Is the XBox One Fated to Fail?


Console wars are nothing new, they have existed as long as I can remember, even so far back as Super Nintendo vs Sega Genesis.  Over the years only two are considered as major super powers, commanding those armies that fuel this digital based battlefield are Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation.  With the age of online, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 began to set itself apart and grow devoted fans who eagerly awaited the next generation.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One in the coming months after the  Playstation 4's reveal, the path it has taken since then has been one plagued by scrutiny, skepticism, and uncertainty in the eyes of many gamers.  With not even a year under its belt, can we already assume that Microsoft's latest console is fated for failure?



  You Are an Xbox Fan, Why Write This?  

Through-and-through I am a Xbox fan.  I own an Xbox 360, I have an Xbox One, and I even plan on replacing my android phone with a Windows phone, but that is just the fan boy in me.  Though, I want people to be well informed what they are getting into when they buy an Xbox One and why currently I consider it to be a leap of faith.



  Skepticism from the Jump  



Many were eagerly anticipating the reveal for Microsoft's brand new console, including myself.  I remember I had jury duty that day and managed to get out early and setup everything with only minutes to spare before the press conference.  I sat in Xbox Live Party Chat with my good friend RaS, talking about the hype I felt surging through me.  However, the only thing I really got was disappointment after disappointment.

In contrast to the Playstation 4's press conference which revealed itself earlier in 2013 and seemed as though gaming was its core focus, Microsoft's Xbox One reveal dealt with mainly features for the Kinect and the TV integration; leading people to start calling the Xbox "Cable Box", obviously poking fun at this minute aspect no one really cared about.  Even the name itself was boring and disappointing, "Isn't Xbox One the very first Xbox that came out?  Y'know, just Xbox".  I was expecting the Xbox 720, Xbox Infinity, maybe even the Xbox Omega, all of which would have been better than the name they gave it.  In addition to this, even with Microsoft talking about a new Call of Duty (Who cares anymore?) and a few other games (Like Quantum Break and Forza 5), it seems most things were simply features of the Kinect 2.0.  All the good things that were announced, such as a better ergonomic controller, and how "cloud processing" could potentially enhance gaming for the future, no one really seemed to get past how it appears that the main focus happened to be everything but the one reason Xbox had been invented, GAMING.  

The Xbox 360 did turn into a multimedia platform at some point and time, integrating applications like Internet Explorer for web browsing; Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Crunchyroll for subscription video watching; Xbox music for audio and other applications for various uses, including a Dominos application to order pizza.  Something Microsoft needed to understand when unveiling the XBox One was that these little "extras" were merely icing on the cake.  Gamers cared a lot more about things like Games on Demand (With their deals), being able to preview game demos, and the integration of gamer based application like GameTrailers and Machinima.  Microsoft forgot that everyone who supported the Xbox to get up to this point were primarily gamers, and nobody but gamers were going to shell out $500 for a system (Why would you pay $500 to only watch Netflix and voice control cable when you could use a Roku 3 at $100?).  Neglecting the very base of your core audience will not help succeed in the long run.

Not to mention there were so many rumors going around about the Xbox One from supposedly "leaked" sources: Xbox One requires the Kinect at all times, Xbox One requires an always on connection, Xbox One is not going to let you share games with friends or buy used games, etc.  Gamers needed to have all of these fears set-aside so that nothing would hinder the growth of its campaign to seduce gamers to its next generation charm, and Microsoft did nothing but prompt more worriment.  In the following months it got nothing but worse, sparking truth to the fact that Microsoft's Xbox One had insane DRM policies, always on connectivity would brick your console if you did not "check-in" once every 24 hours, not to mention the Kinect had to be hooked up all the time, and all of this was mandatory.  Microsoft should have tried to quell all of these things in their press conference, yet they did not address anything on top of Sony having no problem playing off of their bad press; that and since it seems the Xbox One's main focus is NOT gaming, things were looking really bad, really fast.




