Win/Lose – Commentary on the Xbox One policy change

XboxOne

Microsoft employees have gone on to say it after all the bad press regarding their next game console’s policies and I’ll say it myself, I think it comes down to people misunderstanding the policies where all the hate stems from.  People reacted about as warmly to that statement as one would expect; the statement was essentially misinterpreted as Microsoft calling consumers “stupid,”  that’s not really the case.  What they’re saying is people made immediate and biased assumptions about the system’s policies and this perpetuated ignorance and hatred for the system.  Paranoia and unwillingness to change have, ultimately, had a negative impact on the future of gaming.

Microsoft was all sorts of elusive when confirming anything regarding Xbox One’s used game/always on policies.  This wasn’t really a good move for the software giant, but understandable given the huge amount of backlash received after they made any confirmations.  With some things cleared up, Microsoft went on to show off some astounding games at this year’s E3–which I thought gave the system the upper hand.  Sony showed off some great games, too, but not a whole lot new, and not nearly the number of exclusives that Microsoft had.  To win E3, Sony went for the throat and proudly undercut the Xbox One’s price by $100 and proclaimed that there will be no used game restrictions or always on policy.  The audience erupted and immediately declared Sony the winner.

New-Xbox-One-ConsoleFrom there, the internet and her high-class citizens went on about damning the Xbox One and its restrictiveness.  The assumption that gamers wouldn’t be able to buy, sell, trade, or lend used games was a major misconception in destroying the Xbox One’s reputation.  The necessity to connect your system to the internet daily was another point counted against the system.  The rampant disregard to purpose behind those systems is what screwed us all in the end.

I made my decision to pre-order the Xbox One immediately after E3.  Why?  Primarily because of the games.  Beyond that?  I knew what Microsoft’s policies meant.  I highlight all of that wonderful stuff in my now outdated article on why I pre-ordered an Xbox One.  I liked the idea of a game being linked to my account so I can play it without a disc.  Why?  Because it meant that no matter where I was or whether or not I had the game disc with me, I could download the game on any Xbox One and enjoy the game I purchased.  The license granted to me from purchasing a game on Xbox One was good beyond the game disc, I had access to the game on Games on Demand and could continue enjoying the game even if I didn’t have access to the game disc.  Pretty wonderful idea, if you ask me.  I loved the family sharing plan.  The fact that I could grant access to my entire gaming library to 10 of my Xbox Live friends was awesome.  Rather than having to be local to lend games, I could give full access of my games to friends of mine out of state.  Borrowing and lending games would be better than ever before because it wasn’t grounded strictly in real-world media.

I’m still a traditionalist–I love physical media.  I’ve got a huge collection of games spanning 15 or so game consoles and they’re some of my most prized possessions.  Gaming is a huge part of me and that tangible media is an important part of that–I love to collect.  Having the option to enjoy owning and collecting the physical media while maintaining access to my games in the digital world is pretty awesome.  Being able to borrow and lend games online is pretty awesome.  The fact that our world is pretty much always online just makes me wonder, why on earth were we all afraid of the Xbox One?  The DRM?  The DRM incorporated in the Xbox One was simply to check to make sure that the game was attached to your account or you had legitimate borrowing access.  That’s not a bad thing and it is, in no way, restrictive to what you can do with your game.  Microsoft confirmed that used games and borrowing would continue without issue as they do now–the main difference is that third-party publishers would have the capability to earn money back on game resells if they so chose.

Xbox-One3With all of that, the gaming community still complained.  Harassing comments wherever they could be posted and ensuring Microsoft know that you’d much rather have the PS4 than the Xbox One because of its “less restrictive” approach to gaming.  Your dollars spoke and, Microsoft being a business, had to react.  Making money is pretty important for a corporation, so they have to make sure you’re willing to give it to them.  Microsoft retracted their online spot check and DRM policies for you, but also for them.  Why?  Because you hated everything the system promised, so they had to make it more like the system you wanted to prevent the investment from being a total loss.  Win.

I’m not trying to say any one system is better than the other.  I have no doubt that I will own a PS4 before too long, but what I saw of the Xbox One made it my platform of choice at launch.  It is frustrating, to me, that some of the reasons I chose the platform are being taken away from me.  I made an investment in the system and now I’m losing the functionality I was so looking forward to.  I’ll still have the games, sure, and that was, ultimately, the top reason I selected Xbox One as my Holiday 2013 launch system, but it is saddening that I’ll have to give up some of the system’s most promising features because of you.

The removal of these policies may seem like a big win for the gaming community, but we’ve really just put a halt on some groundbreaking features.  Digital borrowing/trading was a huge win for us, but we didn’t want that.  Switching games without switching discs was a huge win for us, but we didn’t want that.  Access to our entire gaming library no matter where we are was a huge win for us, but we didn’t want that.  It may have seemed like all these policies were put in place to restrict us, but they really promised a pretty bright future for gaming, but we didn’t want that.  The next gaming generation could have been a huge leap forward, but, after eight years, we only wanted a small step.  So, let’s celebrate because we won the battle.  So, why then, does it feel like we’ve lost?

