Am I Afraid of Xbox One? No. But I'm Afraid of You.
I apologize for the length, readers, and I apologize if this comes off as pretentious, but I feel this needs to be said...
The cat is out of the bag. We now know the full spectrum of the Xbox One's restrictions. As I scan the comment sections of various sites, there is an overwhelming amount of disappointment and frustration. Yet, tucked among these comments are the inevitable contrarians. Seemingly oblivious to the keyboard riot occurring around them, these people say things like “It doesn't bother me” and “I have 24/7 internet” and “I buy digital anyway. Who cares?” and “I don't buy used games” and “I'm not bothered by a camera that's hooked up all the time. It's cool technology”.
I am afraid of people like you.
Setting aside the fact that there really are astroturfers, shills, and reputation managers assaulting the internet right now (proven by several articles, several sources, and common sense), I am afraid that there really are people out there like you.
You have 24/7 internet? Good for you. I am a 14-year-old kid from Rovaniemi, Finland. My town is just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. Fun fact: Rovaniemi is famous for having the world's northern-most McDonald's. But my town is also a place where what little internet I have available is often knocked out of commission for days at a time by seasonal changes in weather. It's not a matter of money. I have a good job. It's just that my internet infrastructure isn't nearly as good as yours, so I will not be able to play Xbox One with you. I am a 20-year-old college student in Caracas, Venezuela, who doesn't have very much spare cash to spend on games, and so I won't be able to afford your system because I cannot afford internet, games, and (likely) Xbox Live Gold all at the same time. I am a single mom in Iowa. I am a family in China. I am a traveling businessman. I lived in Syria last November when the government took down my country's internet. I am a resident of a Hurricane zone whose power is rarely out for more than a few hours but whose internet can be knocked out for days at a time. I will not be able to play Xbox One, and you are okay with that, it seems.
I am a man in America. Me and 35% of other men are unemployed in this country, according to the Department of Labor. I am trying to make ends meet. I am divorced, and I have to pay alimony and child support. Life is difficult, but I cannot play the same games as you because money is very tight. I just want to come home after yet another long day of looking for work (surprise, I didn't find any...again) and play a videogame to cheer me up a bit. On Xbox One, I can't, because this month I had to cancel internet, so my library of games will no longer work. You remember me, right? I have an old Xbox 360 that I pray does not break. You and I played Forza together, year after year. I even gave your car a custom paint job that I made, and we voice-chatted online during our races. Sadly, I won't be able to play Forza on the new Xbox One. And yet, you are okay with that, it seems. #dealwithit, right?
I am afraid of you.
You don't buy used games? You only buy digital? Good for you. I am one of millions of Americans who lives in a household making $30,000 a year or less (53% of working Americans make this amount or less, according to the Social Security Administration). I am Microsoft's target audience, apparently, and yet I am one of 47+ million people who relies on government assistance for food stamps each month. I am one of 20+ million Americans (according to a recent Harvard University study) who spends half or more of my income on housing – housing alone – not to mention all of my other bills, not to mention games, not to mention the internet required to play those games, not to mention the Xbox Live Gold fee to play those games online. I rely on Gamefly and Redbox and local rental stores to play a lot of my new games (I eventually buy the ones I really like) because I'm trying to be a gamer, just like you. I'm trying to enjoy my hobby, just like you, but this is all I can afford. Sadly, Microsoft has said renting will not be supported at launch, but they're “working on a solution with our partners”. Great. That makes me feel so much better. And yet, you don't care, it seems. You're not worried if I'll be able to enjoy gaming, it seems.
I am that family in Gamestop who buys the cheapest games because that is all we can afford. Now, I am uncertain if I will even be able to buy used games the same way I used to. I am a proud father on Christmas morning. It is snowy and icy where I live during Christmas time, and this year was especially bad, so internet is spotty. The Xbox One I bought my son will not work for two days, not until Comcast can get into my area and fix it. Ho ho ho and Merry Christmas and all that. I am the naïve mother who bought an Xbox One, unaware that internet is required to use it. I am a 19-year-old kid who just bought Halo 5, the biggest game of the year. I am pissed off because the Xbox One servers are clogged and I keep getting kicked off Xbox Live. A day goes by and now I can't play my most-anticipated game. But that's not a big deal, is it? It doesn't bother you, does it?
