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Opinion: Xbox One's tough value proposition Exclusive
Opinion: Xbox One's tough value proposition
June 10, 2013 | By Leigh Alexander

June 10, 2013 | By Leigh Alexander
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    32 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, E3



We were promised a great deal after Microsoft's Xbox Reveal in May. So did this morning's E3 press briefing deliver? Gamasutra editor-at-large Leigh Alexander remains as skeptical as before.

Back in 2006, a pressured Sony found itself in a new position: roundly trumped by Microsoft's Xbox 360 in the consumer appeal department. The company's Kaz Hirai made a statement that most viewed at the time as characteristic of the tragic arrogance that put the PlayStation brand in a position of defeat to begin with: "The next generation doesn't start until we say it does."

What if Kaz Hirai was right? Heading into E3 after an underwhelming Xbox One reveal and a series of grievous communication fumbles, Microsoft looks a lot like it's been rushed. When it comes to big consumer questions like their rights to buy and sell pre-owned games or whether the console will require an always-on internet connection the company's given answers that confused even the passionate enthusiast games press -- bringing into question its ability to explain its value proposition to the gadget-hungry, big brand-loving American living room it seems to be pitching for.

Following the party line

Skeptical game fans and industry watchers have been waiting for E3 -- and the games that should prove crucial to the new console's appeal. Microsoft's press conference, however, opened with games plenty of people have seen already, like Metal Gear Solid 5, World of Tanks and Minecraft. Easy to wonder whether the company's doing a good job of proving it's a more interesting gaming platform than the home computer.

Following the Xbox One's initial unveiling, I thought that by aiming for the "rec room" television altar of yesteryear, the company demonstrated an oddly slow-moving strategy for a world that increasingly favors development on open platforms, multitasking across multiple devices and more consumer-friendly digital rights management. Microsoft showed plenty of the games audiences have been clamoring to see -- but very few of them illustrated the sort of meaningful innovation we'd expect from a new console generation.

E3 presentations are hardly known for natural enthusiasm, sentimentality or spontaneity, but familiar presenters were especially leaden this year. Crytek's Cevat Yerli is normally an effusive man; we're used to seeing Ted Price enthuse on behalf of Sony. But most of the presentations were uncomfortably party-line -- even an exciting franchise like Dead Rising is still a third installment, with a biker theme that actually seems to rob the franchise of its distinction in a time when there are quite a lot more zombie games than there once were. CD Projekt Red's John Mamais is the thousandth person in the world to say something like "truly next-gen epic fantasy", and there is nothing he can do to make that phrase sound refreshing or exciting.

An audience that has outgrown its offerings

We knew there would be a Battlefield 4. People have bemoaned Microsoft's unlikeable "Points" system for years, so a transition to real money is the least audiences would expect. Even the demonstration of Spark Project, which suggested the intriguing possibility of letting players build and control worlds and their time of day featured adult men awkwardly saying "boom" and "badass" in a way that only highlighted the way the gaming audience seems to have meaningfully outgrown its offerings. The ambivalent tone only underwrote the idea the Microsoft might not be quite sure what it ought to say or to whom.

After the initial console reveal, the generous opinion would be that Microsoft is aiming at families and tech-heads, not gamers. After its E3 presentation, we see the company is angling for the broadest swath of the core market. Its brief look at console exclusives -- something with a gun? Something with Master Chief? Titan-something? It read like more of the same, remixes of the past flatly swathed in the trappings of newness.

The occasional flicker of unfamiliarity, like Swery's D4 or the new Capy game, can't outweigh the deadening generic feel of Microsoft's hollow E3 show. I watched it live in London, alongside the EToo conference, where fans and local developers packed a bar to watch along. When Phil Harrison asserted that Microsoft is more committed to indies than any other developer, the room erupted in laughter.

This is not enough; this is far from a $500 value proposition. This is only another Xbox. This is only another listless, enormous question mark hanging over the future of the traditional games business.


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Comments


Brandon Karratti
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Perhaps "outgrown" is the description that I've been looking for. I was sorely unenthused by the Microsoft E3, and the thing is, I really wanted to be excited. But the thing is, I'm still excited for a PS4, and the games I'm most looking forward to from this morning's conference are the multi-platform ones that will be available across the board.

I'm still waiting for the rest of today to solidify things, but I'm left a little disappointed so far.

Freek Hoekstra
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I really liked the Spark project to be honest, it loked like a lot of fun,
great for children, learning how to combine logic systems to create new emergent behaviour.
I have no problem with the games Microsoft whowed today, most looked great, and a lot were actually really cool.

