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The Xbox One from a service memberís perspective: Conversations Iíve had and heard on my last deployment.
by Jay Johnson on 06/11/13 09:05:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Edited: 1950, 15 JUN 2013 for my questionable grammar

Additional Edit: 2210, 16 JUN 2013: My blog is in no way shape or form associated with the United States military or any stances they may or may not have.  This is an opinion piece that reflects only my own personal take on a situation and how it affects me. 

It has been quite some time since I have posted a blog, and for that I apologize.  The reasons for that will become clear below.

For almost eight years I have served my country in the United States Navy.  Initially, I enlisted as an Operations Specialist, but after two years I was picked up for a commissioning program and the Naval Aviation training pipeline to become a Naval Flight Officer (NFO – think Goose from TOPGUN, but a different aircraft).  In that time I’ve served on three Nimitz class Aircraft Carriers, been on two combat deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, and been on countless other detachments away from home for training and exercises.  In the last two and a half years I have either been deployed or detached for a total of 18 months.  From these experiences I would like to impart to you conversations that I have either been a part of or witnessed during my time away from home. 

“Hey, Jay, do you want to come over tonight?  We are going to have a Halo tournament.”

“Hey man, you got the new Gears of War game sent to you right?  Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

“Bro, I picked up the new Forza when we were in Bahrain, let’s get started.”

The Xbox 360 launched when I was in Navy Boot Camp in 2005.  I reserved it before I left, so that upon my return I would be able to experience the latest generation console that Microsoft was offering without delay.  Since that time my Xbox 360 has accompanied around the world, its steady (okay loud) hum and green ring offering a temporary lull in my otherwise chaotic day-to-day.  In fact, I have been a dedicated Microsoft fan before the 360 launch.  I abandoned the PS2 and traded it in after I experienced Halo CE on the Xbox.  The point I am trying to make is that I genuinely preferred almost everything Microsoft did with the Xbox and the Xbox 360, and fully anticipated doing the same with this latest generation of consoles.  I was an Xbox 360 fan, not to the level of fanatic, but I long sang the praises of what I thought to be a superior system.  Microsoft seemed to listen to gamer’s concerns and support them more than Sony did, and the products, in my opinion, were simply better and more conducive to my situation.  For example, on my last deployment a squadron-mate was unable to enjoy Skyrim on the PS3 because of the well documented issues the system had running the game.  Meanwhile, I clocked over 250 hours in Skyrim because, for an entire deployment, it was my sanctuary.  It is where I went to calm down after a long day of flying.  Although there were patches eventually made available to repair the unfortunate situation, he was never able to download the fixes because while deployed we simply do not have the ability to connect our systems to the internet. 

Which brings me to the single greatest sin Microsoft has committed against all service members.  Their surprising decision to require the Xbox One to receive a message from the “mother ship” every 24 hours has already been lighting up the internet for a myriad of reasons.  But, the reason that I am so infuriated about it is that I, and my brothers and sisters in arms, will not ever be able to play Xbox One when deployed or on detachment.  No longer will the sounds of Master Chief saving the human race echo through the hallowed halls of the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, or any other USS SHIP, when we have a few hours respite.  No longer will you see Marcus and Dom sawing through the Locust Horde at the bases in Afghanistan after the Marines have returned from patrol and want to escape their reality for a bit.  Those days are now firmly behind us.  Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military, and not just the U.S. military, the militaries of the entire world.

Despite my preference for the previous generations of Microsoft systems, and my dedication to their versions of multi-platform properties, I will not be buying an Xbox One at launch.  In fact, the Xbox One might as well be called the Halo-Box, because I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops.  With developers focusing, more and more, on the multi-platform model, how much will I really be missing out on?  None of the exclusives from either Sony or Microsoft excited me, except for the Halo tease.  Simply put, outside of Halo and Forza, Sony has better exclusives.  With developers like Quantic Dream, Naughty Dog, and titles like The Last Guardian looming on the horizon, all exclusive to PS4, I feel like I will be in much better hands with Sony.  So, how much will I really be missing out on?  While I think Forza is superior (so far) to Gran Turismo, the GT series is still very good, and I can play it when embarked on the ship.  While I am a diehard Halo fan, the wait for the next iteration and my eventual purchase of my Halo-Box will give me ample opportunity to explore the Killzone series.  Everything else, from Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty, I can experience on the PS4, offline and tucked away in my little room on the ship, and without the concern of the programming complications that faced developers with the PS3 (which was my primary concern with PS3 multi-platform games).

I have searched the internet, hoping to find some data on the amount of video games sales that the U.S. military signifies.  Although we represent less than one percent of the nation’s populace, I venture to say that we represent a drastically disproportionate amount of video game sales when compared to our numbers.  Financially, I think the alienation of service members by Microsoft will have more of an impact than they realize. 

This next point is for the developers.  Although the PS4 will not have an online requirement to run, developers will still be able to make games that require persistent online authentication.  Do not do this to us.  The video game industry has made a fortune breaking not just video game records, but entertainment records as a whole, with properties that simulate what my brothers, sisters, and I do on a daily basis.  Don’t alienate us with online requirements for games.  It will cost you money and respect.  This is a lesson that Microsoft is, tragically, about to learn.


