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Xbox One

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-05-22 04:41:21

Xbox One

Oh wow people are UNNECESSARILY FREAKING OUT. But it's absolutely Microsoft's fault. Their engineers designed a forward thinking product, but their public relations representatives failed spectacularly. Instead of assuaging consumer concerns, they contributed to the confusion and outright misinformation by locking up like deer in headlights. What feeble attempts they did make toward clarification emerged as a series of contradictory statements.

I personally want to tell you, "Don't panic."

The primary issue is forced internet connectivity and its ramifications. Gamers have established a consensus: always online DRM is rubbish. One more time, this was Microsoft's response:

"The Xbox One does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet."

Thanks for clearing that up! What it means in practice is that products will need to be validated over the internet. This is something of a disaster for the marginalized few who lack internet access, but if you're reading this you're very likely just fine. For the vast majority of us, this won't change the manner in which we use our Xbox one whit.

What we will have to acclimate to is the functionality of used games. It seems clear to me that Xbox One games will be tied to specific accounts, requiring the purchase of a license to validate used copies. Don't panic. Microsoft clearly has designs on the commerce of used games: do you really care if your used games money is going to them or Gamestop? Frankly, if more of this revenue stream finds its way to the pockets of developers, all the better. This is a transitional phase toward the all-digital future, and if this is where we start to skip physical discs entirely, better to endure those growing pains now than later. (I also wouldn't be at all surprised if Sony followed suit, now that Microsoft has breached this barrier.)

It does put a crimp in a couple of gaming behaviors that we are long accustomed to. Game rental services like Gamefly are in trouble. One of the reasons I've long preferred console over PC gaming, was the ability to easily rent titles. I do hope Microsoft addresses that issue, but I'm not particularly optimistic. The other matter is the inability to freely lend games to friends. You'll also have to lend them your login (not the best idea) or they'll have to pay that used game licensing fee. Ultimately, these are inevitable minor inconveniences, or rather, the loss of minor conveniences.

The mandatory Kinect usage IS a little creepy. The functionality sounds great, but the fact that it's always on and listening (for voice commands) AND part of a console that REQUIRES internet connectivity rings all sorts of privacy alarms.

The loss of backward compatibility is a pity, but I've been telling my friends the reality of this for MONTHS. The switch to a different architecture (Sony did so as well) precluded any practical way of implementing backward compatibility. Again, this is a minor inconvenience. I originally bought a launch PlayStation 3 with PS2 BC, but it suffered the Yellow Light of Death. On those rare occasions I feel like playing PS2 or original Xbox games, I make the small effort to dig out those consoles. Even as I write this, my Dreamcast is hooked up to my television. This too, is not a big deal.

There's no question that Microsoft needs to flesh out their gameplan. It's asinine that they didn't do so before this presentation, and the fact that their executives have been giving contradictory "clarifications" indicates that they haven't ironed out the details internally. I imagine they're wide-eyed panicking at the vociferously hostile response to the Xbox One reveal.

You know what? I change my mind. Go ahead and "panic". Continued acrimony will light a fire under their asses and encourage Microsoft to install sound measures to address the complications of an "online required console". Just bear in mind that the situation is nowhere near as awful as all the noise is making it out to be.

[EDIT: This is clearly a fluid situation. There has been SOOOO much misinformation flying about.]

Alex examines Journey in Software Slump. It's not bad; I did award Journey as the Direman Press 2012 Game of the Year.

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