Much has been said about the Xbox One this past week. It has been one of the most fascinating reveals in this industries history. But I think a little deconstruction is warranted to demonstrate the full scale of how things went horribly awry
ALWAYS ONLINE, OR NOT ALWAYS ONLINE...
It all started with the leaks. Two competing narratives evolved early on - one which said it would require the always online, and another that said it would not require an internet connection. From March and beyond, the frequency of these confusing reports increased until we arrived at the reveal day.
Then, two things happened
● A few enterprising journalists decided to ask about this always online stuff
● And not a single person at Microsoft knew how to answer this question honestly
1. Xbox One always online? "The answer is no"
Xbox UK marketing director Harvey Eagle has confirmed that Xbox One will require neither a constant internet connection, nor will it block used games.
At a London event to coincide with the Xbox One unveiling in Seattle, Eagle was blunt when addressing the widespread concern that the new console would need constant connection to the internet to function.
"The answer is no," he said. Xbox One will be able to play games, watch stored video and play Blu-rays regardless of online stability. However, the features of the system have been built with the internet and the cloud in mind.
This seems pretty straightforward, right? I mean, what else could this mean? Bzzt.
2. Matt Booty: ""In the absence of any internet connection, you're going to be able to play Blu-Ray movies, and there are likely to be some games modes that you'll be able to continue to play."
"In the absence of any internet connection, you're going to be able to play Blu-Ray movies, and there are likely to be some games modes that you'll be able to continue to play. But again, the Xbox One was really designed to take advantage of the modern era where people have got high speed internet, where it's just all the advantages it brings in terms of the cloud, knowing what your friends are doing, online play and everything else that goes along with having an internet connection."
Ok, some game modes playable, some won't be... I think this means...
3. Xbox One: Your Top Questions Answered
Q: Does Xbox One require an “always on” Internet connection?
A: No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet. We’re designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready. We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection.
Er... it does not have to be always connected, except it does need a connection? I understand perfectly now, thank you official Microsoft Q&A on this subject!
4. Phil Harrison: "I believe it’s 24 hours."
Kotaku: If I’m playing a single player game, do I have to be online at least once per hour or something like that? Or can I go weeks and weeks?
Harrison: I believe it’s 24 hours.
Kotaku: I’d have to connect online once every day.
So the system is built to work even if your Internet connection goes down, but you still have to be connected at least once a day to use it, according to Harrison. We're not sure exactly what would happen if you don't connect once per day—and that timeframe could change—but this doesn't sound good for anyone who was hoping to use Xbox One without an Internet connection.
Well, that's surprisingly detailed. THIS surely has to be what is going on right now...
5. It's all just 'potential scenarios'...
Reports of Xbox One's online requirements and used-game fees are no more than "potential scenarios" and not concrete details, Microsoft told Polygon via email.
"While Phil [Harrison] discussed many potential scenarios around games on Xbox One, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail," Microsoft told Polygon.
FUCKING HELL already. So, what is it? Could Microsoft really have not decided something as significant as this only a half dozen months out from launch? Or do they know and are just playing cat and mouse until they are forced to officially confirm this abhorrent news?
THE STATE OF OWNERSHIP - USED GAMES, RENTING, BORROWING
This also started with leaks. For months leading up to this debacle, we've heard confused rumblings over the status of used games. Will they be allowed, or not? Some leaks said No, and others said yes. So we're back to the starting line and eagerly awaiting what information we'd get from the May Xbox reveal. I also want to add that although we're specifically highlighting the order of events as it relates to the Used Games, it's important to remember that in a way this system is also integrally related to the status of renting and borrowing. If, for example, we cannot lend people the physical disc anymore without revoking your own rights to the disc or else they'd have to pay a fee, the complicated nuances of this whole system make it unbearably restrictive.
1. Used Games Are Allowed... With Caveats
Wired asked Microsoft if installation would be mandatory. “On the new Xbox, all game discs are installed to the HDD to play,” the company responded in an emailed statement... What follows naturally from this is that each disc would have to be tied to a unique Xbox Live account, else you could take a single disc and pass it between everyone you know and copy the game over and over. Since this is clearly not going to happen, each disc must then only install for a single owner. Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.
So from this, we gain that used games market will exist, but there will be fees involved.
2. "You will not have to pay a *fee*. I can confirm that those reports are wrong."
Your friend will not have to pay a free [sic].
It was a rumor that emerged after the conference ended. We can confirm the fee is not true.
We've shared with you the official message. If you have any other support questions, shoot us a tweet.
So Xbox Support twitter all alight, people asking questions. An immediate and clear denial. Alright then, game on!
3. There's a fee. Phil Harrison: Here's how it works...
Here's how the system works: when you buy an Xbox One game, you'll get a unique code that you enter when you install that game. You'll have to connect to the Internet in order to authorize that code, and the code can only be used once. Once you use it, that game will then be linked to your Xbox Live account. "It sits on your harddrive and you have permission to play that game as long as you’d like," Harrison said.