Advertisements

Commentary: TRON

TRONLogo

I’m a huge fan of TRON.  The original film helped establish me in my geekdom.  I played and loved the no-longer-canon game TRON 2.0 and was excited to see more of the property.  I squealed with a childish enthusiasm when I saw the Comic-Con teaser for TR2N and was thrilled to hear that production on Legacy was moving forward after the huge reaction to that trailer.  I played TRON: Evolution, and loved it (if you need a reference, here’s my review–it’s on Examiner, so be warned).  I love TRON.

I started watching the animated series, TRON: Uprising, when it started airing, but ended up falling behind after the show went on hiatus.  I was thrilled, then, when I saw it pop up on Netflix–I had a good reason to start the show over and finally finish the first season.  While the next installment of the film franchise is moving forward (another point I’m thrilled about–especially since I’ve developed a huge appreciation for Kosinski’s style following Legacy and his most recent Oblivion), the future of the fantastic animated interquel (set between Evolution and Legacy) remains uncertain.  It’s kinda sad.

TRONUprisingUprising didn’t really reach a huge audience.  As far as American animations go, there’s really little else I can think of that can compare with Tron: Uprising in terms of style and story.  It’s filled with social and political commentaries that are intended for older audiences and is, at times, pretty dark.  It’s not inappropriate for children, but it’s a show that’s certainly geared toward more mature audiences with many of its finer points being easily lost on the young.  Maybe that’s the show’s problem?  It’s a Disney cartoon that feels nothing like a Disney cartoon.  Kids and people unfamiliar with the property might not take an interest in the show because it is a little more “grown up” than what they’re looking for in a cartoon.  Meanwhile, adults might feel compelled to avoid watching a Disney cartoon–especially one so serious.  It’s a fantastic show, but its downfall might be being an animated show carrying the Disney label.

I’m still a few episodes away from finishing the first season, so I don’t know how it ends, but I feel pretty certain that it leaves the viewer with multiple unanswered questions.  What happens to those questions if the show doesn’t move forward?  They could answer them in the next film, I suppose, but that would feel like a cheap and unsatisfactory solution for fans of the show.  There’s a lot of complexity in the show and with hours of buildup; finishing it off in a flashback of some kind would lessen the impact of the storytelling.

Going back to Evolution, if the show doesn’t continue past its first season, I could see it doing really well as a game–one that’s not tied down to a film’s release.  As I said in my review of Evolution, the game had the stigma of being a movie-licensed title.  While a game based on and continuing the story of Uprising would still have the branding, if it weren’t released around the time of the next film and were marketed as a standalone property, I think it would do a lot better.  There are several successful gaming properties based on existing IPs and film franchises; most notably would probably be Star WarsTRON as an IP, I feel, has what it takes to exist beyond one medium, and gaming is the perfect medium for the franchise to expand.

AbraxasPlaying Evolution, I really enjoyed the Prince of Persia inspired platforming and the combat was fluid, fast-paced, and fun.  I thought, though, that the world could use more fleshing out.  Tron City is a huge place just begging to be explored, but the game confines you to linear levels that restrict your exploration of the game’s world.  It’s still a beautiful game with some great level design, but it’s disappointing to not be able to really experience the world of the Grid.  If we were to get a game based on Uprising with a free-roaming Argon City similar to maybe the new Batman games or a BioWare game, that would be incredible.  I could really see a Mass Effect styled TRON game with PoP platforming and combat being an incredible experience.  Throw in some non-linear storytelling and you may well never hear from me again.

Its doubtful that Disney would do something like that, but I honestly don’t understand why we haven’t seen more TRON in games.  The world is set within a computer system with programs being participants in games.  It’s just begging to let players explore it in an interactive medium.  I’d love to see more of the Grid in a game and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

There’s really little point to this article beyond my wishful musings on a property I love.  The future of the property is in Disney’s hands, but it’d be nice if they’d listen to the fans and give us what we want; we’re the ones who have made the franchise the modest success that it’s become and we’re the ones the future successes of the franchise depends on.  Make the fans happy, and we’ll make you happy Disney.  Give us some more quality content.  Please?

 

For the Users.

Commentary: Xbox One Reveal

New-Xbox-One-ConsoleI’ve been trying to stay on top of things with the latest on Xbox One news, and it’s been difficult with certain life obligations getting in the way, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and I’ve seen a lot of opinions on Microsoft’s upcoming console.  Positive, negative, neutral.  Something that seems to be pretty uniform, though, is the disappointment about the reveal event.  “Where were the games?!”  Everyone is asking.  Well, Microsoft answered that question even before the event took place.  The games are at E3.  The May 21 reveal was supposed to be about the system itself; they were pretty clear on that from the beginning, and it’s pretty ignorant to complain about the lack of games when they were upfront about what the reveal event would cover.  We got an Xbox One reveal–the next generation of Microsoft gaming is within reach.  With the hardware reveal taken care of, now we can focus on games in two weeks at E3.

