Will Xbox Be a Lonely One?
Board: Microsoft Corp.
The reaction to the Xbox One has been swift, harsh and totally justified in my opinion. It's a device that prioritizes the needs and demands of content publishers over and above those of consumers. The response from consumers, including Xbox 360 owners and gaming enthusiasts is a vigorous thumbs down. I think people under estimate how fickle purchasers of these products are and how little loyalty there is to any given brand.
Nintendo and Sony were both badly burned in previous generations for assuming that they could sell anything to gamers on the strength of brand alone. Certainly, Microsoft is not a brand that commands loyalty anyway.
Personally, I have no intention of replacing my Xbox 360 with a One. If I do end up getting any next generation console it will be a PS4. The reasons are simple.
Sony doesn't lock applications behind a paywall. If you want to use Netflix or browse the web or use Facebook on your Xbox, you need to pay for Live Gold. Not so on the PlayStation. PlayStation 4 will demand that users pay a subscription for multiplayer online gaming, but if the goal is for the console to be an increasingly app-centric multimedia device capable of supplying all sorts of content to users, Microsoft is going about it the wrong way. With so many other means to access this same third party content, it's ridiculous to lock it up behind a subscription.
Moreover, in a similar vein, Sony doesn't purposely damage content from competing producers to comparatively "enrich" its own offerings. Again, using the example of Netflix, Microsoft purposely forbids the Xbox 360 (what happens with the One remains to be seen) Netflix application from delivering 1080p high definition content. It's artificially limited to 720p. No other platform does this. Not even Apple TV does this. There's no technical limitation or any other reason beyond anti-competitive protectionist behavior.
It takes some serious gaul for Microsoft to impose artificial limitations on competitors that damage competing offerings, and then further charge users for access to those offerings when nobody else does. And all of that on top of requiring constant connectivity in the case of the Xbox One. You must be connected to the Internet service you pay for, and you must pay for this console, and you must pay to use basically anything on it. Seems like plenty of people are sour on that concept.
Another reason is that Sony is protecting content and device ownership and licensing as it is traditionally defined. If you have a game on a disc, it will play forever. That disc is your license and full, indefinite length, transferable entitlement to the content. Not so on the Xbox One, which commandeers consumer rights for Microsoft and game publishers. The way in which users can use individual games will be subject to the whims of individual publishers. Access to content that the user physically possesses in the form of a disc can be arbitrarily forbidden if the Xbox cannot connect to the Internet. Users must virtually "friend" someone for 30 days prior to giving them a game. What a bunch of nonsense.
Additionally, the Xbox One artificially enforces the purchase and use of a superfluous accessory. The Xbox One will not work without a Kinect sensor. If you don't want it, which is a perfectly legitimate desire since the sensor is substantially useless beyond navigating through the Xbox's menus and a few derivative game genres, that's too bad. You must buy it and it must always be connected or the console just doesn't work. That's over and above the "spying" concerns, which I think are a hot-button topic at the moment but ultimately inconsequential. The real consequence is a $100 price difference for something that has failed to live up to expectations and has proven to add little value.
Finally, there's a real concern that Microsoft will sundown the service behind the Xbox One some time after the launch of the next console thereafter just like it did with the original Xbox. Unless something changes somewhere down the line, the difference this time is that without all of the cloud service backing the One the device is 100% useless. It doesn't matter that you have the game discs with you and that you had previously jumped through all the hoops Microsoft set up to make life more difficult. When they decide it's the end, then the whole thing stops working. The One is entirely dependent on contacting the cloud services. No playing your classic games and no keeping your classic console... Unless you want a hideous plastic brick.
The One all but forbids rentals, but it is in fact all about rentals. You rent the device from Microsoft when you buy it, you rent the games from publishers when you buy them and you pay a subscription fee on top of it all to access your rentals.
The bottom line is that the Play Station is just as powerful, will have substantially the same game library with an approximate wash in exclusive content, allows you to to access the same third party online properties but without a fee, is an equally competent media device and costs less on top of it all. The only difference is the TV cable box overlay, which I doubt will sell a lot of devices.
I think that the Xbox One launch was badly bungled. A lot of people are jilted by Microsoft's attempt to fundamentally change gaming and these people are the ones who're going to be selling the consoles at Best Buy and Game Stop or whatnot. The launch of the One turned out to be the best possible advertisement for PlayStation that Sony could have ever hoped for.
If Microsoft doesn't back down on some of the issues with the One, I expect that at least initial sales will be hampered by the bad press and poor customer sentiment towards the device. It may eventually gain steam but I don't think it will leave the gates at a sprint.