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Comments


Kenneth Poirier
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I hope you sent a copy of that to Microsoft! You should send one to Game informer while your at it.

Michael Joseph
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and a copy to the New York Times.

This could be an effective angle to get Microsoft to change their policy however I suspect any solution would be one that attempts to discriminate against non military personnel.

Jay Johnson
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I submitted a more thoughtfully penned version to the NYT Op-ed. I don't have high hopes, but it would be nice if they provided attention to how Microsoft's poor decision will affect military members.

Jesse williams
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The problem is that MSFT still sees it as a win as he has stated "I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops." - meaning that he will still buy the console despite all of this non-sense from the xbone team, just not on release day. If he still buys it, then it counts as a purchase and they have his money. Until you plan on not buying it flat out, why would they care what you think?

Jesse williams
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The problem is that MSFT still sees it as a win as he has stated "I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops." - meaning that he will still buy the console despite all of this non-sense from the xbone team, just not on release day. If he still buys it, then it counts as a purchase and they have his money. Until you plan on not buying it flat out, why would they care what you think?

Lorenzo Gatti
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I hope your Xbox 360 doesn't break down.

Carlo Delallana
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Don Mattrick has the perfect system for you and others who cannot connect to the internet, it's called the Xbox 360 (redesign).

The fact that he would candidly suggest this inb response to Geoff Keighley's query is mind-boggling.

-C

Jakub Majewski
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It's not really mind-boggling. Let's be fair. Obviously, a lot of people are unhappy about this. It's perfectly understandable that some of them will complain - and in the case of Jay, it's very poignant to boot, since he happens to be serving in the defence of Microsoft's headquarters. But, while it's his right to complain, it's Microsoft's right to point people to their previous console.

There is no legal obligation for Microsoft to serve all customers. Hey, the same thing happens with cable TV - at least, I've never heard about any US cable TV networks being available in Afghanistan.

By the way, Dan Johnson is correct with his suggestion that it might be better to bring this to the military. Do Xbox One games *really* require the console to be always connected to the internet? Of course not. Developers don't have their devkits hooked up to the internet all the time. So, it's possible to get around this.

Certainly, if the US military contacted Microsoft about the possibility of releasing a special edition of the Xbox One, only available (for rent, perhaps, instead of ownership) in military facilities, the response would be positive. For Microsoft, this would involve no loss, and would give them positive PR.

Hunter Curren
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@Jakub

Sure, it's their right to respond however they want, but telling people that if they don't like it they can use another product isn't the 'right' way to go about it. We're talking about next gen consoles. He can say people can play 360, but that really means PS4 to everyone who wants to actually get new games.

The logical response (at least in the eyes of someone who's been a customer ever in their life before) would be to acknowledge that some people are frustrated with the requirement, but to highlight how you believe it will be better for the community as a whole.

This at least gives people the impression that you understand their concerns and care about them. It won't change the situation for people who don't have access to reliable internet, but at least it could prevent them from writing Microsoft off completely. For those who have access but don't like the requirement, it gives them a reason to continue to support Microsoft.

Have you ever had a company tell you that if you weren't happy with something you could go somewhere else? If so, did you keep doing business with them, or did you go to their competition who treated you better?

TL:DR, It's not just about the always online, it's also about Microsoft's dismissive (and insulting) attitude toward their 'customer' base.

Dane MacMahon
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"I don't know what it must be like to be on a nuclear sub... I mean... yeah uh... umm..."

Man doesn't even know what it's like to do dishes.

Daniel Jimenez
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I agree with Hunter. It was mainly Don's response that I believe really ticked off a lot of gamers.

It's been repeated constantly that the biggest mistake that Microsoft has made is not talking about the benefits of having a "once every 24 hours" system. This could be either because there are no real benefits for consumers, or their PR department really sucks, or they are taking the equivocal stance of "If we just keep quiet, people will get over it".

Let's see what happens at launch day. I, for one, am excited for this new console war (reminiscent of the 16-bit era).

Carl Chavez
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Would the military even allow XBone anyway? It has a potential surveillance device built right into it.

Jacob Germany
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Excellent point. I have yet to see anyone mention that fact, and I doubt the "You can disable the camera in settings and it can't see anything I promise" excuse would hold much water when the device is still connected and vulnerable.

James Yee
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Good point. Remember Furby? :)

Kevin Patterson
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Thank you for this post, I hope MS takes notice of it. They have really turned away many gamers for many reasons. MS seems to live in a Vacuum, as it never listens to it's consumers, it just does what it wants to do and your expected to march to their beat.

I have watched Windows 8 have issues with consumers, Surface not take off in the market, Zune die, Windows phone not take off, ribbon forced on Office users, etc. I wonder what J Allard, Ed Fries, Robbie Bach, Otto, Nat, and Seamus think of the negativity the Xbox has right now. All their hard work, blood, sweat and tears to get the Xbox on the same level as the Playstation's brand, all that effort to get a Xbox community going strong and excited about it. Sony defeated themselves in 2006 with price and their arrogance, and Xbox picked up the pieces. Now it seems that MS didn't learn Sony's lesson, and is making their own mistakes, except this is worse.

Now I see Xbox owners leaving in droves for PS4 thanks to these new draconian restrictions. Their consumers never wanted any of this, never clamored for this, and it was forced on them. The reaction at E3 was amazing, and should have sent a chill down MS's spine, especially who was involved in this decision.

