Microsoft Earns More Consumer Faith In A Day Than It Did In A Year
Or: The Desolation of Smug
In one fell swoop yesterday, Microsoft almost completely turned the tables on the current console war and put themselves at a substantial advantage; they only had to sacrifice a lot of what they were working towards in order to achieve it.
In chess there’s a move called the Queen’s Sacrifice, in which the player will give up their most powerful piece on the board in order to achieve victory; ultimately, they risk a lot for a lot more. Sexist though the term might be in today’s world. Kinect has never really been Microsoft’s Queen, so to speak, but with the eternal chess battle that is the console war, the Xbox One has definitely been on the back foot pretty much from the moment it was announced. Sure it has some great features but it just hasn’t wowed audiences yet, no matter how many industry insiders there have been, going onto social networks and telling us there will be good things coming.
And then yesterday happened. We reported on one of the stories just this morning, but there are a few other things to also note. First and foremost is the fact that the Kinect is no longer a bundled requirement for Xbox One; as in, they’re not packaging them together anymore. The other announcement is that a lot of previously Gold-exclusive apps are now available to Free account users as well. Finally, Games with Gold has stepped up in a massive way. Let’s address each of these in turn, shall we?
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of Xbox’s statement is that the Kinect 2.0 will no longer be a forced purchase. From the very first announcement that the Xbox One would be bundled with Kinect 2.0 for $100 more than the PlayStation 4, people were unhappy. A lot of folks defended the move, myself included. I mean, Xbox are really proud of Kinect. It’s like their mentally challenged child. Why wouldn’t we want it to succeed.
Unfortunately, as much as we see that Microsoft spent a lot of money on R&D and really want to create a world where there are enough Kinects around to justify developers making games for it, all of the onus cannot simply be on Microsoft to force it down our throats; where are the developers to make the games that make us want to own a Kinect in the first place?
But the Kinect was definitely holding back the Xbox One. For one, it priced out a lot of people who were simply unwilling to drop that much on a console purchase. Another issue was that it just wasn’t being used as much as it should have, indicative of the fact that barely any games have come out that even utilised it; even games that released primarily on Xbox One and in a time when the Kinect was absolutely mandatory, barely took advantage of its capabilities.
Put quite simply, the Kinect was a handicap. Not the great and inventive ‘little bit extra’ that Microsoft was trying to sell it as. No matter how many people stood up to defend its capabilities. And no matter how much it has apparently improved from its previous incarnation. Now the Xbox One sells at a price that competes directly with the PlayStation 4, and suddenly we have something resembling a genuinely competitive market. All Xbox had to do was sacrifice the proprietary piece of hardware that it’s been trying to convince us with for years now.
Games with Gold
A few months ago, I took shots at Games with Gold and called it embarrassing because to be completely honest, it was disgusting to think that Xbox considered games the likes of Halo 3, Dead Island and Civilization Revolution to be rewarding to gamers who paid the exorbitant amount demanded for their Gold subscription. Some argued that you can’t complain about what you get for free, I argued that you’re still paying for the subscription, the bandwidth and possibly the hard drive space, we agreed to disagree. In the end it doesn’t matter anymore because finally, at long last, they’re giving us better games.
This month we are getting Dust: An Elysian Tail and Saints Row: The Third, and next month we’re getting Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Not bad, eh? That’s not even all of it. On Xbox One, Games with Gold in June will bring Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault, which given that it’s a brand new console with free games that released not too long ago, isn’t that bad either.
This is a massive improvement in my eyes and when I saw it, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s more like it.” Hopefully it keeps going in this direction in future.
Furthermore, along with the Games with Gold offers come new Gold-exclusive deals on the Xbox One, starting with launch titles Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome. Expect those for cheaper soon, assuming there’s anyone in the world who picked up an Xbox One without picking up Forza Motorsport 5 as well.
Improvement once again noted, Xbox.
Xbox LIVE Apps
Finally we come to Xbox LIVE Apps and these have been a contentious topic for ages now. So I want to stream Netflix or Hulu, or enjoy Xbox Music on my console. Why do I have to have a Gold subscription to enjoy these things? Why can’t I simply purchase my expensive console that boasts about being an all-in-one media centre, and simply enjoy these applications without having to spend any more money than I already have? I mean, I’m already paying for a Netflix subscription.
And this is why it makes so much sense that Xbox has gone and done this now. It always seemed silly, if I’m being honest. I’m glad they’ve come to their senses. Now an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription is actually what it always was: An option. Not a necessity.
Sorry, Early Adopters…
In February I addressed early adopters where I told them that they would have to be either brave, rich or stupid to purchase a new console within its first year of release. Assuming they weren’t already massive fans of a particular console and were going to purchase it anyway, of course. The immediate response, which you can read in the comments of that article I linked, was that I was being an idiot to expect any kind of drastic changes within the first year of the console’s release.
[insert massively smug face here]
It’s a face Jeremy Clarkson would be proud of. I do feel bad for the early adopters, though. They put their faith in the console and this news must come as a bit of a sad story to them. Still, I would at least take solace in the Games with Gold offerings and of course, the reduced need for Gold subscriptions. Plus those Gold deals. It’s not much but it is at least something.
Hopefully we’re that little bit closer to seeing this Holy Grail console that so many industry insiders have been hinting at for so long. I know I’m ready for it. After flicking a few switches, we know that Xbox is taking significant strides towards it, the question is, what about you?