You’re Not Wrong, Microsoft, You’re Just An Asshole
“We have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity,” explained Xbox chief Don Mattrick. “It’s called Xbox 360.”
With those snarky words, Microsoft lost E3. That much was clear as soon as Sony’s press conference started. And it’s not because the Xbox One is a bad system. If we ignore Microsoft’s terrible marketing and judge the Xbox One objectively, it’s a fine system – a home entertainment system built for the future that should provide an unparalleled user experience.
But damn it, Microsoft: stop being a jerk.
Don Mattrick, the head of Xbox at Microsoft, explained to GameTrailers that Microsoft built a system that’s future-proof and if you don’t like it, there’s another option: the eight-year-old Xbox 360.
This is Microsoft’s stance and the company doesn’t care if you complain. That message came through loud and clear during the company’s E3 press conference. Take it or leave it. Microsoft doesn’t care. They know they’ll sell millions of boxes and a group of vociferous web trolls won’t change that – or will they?
Microsoft has a reason to be cocky. The Xbox 360 rules the living room, and has set the standard for media streaming devices in the home. There have been hiccups and mistakes along the way, but overall the Xbox 360 is a fantastic system. Microsoft baked in the best of the Xbox 360 into the Xbox One, that much is apparent. However, after years of piracy and the embarrassment of briefly backing the wrong physical media platform, the company is now working on the assumption that you don’t deserve an Xbox One if you’re not connected to the Internet. It’s a fair assumption – the target market already has broadband – but there are still plenty of reasons someone doesn’t want the One to phone home every 24 hours.
The Xbox One has the potential to outsell the PS4. It has the potential of being a better investment for the casual and hardcore gamer alike. It has the potential to seamlessly bring the best of the Internet and TV to the living room.
Look at it this way: The Xbox One is an always-connected device that interfaces with subscription TV. It’s also a portal to a person’s Windows’ ecosystem, bringing the most popular computing platform on Earth to the main screen in the house. It’s a gaming system, a cable guide, a Skype machine, and a media streaming box that you can talk to. And as David Pierce explains on The Verge, the Kinect could usher in a new dimension of gaming. It’s the most pure all-in-one home entertainment system ever built.
But Microsoft went too far.
The Xbox One treats every owner as a potential thief. By nearly requiring a broadband Internet connection to check a game’s DRM, the Xbox One is locked to a living room. Forget about rigging up a system for a long road trip. Forget about taking the system to the family cabin or grandma’s house. Without broadband Internet, the Xbox One is useless.
This always-connected scheme is even scarier when updates are considered. Microsoft will essentially be able to remotely control all these systems and push updates unbeknownst to the owner. But it gets worse: The Xbox One doesn’t work without Kinect, which is always on as well. Xbox One owners cannot trade or easily sell back games. The console is worthy of a mention in a George Orwell novel.
These downsides put Microsoft in a powerful position with game publishers. It’s all about making money and selling systems. It guarantees that games will not be pirated, theoretically putting them at ease and more likely to publish exclusives on the Xbox One. But once you put making money above the user, you start down a slippery slope.
Then there’s the PS4.
As Sony stated loudly and clearly at the PlayStation 4 press conference, the system doesn’t require games check-in online. Games can be traded like baseball cards. The system doesn’t require an Internet connection.
Best yet, indies can self-publish on the PS4.
Sony won E3 by being the anti-Microsoft. The Xbox One has ridiculous DRM and all Sony had to do is state that the PS4 takes a familiar, old-school approach to gaming. It’s just a new PlayStation. Nothing more.
The Xbox One launch is a marketing disaster even though the product itself is solid. Forgive the hyperbole, but every time Microsoft makes a statement, the hole gets deeper. But at the very least Microsoft isn’t hiding anything. There shouldn’t be anymore surprises. Hopefully.
[pics from /r/gaming]
[Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Xbox 360 was the bestselling console of the last generation.]
By Matt Burns