Now that I’v got that rant out of the way, what are my thoughts on the system?  Well, it’s hard to say.  I’m almost positive that I’m going to buy the Xbox One at launch, but will I have the same enthusiastic dedication to this new iteration as I did to past Xboxes?

I’m never shy about admitting my fanboyism.  I love the Xbox.  It has the games I want, the system’s interface is user-friendly and intuitive, the online community is excellent (and when it’s not it’s just a simple button press to forever silence someone), and it works the way I want it to.  I’m also not shy about being vocal about my disappointments with the system over the past several years.  We’ve been starved for new IPs and exclusives, and we’re drowning in Kinect shovelware.  It’s been a pretty rough twilight for the 360, but I’m still a loyal customer.

With the Xbox One, it’s a whole new story.  They’ve got an internet connection requirement for every 24 hours for the system to operate, is attempting to curb used game sales by requiring a fee for additional user accounts to access a game, has an extended focus on everything not games, and is downright ugly.  Some of these things I can live with, but can everybody else?  Are the risks Microsoft taking with the Xbox One going to pay off for them, or will this system’s life be cut short due to the restrictions they’re putting on their customers?

Xbox-One3

Most of what we’re coming to know about the Xbox One has been expected.  We’ve been hearing rumors about an “always-on” system that attempts to block used game sales, but we were all hoping that these rumors would turn out to be unfounded.  In our modern time, it’s almost a given that you’ve got an internet connection at home, so what’s the big deal about a system that requires a connection every 24 hours?  Well, what if you don’t?  I’m not really living in an ideal area for a decent internet connection.  I’m not exactly financially stable.  How can I be certain that I’ll have an internet connection for the system by the time it releases?  I can’t be.  I’m primarily a single-player gamer and the fact that I’ll need to have an internet connection to play the games I want to play seems like an unnecessary restriction to force upon gamers.

The additional fee does and doesn’t bother me.  I don’t buy used games.  I refuse to.  So, for me, this isn’t a big deal since I’m going to be paying full price anyway.  However, I do like borrowing and lending games.  From the sounds of things, if you’re not logged into a system, then your buddy isn’t going to be able to access your game.  This seems to rule out lending unless you’re going to lend yourself out, too.  This is ridiculous.  Microsoft said something about incorporating a trading system in the future which will allow gamers to trade their titles with friends over Live, but they said this is something their “working on” and, as such, it’s safe to assume the feature won’t be available at system launch.  It would be nice to have a “lend” feature if you do decide to let a friend borrow a game; a feature that disables the game on your account temporarily and activates it on your friend’s account thereby giving him or her access to the game you own.  Will it happen?  I don’t know.  If it did, would it be a completely unnecessary hurdle to jump to enjoy a buddy’s game without having to go out and buy it yourself?  Absolutely.

Those are the big negatives I have against the system so far.  And they’re pretty big.  While I might be able to live with them, how will the rest of the gaming world feel about them?  My guess is:  not very welcoming.  I’ve got the feeling that a lot of dedicated Xbox users will be migrating to Sony’s platform if it can promise gamers traditional console experiences without all of these ridiculous restrictions.

QuantumBreakSo, why, with all of that, would I still be willing to buy an Xbox One?  Because it’s still going to have the games I want, the service I love, and the controller I find to be the most comfortable (just so you know, I love the controller redesign; it looks sleek and comfy).  I’m dedicated to the universe of Halo, I’m looking forward to the next game from Remedy Entertainment because I’m a huge fan of their past creations, I’m dying to see what Crytek has in store with Ryse or if Rare will make a comeback as a AAA game developer (instead of a Kinect pusher working on Avatar clothes).  Microsoft promised 15 exclusives in the first year alone, and I’m excited to see what they have in store.  I love Xbox Live–it’s an amazing service that is constantly defining what I expect from an online community service.  The features they showed off with the fluid app switching and multitasking was impressive and something that I’m sure I’ll use liberally.  Sure, one can argue that the Xbox One is basically a controller-operated PC, but is that really a bad thing?  As long as RYSEthe flashy features don’t get in the way of what really matters–the games–then I’m okay with having an all-in-one box.  The convenience of it all is something worth having, just as long as I get my games, too.

I am questioning the decisions Microsoft has made with the Xbox One, and I’m certainly not pleased with all of them.  I’m not embracing the system with the enthusiasm I thought I would as a dedicated fanboy, but I’m still looking forward to having one.  The months ahead will really determine if the next Xbox will be my go-to entertainment system or if I’ll be using it sparingly for console exclusives as I migrate to Sony’s PS4.  Time will tell and as disappointing as some things seem right now, it’s too early to say for certain just how much of a con all of the restrictions are.  In the end, it really comes down to the games.  Which system will have the games I want to play?  With E3 just over two weeks away, it should be long to find out which system has the larger, more enticing lineup.