I have tried my damndest to avoid talking about the Xbox One in any detail. Every article, editorial, blog post, and tweet is filled with that sort of typical trendy internet vitriol that usually leaves me annoyed. The sentiment that started the most recent wave of anti-Microsoft and anti-Xbox conversations is not without merit, but I do think it is mostly overblown. It also saddens me that it has nothing to do with my own larger issues with the next generation of console gaming. Despite agreeing that the Xbox One does focus too much on non-gamers, I do not believe Microsoft has gone far enough with the policies that have gotten them into so much trouble.
With the recent news that Microsoft has given into the chest thumping fury of a thousand angry gamers, my fears and worries are even more definite. I am a gamer that is tired of being tied down by an over-reliance on physical media. I am a gamer who understands the incredible benefits of connectivity, cloud computing, and yes ‘always-online DRM’. I am a gamer who was ecstatic to finally see a major player recognize that we buy licenses now, not discs with data on them, because it is about time we saw the products we buy for what they are. I am a gamer looking to embrace a future where consoles don’t feel outdated again a couple years after launch because they embrace evolution with the fervor of a creationist.
I won’t say that the original plans for the Xbox One were revolutionary. They weren’t. It was clear to me from the beginning that Microsoft wasn’t sure what they wanted to do or else they might have had a more cohesive media response than ‘I dunno, maybe?’. Yet they were still attempts to address fundamental issues in console gaming. Questions like ‘Who deserves to profit from second hand game sales?’, ‘How should sharing your games work in an almost entirely digital age?’, and ‘How can we better integrate our gaming experiences into the communal nature of being online?’
Instead, we’re getting more of the same. Gone will be easier sharing with friends and family without the need to hand over a disc. Speaking of discs, we still get to worry about them because despite being useless once you install the game, they are required one again as a physical shackle to make sure that if you are a thief, you are the old-school kind that steals rather than pirates. Maybe I am spoiled by my PC, but I get annoyed when switching between a few games means getting up, finding discs, switching discs, and putting them away. You can tell me that is a first world problem, but let’s see how many things you do during your day that you do not mind doing despite knowing they are completely arbitrary and utterly unnecessary.
Besides, discs are a liability. We’ve all had that one friend who never gives something back and, if by some chance he does give you back what he borrowed, it is in worse shape than it was before. I want to live in a disc-less world where sharing a game means clicking a button, not passing a disc around. I don’t mind having necessary checks and balances in place to do that either, even if that means a harmless internet-based check every day on a console that I will never take offline anyway.
I do understand the tangible benefits of a disc. It’s a real physical item that represents the hard earned money you spent. As a physical product, a game allows you to give away or trade in the game, where as the digital versions of games are still in a wild west state of total anarchy. However,I am a gamer who remembers the feeling of getting next to nothing back from trading a game in, only to see it put back on the shelf for almost the same price as a brand new game. We’re all so quick to keep lining the pockets of GameStop, but god forbid we take the time to recognize the amount of revenue lost to the hard working developers who make our favorite games and its effect on the overall market. I am not pro-corporations and I can’t stand big publishers like EA or Activision, but at least they make games I can enjoy, rather than just profit off my unfortunate addiction and need for the latest, greatest, newest titles.
I know the digital realm of gaming is in a great place now. II have experienced and loved OnLive and Dropbox and Twitch. I’ve seen the beauty of games that patch themselves without me having to open them first and that have Steam Workshop so the modding is simple and easy. I can envision a world where logging into a friend’s console for local multiplayer brings all of my saves, games, and settings with me. In other words, I want to see consoles embrace the future that is already here fully and with complete abandon, rather than cling to outdated notions and backward thinking.
I wasn’t going to buy a Xbox One before and I don’t intend to now either. Barring the ability to share licenses (which Steam is rumoured to have in the works), PC gaming is a perfect home for me. Still, each of the two major consoles have incredible gravitational pull and do help to shape the future of the industry at large. Their choices matter to all of us gamers, whether we like it or not. For instance, Xbox One’s approach to indie games and insistence on an expensive entry cost into its walled garden is a huge issue for me, and means that fresh start ups will have even fewer places to first make their name with a unique new game. In contrast, the brilliant integration of Kinect into the base unit may mean we finally see some real evolution in how we interact, are immersed in, and play games.
TLDR: it’s the age of the digital downloads, the internet, and cloud computing – let’s start living in it.