Nearly three months ago, before E3, before the May 21st reveal, before the Xbox One DRM reversal, I wrote a blog titled "Just wait: the Xbox 720 might be the hate-magnet this next gen" (here: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos... ). I detailed how Microsoft has set itself up to be the gaming media's new whipping boy.
I didn't realize just how right I'd be.
Now, as vain as I am, or as conceited as some of you might think I am, I didn't write this blog just to announce "nyah nyah I was right." If you've read enough of my posts, you know that I throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks.
Rather, I wanted to catalog and discuss what has happened since I wrote that blog several months ago.
Prior to the May 21st reveal, things were already beginning to get out of hand thanks to a man name Adam Orth. Orth had layed down the not-so-subtle hint that Microsoft's next console would not only require internet, but it would require a constant or near-constant internet connection to stay functioning. The internet went crazy. However, there were still plenty of people who said "let's wait until the official reveal". Understandably, a lot of people doubted that Microsoft would do something so crazy.
Then came the May 21st reveal. This is where things begin to get drowned in mud. The May 21st reveal could've been a topic - on its own - for weeks. The disconcerting lack of games and the strong emphasis on Kinect and TvTvSports did not allay fears of Microsoft continuing with their pursuit of the "mass audience" instead of returning to the days when they focused on the hardcore gamer.
However, it wasn't the reveal that sparked the resulting inferno. The interviews after are what did it. When placed in front of inquisitive journalists, the Microsoft PR crew (including executives) fell to pieces. Not only did they give out conflicting information, but they said some very frightening words like "online required" and "Kinect required" and "24 hour check in". Although we were told to wait until E3 to see more games (which did nothing to cool down the flames), the lack of games ended up being a massive problem. With nothing else to talk about, the internet - daily - raged and fumed and vented about the Xbox One's DRM and all-in-one focus.
More rumors began to leak. Kotaku has posted an rumor a few months before saying that Microsoft was over 6 months behind on schedule for the Xbox One, confirming (in some people's minds) that Microsoft was rushing the Xbox One to compete with the PS4. Rumors continued to circulate regarding the Xbox One's DRM and online requirement, but at this point, they were just rumors. A concerned group at NeoGAF started a #PS4NoDRM Twitter campaign, and Major Nelson told us that "our feedback is important and we're listening".
That last line rang so hollow a few days later when - on June 7th - Microsoft unveiled its official policies for the Xbox One DRM. It was everything - line for line - that we feared to be true. Online required? True. 24 hour check in? True. No lending or renting or swapping games? True. Kinect required? True.
There might have been a fire before, but this is the point when things really let loose. Instead of putting the fears to rest, Microsoft simply confirmed them. A lot of trust in Microsoft was lost on this day.
Gaming journalists went bonkers. Many of them began to write off Microsoft completely. Two of the most famous June 7th rants - Angry Joe and Francis - got millions of views. As a personal anecdote, I remember texting my friend Josh "all the Xbox rumors are true" to which he simply replied "lol". It was surreal to watch what Microsoft was doing, almost like watching someone shoot themselves in the head in slow motion.
Some gaming "journalists" like Ben Kuchera (Penny-Arcade) and Arthur Gies (Polygon) acted as puppets for Microsoft's own PR, telling us to "deal with it", that we were being "noisy fanboys" and that we should all just "wait and see". Most of the internet didn't listen. The hate continued. The hate grew. At this point, a lot of people wrote Microsoft off and were waiting to see if Sony would follow suit (this is the point when all those flimsy "PS4 will do the same thing" articles came out).
By the time E3 rolled around, it has been over 3 weeks since the May 21st reveal and several more weeks since the Adam Orth #dealwithit debacle. For a lot of gamers, it didn't matter what games were shown. E3 wasn't going to be a day of excitement. It was a day of dread. I've never been more nervous - instead of happy - for an E3 in my life. I'm sure a lot of other gamers felt the same way.
I'm not going to focus on what Sony did. Needless to say, they blew Microsoft out of the water and the collective gaming universe gave a sigh of relief when Jack and Andrew announced "No DRM, No online required, $399". History was written at that moment and for some, the gaming generation was already decided.
Microsoft showed off the games, but that was quickly overshadowed by even more terrible PR, especially from Major Nelson and Don "buy a 360" Mattrick. Any remaining faith in Microsoft was fading away except for those who had "seen Titanfall". Despite the games, the internet was mostly unified against the Xbox One.
As we all know, less than a week after E3, less than a week after telling us that always online was the future and that the 24 hour check-in couldn't just be "flipped like a switch", Microsoft flipped the switch and did a full reversal on the DRM policies. Some people cheered. Some people booed (for instance, those who wanted the Family Share program). But most people didn't forget what Microsoft had just tried to pull. The bad press didn't stop. Many sites still held Microsoft in contempt for the higher price and the Kinect requirement. In fact, very few sites were willing to declare outright "all is forgiven", especially since it had taken over a month for Microsoft to listen to their fans. A lot of people thought that it was just as bad: after all, if Microsoft was so willing to discard half of their console's vision, what vision did they have for the thing? And if they could take away DRM so easily, who's to say they can't just put it back? Maybe the reversal was due to the PS4 demo at Jimmy Fallon where Fallon declared of the PS4 "this is the only one that can play used games, right?". Maybe it was the dismal number of pre-orders. Either way, Microsoft caved in.
That brings us to this week. Don Mattrick just changed sides over to Zynga. Under normal circumstances, people would be celebrating the departure of the man who slung so many unintentional insults. Yet, many simply shrugged and said "he's leaving a sinking ship". Similar to the DRM reversal, many gamers continued to question what the heck is going on over at Microsoft HQ.
That brings us to this morning. I opened up my browser and saw Edge Magazine #256's cover:
In big, bold letters superimposed over the PS4, Edge declares "This is the console for you; Why the ONLY option right now is PS4".
As I said months ago, the next Xbox may end up being the media's whipping boy due to Microsoft's "casual audience" focus over the last several years. While Xbox 360 may have been the console of choice for a lot of game journalists, there is one thing that sells much better than love: hate. And hate against the PS3 got plenty of hits and made plenty of money for plenty of websites.
Hating the PS4 seems rather silly and disingenuous at this point, and hating the Wii-U elicits very little response, so guess where the hate is going to aim? Microsoft. Maybe down the road Microsoft will be able to reverse fortunes on the Xbox One, but for now...I present to you the new media hate-magnet, the Xbox One.