Microsoft's Xbox One about-face: Is it good or bad?

Thursday, 20 June 2013 05:04 PM Written by 

Xbox Console RHS78 TransBG RGB 2013

Consider yourself lucky. You had a solid month to enjoy the DRM jokes, memes, and not-so-subtle jabs from Sony about the Xbox One. To be fair, you probably made some jokes of your own. I know I’m guilty of it. But those days are over thanks to the surprise announcement from Microsoft yesterday, which took back a month’s worth of foggy statements. The Xbox One will not have online checks and will play every type of used game. In other words, nothing will be different. The One will be just like every console we’ve ever had.

Is that good or bad? That depends on which faction you choose, in which there are two. One side, I’d argue to say the majority, is overjoyed. According to them, Microsoft has reinstated our freedoms as consumers. The $60 price tag of a game buys us the right to sell, trade, and lend once again.

The opposing group sees Microsoft’s about-face as a weakness. This group makes the compelling argument that the company has never had a problem imposing their will to change the gaming landscape, citing events like the creation of Xbox Live. They also see the removal of innovative features like “family play” and diskless gaming as a negative.

After spending close to 24 hours digesting the reality and hearing points from both sides, I stand in between the two. I’m unlikely to choose one. This isn’t because of some misplaced sense of bipartisanship in an attempt to remain in the good graces of both parties (although that is a nice perk). It’s because I see genuine strengths from both sides.

It’s great news that I’ll be able to lend a shiny new copy of “Dynasty Warriors 24: Empires 5” and “Resident Evil: Another Revelation” to my friends. If Microsoft would’ve stuck to their guns, I would’ve missed being able to introduce my friends to a collection of games that they wouldn’t have otherwise played. Heck, it’s probably the main thing keeping them around.

The previously reported always-online aspects of the Xbox One wouldn’t have negatively affected me. Having invisible updates performed in the background would’ve been real treat. I live in a land where the bandwidth flows like wine. I’ve had a FiOS connection for a year, and I haven’t faced one outage. Not one! I have to be some sort of 1-percenter when it comes to reliable internet. So yes, an always-online console would’ve been welcomed.

Having said this, I completely understand that my internet blessings are far from the norm. People have to suffer with lousy connections, data caps, and I even hear tall tales of places in America without Internet. They shouldn’t be kept from the joy of playing a next gen console.

The console would’ve been worthless to me if I were still in my freshman or sophomore year in college. This was in 2005 and 2006. In those years, students that lived in dorms were forced to use the campus’ internet, which often felt like the precursor to 56k. Even requests that weren’t bandwidth-intensive like (I’m dating myself here) checking away messages in AIM proved difficult. I would’ve been crushed by the news that I wouldn’t be able to use an Xbox One.

To the faction that is happy with the Microsoft announcement: I see where you’re coming from.

Then there’s the other side of the spectrum. Seeing Microsoft try out this new style of console would’ve been fresh, innovative, and beneficial to anyone with an internet connection. With this, I agree.

I’ll admit I daydreamed about installing an Xbox One game, then putting it on my shelf for it never to be seen again. I’d have the ability to carry my vast next-gen library anywhere my One went. I’d even be able to download a game on a friend’s Xbox after a quick profile sign-in. This is next gen. This is innovation. This is what we should expect from an industry leading company.

Friends and family play was another step towards the final frontier of gaming. I would’ve been able to share my game library with up to ten friends. I may have even been able to get some new real-life friends out of that deal. Well Microsoft, you owe my two real friends and my eight hypothetical friends an apology.

These are two features that set the Xbox One apart from the console monotony that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade. By erasing them, we’re stuck with a PS4 and Xbox One that are simply more powerful versions of their predecessors. I have yet to see how they will bring true innovation to the medium.

The Xbox One statement change has brought another question to observe: the question of motive. Why did Microsoft choose to pull a U-turn on their initial statements? Some say that it was nothing more than a business decision. Others believe they started to feel the pressure from Sony. For some, it meant consumers’ voices were heard, validating the act of speaking up. Any of these reasons are possible factors in motivating Microsoft to change their ways. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the real reason. It will forever be a mystery, while pundits stick to the one that best supports their arguments. You’ll hear these get tossed around for the next month. Just remember that they’re nothing more than assumptions. We’ll never know the reason.

I’m keeping a level head about these changes, and that objective thinking has landed me in the middle. There’s good and bad in everything that happens in video games. Well, everything except removing “1 vs. 100” from Xbox Live. That was nothing but bad. Whether you see the good or bad in the Xbox One, try to see things from the other side. If you still don’t like what you see, the PS4 is $400 away.


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