I Ain't Mad about the Xbox One, Bro
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The big three started revealing their plans for the 8th console generation and gamers were immediately skeptical about DRM, its effect on game trade-ins, and other “features” that would make gaming less convenient and more expensive. As Microsoft clumsily kicked over the chamber pot that held their marketing strategy, you could see their overall vision for the Xbox One seemed quite similar to Steve Jobs’ vision for the future of Apple TV. As a daily Apple TV user and someone pretty invested in the Apple ecosystem, it sounded like Microsoft & Apple’s DRM mechanisms would be similar.
Microsoft thought gamers would prefer the convenience of complete hard drive installation (not having to swap discs) and sharing across multiple boxes over the freedom of allowing gamers to sell their games on eBay or on sites like Cheap Ass Gamer. Even with the new, more restrictive DRM, the discs were to retain value, and could be traded-in at select retailers. Many gamers were not happy with this trade-off.
As far as I know, Microsoft designed their DRM on their own and not as part of some consortium of publishers, intent on locking down used games. If you have seen an article or heard otherwise from a reliable source, please let us know, but this is how I understand it. I wouldn’t assume publishers had the inside track on Microsoft's always-connected future, or were big fans when they learned about it. But as I mentioned earlier, Microsoft had a (Steve Jobs’) vision for the Xbox One, and this is how it was to work.
Beyond the massive Microsoft PR blunders, what really baffles me is the extent of the anger Microsoft stirred up with the Xbox One. I’ve seen many people irrationally accuse Microsoft of trying to obliterate gamer's rights and destroy gaming, for basically emulating what Steam, a beloved PC download service, is already doing. On NeoGAF, there is a Corporate Apologist Games "Journalism" blog list highlighting those who haven’t come out vocally against a console which wouldn’t exist for 6 months. I’ve had people curse and threaten me on Twitter because I haven’t condemned the Xbox One to the depths of Hell. Are we forgetting that the Xbox One is a consumer electronics product? If this THING that doesn’t exist until several months from now is so horrible and offensive, DON’T BUY IT. It’s great to give these companies feedback on their products, but personal attacks against people who may not share your worldview on electronics is completely ridiculous.
I see the tag “anti-consumer” being hung around the Xbox One, and that too really confuses me. How can a consumer product be “anti-consumer”? Its silly to believe that a company would willingly create an “anti-consumer” product with the intent of selling it to the public. This makes no sense. It’s true that companies make bad products, products you have no interest in with features you do not want, and products that can only be used if certain criteria is met, but these products are merely undesirable or unavailable to you, not “anti-consumer”. A company that willfully creates and sells “anti-consumer” products is akin to a restaurant knowingly serving poison to its diners.
As we return from crazy internet rage land to the real world, where numbers talk and bullshit walks, it’s pretty obvious the Xbox One pre-order numbers were not as competitive with PS4 as expected, damaged by their complete mishandling of the Xbox One DRM/Used Games PR campaign and the $100 price difference. As the proprietor of this website, I have insights into pre-order numbers and can confirm that the PS4 had a distinct advantage. If only Microsoft had been able to properly explain why it’s always connected plan was more beneficial than unrestricted used game trades, or even perhaps, make it optional, things would have gone differently.
On the CAGcast, we’ve always agreed that there was no way Sony or Microsoft would allow its competitor to be completely open to used games, while they themselves would be restricted. The value of having an “All Buying/Selling/Trading OK!” check-box on their product comparison sheet far outweighs the risks of upsetting customers and unraveling an economy that may or may not be beneficial for console gaming's success. We were proven to be correct when Microsoft recently relented on frequent online authentication check-ins and removed all restrictions on used games. As a consequence, it appears some of the cloud-based sharing features, as well as the always connected, instant-on Apple TV-like features Microsoft had originally planned for the Xbox One are no more.
I have received (often over-the-top) criticism for not being more outspoken on gamer’s rights and an unrestricted used game trade. The simple reason for this is that CAG makes money on the used game business. People buy used games through CAG and we get paid. Also, people come to CAG to trade their games with fellow members, which, leads to more site visits, and indirectly, to more money for CAG. For me to come out strongly for the used game business would be about as meaningful as an GameStop executive doing so. Just like the Big 3, I have no idea what game shopping would look like without these secondary markets, but, I do understand that customers fear uncertainty and I guess it is this fear that produces so much anger.
Did Sony originally intend to restrict used games on PS4? I don’t believe there was any anti-used game publisher consortium so Sony would really have no reason to lock it down. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no solid evidence that the used game business is harmful for the industry. When it became clear the Xbox One would have certain restrictions, going completely unrestricted on used games had to be the right move for Sony. Do you think Sony went this route because they love their customers more than Microsoft, or because they believed this differentiation could help them sell more PS4s? If you believe the former, you’ve learned nothing; go get rejected from multiple business schools.
Microsoft really wanted everyone to like their box. You can be sure it was designed with the purpose of getting as many people as possible to pay $500 for it. If you think the Xbox One was created with the intent to: destroy gaming, destroy used games, steal your secrets, hack your life...basically anything that is not getting you to pay $500 for it, you are mistaken. In a free marketplace, there are no anti-consumer products, only products that succeed, and products that fail. Microsoft made changes in their policies because they feared not doing so would cause the Xbox One to fail. Looking at all this stuff any other way is just a distraction until late November.