I’m going to boycott the boycotts
Leading up to E3, after the unveil and the subsequent interviews, Microsoft have somehow turned a very vocal group of people against them. Obviously within this group there will be the people who bash Microsoft whatever they do, the various ‘fanboys’ opposed to the Xbox and the internet people who enjoy getting angry about everything, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that there seem to be at least some previous Xbox 360 owners who are now looking to boycott the Xbox One for a number of perceived slights against them. As someone who enjoyed the unveiling and is getting excited about two new excellent consoles being released this Autumn, it’s a little disheartening to hear so much anger, so here’s my defense of the Xbox One.
Firstly, before we even get to the core arguments, it’s important to remember how the internet works. The people who write comments on news sites and even who write articles are no the majority of people who buy the consoles. They’re an audience, sure and the games companies spend millions each year on advertising to attract these audiences, but there’s a much great part of the public who will never read a games website or know much about what new things are coming out until they see it in the shops. Whatever happens with Microsoft’s image in the enthusiast world, it’s hardly going to cripple them or destroy the company. The teenagers I teach are excited about what they know about the console, because there’ll be a new Call of Duty and it’s more powerful and all of the things that ‘enthusiasts’ care little about. Nintendo have managed without the hardcore gaming community being behind them for a good decade now and it hasn’t done them much harm.
So onto the apparent problems of Xbox One. Firstly, by far and away the most ridiculous, is that the console is somehow sinister. There are numerous memes and articles about how Kinect is going to be always on, always watching, even when the Xbox is turned off and Microsoft can use this information and sell it to advertisers or worse. Truth is, when the console is off, it’s simply waiting for one command (Xbox on) and isn’t recording anything or storing anything. This will be easy to check once the console is released, but Microsoft have had access to your cameras and microphones for years with every windows-enabled device and I’ve never heard of any privacy problems that have arisen (other than through hackers, which will be less of a problem with a console in any situation). The PS4 carries a similar camera as part of the package and the fact that the Eyetoy and Kinect are bundled with the consoles is great news. I love being able to use voice commands when I can’t find the controller but want to watch a film, although we lack the space to make full use of Kinect there’s still been some great games released for it like Dance Central and Kinect Sports that wouldn’t have been possible without it. For me, the camera is a bonus feature that we get with the console, the fact that it’s always going to be on means that I don’t have to set anything up before I choose to use voice commands, the fact that it’s bundled means every game can use it if it’s appropriate without worrying about limiting their audience too much.
The second big point of contention is used games and rentals. As someone that hasn’t rented a game for a couple of years, this isn’t going to affect me too much, but I can understand how it might be a problem for younger gamers who like to share games with their friends. Well now it’s a little bit easier than it used to be. As long as they are your friends and not some random person you just met, you will be able to share your games with them (with possible time constraints) without ever needing to give them the disc. I can share games with my friends in other cities or countries, so when I’m raving about something I like, they can see what I’m going on about.
Used games can still be traded as normal, at the discretion of the publishers. I can see why people will be worried about this, because if publishers can charge a fee for reselling a game, why wouldn’t they? But if that’s your line of thinking you’re missing an important point, games are expensive. I don’t mean to buy, although that is also true, but they’re insanely expensive to develop. Even indie developers easily run up bills of tens of thousands of dollars, much more if they include their own wages. Star Wars the Old Republic reportedly cost over $300 million. If gamers can trade games in with nothing going back to the publishers, short single player experiences will begin to die out, because a game like that will be traded it by nearly everybody and anyone who didn’t want it day one would be crazy not to pick it up for half the price second hand. This means tiny returns for the publishers, who will push more towards day-one DLC preorder bonuses and microtransactions. By ensuring this doesn’t happen, or can’t happen for some games, publishers can make sure that they get money for everyone who plays their games. Yes this isn’t how most other industries work, but the problem is that games don’t depreciate in value after being used other than damage to the disc, and this will be a non issue as we won’t be using the discs anymore. If we want expensive-to-make games to be produced, we need to be willing to pay people to make them.
The final major problem people have had is the always online aspect. I have some concerns here, mostly due to being burned with Diablo 3 and Simcity. They were both disastrous launches, and both games have never really recovered or proven the value of being connected all the time. There’s no real issue with needed to be connected, we have a stable internet connection and the Xbox One has built in wi-fi. If Microsoft’s servers go down however, that’s another story. Hopefully this will be a real focus and they will actually be able to follow through with a service that is constant and unwavering. The benefits of this system are the same as they are with Steam, constant automatic updates, pre-loading of games, cloud-saving, Xbox Live party features. I haven’t used my 360 offline in a long time, because the party features and the main draw of the console, I can see how people might have difficulties if they lack a stable internet connection but enjoy single-player games, and for them it is unfortunate, but thankfully I’m not part of that group.
If you don’t have any of the above concerns, like me, then you should be looking forward to what has the potential to be an amazing generation. I love multitasking and being able to switch between TV and games at will, and load times are a real problem with the current generation. I’ve all but eliminated them with the SSD in my PC, now the consoles are getting one step closer to catching up. I love digital game distribution on the PC like Steam. It’s more than just the sales (that I sincerely hope do cross over into the Xbox One Marketplace) but it’s the automatic updates, the cloud saves, the fact my library of games is available and ready to go no matter where I am. The new controller looks stellar and an actual improvement over the already-spectacular Xbox 360 controller. The games announced so far all look great and there’s a promise of 8 new IPs in the first year. The ‘always-online’ functionality and cloud processing both point towards MMO-type experiences. I’ve mentioned many times on the site that I’m keen to see games like DayZ working on consoles and that seems like it could finally be a reality. I even like the aesthetics of the console.
All in all I think there’s a lot of anger about non-issues with the Xbox One, or issues that will only affect an unfortunate minority of potential players. If you don’t want to buy the console or don’t care for the feature set, simply don’t buy it, don’t try to bring everyone else down because you’re not going to be having any fun with it. As with all of these internet debates, it will mostly be forgotten once the product is actually out and people start buying into exactly what they claimed to despise, but for now let people like me be excited about a new console generation, a once in a decade event.