Reveal

Xbox One

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 02:21 AM | by

So Microsoft finally officially revealed their new console yesterday. Not Durango, not Xbox Infinity, but Xbox One as it turns out. I actually thought it was a pretty interesting presentation, and it has me excited about the new console. However I've also seen the general internet reaction to it, so I feel like the statements I'm about to make may be in the minority. But these are my thoughts on the X1.

The Console

Microsoft showed us all the hardware, very early on. Probably a counter to the still-not-present PS4. It looks nice. Whatever. It's a black box. Cool.

Television

There's no denying that a big part of the presentation talked about what the Xbox One does for television. A lot of people have their panties in a bunch over this. "Why should I care about TV, I buy a console for  the games!"

They felt like talking about the various TV/Movie watching features of the X1 somehow stole valuable presentation time from all the video game footage people would have otherwise seen. Like it's pointless that the console does that.

I think that's a really narrow angle to look at it from. It's a next generation console. Of fucking course it's going to have games, and they're going to look better than this generation's games. Has there ever been a new generation of consoles that did not A) improve the graphics of the games and B) have a library of games? I feel like the knowledge that the new Xbox would look better than the 360 falls into "no shit" territory. So why wouldn't they talk about something new the console brings to the table?

And personally, I'm on board with it. If it works with my cable service, and I have one less remote and one less input to swap between, bring it on. Swapping inputs doesn't bother me, I've been doing it forever. But the idea of not having to do it is nice. Yes, please let me switch between various things I want to do in my living room with a simple voice command. If its as responsive and fast as they say, it's pretty cool.

I suppose this feature is a problem for people outside of NA due to current lack of support, I don't know. It's not really my job to worry about what other people want/get from the console they buy. That someone else can't use this feature won't stop me from using it.

Do I need my video game console to do that stuff? Nah, of course not. Will I be happy it's there once I've got it? Probably, yeah. So cool.

Sports

I don't really care. I'm not going to sit and watch a game of football and mess around with my fantasy team. It doesn't apply to me. Still, the graphics on those sports games looked really promising, and it seemed like a bunch of neat features for people who are into that genre.

Halo TV Series

Don't care.

Quantum Break

Huh? I dunno. It looked very pretty.

Moar Call of Duty

Well this was inevitable. It's video gaming's biggest franchise, and once again Microsoft has secured early exclusivity to all of its DLC so it's a big deal for them to announce that.

I'm not a COD fanatic, but the game looked gorgeous. Perhaps I'll even play this one, who knows.

Where were all the games?!

Eh. Sony had a lot more eyecandy at their PS4 presentation, but half of it was tech demos. It was nice to look at, but at the same time they didn't show us any hardware. Or any UI/feature functionality. They promised a lot of really neat stuff, but couldn't show any of it working. People are acting like because Microsoft didn't show a ton of game trailers yesterday, the X1 won't have any games. Seriously?

E3 is in what, two weeks? It makes no sense for Microsoft to blow their load today, when they can get the press for the console reveal now, and then get all of the press next month when they unveil a ton of new games.

They promised 15 exclusive titles coming to the console, more than half of which are brand new IPs. Plus all of the games that developers are making for any system that can run them. Are people really freaking out because they didn't see them all today?

Backward Incompatible

Yeah, no backwards compatibility. That's fine. When the 360 came out, I had one Xbox game that I really, really still wanted to pick up and play with a friend every once in a while, and that was The Warriors. And it was never added to the backwards compatibility list. I got over it.

If the Xbox One rolls around, and there's still a 360 game I desperatrely need to play, well, nobody is forcing me to throw away my 360. I have my original Xbox for the same reason, and not once have I pulled it out of the closet. Backwards compatibility is nice, but lack of it is not a dealbreaker.

Always On

Again, whatever. My consoles are always connected anyway. I can see how this is an issue for people without a regular internet connection, but if that's the case, you simply don't buy the console. I mean, you wouldn't buy a cellphone if you lived in a city with absolutely no service. You just use landlines to make your phone calls. In this case the landlines are the Xbox 360 and PS3.