Other users on the console will be able to play that game as well, Harrison said. So you don't need to buy multiple games per family. "With the built-in parental controls of the system it is shared amog the users of the device," he said.
But what if you want to bring a game disc to a friend's house and play there? You'll have to pay a fee—and not just some sort of activation fee, but the actual price of that game—in order to use a game's code on a friend's account. Think of it like a new game, Harrison said.
"The bits that are on that disc, you can give it to your friend and they can install it on an Xbox One," he said. "They would then have to purchase the right to play that game through Xbox Live."
"They would be paying the same price we paid, or less?" we asked.
"Let’s assume it’s a new game, so the answer is yes, it will be the same price," Harrison said.
I'm going to put aside the last line, since it's not a new fucking game, asshole, but at least we're arriving somewhere that makes sense. And we now have a price - the fee will be the actual retail price of the game. But we're still not sure how the used game market will work, right?
4. There will be used games, but it'll have to go through a proprietary Microsoft system
MCV claims to have heard specifics from retailers who have been briefed by Redmond on the trade-in process. Allegedly, shops that wish to buy and sell a title will need to be hooked up to a Microsoft database so that access to the game can be removed from the previous owner's account and transferred to a new one. A retailer can sell the game for whatever it likes, but the system will ensure that a cut goes to publisher as well as Microsoft.
It is worth nothing, of course, that if Microsoft and publishers are not going to take an extra cut (and why the fuck does Microsoft get an extra cut), by default used games will have to be more expensive on average... after all, it's more hands in the pie, and anybody who thinks savings are going to be passed onto consumers are higher than I've ever been in my life. And I've been pretty high in my life. But hey, at least we have the details!
5. Until, of course, we don't have the details...
We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.
Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.
Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.
So, we're defaulting to "yes, you can trade/resell. How exactly you'll have to find out later." Why it is that this shit should ever have to be explained ten or eleven different times other than just a simple concise explanation from Microsoft is beyond me; at this point this clusterfuck is just a comedy.
MEDIA BLAMES US, MICROSOFT BLAMES MEDIA
Because I don't have all the time in the world, I think it's illustrative at this point to stop, take a breath and measure just what I have outlined above. This is already the most gigantic PR fuckup in years, but how could it get worse?
1. Microsoft says it's just the media reporting inaccurate details
“The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.”
Despite pointing a finger at gaming media for inaccurate and incomplete information, Hyrb never bothered to provide accurate or complete information about the issues everyone keeps asking about. So how about those used game fees, Hyrb? How about that 24 hour check-in? How about that always-listening, always-watching Kinect 2.0, ? Any complete or accurate information to share? No?
In this instance, it's pretty amusing to point out that people as high up the totem pole as Phil Harrison have been muddying these waters, but who's really keeping fucking track, right?
2. Game Journalists Defend No Used Games - Ben Kuchera, Ryan Vogt
"Microsoft stepped in a load of dog shit when news of fees to play used games and account-based permissions began to hit the press, and the lack of a cohesive message in this area has hurt the public’s perception of the upcoming Xbox One. The idea of the used game, at least as we understand it, may be coming to a close.
The surprising thing? That could be great news." - Ben Kuchera
"It all sounds pretty good. But in Internet dens, another story is being told. Self-dubbed hard-core gamers are feverish with rage that Microsoft and Sony are finally doing something about the used-games market that’s been eating their lunch for years. Sony may block used games from the PS4 entirely, and Microsoft is planning to charge an as-yet-undetermined fee to play them. And who wants to pay a surcharge on top of GameStop’s already-outrageous near-retail prices?
On this point, at least the nerd rage is misdirected. Used games are heading for obsolescence no matter what. People are increasingly downloading games straight to their consoles, skipping the trip to the store." - Ryan Vogt
Immediately, we see a settling in of this idea. An idea which is not even really confirmed yet, if we are to believe Microsoft. Or I guess it depends on who you're asking at Microsoft at any given moment? And what reasons do we get for why we should be giving up our physical property rights? Most of them are simply ridiculous bullshit, but you can read it and decide for yourself. The point is, a pattern of some game journalists trying to shift the problem back on us, as if we should accept this lying down. As if it's not REALLY such a big deal!
3. False equivocation Up in this Bitch - Venture Beat: “But what happens if my Internet goes down?” ask people who certainly must be eyeing warily their stove tops and microwaves pondering the implications of an interruption in gas or electric service."
“But what happens if my Internet goes down?” ask people who certainly must be eyeing warily their stove tops and microwaves pondering the implications of an interruption in gas or electric service.
I suppose it won’t work, but catering to the exceptions rather than the rule makes you a better doomsday prepper than a gamemaker. I live in and around some of the most backwoods areas of the continental U.S. you could imagine, but four-wheel drives and smartphones are still pretty commonplace. If your high-speed Internet service is spotty or nil, talk to your local government officials because your situation is far more dire than access to video games given the trend of digitally transferring for all types of information (medical records included).
