So with the Xbox One reveal event having finally occurred I did my silly blog mocking it with loads of silly jokes already, so there will be less of that in this blog, though there will still be some because itís so easy to mock.†
Since the release its seemed like a the train has left the rails and now Iím watching it continue to skid along. It says something about the reaction from gamers that Microsoft have actually had to open a new forum section to contain it all on their forums.
So with more information pouring out I thought it was time for a slightly more serious post mortem because the reveal definitely fell dead.
What we got to see at the reveal and from the post reveal information was that this is less of a console for gamers and more one for the people in suits, the publishers and the old media crowd.
The idea of adding a fee to activate used games which rumours are now saying could here in the UK be £35 which reeks of trying to please the publishers due to the perception of used game sales harming new sales. So I think itís worth going down the winding rabbit hole and working out whatís the cause here, luckily for me part of this was done in the Xbox forum and someone there hit upon the main cause.
So before I begin I want you to forget about this noble idea that used games sales are harming the developers. The developer has been paid, very few developers get extra pay based on sales. The extent developers benefit from new sales is that the publishers are please so will be more likely to invest in future projects for that studio. Developers are every much paid to work and so youíre not giving much more than a slight amount of job security to a developer by buying new. Its Publishers who generally reap the large profits in. So now Iíve hopefully stopped you thinking this is the little developer vs the big gamestop and now itís the smaller Gamestop vs the bigger Publisher.
Until this generation here in the UK our version of Gamestop simply called Game was able to comfortably run on just new sales alone, it was almost know for the fact there were no pre-owned games there at all. It was the giant store with prime spots in highstreets in towns. This generation it nearly collapses and a few years before collapsing brought in a heavier and heavier push towards pre-owned.
What could be said is that due to Game brokering very lucrative deals with Publishers it could beat most independent stores prices by getting a lower unit price on stock by buying in large bulk and due to the power of the shop name and how dominant it was, or at least was seen to be. Its only real rival Gamestation actually ended up being absorbed into it in a way and has basically been killed off. Most independent retails also crumbled in part due to Gameís domination and in part due to higher unit costs being placed by the publishers. With independents dead pretty much Game thought it had total market control, heck at one point the UK business watchdog were thinking of investigating it for holding a monopoly on the market. However with no independent stores buying games and being real rivals the Publishers saw no reason to cut these special deals to Game and as such the unit price was able to rise for game, the only other highstreet or town game retailers being HMV and supermarkets really didnít need to rely on the games sales alone to keep running.
So Game was hit quite hard by unit price rises while say HMV or Asda could compensate by using profit from other areas to cover lower revenue from game sales. Heck there was a huge controversy over Asda wanting to sell Red Dead Redemption at a low price and Rockstar refusing to allow them as Asda would have been selling the games at lower than the unit cost to buy them. Now youíre thinking thatís madness right ? A company selling a product below cost price to consumers, well the supermarkets the idea of footfall is important, more customers in and stores designed in specific ways mean the cost of getting a customer into the store by taking a loss on the game means they hope to use their in store psychological design tricks to get people to buy more than just that game. To supermarkets the loss from the sale is worth it to get you in the store due to the potential returns. Suddenly Game is in the position smaller independent shops were in, it canít get the deals off the Publishers and it also canít subsidise to beat the supermarkets. As Publishers ask for more money for the stock from Game they had to do something. That something was used games.
You see while plenty of people will claim used games are a blight on the market and harming the industry and will proudly claim that the publishers are just taking their rightful money used games are the way Game and others like it make up for their own share being taken from them slowly by the publishers. Itís estimated at present Games stores make maybe 10% on a new game sale, before this generation it was estimated at 20-30%, thatís a fair change in revenue there.
Heres the catch that was pointed out on the forums though. Console licensing fees for developers / publishers have also been going up, apparently theyíre actually higher now than theyíve been well ever. So Publishers are passing this cost on the stores who canít or wonít pass it on to customers who wonít want to be paying even more for games. The reason for the higher licensing costs is the subsidy. Unless your name is Nintendo youíre selling at a fair loss per console, this is the first generation Nintendo has sold at a loss, a small one but still a loss. By selling the console at a loss, first started heavily by the Original Xbox really, you rely upon getting a larger installed user base to buy the games Publishers and as such recoup the losses through the license.
To use the car analogy going round this would be a car company deliberately selling a car cheaper than cost then charging fuel companies to allow their fuel to run the car. What this would mean is rather than working for the customer the company is now more reliant upon another group to actually make its main money so to them they see in this case Publishers as the people to please and not the customer. Heck I donít blame them to an extent for thinking this as the Dreamcastís apparent failure was blamed on lack of support from Publishers.