However, this is one of those areas of information where facts are pretty hard to come by. Microsoft didn't seem ready to fully announce the details concerning the console checking in via internet, so their message is all over the place. Take everything you read about this with a big grain of salt until Microsoft makes an official statement. Or until the console is out, because honestly all of this shit can change.

Used Games

Ugh. This where things get really messy. And the information about how exactly this works is even more convoluted. For real, take nothing about this as fact right now.

All games will be installed to your X1 console. The game you buy will come with a code that connects that game to your profile. If you give/sell your disc to someone else, all that gives them is the raw data to install the game. To play it, they'll need to purchase their own access code at full MSRP. This is an attempt to curb the used games industry, and it's a sore spot with a lot of gamers.

This topic is fodder for an entire article of its own (and has been), and I really don't want to rehash it here. I'm just going to address a couple of arguments.

"I'm allowed to sell the car I own. I should be able to sell the video game I own. It's my property."

When you sell a car, you get less money for it because its used. Its overall lifespan and value has decreased. The person buying your car is getting a less valuable product than you got when you bought the car brand new. It's got miles on it, maybe some dents and dings. There are unknown mechanical problems lurking under the hood that the new buyer may have to address.

There is a tangible value disparity between a brand new car, and a used car that accompanies the differences in price. However a video game that is used is exactly the same product as it was when it was new. The programming does not deteriorate. Bugs and crashes aren't going to suddenly pop up due to age. No matter how many times the game is resold, the used product remains identical to the new product.

If you walked into a car dealership and there was a brand new car sitting there for the same price as a used, beat up model of the same car, anyone in their right mind is going to take the new car for the used car price. And it's the same with used video games. Why would someone pay $60 for a game when they can get the exact same game for $40?

Except now your money is going to GameStop, not the people that made the game. 

Now you can say "But they already got their money from the original sale! Car companies don't get a cut every time someone sells a used car!" That's true. But somebody shopping for a used car is not in the market for a new car. A used car buyer is not "stealing" a potential new car sale. However a used game buyer is stealing a potential new game sale. So whereas the developer might have sold two games, they have now sold one, and GameStop has sold one. It's not about ownership or "its my property", it's about used games presenting a threat to new game sales.

And you can also say "But people who buy a used game will then go on to buy other games from that developer." Sure they will. I'm sure it happens. But mostly it doesn't. That's like the people who justify their pirating of games by saying "It's only to try it! I totally go and buy the game afterwards!" Right. Again, I'm certain that happens, but more often it doesn't.

People who buy used games buy used games. When faced with the same product for cheaper, they aren't going to buy new just to support a developer. They're going to buy in favor of their wallet.

Now, you can argue the morality of used games all you want, but the bottom line is that developers feel it takes money away from their business, and so they have every right to try and combat it. The most definitive thing you can do is simply not buy the console if it's a big deal to you, but let's be honest... you were clearly going to buy the games used if that's the case, so the developers won't know the difference. They weren't getting your money either way.

But again, this whole issue needs a lot of clarification from Microsoft. I don't really care which way they go with it, but the misinformation floating around is making the situation far worse. When this came out, people were upset that you apparently couldn't take a game to a friend's house due to the restrictions. Now it turns out that you absolutely can play a game at a friend's house, you just have to sign into your profile. No big deal. But people spent a few hours going batshit crazy about this.

This needs to be addressed before E3 in my opinion. Tomorrow would be nice. Letting cloudy facts run rampant is doing Microsoft no favors. Even if they just come out and say "Yeah, fuck your used games" so that people can just decide not to buy the console and get on with their lives.

Summary

Maybe I'm simply the type of consumer that the Xbox One was designed for. The features seem interesting, and none of them particularly conflict with my existing lifestyle or meta in any serious way. I'm always connected, and I don't buy used games. So I really have no complaints. Of course I'll buy one, it's my job. Same with the PS4. I'm looking forward to the new generation.

I sympathize with those for whom the various meta changes to the console landscape present a serious problem, either in function or philosophy. I am, however, certain that there will be other options for those people.

I'm also certain that, as usual, a lot of people will complain right up until the first exclusive drops that they just can't live without.

Or who knows, maybe Microsoft will cave and backpeddle on the bigger sticking points. There's still roughly half a year before these consoles hit store shelves, and a lot can change. I don't think it's worth so much anger until things are cast in concrete.