Dave Voyles
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I think many of you are missing the bigger picture here:

People without an internet connection are not the target demographic Microsoft is looking for.

I'd love to have a Ferrari, but as a middle class 20 something, I can't afford this luxury item. Moreover, I'm not part of Ferrari's target demographic either.

I understand your side of things as well - my brother is in the Navy, so this is just as relevant to him, and can empathize with the situation.

However, is it really fair to the rest of consumers out there, to have their apps, games, etc., nerfed and removed of features because not everyone has access to the internet? Microsoft caught the same flack with the launch of the original Xbox and the broadband requirement as well. But, as time went on, more people adopted broadband, and the issue quickly subsided.

Dan Johnson
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The question, then, is whether Microsoft is making a smart decision on that front. Sony is perfectly happy to cater to both connected and unconnected gamers, and from the temperature of this article it sounds like Mr. Johnson's next console will be a Playstation instead of an Xbox. I'd wager a huge majority of the military is 20- to 35-year-old men... which is a pretty prime demographic for hardcore gaming. And if you bought a PS4 to take overseas, that's $400 less you have to spend on a potential second console that you can't even take on tour.

Jay Johnson
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I think that Microsoft could very easily create a system that doesn't require the authentication every 24 hours without taking away from anyone else's experience. Would it not be simple enough to deactivate features that would require the always-on requirement rather than require it to always be online to use every feature? The target demographic analogy doesn't make sense to me. You and I cannot afford a Ferrari because it's an issue of financial ability, but I can afford a Nissan. The Ferrari offers completely different capabilities and experiences than a Nissan Sentra. The Xbox One is only $100 more and still very attainable financially, despite the backlash about the higher price point. But, MS is targeting the same demographic that the PS4 is and doesn't offer a particularly unique experience - it plays games just as the PS4, PC, etc. Furthermore, Microsoft has removed capability from their product. Their old systems can do things that their new system cannot. Granted the Xbox One can do things that their old systems cannot... but this is logical because it implements new tech, etc... but to take away capability? It's progressive on the same level that other similar products are, but regressive in a major way that other similar products are not. Simply put, the Xbox One is not a luxury item offering more than it's competitors as the Ferrari is when compared to mid size sedans.

Jacob Germany
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@Dave I have yet to see a single individual mention a single feature concerning the console or a game or app that requires a daily internet connection to function as a game-playing device. Any and all features that benefit from a daily connection can function without said connection.

To prevent any pointless "But what about...!" answers, this includes cloud computing, cloud saves, game sharing, game "installs", developer considerations, persistent worlds, piracy, and derivatives of the above. Every one of those "problems" has an offline solution.

Wylie Garvin
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"People without an internet connection are not the target demographic Microsoft is looking for."


There are apparently many millions of Xbox 360 owners who don't connect them to the Internet and just play single-player games or DVDs on them. (I'm one of those.) If that segment of the current market is really as big as 20-30% of the install base of 360's, turning their back on it seems like it might be a bad idea.

I remember when the rumors about this stuff were circulating a few months ago, and people were saying things like "surely Microsoft will listen to our complaints and change their policies" and all I could think of was the Windows 8 launch.

Jesse williams
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Have you also seen where you can play it until future notice? Nowhere in Asia, nowhere in the middle east. Not even in Poland where a ton of their developers are at. Nowhere in Africa either. The console will just not let you play cause it won't allow authentication from those places. Sad that not even military member that have internet and are deployed in some of those major spots will be able to play.

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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The problem in your analogy is the Xbox One is not Ferrari. Xbox One is not a premium product by any mean. It doesn't offer anything that their competitor (PS4) has not yet offered. PS4 can do everything Xbox One can whilst it is $100 cheaper. On the other hand, PS4 gives players more "options". You can lend your friends your games and those friends don't even need to be in your friend lists. You can trade in your games anywhere. Sony doesn't force you to buy PS Move and PS Eye if you didn't plan to use them, while the Kinect is bundled with the console and cannot be removed. If you don't want to install your game on the console, you don't need to do it but it is mandatory for all Xbox One games to be installed before playing. In the end, I feel like PS4 is more a premium product than the Xbox One.

Dave Voyles
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"The question, then, is whether Microsoft is making a smart decision on that front. "

Dan, I agree with you there. Whether or not this proves to be a wise strategy for them in the future..... well that remains to be seen :).

Eric Salmon
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Pre-orders show PS4 leading selling 3 consoles to every 2 XBones. No matter what the future holds, their strategy thus far has cost them sales.

Janette Goering
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I swore I read that MS would be suspending the need to check in online for deployed service members, but it was probably nothing more than just a rumor read in a forum. And if it is indeed just a rumor, then they're doing a huge disservice to a group of people who play and enjoy their games. My boyfriend's currently deployed, and I know his internet is awful, but he loves being able to spend his free time playing games.

