Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the time has come. After months of standing under waterfalls FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON, and several Rocky esque montages, I am ready to bring back the beloved and hated Chris’ Controversial Corner. For those new to this segment, I basically take something industry related and break it down to the extremes, good or bad. We’ll speculate, exaggerate, and probably blow things WAY out of proportion, but hey, that’s what being controversial is all about. Now, I don’t do this for the sake of being controversial, but more to keep things in perspective. It is easy nowadays to get caught up in the moment with wide eyes, only to be disappointed later. Use this as a tool or talking point, a means to express an opinion of your own, either in favor or against mine. I welcome it, let the hatred flow through you…
By now you have probably heard about the several changes coming to both Xbox Live and the Xbox One. Specifically, Games for Gold coming to the One, the fact that media apps no longer require Gold, and that the One will soon be available for $399 without Kinect. Initially, these all seem like really awesome things worth getting excited about, and they are. However, there is a bit more to look at than just some price drops and free access.
Let’s look at the Live changes first, as this pertains to 360 owners almost as much as it does to One owners. Now you can watch your Netflix, HBO Go, and many other media apps without needing to have a paid Xbox Live account. Microsoft will even refund those of you who only subscribe in order to use those apps. Great, except what happens to those of us who still subscribe? The value of my subscription just went down, and then we still have to deal with all those people who demand refunds which, as a result, turns into lost income for Microsoft. When subscriptions go down will that bring the cost up? It wouldn’t be the first time Microsoft has raised the price of Live, and a few million (all speculation on my part with regards to numbers) people leaving the service could be a big hit to a division likely still reeling from the cost of their new console.
And then there is Games for Gold coming to Live. No surprises, it works more or less like Playstation Plus. That means you will need to maintain your subscription to continue playing the free games on offer, but wait a minute, 360 doesn’t have that restriction. Yes, the games are older, Halo 3 and Assassins Creed 2 are probably collecting dust on your shelf since you bought them years ago, but are 360 owners getting a bit of a better deal? I mean, they get to keep their games regardless of future subscription. The other question becomes whether or not Microsoft will pull in the same quality of games that Sony does with Playstation Plus. In their current state, do they have the kind of games to give away that Sony does? With Sony being “buddy buddy” with indie developers, they have plenty of options to give away great games, and I am not sure Microsoft is willing to give away top tier games like Ryse, Dead Rising 3, or Titanfall. I have no doubt they are capable of something, but will that become another cost to add to Live? The initial price hike was the result of improved infrastructure, but now they are looking to give away free games. Then there is the fact that they will lose subscribers now that media apps are not locked behind the paywall. It’s great that they are finally making these changes and additions, but at what cost do they arrive?
Then, we have the elephant in the room, the Kinect-less Xbox One for $399. Now we have two comparable consoles offering comparable packages at the same price, but is it that black and white? Remember back to early 2013 when Kinect was required to even use the Xbox One. Since then that requirement has been lifted, but Kinect is still an integral part of the Xbox One experience. Like it or not, Kinect is required to get the full package experience. Removing Kinect is almost like removing a controller. Yes, I know some of us said we didn’t want it anyway, I was there right along with you. However, the Xbox One was built with kinect in mind, so like it or not we have to embrace Kinect to properly embrace the Xbox One.
It doesn’t even have anything to do with games. Kinect is a huge part of how to navigate the Xbox One. Credit where credit is due, voice commands are an excellent way to navigate the console quickly and effectively. While I still don’t find myself a fan of it’s gaming applications, I look at how often I find myself saying “Ok Google” to my smartphone and I know, deep down, that I am ready for Kinect. Even on the Playstation 4 with its decidedly smaller (and honestly, less useful) selection of voice commands, I’ll voice across the room “Playstation, start application” or “Playstation, go home.” Convenience that is there when you need it, and something the Xbox One would lack without Kinect. Unlike Microsoft, Sony did not restrict their voice commands to their proprietary camera, so you can even use that cheap earbud mic to tell your PS4 what to do, or to get technical fouls in NBA 2K14, just ask Ross about that. Without Kinect, your Xbox One lacks functionality. Sure, the device will be sold separately later in the year, but in order to offer more competitive pricing, they have to offer and incomplete package. That’s right, even at $399 I will be the one bold enough to say that the Playstation 4 is still the better value. Before it was a powerful console for $100 less, now it is a more feature rich platform at the same price.
Both consoles offer their own unique games and experiences, and even at $499 the Xbox One has been hugely successful since launch and offers a top notch experience. However, taking out the ONE (HA!) thing that separated it from the competition and taking $100 off the price does not a better deal make. There is also the continued issue of Microsoft sending mixed messages about their platform, and the inevitable questions of its future thanks to these rapid policy changes. To put it bluntly, the Xbox One will be successful. There are a lot of 360 owners who have been waiting to make the jump and this might be the nudge they need to take the next step, and there are millions of gamers who call Microsoft’s platform their home. All the policy changes in the world won’t change that. Whether the Xbox One to come will be better than the Xbox One of the here and now, or the version from 2013 for that matter, still remains to be seen. There is no doubt though the Microsoft is in the for the long haul and, for better or for worse, they will evolve their experience until you buy one.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed the read, or have any opinion either way about the Xbox One and Microsoft’s changes. Is this enough to get you interested in the platform? Have questions or suggestions? Hit me up on Twitter or e-mail me at email@example.com, you can even leave a comment on the Facebook page (Hint hint wink wink use the social media). Also, a special thanks to Dudearino, a fan from Twitch who poorly photo shopped for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As always, keep it here on ThoseGamingNerds!