The founder of the original Xbox project has some decent insight when it comes to Microsoft’s strange aims for the next generation. Seeing that Microsoft thinks that HDD, Blu-ray format and extremely draconian DRM that would not allow second-hand games is a bunch of good ideas, I have to wonder why they want to be in the console business at all.
Having a console that’s always online is a very, very stupid idea. Now all people are connected to the Internet even during these modern days, and this automatically shuts out a certain portion of the customers that might be willing to purchase your ‘box. The second is that I’m pretty sure this won’t stop a certain group of people from making their modifications to get surround the limitation. The same can be said of the second-hand games, a block that is completely unnecessary and stupid. This shows how much both hardware and software developers are afraid of the current market. They are not making enough profit on barely mediocre games that they need to force people to buy them new. If you want people to buy your games new rather than second hand, then make sacrifices; make them good again with smaller budget and drop the price of the game. God forbid people from making proper business decisions.
BD is a sensible solution. While the media has very little impact on the quality of the game itself (a lot of developers just want to have everything uncompressed on the disc rather than trying to fill it with content that isn’t DLC), thou it will give SONY some royalties. This is just one limitation less that developers have to think of, which is sad as best products, be it comics, films, music or games, have always been produced under a set of limitations.
But forced Kinect? Does Microsoft not realize that Kinect has been mismanaged and there are one or two games that use it to some successful extent. Forcing it on developers is a wrong way to limit the developers, but it can yield interesting and surprising results. Yet, seeing that all this time there only dance games have been utilising Kinect decently, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nintendo always forces their own gimmicks on the developers to an extent, like the 3D screen, but most of the times what they do with the gimmick is pretty open. NES era allowed the developers to create and use their own controllers with the game if they so choose. This was successful move, and the Wii followed suit to a point with the port at Wii controller’s end. Both PS3 and X360 offer very little when it comes to controller variety, and very few games take advantage of these selected few. Arcade controllers are perhaps the most common secondary controller again in a long time, and those are exclusively used by the fighting game community.
There are also few reports that Microsoft is going to emphasize other services than games as is SONY. There’s a really damn good question why you would want to direct your customer to another service where you lose profits. Having a service of TV and films will give the customer and option to NOT use your intended service, which should be the games. I need to emphasize the should part, as it seems that both MS and SONY seem to think that doing an all encompassing multimedia force of extraordinary magnitude will sell like hotcakes. Just like in military, a unit that is made for too many tasks will usually fail. Same with game consoles. Make them be the centre of all your home media, and you’ll fail. None of the consoles I’ve used have been decent media players outside the original PlayStation. Even PS3, at one point the best option for a BD player, kinda sucks at it. There are better choices for all your playback needs, so having one mediocre machine doing it all is going backwards. Then if you own two or more consoles, you get more players and in the end you might end up owning around seven DVD players without a notice, and you only use one.
The current Xbox is not without its problems as well, as the original founder points out. All of these problems are because of poor design from the get-go. Anyone with a working view on design will instantly tell you that all current console GUIs are more or less horribly designed both in usability and in visuals. Useless and stupid warning messages are their smallest problem. The biggest problem with Xbox dashboards have always been that they have no real cohesion and are all over the place. Why do I need to navigate music and films on a damn games console?
I still do disagree with the notion that consoles are competing with tablet devices. However, seeing that most console games nowadays are nothing but computer games adjusted for consoles I can agree that games themselves are doing the competition because the markets have been mixed far too much for their own good. I’m seeing Duke Nukem Forever for 360 going for 8€, but I’m refusing to buy it because it’s a PC game. I do not want to play PC game on a console. There’s a reason why Command & Conquer games work better on PCs.
I was called by a salesclerk today about my Internet and other connection related stuff. He told me that they had a promotion for their customers, where they would be able to purchase a tablet computer for specially low price. Before he got his sales pitch at full force, I declined the offer. He naturally inquired why, and few of my friends began to gaze as I started listing things that are universally wrong with the tablet design from lack of tactile touch to gorilla arms. Besides, tablets are getting outdated faster than conventional laptops at this point. Size is not a problem either, as ultra-thing laptops are everywhere and most likely have longer battery life to boot.
It’s sad to think that companies have decided to get into the fight with every form of entertainment out there and losing in it, while specializing in games is left in the shadows. Without proper priorities from the game hardware and software companies these consoles will crash and burn, and the industry at large will die.