@Dave, sure, people without a stable internet connection aren't the target demographic. And sure, the concept of "always online" is coming. I lived in Las Vegas most of my life, and the only times I didn't have a stable internet connection was when the cable company was doing work on the network. However, I spent 5 years of college in Southern Ohio, and if it so much as rained really hard, my internet went out. My college town was only 20,000 people but we had pretty solid internet for the area. I had visited friends' parents' homes for long weekends, out in the middle of nowhere, where they were lucky to get dial up, and I was lucky to get a cell phone signal. A surprising amount of people still don't have smart phones or broadband or even a stable connection throughout most of the week. And many of these people love the games they played. And for many, it was just a service problem, no matter the area. How bad does it look to tell this group of people that hey, we know you want this thing, but it's going to be useless because you live in an area with poor internet service? That's not necessarily something they as a consumer can fix.

And if you really want to discuss nerfing of features, talk to anyone not in America about the non-gaming features of the XBone. My international friends were more than happy to tell me of their concerns. They'll never see many of those TV services, they don't have great internet all the time, and they have to pay more than we do for the system.

Dave Voyles
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Janette,

You raise a lot of great points here too. Yes, a large portion of people outside of America will never get this TV or video content. You can't blame Microsoft for that though - that largely has to do with publishing and distribution rights for that content.

They're definitely forward thinking with all of this - I personally think a bit TOO far. But we'll see how it plays out.

Look at it another way: Publishers can take one of two routes this next generation: Xbox One or PS4. One platform offers a way to protect their content through overly strict DRM and online checking - the other does not.

When development and marketing costs are eclipsing $50 million dollars for AAA titles, which way are shareholders and publishers going to want to go? The route that protects their investment, or the other way?

Again, I really have no idea idea, because PS4 may sell so many units out of the gate that it may not even matter.

Amir Barak
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@Dave

Publishers can take one of two routes this next generation: Xbox One or PS4. One platform offers a way to protect their content through overly strict DRM and online checking - the other one offers a larger user base and happier customers. There, fixed.

Janette Goering
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@Dave,

considering quite a few game companies aren't publicly traded, shareholders don't matter in that aspect. Or are you suggesting that a publishing company should listen to them rather than their consumer base? I can also blame MS for the TV stuff, because they created a solution for a problem that was pretty much nonexistent. Do I need to change my TV by yelling at it? That's nice, but not something I personally need, nor want out of a video game console. I hardly watch TV as it is, so many of their media services to me are nice, but ultimately useless and not what I want out of a system that I bought to play video games. But I digress.

Publishers for the most part are going to be publishers, and end up going multiplatform as it is, if not full multiplat plus PC. They will have to ask themselves if it's worth 'protecting their investment' at the risk of just not selling enough copies on a particular platform. And very rarely have I seen the need for a game to end up costing over $50+ million dollars for AAA. Only the biggest of the big AAA titles do that, and they're going to recoup their losses by offering content on as many platforms as available. I get what MS is trying to do, and I understand it, and if this was 10 years from now where faster, more stable, and affordable internet was more commonplace in America, then sure, I'd be for this. The reality is, we're not there yet. Is it worth the risk of bad PR and alienating thousands if not millions of potential customers to 'protect' profits? I feel that if anything, they'll be losing more money that way.

I'd love to see MS bring me a Steam-like experience through their use of digital. But I also highly doubt that they will ever have the sales that Steam does. I also feel that once someone figures out how to game their 'game-sharing' system, MS will crack down, and crack down hard, and the consumers will lose even more.

Will Currier
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My initial thought would be that MS could offer a disc to verified military personnel (perhaps give it to the ship/base itself) which would act as a system update disabling or modifying the always-online feature. It could add an option to the console which would allow a person to disable the feature once they return home, or would change the once-per-24-hr requirement to a once-per-year requirement to re-install a new update disc (to ensure it is a benefit only to active military members, not to them after they leave).

Russell Sullivan
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This suggest a band-aid for a bigger problem. There is no real need for 24 hour check-in's in the first place. What about everyone else who isn't in the military? Contractors who support the military. People who often work overseas for lengths of time. And many other people who should be listed here.

Furthermore, there is always the possibility of internet outages that will make play impossible. This is another one of many problems the DRM nature of 24 hour check-in's impose, without providing any actual benefit to the consumer.

Atso Sariola
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"Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military, and not just the U.S. military, the militaries of the entire world."
While I mostly agree with your blog entry, this is quite a bold claim.
I'm serving in the Finnish Air Force at the moment. So far, I've yet to be in a base without good WLAN coverage.
Sure, I understand that it's a different case with a carrier on the sea, but that's beside the point. I'm just saying that 24/7 online connectivity in a military base isn't such a far cry from reality nowadays.

Jay Johnson
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My understanding is that the Finnish Air Force is purely defensive in nature. It doesn't project power and is completely a defense force based in its own borders. I have Internet access when I'm at home too. But, the UK, France, Japan, Brazil, China, Italy, Iran,USA, etc operate in arenas outside of their home turf (to include ships etc) and don't have access to high speed internet when in those environments. That is what I mean by "the world." Sorry for any confusion.

James Yee
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Yeah Sure on Ft. Irwin or White Sands you can get regular High Speed Internet but on deployment or forward bases that's not happening. Or hell what about the scientists stuck in Antartica? Those guys are definitely not getting an Xbone. :) (I know I know I'm being silly with my examples)

Jon Anderson
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Hi Jay,

Loved your post. I'm a staff writer for the Military Times. I'm filing a story on this very topic. As I'm sure you know already, you're in good company among those in uniform who are scratching their head on this. Of course, there's also the other issue that you didn't even mention, for those serving overseas who are lucky enough to have an internet connect -- namely, you need to be in an Xbox One-supported country. So, you're good to go if you're stationed in, say, Germany or the UK, but SOL if you're based in Japan or Afghanistan.