  Xbox One Does a 180°  


The fall out from the Xbox One came in the form of many different thoughts concerning mainly its "Kinect to Function" and "Always On" policies.  Many people believe that the U.S. Government is watching its citizens, and it is especially prominent since Edward Snowden revealed that this is entirely true, and in addition to that there were reports that Microsoft was working with the U.S. Government to help collect information.  Privacy is very important to people, and with us losing more and more every year nobody wants to allow just anyone to peer inside of their homes and personal lives.  As far as the "Always On", nobody wanted that, even if most of us do primarily game online nowadays.  When Microsoft representative and President of Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick (The guy who revealed the Xbox One) said, "Fortunately we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360", people went wild (VIDEO HERE, the quote is at 1:50).  What happens if my internet goes out?  What happens if a veteran wants to play while deployed?  Many people hated this.

This horrible start already had the Xbox One behind the Playstation 4 in terms of how gamers across the world reacted to it.  You cannot play used games, you always require an online connection, you always need to have the Kinect hooked into the console, it costs $100 more than a Playstation 4 (People believed that the extra $100 came from the Kinect 2.0 which they did not want anyway, which only made matters worse).  What Xbox needed to do at this point was reverse the public's opinion on their latest endeavor...so it had to do something radical.

A week after E3 (Biggest video game exhibition in the world) was over, Don Mattrick made this statement as seen on the official Xbox Wire blog, saying that Xbox One does not require an internet connection; you can buy, sell, and play used games; and that the Xbox One does not boast regional restrictions.  Why would Microsoft revert on its "Revolutionary vision" only a week after E3?  Not to mention that Microsoft later announced that you do not even have to have the Kinect on or plugged in for the Xbox One to work; a startling contrast since they said before it had to be plugged in and there was no way around it.  Why the dramatic change?  A lot of people believe it was from pre-order sale figures displayed on Amazon.com and at Gamestop in regards to the Xbox One, some say it was because the blow back was so phenomenal that Microsoft could no longer ignore it.

In a sense, the turnabout on their policies did increase their standing but it also made it much worse for others.  By standing firm on their policies they might still attract people if the policies actually panned out when the console launched and the benefits were found to outweigh the bad (Such as being able to play your games from any Xbox One, share full games with up to 10 members of your family, give games to your friends and MORE).  Microsoft lost any possibility in this and visibly showed that they were shook by the response and was desperate to change customers minds, even at the expense of its own vision for its console and that maybe they were not so confident in their own product.  Many people mocked them, calling it the "Xbox 180" and proved they were right to be wary of the new gaming system.  

At this point, Microsoft is just looking bad no matter which way they attempt to go, guess first impressions are more impacting than we realize sometimes.




  New Microsoft CEO to Sell-Off Xbox Division?  



For those of you who do not know, Satya Nadella was appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft in February since former CEO Steve Ballmer stepped down.  However, with this comes the bad news that he is possibly selling off the Xbox Division (Along with Bing and Surface) due to very influential investors thinking that they are dead weight and holding the company back.  This is likely because the infrastructure of Microsoft is built around the production, selling, and leasing of its software (more-or-less).  With Nadella being the brains behind the Cloud Computing initiative at Microsoft and him wanting to speed the company up, of course hardware will not as important of a role and Xbox would be first to go.

A lot of people are speculating that Amazon are wanting to get into the gaming business (Amazon did acquire Double Helix Games recently, the company responsible for developing the new Strider by Capcom for Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3; along with the new Killer Instinct on the Xbox One), so they are likely to buy the Xbox if Nadella is keen on actually selling it off.  However, a lot of people also believe that Sony may buy it in order to merge Xbox and Playstation fans together, this may just cause a massive monopoly and give them undeniable control over the console gaming market.

However, this is nothing but speculation at the moment as he personally has not really said anything in regards to selling it off yet.  Xbox One did just launch and they did just buy the rights to Gears of War from Epic Games; it is feasible that they may hang onto it for a while to let customers know they did not buy a product in vein (As turning it over to anyone else could have random differing results).  Though, the fact that it could even happen, just this unsure feeling of Microsoft having faith in its own product is enough for the sensible consumer to turn scratch their heads and wonder exactly how much dedication will be placed into the longevity of the system.  How many resources would you expend on a product which you would deem a "failure"?  Not much, and that is never good.




