I am a goddamned adult.
I’m in my mid thirties, I have a professional career, two kids, an education, hell, I own a goddamned minivan. Why does this matter? Because I’m an adult and I make decisions based off of intelligent, rational thinking; i.e., I am not a ‘fanboy’. So – keep this in mind as we get into the meat of the following piece. I make decisions based on contemplation; there is no blind fanaticism or brand loyalty shaping the opinions I espouse.
So let the term fanboy die a slow, subtle and idiotic death in your mind before you continue reading.
This is a story of technology, massive global conglomerates and the ethical, social and artistic implications of supporting them. This is “the next generation console war®“- and you gotta serve somebody.
The world was graced with Microsoft’s new X-box earlier this week, the X-box One.
First off, let me just say it, the box is fugly and HUGE…. And so is the second box, that Kinect piece. Huge, ugly, huge. I don’t get it at all; I mean it’s basically the design of a cable box (without actually being a cable box no less) except even fucking bigger. So if this is your “all in one” solution for the next generation, be prepared for it to share space with your existing cable box and that Kinect monstrosity (not to mention another patented huge-ass Microsoft power brick). For being “all in one” it kind of, well, isn’t.
If you still need a cable box for your XBONE to act like a cable box, then what’s the goddamn point? You’re using twice the electricity to do the same thing you were doing before – and you’re probably paying another monthly fee to Microsoft to do it.
The box does not tickle my fancy, obviously, but what of the name? XBOX ONE – meh, I could care less – the names of these things do not matter to me in the least. You could call it the “X-Box dingleberry in your teeth” and if it was a cool piece of kit, I’d still buy the thing and hook it up to my television. So people complaining about the name sound just a mite silly to me, but to each their own.
What really bugs me about this whole console reveal was the tenor and the content (or lack thereof) which was actually presented.
For fuck sakes, the thing was two hours long and they never showed any actual gameplay for any games. They showed a lot of pre-rendered bullshit for a few games that I wouldn’t give a shit about anyway. Please, spare me your indignation; I’m aware E3 is close by and they’ll show games then – but the fact of the matter is they continually said they were about to show “gameplay” and never did. They could have shown a damn montage of quick cuts and it would have been adequate enough – to show something, anything at all that was actual gameplay would have been great since they were, you know, unveiling a fucking video game console.
It’s absurd. I get that they want people to think it’s a cable box that you can watch Football on while you Skype with your fraternity brothers, but these sort of online streaming specialty events are not watched by those people. It goes a long way to illustrate how out of touch Microsoft is with their overall market. Yes, sports, military shooters and television are very popular to a certain subset of your customers – but those are not the customers tuning in during a weekday to watch this event. Gamers are, nerds are, internet people are. More often than not, these are two totally different groups.
If you did miss the conference, here is a handy recap making the rounds on Youtube:
Yep, funny stuff… if it weren’t actually a good recap.
So what though – they talked a lot about television and sports… what’s so awful about that, even if you don’t like those things you have to admit the technology delivering those things to you is interesting.
No, no it is not. PCs have been doing all of this for years, and if you now count smart televisions, Roku and other set-top cable boxes (my Google Fiber box has apps built in too) as contenders for the media hub of the living room (and you well should) then pretty much everyone under the sun that makes a box which connects to your television has been doing this all for a while now.
Even if you don’t own a ‘smart tv’ – was pressing the input button on your remote really that fucking difficult to necessitate building that feature into the OS of a video game console?
I don’t know – I’m just at a loss for what Microsoft is thinking here; cable is a dying medium and sports are not as popular with the gaming majority as MS would like to think. The people who would buy the NFL package thing probably already subscribe to it – on their goddamned cable box! Wait – wait just a minute, I know what MS is thinking!
MONOPOLY. Yes, of course, MS is cuddling up to the most hated conglomerate companies in the entertainment industry (EA, Activision, and cable service providers) to further monopolize profits and features. Of course! They probably have some massive deal with Time Warner or AT&T or someone just waiting in the wings for a new cable package designed around the XBOX One. Gag me with a spoon.
I want this over evasive corporate glad-handing far away from my video game playing. Microsoft is going to charge a fee to play used games, they’re going to require a once-a-day drm verification, there is even a fucking patent for the new Kinect revolving around “visual DRM” detecting the “license holder” while trying to view a movie – making sure they are in the room and to count how many other viewers are in the room. Sure, not all patents are used, but again, look who they’re cozying up with at the goddamn console reveal; the kings of draconian DRM policy! AND there is still the whole cable provider angle to all of this yet to be fully revealed. It makes my fucking head spin. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
The fact that they keep attempting to “clear up” these points and yet have not confirmed a goddamn thing to refute these claims is quite telling.
The Kinect is required for the system to function and is ‘always on’, so add to that the fact that they’ve already discussed their love of visual feedback marketing and you have one big scary fucking spy-box in your room brought to you by the sort of companies I already refuse to buy products from when I’m conscious of the fact they’re involved. Once this precedent is set it all becomes background noise and they’re allowed to invade your home 24-7. It really is disgusting.
There’s the tin-foil hat rant – sure you may say its alarmist and daft of me to get so worked up over this sort of thing, but the bottom line is this has no place in my video game system. I want to play games – so what about that MS, what have you got?
No, other than COLLADOODY – I don’t give a flying fart about scattering fish.
Oh right, 15 exclusives… how many will be Kinect minigame shit-fests? How many will be a floating gun shooting people and how many will involve angry white men killing things?
I hope Microsoft reveals something at E3 that’s even remotely innovative or unique, because if they don’t then I have absolutely no desire to hear another peep out of an Xbox ever again.
Microsoft went for a do-all entertainment television box and to that end made it an underpowered (compared to its direct competition, the PS4) video game box. As if that was what’s secondary to them almost…
I mean, for fuck sakes, Sony has been going out of their way to treat the developers of GAMES as the kings of the next generation. Crazy, no? They let developers help design the architecture of the PS4, they have opened their doors to indie devs like no other company and they are actively creating first party titles that do not necessarily involve angry white men shooting people. Microsoft had EA at their conference; Sony let Jonathan Blow get up on stage and talk! This guy made one of the most beautiful games of this last generation and he’s not exactly a blockbuster name, yet Sony respected him enough to give him time to get up on stage while the world was watching and talk about his new indie game.
That speaks volumes to me.
Call me crazy, but I want to buy a game console from a company that seems to be putting the development of good games first and foremost in their marketing strategy. You give us a powerful system with the developers to support it – and you treat them with respect – and you’ve already won this war. For Sony to continually take chances on odd little games and give them equal footing with the big AAA titles is a huge step towards what the video game industry is in dire need of. They seem to have only continued to focus on and improve this ideology over the last few years, so let’s hope going into the PS4 they stay true to their word.
Also, let’s hope for a WiiU price drop so I can finally convince myself to buy one. I really need my first party Nintendo games.
Further reading: Know Your Enemy – The Xbox One and Your Dwindling Consumer Rights