So this goes a way to explaining the reasoning behind the no used games rumour that may or may not still be happening as Microsoft seems to change its mind daily on whatís going on with this and hasnít managed one definitive statement as such, though with EA getting rid of online passes and being partnered with MS Iíll take a guess at the answer to 1 + blank being 2. So now weíve established the Xbox One isnít being made for us customers itís being made for the men in suits to like.
Lets take a look at the other concerns and aspects coming to light over the console some of which are also aimed at making men in suits happy.
What I wasn't going to make a Kinect 2.0 one yet as kinect 2 looks far less scary †
With the kinect 2.0 coming being shown off with high levels of detail and even apparently being able to detect your pulse it seems very cool, then you get told it has to always be connected and functional for the console to operate, suddenly that cool extra things has become another mandatory piece of hardware for the system to operate. Itís become yet another thing that could break and stop the system working. How annoying would it be for your Kinnect 2 to break and suddenly your whole console doesnít work.
This should worry people because now Publishers are being given the means to enforce any silly requirement or whim they have. Publishers no longer have to go through the law and legal channels to try and enforce stupid things that would never be passed, they can do it themselves essentially getting round the law.
So now the privacy concerns round this have been raised as it will essentially always be on as long as there is power and as such could be monitoring and collecting information. The case against worrying about this are as follows.
1)[font=Times New Roman]† † † "[/font]Well you have facebook right companies just get your information from there anyway so why do you care ?"
2)[font=Times New Roman]† † † "[/font]So youíre scared of the government spying on you, they can do that any time they want through most thing you have ?"
3)[font=Times New Roman]† † †"†[/font]They wouldnít do that, itís not worth it for them, heck itís not even legal is it ?"
To address these. With Facebook I volunteered my information as such in exchange for the service. I pay for facebook with my information. With the Xbox One it would be $500 and then $50 a year for live or something like that, so Iím paying to potentially have Kinect capture any information it wants, I am not able to specify what information it collects. With Facebook I can control what it collects about me and knows with Kinect 2 I donít have that control.
Iím not scared of the government spying on me, I realise they can do that any time they wish, what I have to hope is itís in my best intention that they are doing this, the idea of a government monitoring things to stop crimes and prevent deaths. So no I donít fear the government doing it. What I do fear is private companies being able to do this and buy access to the data essentially. Do I want them to know I lounged around at 2am on a Saturday in my underpants playing Defiance ? Well not really but they would get to know things like that, the argument could be put forward about the invasive nature of airport body scanners. The reason people are fine with them is simply because theyíre for security. Now kinect 2.0 can measure your heart beat allegedly has IR imaging capability and is in your home. This is almost an airport body scanner in your home and itís not for security but can be used for profit.
Why would they do this ?
Money plain and simple, for years companies have wanted to learn more about their consumers, the better tailor their products and to better reach their customers. One market research group buying up 5 years of the twitter archives shows companies want to know more about is and the Kinect 2 is the wet dream of any marketing department, eyes and ears in the living room.
Itís not legal though right ?
Well this is a point of contention as one user on the Xbox forums found this little gem in the present TOU contract.
"If you use the Xbox console with Kinect, we may also collect data about the way in which you interact with the console and the Services to improve Microsoft products and services. "
"You should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features (for example, voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions) offered through the Xbox LIVE/Games for Windows-LIVE service. "
"When you use Voice Search, all voice commands are sent to Microsoft and stored to provide the Voice Search Service and improve Microsoft products. If you use Voice Search, you consent to Microsoft recording and collecting your voice input to provide the Voice Search Service and improve Microsoft products."
It says there in legal speak if you use Xbox Live even at present its saying you throw away your right to privacy. Iíve always considered Live as a public place and been aware of data and message storage so this come as no shock to me. It might however come as a little bit of a shock to others especially those of you presently using Kinect.
Now in the EU TOU contracts have been considered legally void as such, they are not legally binding contracts and cannot as such breach EU laws. Itís debatable how much they cover the company on a legal stand point as no-one has really challenged a TOU contract in court yet over the legality of part of it. Essentially while TOU isnít legally binding in the EU in the US there isnít a ruling on it yet so youíre very much open to the TOU being law. However even if it isnít set as law Publsihers going through MS can use Kinect 2 as a potential enforcement tool to enforce TOU they set out without needing legal backing to apply ďcorrective measuresĒ. Xbox One is giving the Lynch mob the guns , rope and horses to go out and enforce ďfrontier lawĒ as they see fit.