  The Japanese Market and Other Regional Issues  


The Xbox One launched in only 13 countries across the world compared to the Playstation 4's 32, that is more than double the amount.  It seems they will be expanding in 2014 however, as a leaked list shows that Xbox One will be launching to their "Tier Two" countries, including that of China and Japan (Overall it is estimated to be over 25 additional countries).  This is good because Xbox needs to get a foot hold in Japan as soon as possible, also in China as they recently lifted their 14-year-old ban on video games.  More countries means more people to buy the Xbox One and support it, but it is also the same to its competitors and naturally the price range will impact this heavily (Cheaper is always better to some people).  There have been rumors of Microsoft looking into cheaper solutions for the Xbox One, including models that do not come with the Kinect 2.0 or the optical drive (Sony purposely left out the Playstation 4 Eye to shave $100 off the Playstation 4's price).

Making the Xbox relevant in territories other than "Tier One" countries is absolutely paramount, focus needs to be on perfectly their approach to different demographics and marketing the Xbox One appropriately to do well in each individual region.  Success in majority of the regions could convince Nadella that Xbox is worth salvaging and building rather than scrapping and selling it off to the highest bidder (If it comes down to that).

Even more than this, however, I feel like Microsoft particularly needs to be successful in Japan to really survive this generation; other regions will come later but I feel that garnering the support of the masses and game developers who dwell within the Land of the Rising Sun is vital (Not to mention I love my anime-style games and we do not get enough of them in United States, sadly).  I already talked about how Playstation 4 will probably become the choice system for fighting-game fans, you cannot argue that it is also the console choice for Japanese-style Role-Playing Games.  In fact, most Japanese people will want to support the home team, and Xbox 360 was completely irrelevant in Japan for the last few years (Which is why Playstation 4 has so many exclusives over there), it was so undermined by japanese gamers that stores stopped selling it.

Nintendo is the main reason we have a console gaming market here in America, successful launching of the Famicon (Nintendo Entertainment System) paved the way for today's modern consoles.  For a good while we only had Japanese consoles to play, the popular ones coming from Nintendo, Playstation, and Sega.  Microsoft snuck in with the original Xbox and shot to the forefront with the Xbox 360, but they failed to secure footing in the region that enabled us to even have console wars.  Despite just now (Some days ago) listing Xbox One on the Japanese' Amazon website, it should have been made a priority to launch alongside the U.S. countries and should have been considered a "Tier One" release.  A lot of the most creative games come from Japan, as well as some of the more popular niche genres; it would be a shame if we are unable to experience them this time around as well.




  Resolution Revelations  


You know, a lot of people were saying, "They really should have just called the system Xbox 720, haha"...that is not good.  As you can see from the comparison video above comparing the different versions of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, it shows the very real difference between this gen and last gen,  but the main highlight is the difference between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.  Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 both run the game at 720p resolution at 30 fps (Frames-Per-Second) while the Xbox One runs the game at 720p resolution at 60 fps compared to the Playstation 4's 1080p at 60 fps....this is not good, especially when there was a rumor going around that the Xbox One was going to be able to upscale 1080p to 4K resolution (Lol).

Looking at the trailer, Playstation 4 makes it feel like they have a massive gap in their graphical ability since the Xbox One version looks nearly identical to that of last gen's....and that is not something you want to see compared to its competitor's better resolution at a $100 cheaper price tag.  The problem is that the Xbox One runs at a native resolution of 720p and has the ability to upscale to 1080p (Think Forza 5, but even that was downgraded), though the Playstation 4's native resolution is 1080p, that is a big difference.  You see, even if Xbox One upscales to 1080p, it will not look good as a NATIVE resolution, this is pretty bad as Xbox 360 was graphically inferior to the Playstation 3 (Just look at Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).  Even if it is technically one resolution milestone up, the difference between 720p and 1080p is made painstakingly clear in that comparison video, undeniable differences between this gen and last gen.