Can you shoot me an email when you get a sec? jona (at) militarytimes.com

Jay Johnson
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Wilco

Rick Hansen
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I agree with you on all of this, however, with utmost respect, I must point out that you are part of the problem. Your post describes in detail how these new "features" directly affect you in negative ways. Then you go on to say: When Halo drops where do I sign up?

The "it doesn't effect me very much so I dont care" and "it sucks but i GOTS to play game XYZ" crowd are how ws got here in the first place.

Personally, Im done. I've tapped out. Barring GoG.com I am finished with modern gaming. With forced online, steam style drm, decline of LAN/local multiplayer multiplayer (remember spawn installs so a family could play multiplayer together without spending $60 per person), multi GB patch/OS updates before a shrink wrapped game can be played I have thrown in the towel. Due to the complacency of the "I dont care" crowd, I am no longer the target demo in an industry where I have owned 90% of major consoles since the Atari 2600. Heck, at one point I used to also maintain 4 gaming machines so friends without computers could still come to our lan parties. My pain threshold has finally been surpassed.

As I no longer care much for the current game scene, the vindictive part of me can't wait to see blood samples required for producat activation, and the eventual death of the authentication servers which will render their related games useless for all of the "I dont care" folks. But the far more rational, and less petty, part of me just misses the past and finds other things to occupy my time.

Jay Johnson
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Since I wrote this the decision on whether or not I should actually pull the trigger on the Xbox One when the next iteration of Halo releases has been quite on my mind. I wrote this before i was aware of Mr. Mattrick's unfortunate, detached, and out of touch comments concerning a MS customer's option of a 360 if no connection is available. That commentary made me even more irritated as it implies a very disturbing mentality at MS. the decision to actually buy will depend on a lot of things that are occurring during that time - as it stands now, more and more I think I will simply not invest in the product, but I don't think I will be able to make that call until the time comes. Having said that, I think even if I and others only buy the Xbone for Halo MS will be in a bad place. First of all, not everyone has enough disposable income to justify such a purchase if they already have another option. Furthermore, we are all familiar with the sales model of almost all systems - they make no profit from system sales and rely on the purchase of multiple titles over the life of a console to generate profits... Even the purchase I suggest would impact MS negatively because I would simply not be fitting the necessary revenue model for them to generate profit.

Jim Perry
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It seems more people are upset by the way Don said "Buy an Xbox 360 instead" than anything else. Why is the truth so upsetting? Do people just need to slam MS (or whoever the whipping boy of the day is) to make themselves feel better or justify themselves? Dave is spot-on with the truth of the matter - MS is targeting a demographic of the future - always connected. If you don't fit that demographic, that's not MS's fault.

I think the fact that a lot of people have been taught by society to feel entitled to whatever they want is partly to blame here. First world "problems" have become such a thing that it's truly sad.

Russell Sullivan
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"Do people just need to slam MS"

Absolutely, it's called consumer choice. We are not entitled to anything from a company. If the company only wants a certain demographic, and it alienates others, then they had better hope the others don't convince the target demographic to not purchase the product.

"demographic of the future - always connected"

Agree with this, but we aren't there yet. Maybe in another 10 years.

Jay Johnson
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I am sorry if my blog post comes across with a sense of entitlement. That was not my intent. Nor was it my intent to "slam MS to make myself feel better or justify myself." My intent was completely based on demonstrating that what Microsoft is offering is unusable for the majority of service members. I wanted to impart how that will impact my purchasing decisions and the implications that it has on all service members' purchasing decisions. MS is certainly not at fault for creating a product they think will take them to the future, nor do I think MS owes me anything. But, as I state in my blog, their decisions to take this route will be at fault when they are looking at why military members have abandoned MS for Sony in droves. This is most certainly a first world problem, but realize that this entire website is dedicated to first world products - video games. Why are you so puzzled by the discussion of a first world conflict about first world products on a first world website?

Ron Dippold
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'If you don't fit that demographic, that's not MS's fault. '

No, it's not, but the messaging sure is. They did a very bad job of communicating everything in this entire debacle, and they should feel bad. They could sell this positively (MS's entrenched partisans sure have been making a go at it), but they didn't even bother.

Furthermore, if the real target is the always connected consumer and downloading everything digitally is the future, then targeting physical media trading at this point is just extra petty. People are fairly blase about not being able to trade digital only games. Why care about disks at all for your uberdigimensch demographic?

Eric Salmon
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Don's words are right in line with that moron who tweeted crap about not buying vacuum cleaners if you don't have electricity. He was forced to resign. Maybe Don should consider "resigning," as well.

Jay Johnson
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Holy crap you guys. Rachel Maddow just quoted my blog on her twitter with a link to a Military Times article also quoting my blog. Then my buddy and I just googled the quote "Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military." And there are several articles about this blog. Maybe, MS will at least discuss the issue and maybe provide a work around?