Now as a towns person of the Internet do I fear the government ? No, not really. Do I Fear the impact of a lynch Mob ? Hell yes.† Remember when the internet rallied against SOPA as one ? well the Publishers and entertainment industry can now enforce that to an extent through Xbox One, sure it not the full SOPA but itís more than people should accept done. People really shouldnít stand back and accept this.
This is without then going on to consider the impact on games. In the conference itself the following was said ďYou might be playing a game and have to raise your controller in front of your face to raise your shieldĒ why on earth would adding a second control scheme like that into games be a good idea or required ? Iím going to imbed a previous Jimquisition for people who havenít seen it now about Developers adding gimmicks not because they add to gameplay, they often donít, but imply because they can in the name of innovation.
So yeh Kinect 2 might force its way more into games like the Wii waggle mechanics did.
Edit: In breaking news the Germany government is thinking of banning the sale of Xbox One due to the potential intrusive nature of the Kinect 2.0
Always Connected †
Worrying the always on Kinect rumour feeds nicely into the always online rumour, even the idea of checking in. Why ? Because obviously to send feedback and recording the console at some point must connect to the internet to send the information. Even if itís not once every 24 hours as some reports say it sound like it will have to connect at some point and not be useable entirely offline forever because how else will they get that collected data back. What theyíre most likely going to do is heavily subsidise the console then use the sale of information to make up this cost.
What this of course means is The Xbox wonít be portable anymore as such, well not portable but moveable. Suggestions so far are hospitals and the likes of childís play will be impacted along with serving troops who use consoles to help relax. Also it brings up questions for those who donít have consistent internet or what people will be able to do if day some idiot in a ski mask decides itís a great idea to steal all the cables from the any exchange box in their area.
Oh and thats without someone pointing out to me recently that if itís all cloud saving youíll need an Xbox Live membership potentially to just say your games. Thatís right £35 a year just to have the power to save your games.........yeh.
So one positive announcement that is actually positive that came from this was the announcement that the XBL friends list limit will be upped to 1,000 next gen. To which Iíd like to be a little entitled and say ďWhat the hell took so long ?Ē In the early days of Live when someone asked what XBL went to pay for, I pointed to the old Xbox servers and said weíre paying to keep those games running because people still play and love them. Then Microsoft shut down old Xbox live claiming that it was halting progress and that with it gone weíd get more than 100 friends. It didnít happen this generation so Iím now retroactively angry about something I kind of accepted in the name of progress even if I wasnít happy with it, at the time. Itís actually made Microsoft appear worse because itís taken this long. Sure theyíre finally listening to consumers but when they claimed to be listening years ago it begs the question what took so long and why remove Old Xbox Live so early if you wouldnít up the friends list till a whole generation later ?
More Servers †
Now this was something I should have liked until a few things were mentioned. The of using cloud computing (because that worked oh so well with Sim City) and then the idea of online servers, which I should love, the problem with this being the slight mention that companies can buy access to these servers. Microsoft arenít known for charging competitively for hosting things, they really arenít thatís why EA hosts its own servers and other developers did this generation. This wonít be every game getting a dedicated server this might lead to a few but Microsoft will be taking more from the developers / publisher to allow this to happen so most developers / publishers wonít use it simply due to potential costs.
The console itself. †
Ok I get it Microsoft listened to some people in the industry who claimed they wanted their console to seem more mature and refined and less like childish lumps of plastic hence the design. The problem is it doesnít really do much different, I never objected to the childish lumps of plastic because at least they look different and compared to some things they actually donít look as childish. In terms of making a console more Adult I honestly think the only way would have been to give the console boobs as itís not really going to work. Also at least with the design people are pointing out is very much like many 90s designs, it could have gone 80s and we might have had a wood panelled console.
Though Iím really not sure if it looks better or worse wood panelled.
Ok this looked better, Iíll give them that. I really like the design though Iím someone who still wants another company to go the Wii route and make a split controller. Apart from that it did seem like a nice redesign with the battery compartment being kept as part of it and this is one of the few things I will say they got one over on Sony. You can use your own batteries and not have to rely on built in rechargeable batteries which you canít replace easily yourself.
The Games †
Well what we saw was plenty of pre-rendered bullshot nonsense and no actual gameplay as such. Eagle eyed viewers even spotted errors in the pre-rendered stuff akin to the famous no bullets gaff in previous pre-rendered stuff. Here Sony did it right, they had people on and they did at least show what seemed to be gameplay in their trailers. You could see the execuspeak kick into high gear on the COD Ghosts presentation with the ďSide by SideĒ comparison where it wasnít side by side.