I think every gamer can agree that gameplay before graphics is the golden rule, there are still many games of old that outdo today's games without the technology to make fancy 3D graphics and advance textures, but that is only acceptable because it was the very best it could do back then, not now.  Paying $500 for a system that cannot do what a $400 system does is terrible, gamers everywhere are going to be angry, especially when Titanfall, the current premiere title for the Xbox One...only runs at 720p (Though in the beta they got it up to 792p and it is possible to ship at 900p, that is still not 1080p).  Honestly, Microsoft should have thought things through when developing the Xbox One and made graphically capability a higher priority than TV and Cable integration.  When it comes between me being able to switch my TV at the drop of a hat or better graphics, I would simply say graphics.  If it came down to me being able to use my motion sensor, voice activated Kinect to swap between games and turn on my Xbox or better graphics....I am going to go with graphics again.  Like I said before, all of this extra stuff is just icing on the cake but you need to have a delicious base before you start adding the premium frosting or the whole thing just goes to hell.

Microsoft is going to have to figure out someway to get over its ESRAM issue, otherwise we will see one console cleanly winning, the Playstation 4.  I honestly have no idea why Microsoft did not decide on a clean overhaul of the Xbox One and really pushed it so that it could get the graphics everyone were so desperately hoping it had, even at a loss.  I find that they spent too much money on the wrong things and/or rushed the console due to Playstation 4 revealing itself earlier than it said it would.  All-in-all, this one issue could prove to be something Microsoft wished it had addressed earlier in development once developers began to show dismay.




  Desperately Clinging to Titanfall  

Titanfall Bundle pack; Xbox One, Titanfall, and 1 Month of Xbox Live Gold for $500.

There are many big hit games coming out that we know already; Batman: Arkham Knight, Destiny, The Division, Halo 5, even Watch Dogs, but all the rage right now is about Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall.  This is currently the MUST HAVE game for next gen, and it is only available for PC and Xbox One.  The allure of a next generation shooter that is so different from what we are use to is an idea a lot of people can get behind, and undoubtedly Microsoft is hoping that it has enough weight to sell consoles by itself.

You can tell Microsoft is really hoping that Titanfall will sell based on how they are offering the current bundle pack.  Normally when you buy an Xbox One you get the console, Kinect 2.0, and a chat headset; but in the Titanfall bundle they throw in the Titanfall game ($60), Chat Headset ($25), and one month of Xbox Live Gold (About $10), essentially giving you $95 worth of goodies for FREE.  They want everyone to be able to enjoy their current most anticipated game straight out of the box and give them one month to get hooked on it so they can buy a year of Gold; essentially forcing them to pay attention and hopefully delve into other games and becoming a lasting member.

Personally, I think this is not a bad idea at all, but it feels as though they are spitting in the face of early Xbox One adopters, "You waited to buy our console?  Here is a free game at no extra charge!  Ah, you bought our console on day one?  Hope you are reserving Titanfall to get $10 of credit for free!", it is not the same thing.  Like I said, it is great to pull in new buyers but you do not want to make loyal customers feel like fools for sticking it with you; however, you could say that people who adopt a console from day one are paying a "premium" Not to mention I just bought the $600 bundle which includes a 3-year warranty, two controllers, and a play-n-charge kit; however I feel as though they should have thrown in Titanfall since they are doing it with the new Xbox One's anyway.

In addition to some of the "Day One" owners feeling like they got screwed, this shows people that maybe the Xbox One is not living up to the expectations that they hoped so the only way to stay relevant is to place all bets on Titanfall...which is not a good look.  I honestly think they should have went with the custom Xbox One, a Titanfall Limited Edition Controller, Titanfall game, a headset, and a month of Xbox Live Gold for $600...or at least $550; that would have been reasonable but oh well, too late to really do anything about it now.




  What Microsoft Needs To Do  


What Microsoft needs to do in order to save the Xbox One early in this stage of the game is by dropping more exclusive games (Original I.P.'s and Franchise), find a way to make the Kinect marketable to average gamers to make the price-point relevant, and focusing on more game-oriented services to justify the price of Xbox Live compared to Playstation Plus.

Exclusives like Forza 5, Killer Instinct, and Titanfall; huge games that cause gamers to salivate need to be more in abundance.  While everyone may hate that Titanfall is not going to be at 1080p (Most likely), it runs at 0p on a Playstation 4 because it is non-existent (Though it is on PC and running at higher resolution, Microsoft should have not gave them the option of having it to further increase sales).  Incredible games that are only available for the Xbox One will prompt more people to buy the console because people do truly enjoy great games over graphics when it comes down to it, but if it is available in a better looking form, why not have it?  Eliminate 3rd party games as your main focus and build a base of strong exclusives and make them value Xbox One.

