Why Are We Celebrating?
Microsoft has reversed its decision. The consumers have spoken, and the multi-billion dollar corporation has bowed down in recognition of our fury. Flock to the forums and blogs to sing praises of the new Xbox One and congratulate each other on ‘victory’ while listening to Queen’s "We Are the Champions". Mission accomplished. We have won.
I fail to see how a few, honestly empty, concessions amount to something as definitive as winning. It appears many don’t grasp how this backtracking actually materialized, and amidst the furor of this supposed success, several worrisome aspects are being forgotten or outright ignored.
To begin with, it must be stressed that Microsoft’s current actions are relegated to policy. They are choosing to change the DRM and online check-in, and they are administering this change through a patch at launch. There is no hardware being altered to bring about this change. Did everyone forget that Microsoft has explicitly stated (on several accounts) they reserve the right to modify their policy whenever they deem fit? While I don’t believe this will happen, Microsoft has the ability, and the legal protection provided by their terms of service, to revert to these same detested policies after everyone goes out and purchases the Xbox One.
But, the masses claim, they changed because of the negative feedback and won’t jeopardize doing it again. No, they changed because pre-orders on Amazon showed only 800 people had registered for an Xbox One in comparison to the 14,000 allocated to the PS4. They changed because the mainstream had started to get antsy. They did it because the very developers and publishers they tried to protect threw them under the bus. It is nearly impossible to feel any sympathy for Microsoft given their arrogance up through this most recent announcement, but that last part had to sting.
That aside, let’s shift our focus momentarily to what didn’t get cut. What should be our biggest concern, the omnipresent Kinect, remains completely untouched. Maybe in our age of always connected social documentation the mandatorily plugged in Kinect doesn’t seem like a big deal. Maybe it’s not, considering it’s not active until you tell it to be. Yet, Microsoft still has that policy card it can throw down at any time to force it to be always live. Hopefully, it won’t be used to spy on people for the government or ad companies. Hopefully, potential hackers won’t bother with accessing the camera. Hopefully, I’m just worrying over nothing. I just pray the system won’t be in some kid’s bedroom if the worst does happen.
Really though, in comparison to things like basic safety and privacy, I feel like what did get cut only equates to a nice gesture at best.
The 24 hour check-in was manageable. Was it a hassle? Yes. Was it ethically wrong you couldn’t play a single player game offline? Yes. Did it exclude people? Yes. Could we deal with it if we absolutely had to? Most likely, yes. We’d still hate it, but we’d manage.
The used game issue is part of a much larger debate, and one little blog post in a sea of internet opinion isn’t going to solve it. However, I do believe a little more thought needs to be put into all these anti-DRM chants.
Do I think a gamer owns the disk he/she purchases? Absolutely yes. When you own a disk, you should be able to sell it, use it at as a coaster, or marry it if you choose (a guy married a character on his DS in Japan so … yeah, that’s a thing). However, we cannot ignore that every used game bought is a new game not being sold.
To give you a little math problem, if selling 10,000 games is needed to break even and 5,000 people buy it new, then another 5,000 re-buy those same games. How many copies were sold in all?
For the arithmetically impaired, the answer is 5,000. That means the developer only got half of what they needed. But, you know, now Microsoft has granted access to used games and if people want to utilize the service so be it. Used games have been around for several generations and the market continues in spite of the challenges the numbers present. I don’t fault people for wanting it even if I (with my emaciated wallet) choose to buy the few games I get new. However, as demonstrated by some articles popping up, we’re now getting overzealous in this belief that we shall have what we demand.
There is already a tremendous outcry over the family share plan being removed. I’m really trying not to call anyone out, but seriously, who the hell do we expect to actually buy these games? People want used. People want sharing. People want bigger prettier graphics for the same price as last gen. Whether your wallet is full or empty, making a game costs money, and every single unused game passed over for another method … just do the math. If you need access to used games, okay, do as you must, I get sometimes saving a few bucks can really help balance the checkbook. Just don’t think that having everything free or cheap doesn’t have some kind of consequence, and don’t believe that the lack of DRM leads to some kind of utopian system. Temper your expectations to realistic proportions and try to find some level of balance.
I apologize if this came across as too much of a tirade, and I really am attempting to be happy for those who now feel they can get the Xbox One. The system has great features and some cool ideas, and while I was looking forward to it being tailored to the mainstream crowd and thus bolstering quality development on the other systems, it is great people who felt betrayed can maintain their allegiance to the brand.
I’m just struggling with all the victory speak, and the frankly gullible nature of the celebrations. I’m not saying don’t purchase the system or don’t be excited. I’m not saying boycott Microsoft into ruin or else they’ll enslave us all. I’m just saying, don’t let your guards down and don’t become so blinded by a handout you feel unstoppable.
We have been given a small concession. No one has 'won' anything yet.