Xbox One Eighty

I love that play on words above, and a one eighty it truly has been. Like many, I am truly amazed that Microsoft backpedaled this much.

And maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t trust it. This is how I see it (and its hardly a unique perspective). Microsoft knew that, all things equal, they would sell a crap load of systems, pretty much no matter what. They would sell a crap load of games. They would make money. Because they’re Microsoft, becuase they have the Xbox (and Halo) and they’ve been successful so far.

So what they did, was take a gamble. They said, lets throw out a maximum profit plan. There would be no room for their customers to wiggle out of their grip if they wanted their Xbox games. The publishers would make more, Microsoft would make more, and most retailers would probably make more as well.

And then they prepare contingency plans. How else would they have been able to backpedal on all this? Sure, most of what they were they were talking about was software, but it was built on this whole infrastructure. Either it won’t work as advertised, or they were prepared and already had a switch to flip.

I think they tried to pull some shit on consumers, knowing full well they might not get away with it. The rewards were just too much for them. But they already had a contingency to allow them to fall back.

This is not admirable. Saying your sorry after you get caught does not redeem you. There are plenty saying Microsoft will just try this again once they sell a bajillion consoles. I don’t necessarily think that’ll happen, at least not like this, but it certainly makes me wary. And it will certainly influence my buying behavior as a result.

Just to be clear on this, if they want to sell direct download games, great. I wouldn’t ever expect to sell that, because there is nothing to sell. I don’t expect to sell my iTunes songs, I don’t expect to sell my Steam games, I don’t expect to sell my ebooks, and I won’t expect to sell my digital games downloaded that way.

I’m also just going to throw this out there. You know what would be great? The ability to rent a digital game! Maybe not the whole thing, maybe just buying it in bite sized chunks, I don’t know, but I want to be able to try a game out. Is this asking too much? Does no one think they could sell the first third of a game for fifteen bucks and not make more money on impulse buys and upselling when the gamer buys the rest of the game? Or are they so afraid a gamer will realize it’s a shitty game and not follow up?

How To Share a PS4 Game

Sony has a new video showing how to share a PS4 game.

This pretty much sums up their attitude when it comes to next gen as well. I’ll be the first to say the PS4 can be a pain in the ass to use, but I think Sony has learned their lesson. I’m sure they’ll come along and released something as bad as Xbox One, but at the moment they are definitely giving a better showing.

Parallells Between Video Games Industry and Publishing Industry

Gamepolitics published Microsoft’s FAQ for the Xbox One today, and it’s really interesting to see some familiar ideologies.  Ones I’ve been reading about in publishing. Namely, paranoia.

Basically, if you don’t connect to the internet every 24 hours, it won’t play games. Publishers will have the option to disable used games. They can also choose what retailers will be able to participate and whether or not a fee will be applied to the trade in. They will have the option to disable allowing your friends to borrow games. They will have the option to disable game rentals.

Now, it’s really too soon to tell, but if this is true, it reeks of a paranoia I would usually ascribe to Apple. They want to monitor every purchase you make and ensure they don’t lose one solitary sale.

And if it were were digital sales only, it wouldn’t be as big a deal. Computers have pretty much already moved to that point. Steam basically requires everything I listed above, and I buy from them regularly. I haven’t bought a physical copy of a PC game (that was made this decade) in over two years. But I’m not doing it that way to give them a solid. They won my business through convenience and making the price right.

So far, no game system has done that. You can go on Xbox Live or the Playstation store and see games that came out years ago for fifty and sixty bucks. You have a few sales, but it is nowhere near as apparent as what you find on Steam, Amazon, or Gamestop’s digital catalog. It takes up the limited space on the machine, takes forever to download and often times they don’t even have what I want.

I’m not coming at this from the angle that you should be able to resell anything. I think the ability to resell a digital only copy is pointless and would create a lot of chaos. With a used game (or book for that matter) sale, you are getting a lesser price for the risk of a used product. Scratches, dings, creases, wearing. A digital copy is the exact same thing as the final product in the same quality, and the only person who gets to sell that is the person who produces it.

What I am really more concerned is the hassle that will be associated with this. It’s a pain in the ass to use my PS3 sometimes. I have to download the new update, download the store update, download the game’s update, and rarely is this to add anything to my experience. It’s just making sure I didn’t pull one over on them.

This is the reason for piracy. It sounds as if Microsoft has convinced themselves they’ve built the perfect piracy blocker. But it also sounds pretty damn inconvenient. That drives people in one of two direction. Piracy, or they just don’t buy it. I’m not condoning piracy by any means, but if you fail to put your product on the market place, put stumbling blocks and wraparound lines to get it, treat the consumer as if they are a thief before they’ve even had a chance to be your consumer, and then act as if they should be happy to be getting this much, well, yeah, you pretty much deserve what you get.

Publishing is seeing a similar attitude in failing to keep up with the consumer. Major publishers price e books the exact same price as their paperback counterparts and the only convenient way to get a digital book is through one of their booksellers, primarily Amazon. I don’t buy from them because of price, I buy for them because I can do it in seconds. Barnes and Noble’s website is terrible and the Nook is just lackluster. So is their app.

What was truly disturbing to me was the talk of “disruption”. Ebooks, digital sales, and e-commerce were a disruption? Really? Really? For everyone else in the world it was an opportunity and a big one at that. Retailers with a physical product jumped on board. They aren’t beating Amazon, but they’re not treating them like Godzilla either. No more than they would any big competitor like Wal-Mart. Why couldn’t they, the people who have a product that is purely data, compete?

There is a desire for control that is scary in both these industries. Both industries have seen major collapses from bad business practices in the past. I know I’m an outsider, but I’d say I’m pretty well versed in the gaming industry. Publishing not as much, but when a global industry is controlled by five and a halfish companies, and they’re all acting like the ground is falling out from under them, well…what am I supposed to think?