Feb 18, 2013 By Shujaat Syed @shoejaat
Microsoft will be changing the fundamental pillars of console gaming if the recent ‘next Xbox’ rumours are true.
|We all know that next generation consoles are ready to be revealed. The PS4 will probably be shown off on February 20 at the Playstation Meeting, where Sony’s previous consoles and handhelds were first revealed in the past.
However, in light of recent rumors, the spotlight is also on Microsoft’s next generation offering. The next Xbox, or the Xbox 720, will require an Internet connection to function; it will not work without it – according to a trusted source at Edge Magazine. This is the first time something like this has been taken into effect, but it’s easy to see why Microsoft might be going this route and leading the charge. Simply put, Microsoft has invested a lot of time and money in the connected Internet experience. Things ranging from Email services, Xbox Live, Cloud computing and even a new social networking service called Socl, all make up what Microsoft’s profile of Internet services. This is going to be their latest addition, but it is a problematic one.
In this day and age, it’s still troublesome to get Internet access in some places, not to mention the bandwidth caps that are commonly placed on consumers. It’s a very alienating move which is catching a lot of criticism on the Internet. This is obviously something that Microsoft discussed before deciding on this, so why are they going ahead with it? I think Xbox Live is their answer to that.
“IT’S STILL TROUBLESOME TO GET INTERNET ACCESS IN SOME PLACES”
Xbox Live has changed since its original inception – it has expanded. At the beginning, it was about playing with your friends through the Internet. It was kind of a pain to set up back then, but it is also safe to say that everybody remembers their first Live experience on the original Xbox. My first Live game was MechAssault, and I sure as hell got my ass handed to me. Reminiscing aside, it was something great. It worked well, and they made it better with the Xbox 360, where it became much more stable and easier to set up.
Now, through convergence, the 360 has become an entertainment hub with the help of Xbox Live. It’s a place where you watch movies, sports, and interact with your various social media.
Microsoft built on the foundation of Xbox Live – it was once an added feature, now it’s something they need to make the console sing. However all other major consoles have adopted what Live has done but offer it for free. Is it a questionable decision on Microsoft’s part? Yes, but I still pay for it, and so do the 40 million plus people who have Xbox Live memberships. That is why Microsoft continues to charge for it.
It makes money, it generates revenue, and it brings a whole lot of cash to Microsoft’s lap. Just last year Xbox Live memberships grew by 15 percent. That’s an insane number, and it makes executives and stock holders very happy.
“THROUGH CONVERGENCE, THE 360 HAS BECOME AN ENTERTAINMENT HUB”
Older services are now rebranded with the Xbox name such as Xbox Video and Xbox Music to appeal to the mainstream audiences because of familiarity with the Xbox name. In fact, Xbox Live has become nearly independent from the console – almost a platform in itself.
|Those aforementioned services exist both inside and outside of the Xbox 360 console. You can use them on your Windows 8 computers, tablets and even phones (currently exclusive to the Windows 8 OS). These services also cost extra (on top of a Gold membership) to use. They can also be very pricey; Xbox Music costs users about $99 for a yearly subscription; this does not include the price you pay for a yearly Gold pass you need to use the service. However Xbox Music works for your other devices as well. This is the kind of interconnectivity Microsoft wants to expand on with the next Xbox but, Microsoft also has an ulterior motive.|
Advertisements have become a greater part of the Xbox console experience due to Xbox Live, as Microsoft makes a significant amount of money from selling ads through it. The Penny Arcade Report took a detailed look at the advertising process behind Live, such as general advertising costs and the like. It’s an interesting read which you can take a gander at here.
“MICROSOFT ALSO HAS AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE”
Microsoft is already making greater strides towards offering Live users more ads to interact with. The recent Dashboard update is quite evident of that – more tiles are added to menus to offer more ads.
|However, if one disconnects the 360 from the Internet and all the ads go poof along with all the revenue that Microsoft receives from you clicking on the ads. This is why Microsoft might be considering a permanent online solution for the next Xbox. Analogously, Xbox users who are not connected to the Internet are like third world countries in Microsoft’s eyes – and Microsoft is not a charity.
The problems with an always connected console are obvious to say the least. Not everybody has an Internet connection or the Internet connection people have is too slow. There is also a fundamental issue this creates which changes a pillar of console gaming – the ability to take the console with you. We have all taken our consoles to our friends’ houses, and on vacations. We didn’t always have Internet connection but it worked. It’s what makes a console different than a PC; the ability to play it where ever you are, as long as you have a TV. If Microsoft goes through with this, it won’t be as simple anymore.
This very business-minded approach is also allowing Microsoft to put an attack on the used games market with the next Xbox. Bluntly put, you cannot play used games on Microsoft’s next console offering. Every new game comes with an activation code that you enter to authorize that copy. This does not bode well with the high number of people who buy used games.
It does, however, become a larger problem when it gets in the way of letting others enjoy gaming. If this system takes effect, I won’t be able to share my games with my friends. I won’t be able to let my friends borrow games that I had enjoyed playing, and they won’t be able to do the same.
It’s also a very crippling blow towards the notion that video games are art. Have a film you absolutely adored? Share it with a friend. Read a book that moved you? Let a friend borrow it. All these other artistic mediums don’t have restrictions like this so why introduce it to video games?
“CRIPPLING BLOW TOWARDS THE NOTION THAT VIDEO GAMES ARE ART”
|Microsoft might be leading the charge towards always connected consoles and the lack of ability to play used games but I hope they re-evaluate their ideas.
Business and forward thinking is important towards how Microsoft functions however they also need to take into account that sometimes the world isn’t entirely ready for what they are bringing to the table.