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fudjud avatar 9:08 AM on 05.14.2014
A letter to Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

It’s great to see you release a cheaper version of your new next gen console, people like cheap and I’m sure shareholders love the idea of selling more hardware. However, I fear you haven’t realised the ramifications of this announcement.

After the Nintendo 64, Nintendo wasn’t an apt direct competitor for Sony or yourself. Nintendo noticed this, and tried to better their own unique identity i.e. Pushing their first party titles and crunching out the incredibly successful Wii. The Wii was huge because it was its own thing. The Kinect and Playstation Move were pitiful attempts at piggy-backing off the revolutionary Wii. There are a few reasons these products weren’t nearly critically or commercially well received as the Wii. The hardware was released very late into the generation and people already had their movement fix with Wii Sports. This “failure” only compounded because developers don’t want to develop a game primarily for a system that so few people have. Because of this we never really saw great games that were more than their initial “Tech Demo” style games, a la Kinect Sports and Sorcery.

Sorry for the brutal honesty Microsoft, but there is little denying that the PS4 has been marketed better than the Xbox One. For a quick recap; you announced your console with the notorious “Always Online” requirement. Marketing saw this fluffed up a bit more with the “Infinite Power of the Cloud” and “fundamentally designed to be expanded and extended by the internet” . Many were mad at the idea of always needing to be online, but this created a real edge over Sony’s product. There was promise of online game sharing, harnessing cloud computing, faster loading times for games. Your rival noticed the despair of the community over this and made a smart announcement of their DRM free PS4. You also heard the public cry, went soft and as a result backed down on this groundbreaking leap into the future you had previously promised. Was this a good decision: folding on your plans for some complaining media outlets and commentors? Maybe, maybe not.

But the public still found things to complain about for your next-gen hardware entry. Next on the chopping block was your new products’ price. You jumped back saying it’s a result of the Kinect 2.0. This was another important point of difference for you from Sony. Your 360 iteration of the Kinect proved that the hardware can work, and you improved upon the technology behind it. We all saw the tech demos and some of us have had some hands on with it ourselves. No, it’s not perfect but it’s something new to work with, something new we haven’t seen of this caliber before. I explained above why the original Kinect didn’t reach the mass audience and acclaim, but now with the Two Point Oh it will be with every single console you sell. Developers will be much more likely to adopt the hardware and integrate cool new features, using voice control and tracking movement.

Something I’ve seen already which used the Kinect in a way not gimmicky, is the ability to set GPS markers quickly mid chase sequence in Need for Speed: Rivals with your voice. This excites me. It’s exciting to see new controls that immerse you into a gaming world seamlessly. There’s only so many buttons that fit naturally on a gamepad, before becoming a keyboard. Think of the possibilities with the Kinect...

(Sensical words + nonsensical words) X possible human movements X buttons on a controller = A frick ton of capabilities and possible commands for your character in a game.

This is a very new thing for developers and players alike, so some time, work and consequently money would need to be spent into creating new controls that feel right for the right games. The key thing is the possibility is there for every Xbox One owner.

Knowing the power of the Kinect, Sony tried to level the playing field with their camera. But it hasn’t attracted the same attention, and will ultimately fall flat as a direct causation of not being compulsory with their console, unlike yours. This tactic is simply chasing in the Microsoft shadow, trying not to be left behind. This is great news for you, Microsoft. You have now made your own thing. You’ve turned the Kinect into something interesting that isn’t following the Wii, and Sony is trying to be like you. Why would you want to change this?

Around five million Xbox Ones have been sold as of today. Compare this to the 360 which sold over 78 million units over it’s lifetime. If the One sells as well as the 360, and every person from now buys the bundle without the Kinect, we are looking at less than 7% of One owners who have the game changing peripheral. That statistic is very hopeful to excite developers. Great hardware without great software is as useful as a dead lamb to a dairy farmer shopping for a new TV in the middle of a highway. Now that the Kinect is dropping off as a requirement, you are redesigning the dashboards and menus to better work with a controller, and thus devaluing the Kinect further.

Figures aside, you’ve really sorely damaged your reputation. You’ve seen the heights of being top dog of the past generation, offering the greats of the Xbox Live Arcade, amazing exclusives and premium services. But already early days into this console generations’ lifecycle you have promised so many things and backed down on them. How can anyone trust your words and aspirations that you’ve spoke of? How can anyone trust the future you have planned for the Xbox One? Can we even trust you have a plan, or are you going to fly by the seat of your pants and pander to the mob?

Maybe I'm just finding the negatives in things and I should be all "Woo! Fairer console war". Let me know what you think?

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