It has been a sad, sad several years to be a man who just wanted a box to hook up to his television and play games on the big screen. From derivative sequels, to bad peripherals, to exploitative downloadable content plans, to faulty online pass schemes, wanting to play games and be left alone was troublesome enough.
As the Xbox 360 evolved from the efficient, if not gorgeous blades to the clusterfuck that is the current Dashboard, with more ad space than actual device functionality, deadset on making me buy something one way or another, it’s a depressing scene. These advertisements have made starting up the console a laggy, sad state of affairs.
From what was supposed to be a dedicated gaming console popular for playing Halo with your buds has become a shoddy attempt to become the center of your living room entertainment “experience.” Microsoft has wanted to dominate your television watching, movie enjoying, and game playing life, so that you can’t think of a nice evening alone without Xbox.
This strategy has led to a certain Dunning-Kruger effect across Microsoft’s console development space, and it was certainly on display in force today at the Xbox One reveal.
First off, how the fuck, does it make any logistical sense, to name the third Xbox console “Xbox One.” Why. Why would you do this? It’s not catchy, it’s not groundbreaking, it’s not witty, it’s simply confusing. “Infinity” was a better name. “NeXtBox” would have been weird and humorous enough. “X Cubed” would have been wittier. “Xbox One” is confusing, and is the hubris of Microsoft to assume they will be the one center of your watching and gaming experience.
This is the problem with tech and marketing - the ideal of the “curated user experience” - Microsoft envisions one use for their Xbox, one all powerful, dominating presence in your life. Advertising everywhere, integrated with your cable box, and requiring the new Kinect to be connected and always on. You read that right - Microsoft wants to put a camera in your living room and watch you, and listen to you, and you can’t opt out. You can’t just be left alone to play games - you have to be a part of the Xbox One brand experience, damnit.
For the longest time, there was an ideal, a sort of unspoken, but sacred agreement when it came to videogame consoles. You bought it from the store, brought it home, and it played games, right out of the box. It left you the fuck alone, you turned it on and off at will, it wasn’t trying to dominate your life. You played Star Wars Rogue Squadron until 5 in the morning because you wanted to, god dammit, not because you wanted to get more trophies or increase your gamerscore or because it kept detecting your hunger and automatically ordered pizza to your door, billing your Microsoft points balance.
The current console generation has been all about subscriptions, downloadable content, micro transactions to give a bad cartoon version of yourself a stupid shirt, online passes, and generally finding “new media revenue streams,” or essentially, nickel and dime your freeloading ass, expecting that you can just buy a console and some games and maybe trade one in for a used one occasionally and have a grand old time?
That time is over. It’s about the manufactured, blandly designed “user experience,” that so far, has made everyone experience nothing but confusion, from used games, to the requirement of a cable subscription, it’s nothing but a clusterfuck of madness, which nobody wants. Everyone’s left scratching their head, and the crack marketing team at Microsoft has been thriving on giving mostly non-answers, contradicting one another, and generally contributing to the confusion in the days following this reveal event.
I’m not about angrily posting on the Internet about speculation, or unsure answers, I find it way more satisfying and way easier, to get really mad about what Microsoft has indicated, without doubt. The biggest take away from the Xbox One reveal is that awful, awful name, which happily shortens to XBone, a far better name. Of course, it means that Xbox One fans are now Xboners, which is fitting considering how Microsoft wants you to feel about their new advertisement delivery product.
The other major takeaway is the focus on television, specifically live television from your cable subscriber - yet the Xbox One lacks any DVR connectivity, odd for a device that wants you to plug your cable box into it. That would sort of seem crucial for a device that wants to get between your cable and your television, but here we are! What’s stranger is the fact that society, for years now with this current console generation, moving away from live television and shifting to streaming solutions like Netflix, if not outright piracy.
Cable TV is exhausting, it’s headache inducing, it’s an outdated entertainment model on it’s way out, and this idiotic fucking ideal that a new gaming console is going to bring new life to that is horrific. Making a gaming console so integrated into watching live television is such a yawn-inducing, flabbergasting moment that shows a total lack of innovation or technical creativity, instead a focus on finding new ways to deliver advertising into your home.
What’s truly insulting, not only as a display of Microsoft’s hubris and total lack of relevance for everyone from core gamers to the aging Vietnam veteran looking for a cool gadget to mess with, is the rewriting of history with regards to the 360’s Kinect. It was an abysmal piece of broken tech that should have never hit the market, and the titles that succeeded on that platform, like Dance Central and The Gunslinger, either had such a simplified, watered down method of interacting with the world or used enough smoke and mirrors to cover up the faults with the sensor to succeed.