Then there was the news about waiting for E3 for the other reveals, well from the presentation hereís a picture of the possible games based on the menu screen.
TV, TV TV, TV TV TV TV, TV TV
So the idea of Watching TV on the Xbone sounds meh at best as there not much TV I really watch live. Then it was pointed out on release it will only work in the US, and I was shocked I mean if theyíre going for this casual wider audience then cutting about 90% of the worldís population out of a feature initially isnít a great idea. Oh but it got worse you see as it turns out you actually already need a cable box to use the service as apparently Xbone doesnít have a built in decoder. So for me to use the TV functions if they even come to the UK it would be like this.
The decode bones connected to the Xbone, the Xbone connected to the TVbone all to watch TV.
Oh but it gets worse you see the initial indications were even with this it might be able to control the Decoder via the HDMI port. Then someone noticed something on the back of the console called an ďIR BlasterĒ essentially a very powerful TV remote, so for the TV system to work now youíd have to have them connected and then have the decoder box placed behind the Xbox One. Who thought this was a good idea ? do people really have all their stuff under the TV arranged one behind the other or do most people you know have it stacked up ?††
^The only good kind of IR blaster they could have included with the console really
If anything sings old media to me itís the TV and Iím sure plenty of TV executives out there were rubbing their hands with glee at it but itís not the draw Microsoft thought it would be, not for customers.
Oh hell this was almost good with the idea of achievements being changed to reflect gaming habits rather than an arbitrary number, Iíve said before how Iíd love to see the system revamped and while not that great the revamp was starting to look good.
That was until Microsoft then patented something new.
Thats right Achievements for watching TV. If anything at all says consumer manipulation itís the idea of achievements for watching certain shows or interactions with them by say holding up a certain product or sitting through all the adverts and not wandering off to make a brew. Not only does this kill the idea of achievements being for achieving something it once again highlights how this is not about making the console and systems better for us but for making them better for men in suits to use to improve profit margins.
No Self Publishing †
This one hit me hard, as someone who reviews Xblig games mostly on my blog site the imminent death of the XNA and creators club has been a big concern not just for me but for all those start ups self publishing on XBLIG. Sure people will mock XBLIG games but they arenít all bad and many have found their way onto steam and found success. For Microsoft to remove their self publishing system then announce they wonít allow self publishing in the future is shocking, not least when Nintendo have relaxed their rules more to allow start ups to actually get onto the Wii U and Sony is committed more to helping indie developers. Again this is Microsoft trying to please the men in suits. Self Publishing is killing off the perceived need for publishers and Publishers donít like this, they canít offer horrible publishing deal that require developers to hand over all rights to the IP, they canít then milk those IPs to death either. Microsoft shutting the door on self publishing is a feeble attempt to please the Publishers and try to help them preserve their power in the industry. However it could well be shutting the door on its customers too.
The internal Hardware
So this has become a big sticking point firstly it nearly matches the Ps4 until people pointed out 3GB of the slower DDR3 Ram is used to run the operating system, what is this Xbox Vista ? While the PS4 can dedicate all of its faster DDR5 ram to gaming which and hereís the main point, means the PS4 is more future proof. At present its estimated that a console would need about 3-5GB of ram to run most modern PC games at close to potential, thatís at present, and while things can be optimised to run on far less on console as theyíre more of a dedicated gaming system. Needing to run far less extra stuff means less Ram is required however it does mean the PS4 could easily pull away from the Xbox One in.
500GB internal non replaceable hard drive. This sounds good until you realise youíre going to be installing games and with the average blue ray game estimated at a 50GB install file, that hard drive will fill pretty fast, also it doesnít make any concessions for say if the hard drive fails and you want to replace it. Heck even the proprietary Xbox 360 hard drives were a better idea than this as at least it allowed some degree of upgrading and personal choice while with a hard drive possibly smaller than really required and no option to change it this again leads to the idea of a heavier use of the cloud and the requirement for online connection to work.
No Backwards compatibility
Oh this is a fairly big issue for many people. Sure I can see the argument that the increased unit cost of the console would not be worth the effort and that most people donít use it anyway. However the counter argument is that you sure as hell better have a huge lot of games and one hell of a launch line up to counter this. With Backwards compatibility people can adopt the system and if they didnít have the previous one they gain access to a vast wealth of titles they didnít play before meaning to them youíve given them a far larger launch line up. For those who had the previous console they can trade in their present one and use the cash towards the new one without losing access to their games only really losing non backed up saves. They donít have to go all in for a new console and lose the ability to play their collection from the previous one, this is especially good with digital titles which if the system is traded in with no carry over those titles are essentially money lost entirely with no recuperation. Look the Wii U allowing people to pay a bit extra to upgrade their games did look slightly scummy but then they explain work was done on the games to modify and improve them and while not a great solution itís still better than the idea of releasing the whole game and getting people to pay all over again for the game itís a compromise and its one which is probably the best we were going to get at present.