Bryce Walton
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What stood out the most to me was the awkward offhand rape joke during the oh-so-fake Killer Instinct 3 match:
"Just take it, it wil be over soon." :/

Michael Pianta
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I couldn't believe he said that. Every line was rehearsed and vetted (presumably) so how could they have failed to realize how that would sound? Are they unaware of the ongoing discussion about how women are treated in the industry? Even without the bad joke it was poorly conceived - she gets trotted out to be owned by the developer who gets to use a custom Mad Catz fight stick. It just didn't play well.

Duong Nguyen
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Who the @#!@ are they aiming for with rape jokes? Is there some hidden rapist demographic they want to appeal too with rape jokes? Stupid, stupid people should keep their mouth shut, if your thinking about making a rape joke, just don't.

Dane MacMahon
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I cringed at that but thought maybe I took it wrong. I guess not.

Shameful.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeanne Burch
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I physically flinched, thinking "I did NOT just hear that." And then flinched some more at the actual demo which seem to confirm that, yes, I did just hear that and it meant exactly what I thought it meant.

Duong Nguyen
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For the "mass casual market" its too expensive for what it does, but early hardcore game adopters will give it some legs for awhile until they can get their manufacturing costs down. That's the theory but if Sony comes out at a lower price point, we'll then it's going to be a rough ride for Microsoft but they got billions to throw away on the Xbox One so no one is worried too much ( I suspect the Xbox One has already burned through more money than the entire Xbox has made in its lifetime ).

Michael Pianta
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Plus the early hardcore game adopters are the very people who are most unhappy with them over their various restrictions. I think they've really blown it. Too expensive for an impulse buy or anyone that isn't really into games, and too restrictive for anyone that IS really into games, most of those guys will switch to Sony or just stick with PC.

Dane MacMahon
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I think everything they showed that looked really good is multiplatform. Titanfall, Witcher 3, Metal Gear, etc. That combined with the ill will they have built up over DRM, and now the price, is something they should be worried about.

At the same time however I bet Sony has DRM as well, and people will want to stick with Xbox to keep their friend list, achievements and whatever else going.

Still... Sony can show some better exclusives and announce a $399 price and walk away winners pretty easily.

Matthew Calderaz
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Actually the quote seemed to be "Just let it happen, it will be over soon." And to put it in context, was after her complaint about being unable to block.

I didn't feel there was any overt implication of there being a rape joke. /shrug

Here's the clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj7kDaBLjb4

You would think they would have put at least 2 people up that had spent some time practicing. Looked like nothing but button mashing. Pretty poor game-play demonstration.

Dane MacMahon
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Those words are linked to rape imagery, it was a man saying it to a woman, and it just felt wrong.

Bryce Walton
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Thanks for the actual quote and clip, but that language, as Dane pointed out, is still associated with rape. That entire bit was in poor taste.

warren blyth
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I don't think it's a rape joke unless they: joke about rape.
or at least enter sexual innuendo territory.
Please save your outrage for a real infraction.

In this case two "game playing people" talked while playing a game. First one was dominating, then the other got the upper hand. That is the story of the KI demo.

It is your sexism goggles that can't look past the gender of these two people, and doesn't care how the story ends. I'd guess a lot of media over-consumption is causing people to tie this harmless/fake demo to the fighting community rape trash talking from months back. So the demo where a woman comes back from a loss, to beat a guy at his own fighting game, ends up being criticized as an example of rape culture.

the idea that a woman taking and giving trash talk: is a rape joke - or close enough that it must not be tolerated - is ridiculous.

Bryce Walton
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Warren, my response to the phrase "Just let it happen" has nothing to do with the sex of the speaker or recipient. The phrase "Just let it happen" is associated with rape (Google it, and you get a meme called the rape sloth), and it is not okay to use this phrase as a joke, particularly during a major public event. It reflects poorly on the gaming community, especially since it was meant to be an emulation of trash talk between gamers. It is not okay for any person to joke about rape, regardless of present company or current location.

Dane MacMahon
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Warren, it's the specific language, not the trash-talking in general. If you don't think "just let it happen" isn't sexual dominance language I don't know what to tell you.

I am usually on the other side of these debates telling people to calm down, but the first thing I did when he said that was cringe.

Thomas Grove
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Why is that phrase associated with rape? I don't understand.

I just watched the clip, looks innocent enough to me.