Jay Johnson
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^ total humblebrag

James Yee
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Totally earned mate. Totally earned. :)

John McLaughlin
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I am a loyal 10 year Xbox gamer who does not care about pre-owned games or the always on policy. I am what they would consider an Xbox Fanboy. I ordered an Xbox One through the Microsoft Store online. After reading this blog, I decided to email Xbox including the link to this blog and inform them that if they dont change the policy and support our troops then I will be canceling my order. Thank you for serving our country and thank you for bringing this very important truth to light.

Dane Rising
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That's cool man. I broke the U.S.S. Essex in (literally as a plank owner in many sections of the ship) during the-mid 16 bit era. (SNES, Lynx, Gamegear, TurboGrafx,TurboExpress Gameboy, Genesis and Sega CD. I hear ya. It's an escape from the tedious, but neccessary tasks we had to perform. I often wondered if I was more fortunate than others because I could get such a vacation-like enjoyment out of my evenings of gaming. Out at sea, I saw more than enough guys snap. They did not have an escape until they got into port.

Ron Dippold
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'I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops.'

I appreciate you up to this point. Even though they're treating you with utter disdain, you're still going to drop $650 just to play Halo 5? I'm sure it'll be decent, because 343 are dedicated, but is it really worth it? I realize PCs are mostly too much hassle, but at least with PS4 you'll be able to pick up games anywhere you are (or in care packages) and have them actually work.

Edit: Now I see you responding to Rick there, which addresses this. I'm still leaving the comment since I still think 'They don't respect you at all, why support them?' needs to be said explicitly. If you think about that and decide Halo 5 is worth $650 + the hassle, then go for it.

James Yee
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Yeah I'm with Ron and Rick on this one. It does sound a bit like the old "Stockholm Syndrome" here. Especially since Destiny is coming out who needs 343's Master Chief when you can make your own new dude from the guys who made Master Chief. :)

Evgeni Petkov
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This will not be a problem for only the Armed services. There are many jobs which require traveling to remote places - scientists, oil workers, etc. I'm sure this will be a problem for them. And if it is region specific then you can add to the list students that travel to another country to study and anyone going abroad for a job.

James Yee
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Thanks for the article Jay, I think you've basically just spelled it out in a typical military direct fashion your opinion on the Xbone. It's a valid position, and one that's shared by many who either don't want to be online all the time or aren't.

Granted I live in the boonies so I'm used to folks who aren't online all the time, but it's not as uncommon as those in the big cities tend to think. Hell even out here folks look at me weird for not having a cell phone. :)

Maria Jayne
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"In fact, the Xbox One might as well be called the Halo-Box, because I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops. "

Well that told them, you won't be buying their system until you do...for a second there they were sweating about losing customers.

Honestly, have more integrity, if Microsoft are screwing you, don't be a customer. You may as well be saying thank you.

Jay Johnson
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How does my integrity come into play here?

Maria Jayne
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Integrity means to have a consistency of values or principles. You feel aggrieved at Microsoft's lack of consideration for you and your servicemen/women, yet you already admit you're just making noise and will purchase their product anyway.

You're giving your money to a company that doesn't value your needs, don't support them until they do.

Jorge Ramos
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First of all, I just wanted to take this moment to thank you for your service to the country. I know it's a lot to ask of anyone, and your contribution is appreciated.

Secondly, I'm kind of in a different take regarding this generation of consoles. Both X1 and PS4 are basically doing away with one of the primary things that allowed me to jump in on them early... namely, Backward compatibility. And the fact that neither console will even address backward compatibility for disc or legally downloaded games is off-putting at the very best case scenario. At worst, it basically means being severed from one's entire library built up to that point upon adoption, because when (not if) the console makers stop supporting the consoles that did play our stuff anymore, it basically means that libraries and collections we have amassed over the years are now meaningless without a system to play them on. It means all the hard earned money that went to supporting those titles that I/we deemed worthy is meaningless. With the X1, it would very well have binary compatibility with Original Xbox games since those were both x86; with the PS4, I know for a fact that quality PS1 and PS2 emulation on x86 is now possible. PS3 might just need the Cell soldered in, but it certainly would NOT cost Sony $150-200 per console to do it. Manufacturing law 101 would pretty much dictate that it certainly will not cost Sony as much now to make Cell chips as it did back in 2005 with the PS3 launch; any claims otherwise would be the most obnoxious BS this side of a presidential debate.

Third, I might be in the minority here, but with both 360 and PS3, I hardly ever played online multiplayer at all. That was never the draw for me with either... and what few times that I did I was always greeted with the kind of insufferable people that I wouldn't want to associate with in any way, much less have them anywhere near me to play the same game with me. The "Cawadoodie kidz" who brag about whose mom they had sex with, the frat bros, and the brazilians "HUEHUEHUE"ing through every MMO have pretty much soured any enjoyment I might have had with these modes. So being asked to pay $50~70 a year for membership to these services is completely out of the question.

Fourth, the DRM these publishers want is outrageous... daily check-in for online? Blocking used games? Inability to sell or trade or even gift games to people? I think we know now why EA decided to drop Online Passes and why they were so aghast about the WiiU. They're just hoping that Microsoft and Sony take the blame instead for trying to adopt all the worst DRM from PC land into the consoles. And that's no good. :( The only way such DRM would fly is if the MSRP for games on these new systems dropped dramatically (like $10/disc or so), and that we get to see Steam-level discounts and sales. But we both know neither of the manufacturers will EVER do that. Even now, both Sony and Microsoft still sell DRM for three-plus year old games at full price. They still sell download games from their respective launches at full price. At this point we're more likely to see current Australian retail prices for games ($90-150 per game!) become the norm if these publishers get their way.

