Xbox One

10:50 AM

So the release announcement for the Xbox One was yesterday, and I've had some time to look at the release coverage, information, and commentary that's flying around the Internet at the moment, and digest that into some thoughts that i'll now excrete onto this blog.

Firstly, the elephant in the room for me was the way game licensing will now be handled on the new platform. I realize that details are contradictory, and even Microsoft seems to vaguely shuffling its feet on being 100% factual on this issue - now suggesting that the information released is a possible scenario, and not the final definitive argument.

I take serious issue with this licensing per gamer account model that they're shifting towards. Yes this will potentially kill the second-hand games market, and I'm sure its going to have ramifications for being able to take a game to a friends to play/loan, as well as renting games from third-party vendors.

I know that you can log into your account from a friends Xbox and probably play your game (after having to re-install it on your friends Xbox!), but given the misgivings out their about the need for an always-on Internet connection, I don't know how viable that is going to be. Not everybody has access to high-speed Internet still, and it's foolish to assume that one-size fits all. In Australia, it's still quite common even in the city to not be able to get DSL, and consequently there can be a hodge podge of satellite, mobile, wireless, and even dial-up still out there. A lot of those communication options are next to worthless for game playing, as the connection latency is far too high!

As to arguments that games should not be able to be sold secondhand as the product has not degraded over time, as the code is still the same, that's not entirely true. The physical delivery product - the game disc and case can get worn, the disc might be scratched, so it has suffered depreciation, but the game itself has less value over time, particularly multiplayer. An example of this is Call of Duty 1 - you bought it 2 years later second hand, Call of Duty 2 is available, and consequently no one is really playing 1 anymore, and there are no combatants on multiplayer. Therefore it doesn't have as much value as your not really going to be able to use it's full functionality.

I also believe that second hand has its place, as people will purchase games that they may not have otherwise. Games are very expensive to make, and I'm not begrudging the people that make the games any money (although we all know its primarily the publishers that make the big bucks! but that's an entirely different argument for another time), but they are also expensive to purchase, and I would definitely buy less games if they were all full price.

There has been times I have given a game a go because it was cheaper, and I wouldn't have bought it otherwise. At the end of the day, money is still being made, so its a case of do you want to make some money through sales of second hand games, or no money? Some games are also not worth full price because of quality issues, bugs, etc. Sometimes these games do see some money once they get cheaper.

I think what Microsoft appears to be trying to do is move towards a licensing model, but the way it appears its going to be implemented seems to punish the gamer. Currently if I purchase a game on disc, and I run it within my gamer profile, its just me, using a single license/instance of that game at that time. I can not play the game, and give the disc to someone else in my house who can play it on another Xbox, or another family member can play it on their profile, but it's still only using one license - one instance used at one time. But under this new model, they're now saying i'd have to purchase additional licenses to install an instance of the game against additional gamer profiles. I've still only got the one Xbox that can play one instance of the game at a time though?!

Given that I have a family license currently with 4 online gamer profiles, this could get expensive fast if all the kids want to play the same game!

There has been some talk comparing this model with the iTunes model, but if you'll pardon the pun, its a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Yes you do purchase material against an account, which gives that account license to use said material, but we're talking about games worth a few bucks, not games costing $80-100+ each.And it gets worse once you start adding in DLC's, and the new licensing. Unless they're planning on dropping the upfront cost of the game to something more reasonable, its going to get punitive pretty quick.

How much pain this is all going to cause is still to be determined  but I think Microsoft needs to tread carefully or it could seriously damage itself. If they set the licensing costs too high, I will guarantee it will hurt sales of the console and games. It already sounds like they're trying to distance themselves from it, and push the blame back at the publishers, with comments about "Not setting the pricing, that's up to publishers." It all comes down to what the consumer market can support, and people only have so much disposable income.

I guess it's a case of watch this space and see what officially comes out of Xbox closer to the release date.

Now to comment on the Xbox One itself. The under the hood technology is getting some nice upgrades which is great, but the black exterior box is pretty ho hum. Clearly they were intentionally trying to make it look like another set top box, in which case, congratulations mission accomplished. It's blocky and bland, and looks like it will be right at home with your DVD player, etc.

I'm not that fussed about the home entertainment aspects of it, as I've already heard that the TV portion of it is unlikely to be available outside of North America. I've already got an Apple TV which is fantastic as an entertainment hub, so I'm not going to replace that, but it has similar functionality and I can't use some of it because its US only. Annoying! It would be nice if Xbox (and other companies) made sure that they're devices started to provide the same level of functionality to all regions, especially since we pay more for the devices here than in the US!

I don't rent or buy movies on the XBox, because frankly, the system is too fiddly currently, and I don't like that you pay with Xbox points - show me the real world value please so I know what I'm paying for and exactly how much its costing me! I don't know if they've changed that yet or not, but I'd be interested to see. Still I probably won't use it unless they had some content i couldn't already access on iTunes.

Some of the features of the Kinect look useful, but I've had no great desire to purchase one or use it with the 360, and I think it's just a bit gimmicky. There hasn't really been any games for it that you absolutely have to have! So I'm not really that interested in it.

I'm glad they didn't change the controllers much. In my opinion, the controllers are one of the things they absolutely got right on the Xbox. It's one of the reasons why myself and others don't like playing the PS4, because the controllers on it are awful. The Xbox controllers are a delight to use, so if they've slightly improved that, but kept the same perfection to it, then that's a win!

I'll be keeping an eye on this from now on, and seeing what solidifies coming up to the release date later this year. I don't think I'll be rushing out and purchasing one from the go - I'll probably wait for the platform to mature a bit, iron out the bugs, address the things people hate about it (hopefully), and upgrade when the 360 finally shuffles off to the electronic afterlife.

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