I am a Gamestop employee. Yeah, I know. You hate my store, but I'm just trying to make a living (since I am almost certainly one of the above-described persons who makes $30,000 or less a year). My job is now going to be a living hell. I am going to have to deal with keeping our Xbox One demo station connected to the internet. I am going to have to learn a brand-new game trading system to accommodate whatever labyrinthine method Microsoft has developed for the sale of used Xbox One games. Worst of all, I am going to be yelled and screamed at each day, every day that I come in to work. Because of Microsoft's restrictions, my customers (some of which may even be my friends or people I play with on Xbox Live) are going to be angry, and many of them are going to blame me. Irate mothers and enraged bro-dudes are going to storm into my store, making demands of me for something that was not my fault nor my decision. I am going to be stuck, because my store manager (and his boss, and his boss' boss) have made a policy where I can't give a full refund for a new game unless it is defective. Because the game is not – technically – defective, I can't do it. Hell, maybe I should do it anyway. It might get me fired, but at least it will get this irate soccer-mom out of my face. But because this isn't your job, it doesn't bother you, does it?
You never rent or borrow games? Good for you. I am your college friend down the hall in the dorm. Yeah, I'm a pain in your butt sometimes because I borrow your games, but I always give them back and I take good care of them. What you don't know is that I'm drowning in student debt and I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford all of my classes next semester. I have no money for food, let alone games, let alone the internet to play those games, let alone the Xbox Live Gold account required to play those games online. I can't borrow your games any more. Why don't you want me to be a gamer, bro?
The Kinect camera doesn't bother you? Good for you. I am a kid in Germany, or Australia, or who knows how many other non-American countries that will restrict this on ethical grounds. My government has already made statements implying that our country will not allow such a thing due to privacy concerns and concerns over game ownership, and if Microsoft does not alter the way Xbox One works, I may not even have the opportunity to own an Xbox One. But that doesn't bother you, does it?
I am your fellow gamer. You and I played Call of Duty together last week. You and I did the entire Halo: Reach campaign together. I showed you that sick photo of my wall: shelves and shelves of games from the NES all the way up to the 360. I'm a collector. I love games just as much as you, but I'll be passing on Xbox One. I have 24/7 internet. I have plenty of money. I've been a Live Gold member since the original Xbox. But I'm skipping on the Xbox One, because I'm not really going to own the games I buy, am I? I love Xbox. I love the games on Xbox, but I'm not willing to buy games for Xbox One because I don't know if I'll be able to still play them in 10 years. But that doesn't matter to you, does it?
I am afraid of you.
Everyone has preferences. Everyone has their own opinions about the Xbox One reveal, but when you say “this doesn't affect me”, it hurts, because it DOES affect ME! I live on food stamps. I live in a country without reliable internet. I am a collector. I serve in the military. I am the person who it affects.
And I am a gamer just like you. I know you're excited for E3. Believe me, Microsoft is going to rock it at E3. Anyone saying they're going to bomb is kidding themselves. Microsoft will make sure that they have plenty of “megaton” announcements, or at least, they'll give the illusion that they do. I'm not saying they will “win” E3, but they will certainly do their best to divert your attention away from the Xbox One's restrictive policies with “ooooh! Shiny! Oooh! Usher! New Halo! New Gears!”
But for just a moment, instead of selling your freedoms for some new toys, will you please remember me, the gamer who will not be able to follow you into Huxley's brave new world of videogaming? While you may be willing to give away your consumer freedoms for Microsoft's vision of the future, please remember that you're also giving away my chance to participate in that future, and that really stings.
I am not afraid of Xbox One. It's just a box, and people don't have to buy it. I am afraid of you, because you are gleefully funding a future that has no place for gamers like me. And while doing that, you are saying “it doesn't affect me”.