Microsoft combining their platforms

For some time now I’ve been expecting Microsoft to return to their native PC market. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is hitting the PC via Windows 10 Store. Similarly, Forza 6’s slimmed down version is getting a release via Win10 store as well.

What does this tell you? This tells you that Microsoft is unifying PC and Xbox One.

The Xbox brand has been less successful than Microsoft wanted it to be. From the very first console, it never dominated the market anywhere to any extend outside the America. The Xbox lost to PS2, the 360 lost to the Wii and Xbox One doesn’t seem to sell anywhere. These have translated into losses very fast, but Microsoft’s vast monetary resources have kept the brand afloat.

Not only that, but the consumer has made clear what sort of OS they prefer. Windows 7 is still the most used OS at 52.34% market share, followed by Win10 and the goddamn WinXP. Nobody liked Windows 8, and it looks like Win10 is gaining foothold because it’s a forced update. It offers something to the hardcore gamers for sure, but that’s a niche audience at best.

UWP, the Universal Windows Platform, aims to run platforms on both PC and Xbox. Seeing how Microsoft is turning Xbox into a gaming machine that can be upgraded in hardware, like almost any PC. Hell, at this point they should do away with the Xbox brand as a console and start selling them as gaming designated PCs. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody has done that either.

On top of that, Microsoft wants to get into the whole Augmented Reality stuff.

It seems they are restructuring themselves harshly, but something doesn’t seem right. They’re not making a clear-cut difference with the console market, but they are teetering on its edge. With the upgradeable hardware they are essentially announcing that their targeted consumer base will be smaller than previously, as most console gamers are not into modifying their hardware in any way.

This weird split won’t push either Xbox side or the PC side if the UWP in the way they are hoping for. Digitally, the UWP acts as one platform, but we always have to remember that there exists a large amount of different hardwares running Win10. For the cross platform to work as intended, all UWP games would need to be tied to the Xbox side of hardware in performance and options. I do not see a scenario where UWP would allow any Xbox game to use the full potential of the PC hardware because Xbox hardware exists.

On top of that, DirectX 12 will be Windows 10 exclusive and that won’t affect anything. Rather, if UWP will utilise it, the Xbox will most likely get an equivalent update to it.

UWP and Win10 Store will function as digital game console, much like how Steam works, and that is what Microsoft will have an uphill battle with. Steam is without a doubt in a monopoly position when it comes to digital platform on PC. Both EA and Ubisoft tried their own thing and failed. GOG is sticking around as a good alternative for older games. Some have expressed the worry that Windows 10 will put games behind a walled garden, forcing people to use certain software to access their games to begin with with always online functionality, but you’d think they already got used to it with Steam.

Xbox as a brand had some root as a console name, and had dedicated fans just like everything else. However, unlike most of Nintendo’s consoles, both SONY and Microsoft were always the hardcore red sea competitors. But now there is an ad floating around with a modified Xbox One claiming that Together we are ONE, and especially mentions how the whole thing goes from the best casual games to a new generation PC gaming. It’s laughable and implies that PC gaming is the hardcore market, which it really is as we’ve discussed previously.While it’s sidestepping the hardcore fallacy, it resorts to casual fallacy with no care in the world.

The Xbox One seems to become a Steam Machine in many ways, an incredibly dumbed down computer for games.

None of this matters if the software they’re offering isn’t  up the task. Microsoft can reorganise the Xbox brand and their PC side as many times as they want to, but without the software to push either one, they will fall flat. Gaming on consoles has always been about one thing and one thing only; games. With Frankenstein’s monster -esque change they’re making won’t benefit the gamers or themselves as long as they intend to mix PC and consoles together.

I see this becoming another failure in Microsoft’s ventures. Zune failed, Microsoft phones failed, Microsoft’s tablets have been failing and now their consoles have failed and are being turned into third-rate PCs. The only reason Microsoft is still around is what made them big in the first place; Windows. The OS installation base is still large and Office is still largely a standard, but with their misadventures and constant screw-ups they are doing their hardest to fuck this monopoly up.

