Microsoft's Xbox One reveal didn't exactly go well with the majority of gamers. Disappointments abounded as details of the new console were released. Given this very vocal backlash, is the Xbox One repeating history? A history that the Sega Saturn molded in the mid-1990's with its own subpar E3 reveal? Here are some things that may provide a comparison.
Its pretty obvious that everybody and their mother has already heard of the Xbox One after Microsoft unveiled it at their latest press conference. Even if you aren’t particularly the type of person that is constantly checking gaming news websites or blogs, you undoubtedly heard something about the next big Xbox console release. And that’s where a large majority of gamers were a week ago: pondering what new functions it would have, what new franchises it would unveil, how current franchises would evolve, and (most importantly) how this would affect gamers’ decisions on which console to pick for the next generation of gaming. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the other obvious thing that happened with Microsoft’s big reveal was that they seemingly shot themselves in the foot and ruined any kind of hype they had going into the next generation of gaming, all within the span of 2 hours. Amazing! This type of a travesty involving a big console reveal may sound familiar to those who have been around gaming since the mid-90s. A little console that could-have-been called the “Sega Saturn” had the unfortunate distinction of being involved with a similar situation which didn’t turn out too well for Sega’s 32 bit machine.
For those of you who weren’t into gaming when the Sega Saturn was around (or are too young to remember) here’s a quick rundown on why this machine failed. Besides the absolute bombshell that was the announcement at the first ever E3 in 1995 that took people by surprise and left many game developers unhappy and unwilling to develop for the Saturn (where Sega announced that the Saturn was actually ALREADY in stores, instead of the previous release date), the Saturn was continuously marred by bad business decisions. In a gaming world that was jumping all over the 3D bandwagon, the execs at Sega made the genius decision to RESTRICT the amount of 2D games released for the Saturn, instead demanding that developers make games showcasing the system’s “amazing” 3D capabilities. There was a problem with this approach however. First, the Saturn was an absolute 2D powerhouse which produced the best home conversions of 2D games in its generation. On the other hand its 3D capabilities left much to be desired, with many developers left too confused by the machine’s inner workings to produce adequate games using its 3D capabilities (something that even hampers efforts for a proper Sega Saturn emulator on PC today). So what we were left with was a machine that didn’t get some of the best 2D games of its generation (because they were never imported from Japan) but instead very few worthwhile 3D games, which you could just get the better version of on PS1 anyways. Needless to say these decisions ended up sending the Saturn to an early grave, with Sega scouring to fix their mistakes later on with their Sega Dreamcast. But will Microsoft feel the same effects this time with their Xbox One? The way it’s going so far, it appears that way.
So what happened? It seemed like everybody was making the next generation Xbox out to be the absolute favorite. What with Nintendo’s lack of an impressive technological leap with their Wii U, and Sony’s somewhat still shaky reputation with their Playstation 3 launch. The Xbox was supposed to be this huge show stealer, the one that both Nintendo and Sony (and anybody else thinking of getting into the console market) would look towards to see how they could possibly steal the show once again, the same way they had done so with their 360. Instead the Xbox One has become a textbook example of how to utterly alienate a large portion of the gaming demographic, and one that both Nintendo and Sony have hopefully learned from.
So you may be wondering: “Well, what part of the reveal was it that caused all this uproar?” I wish it were that simple. The truth is that there were a multitude of problems with the Xbox One’s reveal, one worse than the other. For starters was the name “Xbox One.” Now you may think that this is just something that could be set aside as just a nitpick on the part of unimpressed gaming fans. But the reality is that this creates an unneeded inconvenience that could have easily been avoided if the brains at Microsoft used just a little more imagination in naming their new machine. You see, Microsoft’s reasoning for this name is that the new Xbox will be the only thing you’ll need in your living room because it will be able to do everything we need it to. Fair enough. An all in ONE machine would give them a reason to tack on the “One” to the name. But here’s the problem: this is the THIRD version of the Xbox. First there was simply the “Xbox,” then that was followed up by the “Xbox 360” or simply the “360.” The problem actually originated here because with the release of the Xbox 360 some people started referring to it as simply the “Xbox,” making it hard to differentiate between which version they were referring to: the original “Xbox” or the “Xbox 360.” This was quickly fixed when the original started being referred to as either the “Original Xbox” or the “Xbox 1.” You can already tell where this is going. Now that we actually have an “Xbox One” it creates a rather confusing mess in trying to see what people are referring to when they say “Xbox One,” because they could be referring to either the original Xbox released in 2001 or the newest version released in 2013. As mentioned before, yes this is a rather small nuisance but its one that shows how little Microsoft was actually thinking about when their marketing team was working on this new machine. Sadly enough while this is something that can be overlooked by most gamers some things weren’t as easy to ignore.
