struck with a sudden stench of bovine fecal matter. The tweet asked if something much worse was coming and it now appears that it was! It’s very probable that Microsoft will not allow us to sell or trade our games without making sure that we pay for the privilege. Sure, they have said that the used game market matters, but what the fuck does that mean exactly? I think that eating right is important but it doesn’t mean that I’m about to actually start eating not meat.
Now, one can certainly argue that PC gamers have been putting up with the one-copy-per-customer amendment for a while now, but in the already-much-more-strictly controlled and completely inflexible realm of consoles, that certainly does seem to take away a major appeal. For example, it certainly looks like the last remaining convenience factors, such as the traditional no-headache insert-and-play setup, are about to go right down the crapper. So, apart from holding a killer new title hostage, by making it exclusive, I can’t imagine what such new consoles could possibly do to get gamers’ money at this point. I mean, all that differentiates them from the PC now is the lack of any ownership.
But you know what? That’s okay. They no longer want to allow us to keep the games we buy, or in other words, they don’t want us buying games anymore? Well, it’s agreeable, and only fair, if we don’t pay as much for them anymore either. If its not a copy of a game that we will be purchasing from now on but a license to play it on one console, for one person, then the prices should reflect that. I mean, name a single damn situation where you pay an equal amount of money to buy an actual product and to get a license to use that product or for a service that involves it. I mean, it’s usually a lot cheaper to get a gym membership (for the rest of your life, in most cases) than to buy an entire gym…
By the way, “a lot cheaper” doesn’t mean $59.95. If we are going to be simply buying the right to play games, then price them as such.
Paid Online (Again)
I cannot claim that anyone expected Xbox Live to up and become free but most people had probably hoped for a free Live announcement. At least, we all want the Silver membership to allow free online gaming, since, you know, there is no fucking reason why it shouldn’t, right? And don’t get me wrong, I like Live, and i like it better than PSN actually but what does anyone have to do with me entering a multiplayer component of a game that I have purchased, using an Internet connection that I pay for? Why is that extra? The fancy features? Well, how many people would pay for the Gold membership if Silver didn’t include any of those features but allowed online play?
Admittedly, the touted Cloud features sounded cool but it’s hardly futuristic technology. SteamBox will probably have it, since Steam already does. And yes, I’m being overly negative by now and the improvements are good, but come on now, after sucking up billions of dollars through Live, the least they could do was tweak the thing a bit, so who the fuck is impressed? It’s not like we are getting anything to be truly excited about, unless you are really into fantasy football or some shit. Personally, the only fantasy I want in a console involves teenage gender bender (just to make it absolutely clear, I’m talking about Final Fantasy here). And what about TV, you say?
It will indeed enable you to ‘navigate and watch live TV from your cable, telco or satellite set-top box through your Xbox One. Yes, it does mean that you will still pay for your TV like you do now and that you will require a cable box, like you do now too. You are probably thinking: so what the fuck is the damn point of this thing? Here’s the answer:
I would gladly pay for Live if it did what I had hoped it would: provide an actual TV subscription. I am implying, of course, that I would gladly pay for it, in addition to the cost of every channel that I want to subscribe to individually (which is the way TV should work in the first place). I’d truly hoped that this NextBox would revolutionize TV by finally allowing us to only pay for the channels we actually want. Hell, I’d actually pay an unreasonably high average per channel just to thank them for taking the right step in the medium and finally introducing choices. I’d pay just to stick it to the fucking cable companies who do absolutely nothing but use their micro-monopoly status to rob you like an abusive pimp. Xbox One could have been the answer. It could have been the competition, that threat, which the cable providers so desperately need to get back into the realm of moral business practices, and it could have been the next generation of living room entertainment by providing the new, more personal and more tailored TV experience. That’s an example of a next generation online service for a next generation entertainment box. That’s the big deal to be excited for, enough to continue to pay for willingly and naturally, not the fact that you have to use your facial muscles, instead of a finger to switch between Halo and Seinfeld. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?