Ever since Microsofts announcement of the Xbox One several weeks ago, the system has been plagued with doubts and naysayers – largely due to the lack of details surrounding several of its more important functions (game sharing, Kinect integration, the “always on” necessity) as well as the entertainment focus the console takes as a whole. And for good reason.
Virtually anyone can look around the internet to find a laundry list of reasons why the next console from Microsoft is a bad move for this industry. I don’t need to rehash them in depth here, but it’s easy to work out how a system which seems to be aimed at non-gamers and is restricting access to games for multiple parties isn’t exactly winning people over in droves.
What is missing from this blood-in-shark-tank-like media frenzy however, is a voice trying to reason out a few of the controversial decisions.
Now obviously Microsoft is a big boy and it can defend itself (or its legal team can defend it) quite easily against the assorted bullies from the press, and equally it can refrain from taking to petty battles in internet forums (unlike a large amount of us gamers unfortunately). So what I’m not saying is that someone should be defending the poor little corporation who tried to squeeze an extra buck here and there.
What I am saying is that some of their choices have been a long time coming and by looking back it’s only clear to see how they reached them.
Games as an industry has been shifting to a digital market rapidly over the last decade. Taking 2012 as a prime example, for a year where gaming sales in the US had fallen by 9% compared to the previous year it managed to increase 16% in digital sales – and this figure is only getting larger quarter by quarter.
In short, despite what PC elitists may have led you to think, consoles were never really at threat of dying more in the last 10 years than this pivotal generation we are going into right now – finally we have reached the uncanny valley between dedicated games consoles and dedicated games computers, and sales are bound to reflect that sooner or later.
So along comes Microsoft. Noting Steams rapid success in computer sales (both in quantity and in competitive pricing) and how the integration of new ideas affected the Wii’s success last generation – they are compelled to design something which not only has broader appeal than just “a gaming machine” but also has some form of identity protection which combines both accessibility with user licensing on their end.
Did they make the smart move? Obviously not, one only has to look at Sony’s stock jump during the Xbox One presentation to see there was a bit of a fumble there. But when the retail industry is suffering to the point that between preowned sales and preorder specials games retailers are still going out of business – moving to get a firm grip on your digital distribution is just common sense.
So by all means be angry at Microsoft. Nobody likes that they jumped the gun on games distribution and are trying to make console games behave like PC games – where they are saved to the account, not the system, and only a licensed account can play. But let’s not forget that the majority of people already experience games like that on Steam or Origin or whatever other system they are using on their computer. Sure they might have skipped a few steps, but unfortunately this is where gaming has been headed for awhile now - and in my opinion it’s only a matter of time until competitors like Sony and Nintendo follow suit.