Microsoft made a huge blunder here as Iíve previously mentioned they used plenty of psychological tricks to keep people invested in the system and theyíre now wearing thin. The last one they could have held onto and kept working was the investment people had already put into the system but by making them do a clean start essentially theyíve wiped the advantage of a pre-existing audience off the slate entirely and made it now just about what each company is offering. What this can mean is that Publishers can do HD remakes and updates of previous years series and try to justify charging full price for them a second time.
Skype, Internet, Snap
I lumped these together as its easier to deal with them this way. Why do people need these ? With skype sure you can call people but Iím not going to throw a party because you can do the same on the Wii U with its system. I have a laptop I can use skype on that if I want to talk to people, even then in game Iíll be using lives voice chat not skype.
Internet doesnít excite me most things have it now which brings me onto Snap. Snap sounds ok but then thereís not much real point to it, at best you might be able to pull up your music up easier while in game but other than a few things on TV where Tweeting alone live is part of the fun ( BBC question time for example) if Iím watching a film I want to watch the film not tweet and break the immersion.
Wait till E3 †
This seems to be the main comment coming out to defend the launch and well, this was our first look at the console, it was up to Microsoft to show what they thought was important and well thatís what they have shown. While Sony pretty much said about games and social. Microsoft had apparently said Star Trek more in the first 30 minutes than they had games. No-one is waiting for E3 because unless you have something monumental and ground breaking for gamers then Sony have already got some of theirs out there and while most of them I didnít think were for me they already have the lead in terms of the hype train. As I said earlier this conference wasnít for customers this was for men in suits and thereís a reason these presentations normally happen behind closed doors at business conferences.
But What of Sony ?
Another point commonly brought up is that Sony havenít addressed much with their console either.
On used games all we have is
ďYou will be able to play used gamesĒ
ďWe will do right by both the consumer and the publisherĒ
Rumours say the Playstation eye will be bundled with consoles however without the requirement for an online connection (Sony have confirmed pretty much the PS4 will be able to work offline and not need to connect) the concern over information being sent back is gone. Heck we donít even know if you need the have the playstation eye connected for the console to work. If not then Sony have just achieved what Microsoft wanted to do and include something extra with the console without forcing it on people. You know something is deeply wrong with your company when Sony is coming out looking like the consumer friendly good guy.
The Damage control efforts †
Oh this is the worst of the lot, watching Microsoft damage control is just dire. Firstly theyíve claimed the media didnít report the truth yet the media were reporting what Microsoft spokes people told them so the media will be annoyed to be blamed for Microsoftís own failure to create a unified message. Then they disabled all comments on their youtube channel to prevent perceived negative press. Thatís right they essentially deleted a lot of comments and censored people on a fairly public website. As if Microsoft didnít look bad enough. Then the constant ďWait till E3Ē messages and claiming they wonít comment on rumour or speculation is further harming them as they failed to get their message out and now are refusing to put the correct one out, this makes me think they donít have a plan or message fully worked out yet themselves which is kind of worrying, at least Sony didnít put information out before having a consistent message, sure thereís unknowns with Sonyís machine but itís better to have unknowns that misinformation put out by your own staff. Oh and the amount of rather obvious viral marketers flooding the forums is getting rather silly too.
To me it looks like the Xbox One hype train has come off the rails and it keeps sliding along causing more and more damage all I can say is I hope after E3 it manages to stop sliding before hitting the Orphanage too on its trail of destruction. It will take a monumental effort from them to get this back on the rails as Sony barely need to do anything at E3 now seemingly, show the console itself them show a few more games and fill in the blanks still about and theyíll have done enough. Microsoft have a monumental effort to convince people that this is a machine for gamers, hell even for customers and not for the men in suits.
What Microsoft are seemingly doing is banking on the loyalty of fans without giving them a reason to be loyal, theyíre hoping that the market are sheep. The problem with this is if people were just going to buy the next console because they owned the previous one, the Wii U would be the selling a lot better. The truth is even the casual gamers arenít stupid, hell even the ďbro gamersĒ arenít as stupid as people make them out to be, theyíll go where they see the best stuff for them.
So who do you believe the Xbox One was made to please ?
Every day gamers
No-one at all maybe ?
Finally: thank you to the one poor C-blog recapper who got lumped with reading this one just for the recap. And anyone else who made it this far.