The 360 Kinect software was such a collection of shovel ware, exercise software, failed experiments, and children’s gimmicks. The hardware was simply so faulty, and broken, and the insane demands of Microsoft for the amount of space one would need to use it, as well as having an almost perfect lighting setup, and even then, it was a hope and a prayer keeping the sensor from freaking out. Microsoft talked about it at the Xbox One reveal like it was the invention of the lightbulb, with a total lack of awareness for how regular people perceived it.
Or how assholes enjoyed screaming “XBOX, BING, PORN” and screwing up their roommate’s day. It’s pretty fun, I’ll admit. Point being, Microsoft has doubled down on Kinect, requiring a whole new one in the next Xbox, while completely failing to establish it’s a whole new technology, that’s a lot more competent, requiring less space, and all that - again, nothing but confusion on Microsoft’s part. What wasn’t confusing was how it was a required component of the system, and would be always on in one way or another. Yeah, maybe some people aren’t comfortable with a webcam in their living space that’s always online with a connection to a major multi-billion dollar corporation.
Remember when Facebook said they wouldn’t sell your data, then proceeded to anyways without serious repercussions? You think Microsoft won’t either? Even if you aren’t worried about this, it’s another check down the list of the hubris of Microsoft and the Xbox One by demanding they put an always-on camera into your living space. Microsoft has locked itself in a self-congratulatory bubble and detached itself from the lives of the majority of it’s users, lacking any sense of self-realization.
Amazingly more jaw dropping is the worship of “the cloud.” “Cloud” “gaming.” Considering the recent debacles with Diablo 3, Mass Effect 3, and most hilariously, SimCity 2013, it’s been shown that server infrastructure simply isn’t there for games to handle mandatory connections, much less when it comes down to the launch of a videogame console. Yet here we are, with Major Nelson (as if he’s in an army or something, an army of Xboners) claiming “Games are architected to take full advantage of the state of the art processors and infinite power of the cloud.”
When has “the cloud” ever had infinite power? The last “cloud” I can think with infinite power was my ex who thought it’d be fun to be a total nerdlord buzzkiller weirdo in bed. When it comes to gaming, the “infinite power of the cloud” has either been a pain in the ass to deal with, utterly useless from a practical standpoint, or just annoyingly in the way. Xbox One will not be saved by “the cloud.”
What’s worse is how so many have seem to forgotten Microsoft’s recent patent filings and what they may mean for the average social lives unlucky enough to intersect with the Xbox One. One patent filing involved the new Kinect monitoring your room to see if the number of occupants exceeded a quota set by a content provider, demanding you give them more money or shoo someone out of the room. Imagine, having Netflix in the background at a party, and suddenly a seventh member stumbles into the Kinect’s view, only for Bill Gates to appear and scream, “IT’S MINE!” whilst burning your money.
Just how many of us actually enjoy yelling at our television? It’s annoying, inefficient, and awkward. How many of us actually want a camera and microphone always connected, always on, waiting for us? Hardly anyone. The only fringe case I could think of is a handsome, cocky young ad man in his early twenties looking for a device that detects and automatically orders him condoms off Amazon when he’s running low. Actually, that doesn’t sou-
I uh, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. Microsoft doesn’t see having relevancy in the lives of regular human beings who don’t surround themselves in tech and marketing communities as valuable, and proudly showed this at their reveal event. What was truly most telling about Microsoft’s hubris, was that there was no real innovation, no real wow moment that really leaped out and said “this is a new console for a new console generation.” No jaw dropping display of graphics technology we weren’t already getting on PC, no groundbreaking gameplay mechanics or interactions within a digital world, nothing that said “oh my god, this console is providing something I’ve never experienced before.”
The Xbox One is many things we’ve experienced before - watching television, yelling at our friends over the Internet, waving our arms in front of a barely functional camera, looking at animated advertisements, and staring at a fucking progress bar installing software to a hard drive. With the world’s most confusing, still in development stance on used games, lending games to your friends, and all in all has caused more frustration than flat out coming out and saying “fuck you, fuck your used games, fuck you lending games to friends, and give us more money.”
The Xbox One reveal didn’t reveal anything of value, except that Xbox One is a truly fitting name, because Microsoft wants one thing: more money, and fuck you. Microsoft is teaming up with cable companies, putting more ads in your face, finding new ways to mine data, and get more money out of the end user. It’s all part of a “curated brand experience,” which is what everyone really wanted in their video gaming console. Wait, that’s what nobody wanted… at all.
With E3 weeks away, Microsoft promises to show more games, but nothing there will probably blow anyone way. There will be no “wow moment” that legitimizes the console as the next great technological step in gaming, and we will all be smashing our heads against the wall, wondering how, how could such a massive combination of anti-consumer friendly policies be combined into a singular, black hunk of a box?