There’s actually not a lot to hate about the Xbox One once you settle your mind on the fact gaming has become an accepted part of the entertainment spectrum and will be treated as such from here on out. Perhaps we have spent too long skulking in basements and bedrooms, becoming set in our ways partaking in our niche interests. Perhaps this kind of mainstream exposure will ultimately be a good thing for the evolution of the gaming culture.
More vomit nonsense at the link.
4. How to Miss the Point in 2000 words or less... "What surprises me is that certain quarters are throwing their arms up in shock. What did anybody expect it to be?"
Answer this question with complete honesty: what did you expect? Did you turn up expecting 720, the ultimate core gaming device? Did you expect Microsoft’s entertainment strategy for the entire home to kick off with a pretend spaceman shooting an alien in the balls and everyone screaming “fuck” at 4K resolution? Did you expect insight into how Xbox is going to embrace bedroom development and fight for small-scale creativity? Did you expect the next-gen Xbox message to be about you?
How about: not a draconian anti-consumer DRM nightmare straight from the sphincter of the Devil himself, hm? How about that? None of what you said is why gamers were raging against this.
5. And the few who stuck up for gaming - Jim Sterling, Burai, Annoyed Gamer
There are tons of good people out there fighting the good fight, but our very own Burai has summed up the situation better than all, and so it is him I will quote... in this now legendary post:
But Gamestop would never accept that original trade if person 2 wasn't going to buy the used game. Why shouldn't Gamestop benefit? They are the middleman. You just want them to give people free money and throw the discs away?
No, here's the problem. Tomb Raider sold 3.4m units in the space of a month and it's a "failure" because it will fail to recoup its budget.
THREE POINT FOUR MILLION FUCKING UNITS FOR WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A B-TIER FRANCHISE AND THAT'S STILL NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE ANY MONEY.
And killing used games would have solved this how? Would it have made the execs at Squenix who thought throwing $100m budget at a franchise that's been irrelevant since the turn of the century suddenly get a clue?
Oh, but no, they argue "GAMERS PUSH FOR HIGHER AND HIGHER BUDGETS AND WE HAVE TO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT! THEIR ENTITLEMENT COMPLEX CAN'T BE SATIATED! WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LET BUDGETS SPIRAL OUT OF CONTROL!" and that's lovely, but since when did they ever give a fuck about what we actually thought?
Are Microsoft going to turn around and backtrack on this DRM fiasco because "WE HAVE TO GIVE GAMERS WHAT THEY WANT!"? Are they fuck.
Are EA going to throw all their games up on Steam and patch Sim City to not need the stupid Origin authentication because "THAT'S WHAT THOSE ENTITLED GAMERS ARE SCREAMING FOR!"? Fuck no.
If you couldn't afford to give people what they wanted, then why didn't you just turn around and say no like you do with every other thing we complain about? Here's why; Every publisher big and small decided to get into a dick waving contest and it turns out that not everyone has a big dick. Squenix got its tiny little acorn cock out and went up against Mandingo Activision screaming "LOOK AT MY MASSIVE JUNK! YOU'LL WANT TO CARE FOR IT!" and everyone just turned around and shrugged and bought something else.
Not everyone has a big dick. Acting like you have a big dick when you don't have a big dick is going to make the reveal of your tiny little penis all the more humiliating. And that's what happened here. Squenix acted like Tomb Raider, a franchise that habitually sells less than 3m lifetime per entry was going to suddenly sell COD numbers just because they spent $100m on it and guess what happened? THE FUCKING INEVITABLE.
In terms of the franchise post-Core, the game is going to do really well, probably double what you'd expect from a Tomb Raider game post-PSone but it cost far, far too much.
But no, it's all used games that did this. Used games made Capcom make some horrible design decisions on DmC and piss off the entire fanbase. Used games made Activision and EA flood the market with guitar games and accessories long after people stopped caring. Used games made Microsoft make a fourth Gears of War game that nobody asked for from a developer nobody cares about. Used games made Sony pump out another God of War game after they spent the past few years flooding the market with HD remasters. Used games made Sony make a Smash Bros clone with no appealing characters to help sell it. Used games made Bizarre Creations make James Bond and racing games no-one wanted. Used games make publishers shutter studios the moment the game they were working on goes gold, before they've even had a chance to sell a single new copy, let alone a used one.
I could go on. And on. And on. You could write a book about every single executive level screw-up this gen and yet these same people with their million dollar salaries and their shill puppets still try to insult our intelligence and blame used games and awful, entitled consumers for companies shutting and talented people losing their jobs.
So please forgive our cynicism when we don't want to buy into the bullshit you're spouting.
And that, my friends, says it all. This is a public service announcement: Stand up, be counted and blame the thing who deserves the ire: MICROSOFT.