I’ve had this post, half-finished, in the hopper for about three weeks. I call it being fashionably late to the party. Regardless, there’s been much ballyhoo about the Xbox One in the weeks since Microsoft disappointed gamers everywhere by not making them center stage at The Grand Unwrapping of 2013. Why we seem to care so much about this is rather beyond me.
Folks, this one wasn’t about us and that’s neither a slight, nor a problem…
First, this is not about the presentation’s aftermath, which has been something of a mess of mixed-messaging and rumor-mongering beyond the point of usefulness. This is not about whether or not I think the console will be great when it comes out. This is about the 1-hour event itself and the weeping and gnashing of teeth that followed.
Personally, I saw three things in that presentation:
– Stuff I don’t care about (most of it)
– Stuff I do care about (a little of it)
– Dark Matter (stuff that is out there, somewhere, but we don’t get to see it yet; this is the stuff on which I’ll be basing my own buying decisions)
The people who are upset with the presentation are upset because Evil Microsoft didn’t devote 10 minutes to featuring their pet issue. Indie developers are upset because they didn’t address indie gaming. People who want to buy used games the same as ever are upset. People who want to know just how often the console must be online are upset. And so are the people that want to know how much they’ll have to pay. People who want to know about games that aren’t Call of Duty or EA Sports, us basically, were totally left out in the cold.
To all that I say, remember that Microsoft wasn’t courting you last month. They’ll get around to you eventually, probably beginning with E3 next week, because they know you’ll still be paying attention, both next week, through the summer, and later this year when this giant black box comes out. If you’re sitting at home right now saying, “I’m not buying this,” Microsoft knows they have plenty of time to show you something to change your mind, because you’re a gamer and you’ll be watching. Gamers are always watching for the next cool title that they have to play.
The Grand Unwrapping was Microsoft’s play for the people who don’t care what happens at E3 or in the fall. They were playing for the widest possible audience, an audience they want and probably desperately need to include non-gamers. They wanted their tiny slice of the national new cycle and you don’t get that by talking for fifteen and change about what you’re doing to support indie games. Answering any of the aforementioned questions isn’t on Microsoft’s radar right now because those answers are either A) only important to a vocal niche or B) aren’t going to make you happy (see: games, used).
What Microsoft wanted out of the event was for there to be B-roll on CNN, nightly news, etc., of a few pretty games and a dude controlling his TV with voice and gestures. They wanted to show utility and to that end I thought they actually did a pretty bang up job. I’m not defending Microsoft’s tactic here as a gamer, I’m just saying I know when an event isn’t about me and this? This wasn’t about me, so I took what info they offered and got on with my day. There’s really no point in being outraged about the lack of game focus because we still don’t know anything, even weeks later, about the kinds of games coming to the console. But we will. (I’ll write, maybe next week, why I just don’t give a fig about the timed expiration of the used game market).
Publishers aren’t going to just sit on the sidelines. They’re making games and they’re going to want you to know about them. Wait for E3. Wait for the end of the summer. And most importantly, wait for six months or so after the console’s release. Then you’ll know if Microsoft has offered you enough carrots to justify whatever ungodly price they’re going to extoll (both in treasure and silly little things like privacy). I’m still convinced the slogan on this beast should be Privacy Not Included (I’m undecided how much I care about this), but I suspect I’m the only person who finds that bit of wordplay remotely amusing. But hey, what’s amusing to me has always been my guiding star so I’m cool with that.
In the meantime, if you want some more reasonable takes on what we do know, there have been a handful of articles the past few weeks that are worth a read:
Wired: Xbox One Revealed (This has better technical details than most of the detritus out there.)
“It needs to be made clear, if all the studio closings and constant lay-offs haven’t made this explicit: The current economics of game development and sales are unsustainable. Games cost more to make, piracy is an issue, used-games are pushed over new, and players say the $60 cost is too high. Microsoft’s initiatives with the Xbox One may solve many of these issues, even if we grumble about it. These changes ultimately make the industry healthier.”
“The second thing we have to remember is that a hashtag and a few blog posts isn’t a backlash. No one at Microsoft or Sony cares about what you post on the forums of your favorite gaming website. I hate to be the bearer of bad news in this regard, but right now the reaction to the possible used game restrictions amounts to a fart in the wind.
What matters is consumer behavior, and we don’t have any data points to show us how things have changed.”
Gizmodo: You Don’t Hate the Xbox One, You’re Just Jealous (They’re troll baiting with the premise, but the point is legit.)
“There is absolutely no downside to a gaming console widening its berth and bringing in a larger audience. Creating content for a console, or any platform, is not, despite whatever alarmist fears circulate, a zero sum proposition. A team spending time on the Kinect’s voice commands does not mean the controller gets shortchanged. Adding a whole side of the OS dedicated to apps and non-game content does not necessarily mean your games are being shortchanged—especially with all the lengths Microsoft has gone to ensure performance. (The static RAM on the CPU/CPU SoC is a bigger deal than it’s being given credit for.) Microsoft is a very large company. There are seven thousand people on the Xbox team alone. It can work on more than one thing at once.”