Xbox One U-turn: Why two out of five falls short
Here’s some: the people who would have been most affected by Microsoft’s 24-hourly broadband logins are likely the last to hear the news that Microsoft has done a complete, uncompromising u-turn on its DRM/disc-sharing policy. Because, you know, their internet isn’t great.
Personally, I’m happy Microsoft has had a rethink, but it still leaves a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Is it too much to ask for an apology? Microsoft has changed its mind because it has realised it made a mistake. When people make mistakes, they apologise. They use the word ‘sorry’ and, generally speaking, they tend to admit that they were ‘wrong’.
None of these words or sentiments appear anywhere in Don Mattrick’s recent blog post. When Tiger Woods admitted his mistakes, fessed up to his weaknesses, said he was sorry, millions of his fans sighed their relief. He’s human after all, and reassured by such uncompromising remorse we can all get back onboard the Tiger train. We might toot-toot a little less, but we’re onboard and we’ll defend him to others because he’s climbed down from the celebrity cloud and humbled himself before those on whom his fame relies.
Microsoft has not done this.
Microsoft put not one, but five reasons in the way of me investing both financially and idealistically in Xbox One. Two of those are now addressed *tips hat*. But my list still looks a little bit like this:
Yes, I accept that I have the worst handwriting of any living human being.
Who cares about indies? They just make cheap-ass platform games with shitty visuals. Why do I need to care about that? Well, how about that if all platforms had adopted Microsoft’s Xbox One approach, stuff like Minecraft would not exist.
Indie development comprises people who are fresh out of college and brimming with fresh perspective. It comprises old hands who’ve become disenfranchised by the creative deserts of triple-A game development. And across the board, indie development is a spawning ground for invention, unbridled creativity and experimentation, and the successful lifeforms in this experimental soup grow up big and strong enough to affect the expected norms of triple-A development.
How many games are there out there right now that are incorporating elements learned from Minecraft? If I was Don Mattrick, I would not only adopt an all-inclusive approach to independent game development, I would subsidise it. I would put up $20m a year, say, just to foster new talent and to throw my weight behind brave new ideas, and I would do so safe in the knowledge that gaming as a whole, big or small, would ultimately benefit and that as a platform-holder, I would benefit too. Hell, even as a PR exercise it’d be a worthwhile spend.
These are difficult times we live in. A lot of us are struggling to make ends meet. While economic conditions are so dour, more than ever people turn to escapism. Games, in my view – will increasingly – provide the ultimate form of escapism.
Worlds and characters and stories, that through interactivity we can sink into like a memoryfoam cushion to soothe the sore arse of economic hardship. Xbox One needs to be affordable. Price sensitivity is basic economics. It’s why pharmaceutical companies would rather sell 10 million pills at $2 in developing countries than two pills at the $100 they charge a more affluent America. When Sony nearly sank the PS3 with its obscene price point, it already did Microsoft’s price sensitivity load testing. It already discovered that most people won’t pay over £400 for a console. Microsoft ignores this at its peril.
Microsoft needs to understand where the cart and where the horse are supposed to go here. You don’t force your customers to pay £80-£100 more for something they don’t necessarily want until you’re certain everyone in the room, from their own subjective standpoint, absolutely feels they must have one.
The way it is: ‘Kinect is in every box, and it’s really good, honest!’
The way it should be: ‘There’s a new Kinect available. You don’t have to buy it, but if you do, here’s ten examples of absolute must-have, killer apps that make buying into it a no-brainer.’
That Kinect is in the box is made even more problematic in that, from what we understand, it has to be plugged in for the console to even function, and users will have to manually ‘opt out’ of it mining data about you.
To quote Microsoft’s Jeff Henshaw, speaking to CNET, “The system is designed to have Kinect be an integral part of the experience. It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether. But you’ll be able to put the system in modes where you can be completely secure about the fact that the camera is off and can’t see you.”
Which is great for the informed consumer who will immediately nip in and set all his security settings to, you know, no aggregated scrutiny of your private life by the mothership, but it’s not the kind of feature that’ll be widely disseminated to the average consumer. Me personally? If Kinect has to come in the box, I want the option not to plug it in. Ideally, though, I don’t want to pay for Kinect before any reason whatsoever has been put in front of me to do so.
Understand that this post is not an attack on Microsoft. Not an assault on the Xbox brand. This is a critique born out of love I still have for a brand that has hosted some of the best entertainment experiences of my life. A brand that I don’t want to see making these kinds of mistakes.
I want it to be better.