The next thing they will need to focus on is making the Kinect marketable to those who have no interest in it, this will make the extra $100 more practical.  Sure, I like turning on my system with my voice and simple commands, but that does not make me feel better about $100 for something I would not have bought otherwise (I never did buy a Kinect for the original Xbox).  Games with them as their main function does not help me either, since the only dancing game I really liked was Dance Dance Revolution, and even that had a physical controller.  Using games with voice interaction like Binary Domain will help, not to mention if they were to make something like a Fight Night where you actually box.  Even getting into the niche genre of Japanese Dating Sims and having something like a digital girlfriend (Or boyfriend for you ladies) who you can talk to and interact with would spark a lot of interest in some gamers.

Another thing is more game-oriented services.  While "Games with Gold" is still good because you get free games, it is nowhere near Playstation Plus' (Mainly because of the game selection, while that is a matter of opinion majority rule this in Playstation's favor).  Why not offer somethings for playing Xbox we will not get anywhere else?  Such as a gaming show that talks about e-sports and upcoming Xbox releases, or an e-sports tournament showcase..hell, why not have a Xbox Gold Channel and have a variety of different things?  Why not offer a free Xbox Live Arcade game or something after every 10,000 gamer score or something?  Just anything that makes them feel as though they are getting their money's worth for being a member, this will keep everyone happy.

Honestly, these are only small suggestions but even the smallest of things can be huge and sway the opinions of everyone involved.  Remember, more people considered the Xbox One after they reversed their DRM policies and their "Always On" Kinect stance, more people may consider it at a lower price point.



  Final Thoughts  



Not going to lie, I am a bit disheartened after doing this article because I just bought a brand new Xbox One, and it is painfully obvious that Microsoft has some ground to cover it if it is going to compete with the Playstation 4; Weaker resolution, lackluster Games with Gold, poor standing in Japan, and even doubtfulness from investors of Microsoft themselves.  Rushing because of the Playstation 4 reveal or ignoring the ESRAM issue mentioned by developers could have lead to critical flaws that are irreversible at this point and time by Microsoft.

I have faith that things will work out for the best because when there is a will, there is a way.  I absolutely loved the Xbox 360 because of all the good experiences I have had and all the wonderful people I have gotten to meet, I want that to continue on with the Xbox One...but it seems like that may not be the case in the future if things do not come together for Microsoft, at least, I hope so.

Comments

  1. lol you sound just as bad as the Sony fanboys in 2006.

    Allow me to go into full Comicbook Guy mode and point out a few things:

    1: Microsoft didn't "forget" the things that made the 360 so good for Core Gamers; they just didn't care. A multi-billion dollar company doesn't magically forget the meticulously planned business maneuvers of just a few years ago. Money = everything.

    2: They failed in Japan with better systems than Sony for two gens in a row. With a worse system, what do you think will happen? Hell, if Sony are struggling in Japan, MS has absolutely no chance. End of saga.

    3. Stop clinging to 360 memories. It wasn't the console that made things great, but the people you shared it with. Yeah, XBL was the best ever - I have memories myself. But MS F-ed up big time this gen, and they deserve to get stomped...not out of the industry, but back into position. After all, Sony is just as bad when arrogant.

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    Replies
    1. I list all my facts and reasonings, I have an Xbox One but that does not change the fact that they might be going down in this new generation.

      1. If Microsoft did not forget them, then why would they not add them so that people perceive the Xbox One as more positive than negative? Why would they make these updates MONTHS after the release of their new console that they've poured so many resources into? It just does not make any sense.

      2. That's perception at its finest. I think the Playstation 2 was better than the Xbox, however, I think the Xbox 360 was better than the Playstation 3 AT THE BEGINNING. Once Playstation introduced Playstation Plus it marked an "awareness" period for Xbox Live owners; especially since we were mostly paying that $60 extra for "Better" multiplayer and the "Party" chat system.

      3. I'm not going to say that Sony is not just as bad, but Microsft did mess up hugely by their policies at the very beginning, like I said.

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