I for one won't be touching either console until hackers and homebrewers find a way to mod them to remove such draconian DRM. I am a firm believer in that if I buy a piece of hardware and get to take it home with me, then it's MINE to do as I please. If the console makers cannot respect my rights and privileges to do with my hardware as I see fit, then they certainly don't deserve my hard earned money.

Peter Clarke
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Am I the only one here who doesn't care about the lack of backwards compatibility? Just because they are not supporting the old games doesn't make the games worthless. You can still play it on your old system and nothing is stopping you. Should the ps4 have the ability to play ps1 games?
If you want to play old games then play them on an old system.

Now MS have made a lot of mistakes with the X1 but I don't believe that the lack of support for Xbox 360 games is one of them.

Eric Pobirs
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If you have a big investment in Xbox 360 or PS3 games, doesn't that also mean you already own the console that runs those games? In which case backward compatibility is a trivial convenience. And those console aren't going away any time soon and their prices will continue to drop. After the new machine launch there will still be millions of 360s and PS3s sold to less affluent consumers who are able to afford these products for the first time, not only because of the base hardware price but also because of the extensive libraries of heavily discounted games. (This would be true even if all used game sales ended overnight.)

From the console makers' perspective, the value of backward compatibility these days is to continue selling existing IP to customer who don't own the previous platform. This is important to them whether the games are on physical media or sold as downloads. In the past, especially when expensive cartridges were the primary medium, backwards compatibility was considered important to make nice with retailers who were sitting on a bunch of stock from the previous machine that never did well. Thus why Sega designed the Genesis/MegaDrive to be able to run Master system software and offered the Power Base Converter as an accessory. Every Genesis had the capability. The PBC was just a media adapter but having it separate kept the price down.

Nintendo originally designed the SNES to be backward compatible. This was a primary reason for using the obscure 65816 CPU (the other main motive being the base of developers well versed on the 6502) but they found that their own success made this questionable. There was so much used NES/Famicom software around that it was decided it would have a negative effect on sales of new SNES/SF games. The technical capability was easily achieved but the economics weighed against the feature.

There will almost certainly be plenty of old software offered on the new machines via emulation or compatibility layers (running original Xbox games on X1, for example) but that is the sort of thing to make noise about after the launch, say, at the 2014 E3. Once the machines are established in the market, then you start touting secondary features like the ability to purchase and play old games. The PS3, for example, offers many PS1 titles on PSN but it wasn't something they touted as a selling point in 2006.

A big part of this is the need for time to pass. A new generation of players comes along who weren't even born when the previous platform was at its maximum popularity. Just as Disney re-releases it's titles to home video on a seven year rotation, the console industry gets a new crop of players for the same games on a similar schedule. Kids who were born around the time of the PS2 launch are now making their own purchase decisions. Thus the market becomes ripe for newly available old games or HD remakes. Super Mario all-Stars established the precedent and it has been a good business.

I cannot speak for Australia but the practices you describe are simply not the case in the US. XBLA has a Deal of the Week, frequent sales in addition to that (currently Sega has a bunch of their stuff at 33-67% off), and the prices for Games on Demand titles drop frequently in line with the current MSRP. If the retail version of a game has gone to Platinum Hits packaging, the Games on Demand version reflects that pricing as well. The XBL game shopping section has a tile dedicated to making users aware of these price drops. It's the sort of advert people like to see compared to most others.

At retail or online, I cannot think of a single title that launched more than a year ago at the typical US $60 that still commands that price. Nor on the PS3. The console maker that really holds out until the bitter end on keeping up the price on popular titles is Nintendo. New Super Mario Bros. Wii still sells for the same price it launched at in late 2009. Such a thing would be extraordinary on a Sony or Microsoft platform. They generally follow the pattern Sony established for optical disc content: Make back your costs and rack up a good profit, then release a Greatest Hits version (or a GOTY version with added content and a lower price than launch) to reach a much wider audience with a price point half or less than at launch. Once you are in profits on a game, optical media costs mean you can go a lot lower and still have good margins.

I have no use for most online multiplayer, not because of immature users but just lack of interest. The only area that might attract me is a MMORPG setting but I've yet to commit to anything that would require me to adjust my schedule to be a good team member.

That said, I've been an XBL Gold subscriber for about three years because the discounts alone return several multiples on my monthly cost. PSN+ also offers quite good value as well if you think of it as a game rental service. Sony may not like that phrase but what else do you call it when they give you free access to a bunch of games so long as you keep up your subscription? You have little control of the selection compared to a service like Gamefly but the cost is also much lower and the subscription has other benefits. (It appears Microsoft is testing this model too, as they give Gold members free Games on Demand titles for the next few months leading up to the X1 launch.)

Bob Johnson
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Does it really alienate all service members? i am no expert but arent most service members located in and around military bases in housing with internet connections etc?

Also there are lots of things you cant do on an aircraft carrier. It sort of goes with the territory.

