Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-06-21 03:31:39
Xbox One: Too Little, Too Late?
With Microsoft pulling a daring move and announcing the removal of some of the more restrictive elements of the Xbox One, they have made efforts to level the playing field with Sony and the Playstation 4 in offering a gaming experience that will (hopefully) continue to give gamers what they want. Based on the general reaction of the internet, very few players were excited about some of the more concerning aspects of the Xbox One. It didn't help that people were confused about what the system would require; what 'always online' meant and how Microsoft would specifically limit the prevalence of used games. This was in no small part due to the way in which different Xbox representatives would give different answers to the big questions (a problem made worse when Microsoft's Don Mattrick encouraged offline gamers to 'buy an Xbox 360').
Now that Microsoft have seemingly seen the light and pulled a U-turn with the system, the Xbox One is looking like a more enticing package. However, a lot of gamers still feel as if they can no longer trust the gaming powerhouse. Microsoft shot first in the console reveal duel and, in many respects, lost to Sony. Clearly, Microsoft changed their minds about some of the things the Xbox One would do as a response to Sony and the internet backlash. While this does suggest that Microsoft might be listening to gamers, it seems more likely that they're simply changing the system to compete with Sony.
This is a fair enough practice in business, although the damage has arguably been done. Sony never attempted to bring in these limitations with the PS4; that Microsoft tried it and failed before the Xbox One has even been released suggests that they are somewhat out of touch with gamers. Add into the mix the extra $100 price tag on the Xbox One and you have a recipe that ensures that plenty of Xbox gamers will place (and have, in many cases, already placed) preorders on the PS4 instead. Some people are unconvinced that Microsoft truly have gamers in mind, while others are still freaked out by the Kinect 'always watching' players. Many of these concerns are speculative, but before the release of a console the perception players have, however inaccurate, is the most important thing. If players are convinced that the Xbox One is some 1984 surveillance device, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not - people have already made up their minds based on the conflicting marketing dialogue behind the system.
We cannot judge a gaming system too harshly before its release. Analysts are making predictions that the PS4 will outsell the Xbox One in the first financial year. I imagine that this will be the case. I have scarcely seen a single Playstation player say that they will be getting an Xbox One this generation; I have seen plenty of 360 fanboys who are avoiding the Xbox One like the plague and are moving to the Playstation 4 in this upcoming generation. Ultimately, I imagine that both consoles will be fine - however badly Microsoft have botched the advertising of the Xbox One, once the system is out it will undoubtedly be a powerhouse. Similarly, the Playstation 4 will be a beefy system. Within a couple of years, both systems will likely be selling very well.
But even now, when I ask people about what the Xbox One does and doesn't allow, every single person I speak to provides different answers. Nobody really knows what the system is capable of, and what limitations it may impose upon the player. In comparison to the Playstation 4, the Xbox One is a confusing and intimidating console that has left a permanent stain in the minds of a lot of players. Whether or not this will ultimately damage sales of the system remains to be seen, but I do predict that the Xbox One will go down in gaming history as one of the most controversial and challenging console reveals of all time.