Dmitriy Barabanschikov
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My feeling that Microsoft is going completely in the wrong direction gets stronger with each announcement. It feels like they are jumping on the bandwagon which left couple of years ago. This whole always connected/"social" thing isn't going to win them any new users, that's what smartphones and tablets are for. Yet core gamers are alienated by extremely restrictive DRM policies and crackdown on second-hand market. Announced exclusive may sway some people to One, but it doesn't seem like there are many killer titles, it's mostly more of the same.

This, along with a almost nonexistent support from indies, begs the question, who will buy this new system and probably more importantly, who will develop for it? Most AAA titles will be ported over to every platform, sure, but what about the smaller or more platform-centric developers? Barring direct financial reward from Microsoft, what incentive is there for them to go for the new Xbox? I seriously doubt it that we will see many exciting and innovative games on this platform in this generation.

Ron Dippold
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If you want Call of Duty games, this console has you /covered/. I think I saw at least five, including Call of Duty: Rome.

My count could be off since they all kind of run together in hail of brown gunfire and barked orders.

Dane MacMahon
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First thing I thought of watching Ryse was the beach landing in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Rolled my eyes a bit at the arrow to the eye.

Game didn't look that great either.

Gil Salvado
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500 Bucks for a not backwards-compatible, 24hr-internet-requiring, living-room-observing piece of tech that can also play video games ... I wasn't in from the reveal on and I still won't.

Let's see how Sony plays the ball for Microsoft dropped it so very nicely just in front of them. After all Sony doesn't need a all-in-one media device, they have an entire empire of media tech already established since 1946.

Alex Covic
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I would only comment on the European side of this pricing: 499 Euros or 429 UK Pounds... in this economic environment (former target audiences, unemployment - especially, in Southern Europe) - this is going to be a tough sell, no matter what Sony will say in a couple hours.

The 'right' pricing is always tricky. It is a bet into the future of how things may turn out? Microsoft does not sound confident?

With the focus on many "Cloud" and TV/Media streaming (costly licensing deal nightmare per EU country), the offer in Europe will look far less attractive than in the US/CAN. And the old core audience called "Gamers" have less an incentive to buy into this "always-on" kinected living room future?

Gil Salvado
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Well, Microsoft obviously isn't aiming for Europe as their major business market, but this time certainly not even as a second market. Sony's PS3 is more popular around Europe albeit it's hefty price tag at it's launch and the attractive pricing and bundles of the Xbox 360.

Buying an Xbox One for 500€ instead of 377€ is extortion in my opinion. The EUR still holds up quiet fair against USD despite the our economical crisis.

Joshua Sterns
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At this point I'd rather spend my money on another 360 with a bigger harddrive.

Karl E
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Yup, the question is, who's going to buy this thing. And the stiffest competition for the One and ps4 is not each other, but the 360 and ps3, which for most of the target audience carries a cost of $0 and provides an experience that is... very similar, it sure looks like.

Nicholas Lovell
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That suggests that players can keep their PS3 and Xbox 360 for living room experiences and spend the $500 on a iPad or Nexus for a different experience.

And slowly start spending more time playing Candy Crush :-)

Craig Bamford
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The rape joke was appalling even if it WERE unintentional, but the console's exclusive content was just uninteresting in general. The only exception was maybe Crimson Dragon, since it's basically a new Panzer, but that just ain't worth the buy-in cost.

($500? Seriously? They DO know what's happened to the American middle class over the last decade or so, right? This is the first console that's going to be noticeably more expensive than a PC of equivalent power. How does it look when the "Glorious PC Master Race" is paying far less, for far more, than your early adopters?)

Joshua Sterns
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It's not like PC's can be hooked up to an HDTV in the living room....oh wait....they can.

Freek Hoekstra
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to be fair, PC's that you buy for a similar price now will in 2 years time not be able to properly run the games that run perfectly well on these consoles. eventhough they will be similar, just because of API optimisations etc.

but it is true the last gen was faster then pc's of their time,
dual core athlon 4800+ vs triple core dual threaded 3.2 ghz monster or the cell.
now they are equal to a mid-semi high end PC. but thye will atleast allow games to be built for that minimum spec, instead of previous gen

(that is, if enough people adopt them... we could be stuck with the previous generation for a looong time still.)

John Flush
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Having not watched the conference and only hearing about the rape joke... honestly, they know their market. Who hasn't played on XLive and not heard worse? That trash is acceptable in the online space that is Microsoft. No reason to believe the Xbone will clean it up any.

in a few more minutes we will find out if Sony will follow and whether or not next gen in general are going in one direction.

Jorge Luis Herrera Omonte
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Crossing fingers for Sony not being so desperate and ruin it, also waiting to hear from Nintendo tomorrow.


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