Opinion: Why the Potential Failure of Xbox One is Not a Cause for Schadenfreude
We're just over a week away from the Xbox One's launch, and the news just keeps going from bad to worse. We reported yesterday that two senior marketing executives have reportedly resigned from Xbox, showing no calm in the storm that's been going on for a while at Microsoft's headquarters.
With people still unconvinced by reassurances that Microsoft really have changed their tune regarding requiring regular connections to the internet, ways in which the Kinect will use marketing, and DRM policies, the Xbox One launch could be a real disaster.
But if everything does go bottoms up for the beleaguered console, it should not be a cause for celebration, and we should be poised to lament the potential decline of a brand that has become synonymous with console gaming, and has contributed a lot to the advancement of the industry.
Why We Love To Hate Xbox
Before anyone accuses me of not disclosing the fact that I'm a Sony fanboy, I'd like to point out that I've had no qualms about admitting to such in anything I've written for the magazine. Indeed, my rundown of Microsoft's reveal of the Xbox One's interface and features was less than reverend and complimentary, and I'm fully aware of that.
But the way I see it, the reason there's such a chasmic divide between the Xbox and PlayStation (PS) communities has always been driven by the communities themselves, not through any flaws in the respective systems or business strategies.
The Xbox and Xbox 360 have been the go-to for first person shooters (FPS) and multiplayer combat for a long time; the scope for doing both those things significantly out-did its rival. Therefore it has always attracted a macho and uncouth crowed, stereotypically known for shouting juvenile abuse at each other down their headsets.
The PS, PS2, and PS3, however, has always had more variety and what many would consider more narrative and cerebral games. This attracts a stereotypically more educated, emotionally stable, and pretentious crowd who are actually concerned about gaming's exploration as a medium of entertainment.
That's absolutely not to say that cross-over does not exist - it absolutely does. At points I'd daresay that there has even been envy of the other from both camps. But these are the established generalisations that the gaming community have concluded upon, providing much humour and discussion on this difference of attitude between the two.
Love the Player, Hate the Corporation
"Microsoft's behaviour has been nothing short of various attempts at shameless extortion...it's really hard to feel Schadenfreude over the fact that [the Xbox community is] getting shafted."
As the rivalry is based around what one thinks personally about the other, it's unreasonable to gloat at the raw deal Xbox players have gotten; it's not at all their doing. Microsoft suddenly turned into something incredibly nasty(er) in the run up to their contribution to eighth generation of gaming. All the policies and strategies they originally stated were going to benefit them, their investors, and big game studios, at the expense of the community that has flourished under their previous two consoles. Microsoft's behaviour has been nothing short of various attempts at shameless extortion, each time realising they pushed their luck much to far causing them to (supposedly) run back with their tails between their legs.
If the Xbox One is a joke, it's unrelated to the Xbox community, so it's really hard to feel Schadenfreude over the fact that they're getting shafted. The situation is absolutely unfair and a huge betrayal to those who have invested and supported Xbox and Microsoft for over 10 years. If Sony had done that to PS users, it would be just as huge a travesty.
Love the Console, Hate the Corporation
Personal rivalries aside, you also have to feel sorry for the hardware. It's a brilliant machine. Yes, the PS4 is technically the more advanced console, but it's by a margin. I'd wager that most people probably won't notice a difference unless they're technology buffs or particularly pernickety. I've played the Xbox One at Eurogamer Expo 2013 and, even if I think the PS4 is the better machine, I'll still admit to being bowled over by Microsoft's efforts. It's a shame that hideously bad business strategy is going to mar the machine, especially as so much of Microsoft's avarice has been poured into components like the Kinect, which is an otherwise powerful piece of kit.
What Have The Romans Has The Xbox Ever Done for Us?
Even if you have played on a PS for your entire life, you can't deny the impact that the Xbox and its games have had on gaming. The Microsoft vs. Sony rivalry has been one of few examples of where competition and free market have actually benefited its consumers. In trying to better each other, we have had a gaggle of excellent games, four stunning machines, and are now on the third head to head.
Furthermore, Halo, a series that has been the flagship for the Xbox, has also helped advance the standard of video games as a whole. It was one of the first FPS to inject an extensive narrative drive across the series, to the point of doing the unthinkable with Halo: Reach - having players knowingly work towards failure and a doomed ending. In a genre that has always saturated its audience with bravado and victory, this was ground-breaking. Now, it's difficult to find an FPS that has not given weight and importance to creating an involving story as much as inventive combat.
It has also emphasised the importance music plays in video games, with composer Martin O'Donnell being propelled to celebrity status through his astonishing contribution to the franchise. Now there is an academic community and professional interest in music across video games as a whole, culminating in Game Music Connect this year in London.
"It's not pity that I feel for Xbox users and the console, it's greif and anger that its creators have forsaken them and it in such a cynical fashion."
Therefore, it's not pity that I feel for Xbox users and the console, it's greif, and anger that its creators have forsaken them, and it, in such a cynical fashion. Despite what you may think, the failure of the Xbox One will impact us all in that it will be a sad loss to something that has driven the industry to excel.
Reports that it might get sold off as a division is probably the best thing that might happen to it, as it might put the console in the hands of a business who understand its customers as much as it understands profit.