Somewhere in the midst of all the science and magic of the Xbox Reveal event last week, I came to the conclusion that Microsoft simply do not know what their consumers want, or more worryingly, do not care. After months of speculation and rumour, the Redmond-based company confirmed a lot of what was being suggested to be true. While none of this is quite in the realm of Sony’s ‘get-a-second-job-to-own-a-PS3’ arrogance, it does lend credence to the view that Microsoft do not believe the customer is always right (just always online).
One of the first things I had hoped for and expected at the reveal was an end to the restriction of online gameplay and services to gold Xbox LIVE members. However, Microsoft was silent on the issue, only saying that Gold membership would continue. This suggests they are happy to continue with an antiquated practice, despite all their competitors utilising free services. It still boggles my mind that in order to use Netflix on an Xbox 360, you need to pay not only the subscription to Netflix but also to Microsoft. I can’t think of another device where this is necessary.
While I am not a tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorist (and my soon-to-be constantly-connected Kinect 2.0 video stream will attest to this), I am perplexed as to why there may not be option to disconnect Microsoft’s camera tech from the Xbone. I understand that the camera will be able to see you enter its view and automatically log you into your account, but that should be an optional feature, not a requirement. The lack of choice is worrying.
Probably the most disturbing rumour prior to the launch was the always-online requirement. Microsoft was quick to confirm that this was not the case. However, in its place, we will be getting a DRM system that “phones home” every 24 hours. If this check fails, do all of your games stop working, even the offline ones? What happens if Microsoft’s servers go down? What happens if your broadband falters?
When detailing the specs for the Xbox One, a hard drive of 500GB was announced. While I was initially pleased with this, two facts got in the way: firstly, the drive is not swappable and secondly, every game has to be installed fully to the drive. While this may not seem too bad at first, as Microsoft mentioned that storage could be added via external hard drives, they failed to confirm that games could be installed to these drives. More worryingly, as the Xbone now uses Blu-Ray disks with up to 50GB of storage, what will the install limit be? How many games will you be able to install?
Finally, the much-maligned used games market came in for a bit of a battering. While I had suspected that a ‘game pass’ system would replace the ‘online pass’, the rumoured fees appear to be exorbitant. The merits and pitfalls of the used games market can be argued from both sides but one thing is clear – consumers are being given less choice in how they procure games and less choice is bad, m’kay?
Many of these concerns seem to have come about from Microsoft working hard to appease publishers. However, with so many anti-consumer decisions being made, the Xbox One will need a few aces up its sleeve to convince people to buy it – as all the cards they have shown so far are reasons not to.