Jay Johnson
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The focus of my concern is that the Xbox One will not be a usable product for service members when they are deployed and not at home with internet connections available. Certainly there are substantial limitations incurred when embarked on a ship or otherwise deployed/detached. What I am discussing is the ramifications Microsoft's direction for the Xbox One will have on the purchasing decisions of military members and how that could also substantially impact the sales of the Xbox One in a demographic that previously made use of the Xbox 360 and Xbox.

Bob Johnson
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Yeah what I am saying though is most military members probably aren't deployed on ships and now aren't in theaters of war either with our withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. So how many really don't have access to the Internet on a daily basis? How many armed services personnel are currently on ships?

According to the USNavy there are 318k on active duty. How many of those are on a ship for any ~9 month period of deployment?

Btw, out of curiousity, ....do you literally have no access to the internet on a ship like an aircraft carrier? Not even via satellite Internet in a Navy computer area? Just curious.

Jay Johnson
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We have access to the internet through the ships internet network. It is of extremely limited scope in use though. There are strict guidelines in its use and we are unable to connect our own devices to the network. Even if we could the available bandwidth would not support something like a gaming service. To your former question - Regardless of any conflict that the military is involved in the military still deploys and also detaches for training periods that aren't deployments but still require us to leave home. While we are obviously not constantly deployed or detached the fact that I will again deploy in the future weighs heavily in on my purchasing decisions.

Bob Johnson
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I understand the deployment thing with the Navy a bit. You are on a ship for many months at a time every year or so.

I don't understand the deployment thing with the army etc as much except that they move from base to base around the world and in the US. But in the vast majority of cases they would seem (to this layman) to be close to a friendly base most of the time where they have their own internet access. Except in war zones like Iraq/Afghanistan etc.

btw, you would need very little bandwidth for a console to check in with authentication servers. That isn't the same thing as playing a game over Live. In a nutshell it is just a log-in type of procedure. And I understand the not using your own devices on the network. Perhaps the Navy IT could have a supply of Xbox Ones to boost morale of its personnel when deployed on ships for long periods of time.


Gil Salvado
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You said no numbers for statistics, but I guess you can get a pretty good accurate from your own ship. I believe your comrades are as equally frustrated about the situation. So, it should be easy to get the number of Xbox 360's on your ship as well as the average number of games per console. You surely know the crew size of your own vessel and of every other type of ship within the navy. It'll be easy math as soon as you get the percentage.

In general, I don't believe it's a good decision to alienate service men and women. Americans value their military so very very much and I'm sure they're opinion is well regarded, especially if it concerns the troops morale. After all we talking about Microsoft. An american company.

Still, I don't believe Microsoft is going to change their DRM policy with the first version of the Xbox One. Maybe with second or third version should the negative opinion about it remain, which I doubt will change in time. The damage is done and won't be fixed in time because of pride and certainly some other issues.

Bob Johnson
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I am trying to understand the needs of both sides.

I don't completely understand the MS side either. But you could make a reasonable argument that to protect game development in the future, to protect the future of the types of games you like to play, they have to have a system in place to prevent piracy.

Ron Dippold
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Just to follow up, this made Navy Times:

http://www.navytimes.com/article/20130614/OFFDUTY02/306140030

Jay Johnson
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Yeah it's on all of them, Marine Corps Times, Air Force Times, and Army Times. They're all owned by Military Times - which for your awareness is not at all affiliated with any of the armed forces, they are a private journalism business. This issue is getting all kinds of attention. It is up on gamespot now: http://www.gamespot.com/news/navy-publication-blasts-xbox-one-641
0382 and clocking in with over 2400 comments. I'm surprised how much attention this is garnering.

Eric Pobirs
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Well, this is not an easy call. I have a nephew in the Marines in Afghanistan for the second time. Since he is in the Corps version of Geek Squad he tends to have better internet access than guys out at a forward position. I'll have to ask him what the buzz is where he is at.

This is a kid who has been gaming since he was a toddler. I think he was about two months shy of his third birthday when he first picked up an NES controller. If I got an Xbox One, my nephew and his older brother would be at the top of my list of people to use the shared access feature to let them use my library, just as I have been doing with them since they were kids who lived a few miles away. Since I'm the guy in the family who finds the deals and has a ridiculous number of games, being able to do this would have them pretty stoked and far more likely to buy an Xbox.

But the dreaded DRM is what enables Microsoft to offer this functionality with third party games. It isn't some new limit imposed with nothing in return. But it is also inevitable that a platform driven by connectivity is going to present annoyances for those who lack sufficient service. But it where it has all been leading for decades. This transition was inevitable. It was only a question of who would go first and bear the brunt of the backlash. Ten years from now it will just be normal and nobody will give it much thought as going to the store to buy a disc becomes an increasingly quaint activity. A lot of people will not even remember there was ever a controversy. Already it must seem curious to those kids whose sole exposure to software purchases has been on exclusively digital tablets and smartphones.

Jay Johnson
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I've never been happier to see something I wrote rendered moot.

Rob Jellinghaus
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I think it was hardly moot. I think it was one of the biggest reasons -- possibly THE biggest reason -- Microsoft made this decision. Considering how important Call of Duty is to the 360, and considering how important the US military is generally to the gaming industry, Microsoft can hardly afford for the only US-made console to be anything less than our soldiers' favorite.


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