As I make my preparations to begin studying computer science and game design, I have my finger on the pulse of the industry more than ever. It’s a healthy and steady beat, despite idiots who insist on Nintendo’s need to go third party in order to survive.
While Nintendo is to be both admired and criticized — sometimes in the same vein — for sticking to their ways, Microsoft is behaving like a presidential candidate in danger of losing a primary election. The Xbox One has gone from an Orwellian dream machine to a device that looks like it was hastily built while copying Sony’s PlayStation 4 notes before time ran out. The latest episode of backpedaling is better with Kinect, or in this case, without it, as Microsoft revealed that it does not actually need to be on for the system to function.
Anyone who had Kinect as their next choice, collect your winnings now.
I have tried over and over and over again to rationalize and explain what Microsoft wants and who they want to buy this apparently evolving all-encompassing device they refer to as an Xbox One. With the continuous changes in DRM policies, used game playing and the need for the damned Kinect in every game, it may very well become the Xbox Two by the time it sees release this November.
The only consistent thing coming from the house of Gates is the unlimited ammo code they have given to fanboys arguing on the internet. Every time someone at Microsoft so much as coughs or farts, thousands of comments pour in about their hatred for independent developers, their agenda against consumer rights and their alliance with the National Security Agency, Verizon and/or the leatherclad corpse of Adolf Hitler.
Incredibly, the Xbox One was revealed less than three months ago. At the time, I was still digesting the lack of any games that truly knocked me on my ass and squeezed my testicles while demanding I fork over the undetermined amount of dollars for such a box. The system looked like a small robot, watching every input I make into the controller and secretly judging my attempts at jumping, hurdling, waltzing or whatever the hell I would be doing while using the Kinect.
That was when the policy of an “always on” system was being enforced by Don Mattrick, the CEO whose facial expression always looked like a child who had forgotten his school lunch on the bus. He casually told those without regular and consistent internet connections to go buy an Xbox 360 instead. The shit-eating grin on every Sony employee’s face could have formed a collage of incredible resolution.
Since then, Mattrick has taken his puppy dog eyes and bulging microtransactions erection to a CEO position at Zynga, lover of all things social. While mobile users continue to shun responsibilities and relationships in favor of another fucking round of Candy Crush Saga, console gamers caused enough of an ugly ruckus that Microsoft rescinded their policies on just about every existing philosophy associated with all things Xbox. Mandatory check-ins online? No more. Used game restrictions? Nope, and thank you for shopping at Gamestop while you are at it.
In a world of spy drones, surveillance and privacy concerns, announcing the Kinect’s ability to track your retinal movements and direct advertising at a specific user was not incredibly popular. In a completely not-at-all surprising move, Microsoft did an about face and will not ask you to keep your Kinect, er, connected. This is seen by some as yet another victory for the consumer, but what you must remember is what the company originally planned to do.
You see, before Microsoft made the decision to not require things like digital rights, motion trackers and online security, they made the decision to require them. My redundancy aside, they made a conscious effort to keep your freedom as a consumer in check and regardless of how many people on the internet and other forms of media throw a fit, they are of the mentality that we need to be micromanaged as players.
Despite the resignation of Don Mattrick and the reversal of a few policies, this is still a company that keeps your active Netflix account behind a paid wall. Despite the reversal of their policies on patching Xbox Live Arcade games, independent developers have all but written off the platform as a viable place to sell their games. Despite their two free games a month for Gold members, PlayStation Plus. Too little, too late.
The late Steve Jobs once said that Bill Gates would be a much cooler guy if he dropped acid just once. As of late, Microsoft’s games division is starting to resemble Apple more than its own founder’s vision. Where Gates favored open development, Jobs wanted strict control and an emphasis on tight design. The Xbox One is not an Apple product, but with a $100 higher asking price than the PlayStation 4 and a user agreement that will likely rival that of every iTunes update, it is beginning to sound like something that could very well be called an iBox.
I am not at all a fan of Microsoft’s original ideas for keeping the Xbox One online, but I would have liked to see them at least stay consistent with their vision. I am already swarmed with tiny advertisements on my Xbox 360 that, for some reason, do not disappear even if I were to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold (spoiler: I’m not going to). I do not anticipate this changing with another generation of Microsoft consoles and there is no reason I should be led to believe it will by another frantic blog post in response to a Reddit post.
In short, Microsoft: just be Microsoft. We’ll make up our minds what to do with that.
Hitler in Corset: Holytaco