Further discussion

Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 02:47 AM | by

I've heard from a lot of people over the last day, and though I can't respond to every email, there are a couple more points I'd like to talk about.

The first of which being to remind you that I have no skin in this game. Who buys or doesn't buy a PS4 or X1 is of little consequence to me. The most I can do here is offer my personal opinion on things, from my viewpoint. And just because I'm not bothered by the X1's feature list doesn't mean I think the fact that you may be bothered by it is unreasonable. We just have to agree to disagree.

People tell me that buying used, discounted games is the only way they can afford to partake in the hobby on a restricted budget. I can sympathize with that... to a degree.

New games are priced down as time goes on. That's the nature of retail. When products are no longer the hot new thing, they go on sale, get priced down, etc. For example, I could buy a new copy of Halo 4 right now from Gamestop for $39.99. I just had to wait six months. A used copy of that game is listed for $37.99.

If the "used" option was not available, I doubt anyone is going to squabble over $2. There's no massive advantage to buying used in this situation.

Another example, Bioshock Infinite. Brand new, $39.99. Used, $37.99. And that game is only two months old. Again, if the used game market didn't exist, you'd pay exactly the same price. You just have to wait a couple of months for the price to drop.

A newer game, last month's Injustice, has not had its price drop yet. It's still listed at $59.99. The used copy (which you cannot buy from GameStop's website, likely due to limited stock) is  listed at $54.99.

In fact, the only place I could find a significant discount for a used game is by going back years. For instance, 2007's Halo 3. $19.99 new, $7.99 used. That's more than 50% in savings, and the only place I see saving significant money by buying used. On a game that's nearly six years old.

So then the other side of the package is the selling of used games, which people do to fund another game purchase. Ok, now I've seen what GameStop offers for used games, and it's laughable.

Here's an example. Right now, if you trade in two "eligible" games (read: released within the last month or two), you can get a brand new game for only $9.99 (plus tax on the full price of the game). They're essentially giving you $20 for each of the games that you just bought within the last month. They'll turn around and list them for $40 or $50, essentially doubling their investment. (If you bring in older games, you need like ten of them just to exchange for one new game, and I can't even wrap my head around how that's worth it.)

But here's what I'm thinking. If someone is tearing through two new games fast enough that they're selling them back during the period that they're actually worth anything, and struggles with money problems to do so... they're in the wrong hobby. No, no, I'm kidding. But seriously, perhaps there's a better solution developers/console manufacturers could offer. 

Perhaps Microsoft is already planning it. In the midst of their muddled, chaotic launch messaging, they did say you would be able to still buy/sell used games. They just didn't specify you'd be able to do so to GameStop. But that's okay, GameStop is bullshit anyway.

Let's speculate for a moment here. It will help if you begin thinking of the disc you receive when you buy a game as strictly a delivery system. What you're really purchasing is a license to access the content to your heart's content.

You bring the game home, register it your console profile, and play the days away. But then the day comes when you're bored of it. The way things function now, you bring it to GameStop, they give you $10 dollars for it. They sell it for $40 to some guy looking for that game, and the developer/publisher doesn't see a dime of that second sale.

But what if the transaction was handled proprietarily, within the console's domain. What if when you were done with the game, you place the license to it for sale on an Xbox Live auction house. You can set your own price (allowing supply and demand to work its magic) and upon sale, Microsoft takes a cut, similar to eBay. This cut can go where it's supposed to (Microsoft, the developers and publishers), and you get credit in Microsoft Points or whatever the fuck their new currency is going to be on your account.

Hell, maybe you can then even still take the disc to GameStop where they'll buy it for a buck or two (for those people who purchase a used license from the Xbox Auction House, but still want a physical copy of the disc on hand).

I don't know, I'm just spitballing here, and this is probably wishful thinking, but I'm trying to illustrate that perhaps there are solutions that can make everyone happy. And since right now we have more misinformation than we have solid facts, perhaps we can just wait and see what the console makers have planned before hitting Defcon 1 on the nerdrage meter.

These companies want your money. They're going to do what they can to get it. Settle down and give them a chance. You can still not buy the console come Christmas if they haven't changed your mind.