Geeks Can’t Handle Change
We all know that already, but it’s amazing to see it every year when something new comes out. This time it’s how the whole internet seems to be collectively losing its shit over the Xbox One.
Well, not the whole internet. Actual tech writers and reviewers seem to understand that the set of changes about to take place in the console gaming landscape are both inevitable, and not actually bad. But nearly every comment goes down the same road: “Micro$oft is EVIL! They just want money! They’re trampling our rights! It’s not even a game console, it’s just a cable box that plays games!”
The long list of complaints has been rehashed plenty of times: game developers get to decide if and how you can trade or sell used games, required internet access once every 24 hours, included Kinect. Honestly, that’s about it. The only other thing people are complaining about is that it also handles cable or OTA broadcasts and plays movies. I still don’t see how that’s a bad thing. But I’m not crazy.
Gamers have a comprehension problem when it comes to the concept of used games. They seem to think that when they buy a game on a disc (or cartridge) that they own the game. This is not true. What they own is a plastic disc with some code on it. They have also purchased the right to use that code within the scope of the license agreement. Now, the confusion is understandable because in console history, the game has always been constricted to that plastic disc. So if you didn’t have the disc, you didn’t have the game. If you sold or traded it, it was out of your hands. But that’s not true anymore. Now the discs are superfluous…they’re completely unnecessary. Now we’re talking about software.
You can’t buy used software. You can’t trade it, or trade it in. You don’t buy the plastic discs, you buy the license. And once you’ve bought it, it’s yours, no backsies. But now that Microsoft is bringing this to the console, it’s an evil, consumer-gouging coup. The console is a sacred realm, where everything should be free, or incredibly cheap, no matter how much time and effort (and money) went in to creating it. It’s just some code, after all.
Every conversation about this comes down to “rights”. In the minds of many of these gamers, consumers have rights to do what we please with the software once we’ve purchased the discs, and Microsoft and the developers have no right to restrict that. Microsoft as the creator of the console has no right to put restrictions on the exchange of related software or information through it’s hardware and network. But, in all honesty, consumers have no real rights to the content beyond the license the developers decide to sell us.
And we shouldn’t. They create and market and sell the games, which we want. They deserve a profit for their work, plain and simple. And they don’t only deserve that profit on first sale, because this isn’t a car, or a phone, or a book. This is intellectual property, and – like it or not – the rules are different.
I keep reading comments about how Microsoft is ignoring/doesn’t care about the “huge” consumer market that doesn’t have internet. I think everything about the sentiment is true, except for the size of the market they’re losing. This is a big company, they’re aware of their market demographics, and they aren’t about to shut off a “huge” potential consumer base with something unnecessary. It was a calculated loss. And likely a very small one. How many disconnected households will be able to afford an Xbox One? And of those that can afford it, how many would actually consider buying one? My assumption is that that number is minuscule, otherwise Microsoft would have come up with something else.
And yet, all of these (presumed) Xbox 360 owners who are (most-likely) broadband connected, are whining about their poor brethren who won’t be able to play Xbox One because they don’t have the net, or are on dial up. Well, allow me to comfort you: they probably won’t fret, because they can’t afford a One anyway. That’s a whole separate problem, but not Microsoft’s.
This one’s a little creepy. It’s 1080p, infrared, and has an always-on mic. Microsoft says that when it’s in soft-off, it only listens for “Xbox On”, and that you can even turn it all the way off. But who really knows? The NSA might get their hands on it and wreak privacy havoc. This is a legit concern.
A Cable Box That Plays Games
Who really cares? Are the games really good? Does it play them well? Is the gaming hardware and firmware high quality and up to the task? Is it on par with other gaming systems? Then what is your problem? There were 7000 people on the Xbox One project. More than enough to properly address both gaming and entertainment to a high standard. The fact that it also has entertainment features does not automatically mean it’s bad at playing games. But “hardcore” gamers tend to be primadonnas in situations like this: they want to be the center of the developer’s attention, and if you’re paying any attention to casual gamers, you’re not paying attention to them. One commenter made a good point: the iPhone (and every other smartphone) is an apps machine that also makes calls, but everyone and their dog is falling over themselves to have the best one. How people aren’t seeing this as a bonus, I don’t understand.
In the end, yes, Microsoft just wants money. They are a company, and that’s why companies exist (not, as many seem to believe, to care about you and make your dreams come true). But they know they can’t just take it, and they can’t force you to give it. So they’re doing everything in their power to make consumers happy, while also getting them to pay for stuff. And it really looks like that’s what it boils down to: Xbox consumers are cheap. They don’t want to pay for anything: games are too expensive, Xbox LIVE Gold should be free, the developers shouldn’t get any more money after first-sale. No one should put them in a position where they have to pay for things that they actually want; they should be able to take them. For 30 years that’s pretty much how it’s been. But now the technology has caught up, and you’re going to have to pay to play. My advice: grow up and deal with it. Even Sony’s going to have to go that way soon.