Xbox One U-Turn proves consumer is king, but at what cost?

Varun Mathure
xbox 300x225 Xbox One U Turn proves consumer is king, but at what cost?

(Getty Images)

Microsoft announced on Wednesday night that it will go back on its decision to make Xbox One a primarily online device, and restored game ownership to the joy of gamers around the world. But, does this U-turn have any downsides?

Ever since the next-gen of consoles was confirmed, gamers all around were eager to see what Microsoft and Sony would come up with. But there was also a growing fear in gamers that both companies might target the used games market.

Early indications were that both Sony and Microsoft would attempt to curtail the trading of games with DRM systems that would require authentication. And while the Japanese company slowly moved away from this route, Microsoft stood its ground and instead chose to highlight the benefits of such a system.

Their approach was clear from the launch day of Xbox One as they chose to focus on the console’s other capabilities more than its games. Microsoft envisaged the Xbox One to be the be all and end all of your living room needs, also the reason why they chose to call it ‘One’. This raised some genuine questions for users about where the company was headed with its next-gen plans.

E3 saw them debut their gaming line-up with a host of first-party exclusives, as well as a reaffirmation of their commitment to change the way game ownership worked. The internet backlash to these plans for the past month had been immense, with every single gaming site filled with comments and complaints regarding these anti-consumer policies.

Now, they have finally reneged on their decision and decided to revert back to the current-gen way of disc ownership and sharing. Microsoft stated that trade-ins would work as they do now, as well as the elimination of the 24-hour online check-in required to continue playing games. Make no mistake, this is a pivotal moment for the internet community and the consumer.

Early reports had already suggested that pre-orders for the Xbox One were lagging far behind those for the PS4 as gamers decided to speak out not just on the internet, but also with their wallets. Today, there is general celebration around the gaming community about Microsoft’s reversal but it leaves one to wonder whether it is also a step back for gamers.

As things stand, next-gen consoles are going to much like this generation of consoles with graphical enhancements and a few more interactive functions (most notably instant video-recording during gameplay and sharing of it). Microsoft’s approach to the whole issue by targeting the customers was incorrect, but their vision of a constant online world in practice could have been true next-gen.

The idea of having just one device for all your living room needs is actually quite cool. I like the idea of being able to follow a football match on the side, while gaming in a screen-in-screen format. The compulsory purchase of Kinect is also something that can be understood given Microsoft’s ambitions of making the Xbox One a family device and eating into Wii’s market.

The one thing that Microsoft’s previous policy on used games would have allowed is the ability to share games without the need to exchange discs. While, this does not allow customers to share as they’d do normally, but for casual gamers this could have been a boon as you could easily play a game that was bought by a close friend or family member who was residing in another city or country.

Another issue on which Microsoft seems to have missed the boat, and by that virtue gamers as well, is the true power of an online device. We live in a world where it is reasonable to assume that most people (in the main target market of these consoles) have access to a reasonably fast internet connection at home.

The unlimited data internet is also much the norm these days, and such kind of connectivity could have been used to push game development in a much more personalized way. RPGs could have become true to the sense of the word, with ever-evolving scenarios dependent on your actions – by simply downloading relevant sections.

However, the backlash to this sort of connectivity will deter publishers from making that leap into truly next-generation games. For now consumers will be have to be content with more of the same, just with much better graphics and the ability to share videos. Well, if that is what they want, that is what they will get because finally consumer is king.

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