One of the biggest complaints that has generated the most amount of controversy was the announcement by Microsoft on how it would handle its DRM. For those not in the know DRM stands for “digital rights management.” A simple Google can give you the major details of this rather controversial topic, but essentially this deals with how companies control who is able to use their digital content after the initial sale. And if you ever wanted to know how controversial this particular topic was then look no further then to the absolute madness that occurred in the gaming world when Microsoft announced some of their details for the Xbox One.
To start things off it was announced that Microsoft would set in place a way to charge a fee for any secondhand games that are played on the Xbox One. What this means is that if you wanted to play a game that you bought used from your local Game Stop, you would first have to pay a fee in order to play said game. Now, understandably I know why they would put such a practice in place. This is a simple way to ensure that the makers of those games still get some kind of profit even though you bought the game secondhand. The problem is that this fee has been rumored (If not already confirmed at the time of this writing) to be $50 dollars. Let that sink in… A game that you purchased used (lets say for about $30) would carry a fee of $50 bringing the grand total of your purchase to a whopping $80! For a USED game. Does that make sense to anybody? Of course not! At this point you would be better off purchasing the game brand new. And perhaps that’s what Microsoft wants. They want the gamer to be so disheartened to buying games secondhand that they would rather buy these games new. And you know what? I can actually stand behind their intention for that because it gives the money to the people that deserve it, which is the people who spent hours upon hours developing the game that you’re having fun playing. But the execution of such a practice was so horribly done that we’re now seeing the results of it. Worse still is what this could do to gamers. Not every gamer is made of money, and the reality is that most gamers rely on secondhand stores like Game Stop to get their games cheap. Not just because they don’t want to pay the full price, but because that’s the only choice they have. So when you force them to pay for something they absolutely can’t afford you’re basically telling them “too bad, you’re not playing the game.”
The other problem with Microsoft’s handling of their DRM is the way they’re approaching sharing media with multiple people. No longer will you simply be able to let your friend borrow your game for a few days until they beat the game and give it back. Oh no, Microsoft just had to make it even more unnecessarily complex! You see, now that you are required to download every game you own (did I forget to explain that part? Yeah it’s a dumb idea. Moving on…) it will now be harder for friends or family to play that same game on their own Xbox One. Rumors have been flying that the person borrowing the game will now need to either log onto their Xbox One using YOUR account information in order to play the game, OR they will have to pay the fee mentioned before (remember those $50?) because it will recognize the game as being secondhand. So again, this will just make gamers not even want to bother with all these unnecessary steps just to play a simple game.
Unfortunately its not even just games that are getting the proverbial shafting with the Xbox One. Now thanks to the new and improved Kinect (which is mandatory) your new Xbox One will recognize how many people are currently in the vicinity of your console. Apart from the obvious privacy issues that this thing has seemingly whipped up, this also creates a huge problem for watching movies. How you may ask? Because now if your Xbox One recognizes that there is a set number of people watching the movie being played it will charge you with yet ANOTHER fee. It’s similar in the way that university clubs and organizations are charged for showing a movie on campus. They pay for the right to show the movie to a large group of people. But why oh why is this necessary for a home console like the Xbox One??? What happens to large families who simply want to spend time together to watch a family movie? Will they be charged for doing something that every family does from time to time? Its just another way for Microsoft to get money and its simply sad if all these rumors end up being realized.
And here is where we are now. Just a bunch of information that has been tacked onto the Xbox One before it’s even been released. Unfortunately for Microsoft most of it has been negative and many gamers have already made their decision on which console they are going with for this upcoming generation of gaming (either the Wii U, the PS4, or stick with a PC or handheld). Regardless of whether some or all these rumors are true or not all this negative attention can’t be good for the new Xbox One. Maybe these decisions were made with good intentions by Microsoft, but Sega had good intentions with their Sega Saturn as well. And we saw what happened there. The sad truth is that when E3 rolls around Microsoft will be in absolute damage control mode. They NEED to be if Microsoft wants the Xbox One to be just as successful as the 360. They have to realize how their reveal has affected the minds of gamers the world over. If they don’t do something to bring back gamers to their new machine we could be seeing a repeat of the tragic death of the Sega Saturn in modern form. Could the Xbox One be dead on arrival?
What were you first impressions of the Xbox One Reveal? Will you be getting one?
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