Misplaced Priorities: A Console Unveiling Gone Wrong
May 21, 2013, the day Microsoft officially announced its participant in the coming generation of console gaming. The day the internet erupted in impotent rage over, what they perceived to be, a major slight to actual gamers. You see Microsoft did something so terrible on that day that gamers everywhere were up in arms—saying that it had already failed in the coming clash of the consoles. I mean, who would want to get excited over a console that introduced things like TV access and NFL/Madden features?
Microsoft did make a misstep that day. They made the mistake of thinking that gamers were far-sighted enough to care what the console would offer them. What hardcore gamers really wanted, that fateful morning, was E3. Gamers wanted to know what games they would be playing on the Xbox One for the first week it was out. Gamers didn't actually want to know about the console. Disregard the fact that the entire event was a console unveiling. Disregard the fact that Microsoft had announced that it would only be talking about the console’s applications that day—leaving the games for their E3 press conference. Gamers didn't care. Gamers today have no idea of scope. They don't understand the concept of delayed gratification. Microsoft, at their press conference, displayed a vision for the future. In this vision, a person could seamlessly transition from their gaming life into anything that they can currently do in their living room. The “all-in-one” experience was on full display at this much-maligned press conference, and gamers hated them for it.
I dare you, fellow gamers; I dare you to come up with a game that was displayed in previous console unveilings (7 years ago) that mattered to a console's lifespan. Do we even want to remember the mess that was Perfect Dark Zero? I dare you to even remember a game displayed at E3 three years ago that really, truly, matters—or maybe you can simply go back to continuing to play Call Of Duty. What truly mattered, what made people buy a console and stick to it, were all those things that people hated Microsoft for on May 21st. Xbox Live support, cross-media applications, and a marketplace to supplement your current gaming experiences. These features are what made the Xbox 360 great not the games that came out when the console launched. News flash people, the Xbox 360 is already used more for non-gaming purposes.
This is what Microsoft realizes—and what gamers failed to grasp. The Xbox One is the culmination of seven years of technological and social evolution in gaming. The games that came out that long ago don't even come close to resembling the present stock of games and there is no reason to think that games released this holiday season will be anything special compared to those released seven years from now. Microsoft sees that the Xbox 360 has become far more than a simple gaming console. The ability to watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Twitch, and to download music and movies—all while still having access to all of the games you know and love—is an integral part to our enjoyment of modern media. Think about the evolution of the phone in your pocket; ten years ago all it could do is make a phone call and now its a palm-sized laptop that most of us can't live without.
Towards that enjoyment, Microsoft is trying to enhance the capabilities for you to control your living room without forcing dozens of input devices onto you with the Kinect 2.0. A sentiment that I have heard far too many people say about the choice to highlight the Kinect 2.0’s functionality in dashboard navigation is, “I’m just fine doing that with my controller.” To that I say, so what? Since when is having the option of doing something different a bad thing? Microsoft isn't taking away your ability to use your controller to navigate from screen to screen, they are simply giving you the option of choosing your preferred method of navigation. Maybe you'll try out the new voice navigation and love it or maybe you’ll still hate it, but complaining about it is nothing more than criticism for criticism’s sake.
Another point of contention is the unwillingness by Microsoft to allow indie game developers to self-publish on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The internet is appalled by Microsoft’s big F-U to indie developers—or at least that is how the internet is framing the issue. Where did anyone get this idea from? Do we have so short a memory that we have already forgotten that, for the most part, this is the way the current Marketplace already functions? Yes, they allowed independent developers to self-publish on the Marketplace at one point, and it was nothing but a disaster
Has anyone complaining about this ever visit the indie section of the marketplace? For those that have never visited that bastion of horror let me sum it up for you: Self-publishing on a major console is a TERRIBLE thing (For reference, watch these videos here, here, and here). It sounds good in theory, but it allows so much horrible content to flood onto the console that it’s not even worth attempting to wade through the muck to find the truly good games. Even modern attempts at giving people access to the indie games they want is proving troublesome, just take a glance at the flawed Steam Greenlight—which is about to receive more oversight from Valve, bringing it closer to the Microsoft system of doing things than the internet would feel comfortable with admitting. Microsoft did an excellent job of marketing some of the truly great indie games that were present on the Xbox 360’s marketplace. Microsoft even hosted its annual “Summer of Arcade,” dedicated solely to promoting great indie projects during a time of year where gaming is always at a standstill. The Xbox One is learning from the mistakes of its predecessor by removing the pretense of giving indie devs preferential treatment to self-publish and restricting the flow of crap content that does nothing but waste space that could be occupied by truly deserving games. Microsoft’s restrictive policies could turn off some good devs and push them away, but Microsoft is prefers to do that than have a mess if everyone who deems themselves a game maker has access to the marketplace.
There are some legitimate complaints coming from the community, though. Microsoft did make a HUGE mistake in allowing so much confusion to foster around the potential always-online functionality of the console and restricting access to used games. Microsoft really needs to examine its marketing strategies for these events to not allow so many people to talk about these features when no one seems to actually know anything about them. One platform is getting a pass for this confusion, though, and it is something that gamers really should be holding accountable for its actions—the gaming press.
There is a rule that traditional news outlets prescribe to that gaming press opts to ignore. It’s a journalism basic and it would have gone a long way into both informing its audience to the situation and stemming the confusion of this entire mess. This journalism basic is simply to verify your sources. If you are given information then it needs to be verified from a credible source. The first time that fateful third-party developer answered a journalist’s question about used games and online functions that journalist should have gone straight to someone else to ask the same question. When you can’t confirm your story that is what you report— UNCONFIRMED. By refusing to get confirmation and rushing to be the first to publish, the gaming press is essentially lying to its audience. It is selling you information as fact, then it is publishing contradictions to old facts as new facts and blaming the company because the reporters aren't willing to do their proper due diligence.
My biggest takeaway from this entire series of events? The internet will complain about everything. The complaints being leveled against the Xbox One might be some of the most overblown issues that I have ever heard. Despite not showing much of anything at their console release, games are going to exist on the Xbox One. Most of those games are going to be the exact same games that are on the PS4, because that is what our gaming world is today—multi-platform blockbusters. Next time you watch a press conference think about what really matters on the subject at hand, because no one seemed willing to think about that this time.
Mike's opinions are his own and may not be the consensus of Galactic Gaming News and the Spiderduck Network as a whole.