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The Mixed Signals of the Xbox One
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The Mixed Signals of the Xbox One
by Josh Bycer on 06/17/13 12:32:00 pm

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

 

In the last two weeks of announcements, the Xbox One has been hit hard in the eyes of the general consumer and today's post examines one of the major trouble areas Microsoft is having with it.

Reprinted from my site: Game-Wisdom

Two weeks ago, Microsoft officially confirmed that the Xbox One will require a broadband internet connection in order to play video games.

As always, opinions were mixed with some people fine with that and others declaring the Xbox One dead on arrival. As for me, not only does this sound like a huge mistake but I feel that Microsoft is having a tough time saying just who the new system is aimed for.

Xbox One

ISP Interference:

Let's start with the official announcement. According to Microsoft you can play video games on your primary console for 24 hours without an internet connection and one hour if you are accessing your account from a separate console.

After either of those two time limits, you must connect to the internet in order to re-authenticate. If you go beyond the limit, you will still be able to use the Xbox One, but not for video game playing.

In my opinion, having any hardware requiring constant internet access in the US at this point is a fool's gamble.

I worked for two years at Comcast doing tech support for phone, internet and TV related issues and during that time, I got countless calls from issues both inside and outside of homes affecting internet access.

High rises or multi-floor houses, depending on where the cable lines are coming in can have a hard time connecting everyone to the internet. Depending on where the cable operator ran the lines, you may have your computer and game systems on floor 3 and the actual modem on floor 1.

Once the lines have been ran by the cable operator, they will most likely charge to re-run cable to different parts of the house or as it was called at Comcast "wall fishing." Based on the extent of the project will determine the actual cost.

Wireless is not always an answer, as the router must still connect to the cable modem. Depending on the location of the modem, this could mean an unreliable internet connection based on signal strength, or in other words: not every part of the house getting internet.

Many homes were originally wired just for TV and phone service, meaning that the technician at the time put the modem in the most accessible area for the cable line, but not for general use. I got countless calls from people who had their modem in a closet in some part of their house.

Now, I do have to clarify: Working at a call center for tech support, meant that I received all the calls regarding problems with the service and that does not make those issues a regular occurrence for everyone.

However the fact that I was getting calls from New Jersey and Pennsylvania for basic infrastructure issues doesn't bode well for the vast portions of the country that still don't have reliable internet. According to the FCC, about 119 million Americans in 2012 were not able to access broadband internet.

Looking outside of the house itself, there are many things that can take out an internet connection: weather, accidents, old equipment and so on.

Many areas have upgraded homes with internet service, without making sure that the existing technology could support the additional infrastructure growth. This can lead to massive service outages that could affect a few dozen homes, to a few hundred, or even a few thousand.

In many cases, a house can still have electricity coming in, but no internet. Now, for the families who have bought the Xbox One, they had better hope that they get service within 24 hours, or there goes their entire game library in the meantime.

xbox one
Another interesting move by Microsoft: Having day one exclusive achievements and controllers for preorders.

Some people have commented that this kind of system is similar to Steam's offline mode.

However with Steam, you only need to connect to download the respective games you want and then can go into offline mode for as long as you want.

Simply put, the US is not at the point where everyone has stable internet. I'm pretty sure that Microsoft knows and this raises the other point: who is the Xbox One aimed for in this case?

Xbox, Elite:

I know it's routine for people to make fun of Microsoft for some of their decisions: Vista, Windows 8 and so on.  But as a major company, one would assume that they spend months researching the market and their own analytics and not making these decisions lightly.

In the original announcement, Microsoft touted the system as the one stop shop for all your multimedia needs, making the Xbox One sound appealing to families. However the always online requirement would be a severe determent to a lot of households in the US, outside of the people with enough money to already have a wired home to begin with.

Now, it’s easy to assume that people who have their home wired in such a way would be techies and have an interest in games. But the recent announcement for how used games will work doesn't bode well.

Once again, for people who already have the money to spend on wiring their home, they probably avoid used games to begin with.

xbox one
The new and improved kinect which is required with the Xbox One, also stirred up controversy.

If we tally everything up: The Xbox One is aimed at households that have the money to already be wired and have an interest in games. But their interest must only be for new copies which imply having a lot of disposable income.

This makes the Xbox One sound less like hardware for a hobbyist or fan and more like a luxury product for the wealthy. Now, video games have never been a cheap hobby and I remember a time where SNES games cost $80. However, this is the first time that a major platform is going to be released with restrictions based around the income bracket of a country.

If Microsoft continues with their set out plans, they will lose a huge portion of the consumer base. But maybe they already know this and are aiming for long term sales with their specific audience.

It sounds like Microsoft is trying to force a new standard on the market and move the industry forward in the process. However with the state of our internet infrastructure and economy, it's not leading as much as: Dragging us, kicking and screaming.


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Comments


Gern Blanderson
profile image
Microsoft's strategy for "tethering" the physical game discs sounds similar to the 1999 Circuit City plan with DIVX format movies, basically a tethered DVD and player. You guys can go look up the history of DIVX, but I remember it at the time because I was looking at a DIVX player. The idea was the DIVX player required a phone connection so that it could phone in to the Circuit City server to authorize your DVD. If you paid the fee to have an unlimited viewing of the DIVX disc, you still had to have the phone connection so that it could authorize your disc to play.

Now we are 14 years later and Microsoft is trying the same thing. We'll see if gamers are ready for this. So far, it appears gamers are not ready. I don't like it.


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