The Xbox One Launch That Never Happened

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In December 2013 Microsoft’s Xbox One enjoyed one of the most successful video game device launches in the medium’s history. Releasing a record breaking amount of exclusive titles that put gamers on notice that Microsoft was making a commitment to the gamers. The Xbox One sold 3 million within its first month and a half on sale. The irony of this phenomenal achievement is that fact that 6 months prior to the consoles release Microsoft was hell bent on redefining their presence in the gaming landscape. Creating a revolutionary console with some questionable features, and others that were more innovative than the competition.  Gamers rebuked the console. Claiming that Microsoft wanted to destroy the gaming industry. Online DRM, lack of used games, weak hardware, forced Kinect, and hostility toward indie developers. All claims that have an interesting, and complex context that both are hyperbolic, as well as outright lies. Rather than defend it’s vision Microsoft took most of their ideas and features back. Launching a system that was much more streamlined in approach. Yet, if you go on-line, or speak to people who don’t know any better they will tell you that in fact that the console they purchased had all these renounced features. That my fair friends is how horrible marketing propaganda, and bad PR become your brand. The biggest ailment to Microsoft’s Xbox One issue for some gamers is perception. Not reality. This is the launch that never happened for the Xbox One.Xbox One-Two Minutes of Explosive Dead Rising 3 Action

 

Microsoft’s Xbox One launch represented a throwback to when manufactures had real ideas about what they wanted a product to be. Nintendo did it, Atari before them, Sega, and NEC with Turbografx 16. The vision for console manufactures was to present a console that could things another could not do. Pick a Sega console for instance, and you will find innovation that tried to push gaming forward. Just like the Xbox One Sega failed at times to discern why gamers should embrace their consoles. Nonetheless, for a manufacture to be in the console business innovate or die was the mantra. Ask the 3DO and Atari Jaguar. It’s a pedigree that once we got to format wars such as the PS2, and PS3 were left behind. Nintendo up until the Wii left their ambitious roots for more novel format sensitive consoles. When the Wii dropped it was a return to the daring that console manufacturers were known for.  Although aimed at a casual audience, the Wii was the true winner of last generation. Nintendo’s success forced both Microsoft, and Sony to jump on the motion control bandwagon. We true gamers still celebrate the Dreamcast because it was the most ahead of the curve and its time console to ever grace gaming. The first to offer on-line gaming, an extra screen control for playing and saving games. When Microsoft said that the Xbox One would have a powerful gaming camera in the form of Kinect, and that gamers had to be on-line without interruption they jarred gamers. In the case of Kinect a truly revolutionary device Microsoft never gave gamers a reason to care to champion the device. Yes, we love the potential. The issue? No game showed it’s promise. Constant on-line access was an issue because it was a mandatory idea which needed more flexibility for gamers to accept its adoption.

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Some of the features that Microsoft was proposing were based on what the entire ecosystem of publishers, developers, and retailers wanted in order to grow their business. Addressing the inherent problems that are industry is facing. High turnover of games, over saturation, barriers to entry, high gaming prices at retail, and rising development costs. Mobile gaming is built on the premise that people are always online with their phone. Connecting to gaming, and other content in a viral community. If you played games on the Xbox 360 it was one of the most successful consoles because players played on-line in huge numbers on the platform. The high level of engagement was literally the reason attach rates of software were huge on the Xbox 360 compared to competitors. Xbox live was a phenomena and growing the Xbox platform overall. Programs like Xbox Live Arcade, and Microsoft’s indie game program that allowed developers to make games, release them to willing buyers on the Xbox 360 was the first full fledged endeavor aimed at growing the independent gaming scene.  Sony had no such play for the PS3. In fact although PSN was free it was, and still is plagued by frequent stoppages in use, infrequent updates, and maintenance. PSN is a really good on line service, but Xbox Live stands above it. The fact that PSN exists is because of the popularity of playing online gaming is. Microsoft today would rather use Xbox Live participation as barometer of success than sales. In many cases they are ahead of the curve with other service oriented business who rather focus on analytics that let a brand know how are consumers interacting with their products, and services. That’s impact.

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When gamers rejected Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal announcements they were really saying no to developers and publishers. Many of whom wanted a more substantial way to gauge how many gamers were logged in every month, hour, minute, and second. At the same time stem the tide of losing money to the likes of Gamestop on used games. Which is a market that is over a $100 million dollars in annual profit. With no way to compensate developers because the transaction is consumer to retail market. Microsoft’s proposed lockout feature came across as anti gamer. This is where the PR talk was to early or should have been cultivated in the direction of developers and publishers. Alternatively Microsoft came up with a game share plan that had some used game sale component or trade option. Due to the backlash it never was heard from again.

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For the most part as much Microsoft’s Xbox One vision was transforming the way they wanted gamers to interact on an Xbox platform, they were also introducing some ideas that are sorely needed in gaming. The fact that most gamers play online with constant and consistent connections never made their 24 hour check in bad, it just removed the option of not playing off-line. Which is the bread and butter of gaming. The fact of the matter is that the console Microsoft proposed at an event was never the console that launched. Today though the features that Microsoft wanted to deliver to gamers are still what we need. Rather what is happening is an arms race in terms of hardware that does not solve the problem of software migration, better sharing, and more economical used games policies that work for the entire ecosystem of gaming.

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Microsoft was able to save their Xbox One launch, but not so much the negative feedback to their announcement. Which at end of the day is what many fake gamers, agenda websites posing as journalists want to make Microsoft pay for. Even though most of their audience has moved on, and Microsoft’s efforts in really turning the Xbox One into a feature rich console. Their preview program, constant updates, games with gold program, Xbox Live stability, broader indie developer help, and you see in comparison to the PS4 that Microsoft has really built out a stable platform. In truth PS4 is living off hype. With very few exclusives, and a reliance on third party developers. The PS4 is more of an Xbox 360 clone than a trailblazing console. The console is home to some significant game titles that do push the hardware, but there is no declarable 50% percent hardware advantage that it has over the Xbox One. If resolution is the bar than we’ve missed the point of power in a console war. This reality may also be the reason why there is more excitement for Microsoft’s Xbox future than there is with the direction the Playstation brand is heading.

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