Consumer given rights

With modern consoles, be it digital or not, you’re not only buying into an access to the library of games, but also to all the services it offers. It doesn’t matter if you use them or create an account for them, they’re there for you from the get go and are an integral part of the offered system. Both SONY and Microsoft have a high level of access to the machines that are online. I don’t know about Wii U, I haven’t looked into how tightly they want to keep an eye on their customers.

With the recent news of Microsoft banning all the suspected accounts related to the Gears of War remake leaks shouldn’t come with any surprises. It’s a dick move with a very gray zone, but it’s a the every single Xbone user signs up to with the purchase.

On one hand the consumer should have every right to do whatever they want with their consoles, with the purchased product they rightfully and legally own. On the other hand, leaking information on a product you are testing is a dick move too, a highly unprofessional and more often than not absolutely against the signed contract.

With Xbone being a console that relies on pretty much all of its functions on online connectivity, the leaker or leakers have willingly played their chances and lost all those functionalities. I’m not sure how much functions an offline Xbone has, but there are games that require online functionality, like Destiny. Those already had some problems running due to connection errors and problems with servers, and will become completely unplayable when the servers are taken down, unless they patch a proper offline functionality to them.

We can discuss whether or not Microsoft has the right to do this sort of banning. In all seriousness, they have. While EULA doesn’t stand a chance if taken to court, it is the guidelines Microsoft has used since the beginning to encourage and enforce good and proper behaviour with their products and other people online. We can always argue to what extent they’ve succeeded, as we all have seen and heard stories how people are abusing each other online in various ways, or just acting generally like bunch of dicks.

As with any other company that essentially has an EULA that states Whatever we deem as misconduct will bring the banhammer down, like Valve’s Steam, will employ it whenever they see it fit. The consumers know this, if you’re going to do something that would violate the EULA, you better be sure you can’t be traced.

This is a sort of result of video game consoles turning into dumbed down PCs and the whole mess that has brought in. While it is true that the online functionality in the early consoles generations were highly limited with Famicom having a modem for few functions and SEGA delivering SEGA Channel, the mindset was different from those in comparison to modern consoles. While PC gaming and console gaming being different coins altogether, the multiplayer function and how they use online functions have become more or less the same. However, the sensibilities of console games have been lost with the PC-fication of consoles.

PC has a long record with online gaming in the form we take granted nowadays. With consoles it has always been more limited, with Nintendo’s Satellaview offering products that we don’t really see nowadays anymore. Then again, timed playing in certain time of the day and voice acting can be seen as an element that has lost its place in modern world with everyone wanting to do their entertainment at whatever time they wish and voice acting being a standard in modern gaming. With consoles more or less being multimedia entertainment terminals than boxes to play games, the companies had to broaden their control over what the consumer can do. Well up to sixth generation you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to your console and still be able to do online.

Online is not the end of all things on consoles. They should always be able to be their standalone products, allowing the consumer to play the games however they want to. With the multimedia nature in there, both Microsoft and SONY have put emphasize on these functionalities that are irrelevant to console gaming. This is of course far more apparent with the Xbone, especially so if we are to take John Riccitello’s words as true.

Riccitiello claims that Microsoft tried to compete with Apple’s products with the Xbone, that Microsoft didn’t feel that games would be big enough for whatever reason. This is, of course, absolutely asinine. It takes a large leap in logic to say that a home console would be in competition with Apple’s pads and Macs. That’s like taking part in a horserace with a motorbike; they both get you from point A to point B, but are different in their very nature. Smartphones and tablets have made screens available everywhere. Most people have one in their pockets right now, and some may read this post on one. If you’re going to compete in the field of multimedia streaming with a game console is absolutely stupid. If game industry is not big enough for your competition, you might as well drop the games from the equation and concentrate on producing multimedia terminals only. Would be cheaper too. Games have become far too expensive to produce nowadays, and one could argue that the inflation in game development costs has dropped the variety in games as well as dropped their value as games.

To end that tangent and returning to the main issue. As long as consumers are willingly giving all these controls to the companies, things won’t change. On the other hand, as long as there are those who would intentionally break the consoles for their own ends, certain level of control needs to be kept in the hands of the companies.

There’s no real discussion whether or not Microsoft had the right to ban these accounts. The discussion should be aimed at what nature of service necessitates near total control over the consumers’ machines.