Unless, like me, you are looking at the release dates for the next generation of gaming consoles the way a starving hyena watches an approaching gazelle that's been eating nothing but butter for weeks, perhaps you're not up on all the information coming about regarding Microsoft's next console. Actually, as I'll discuss in a moment, even if you are paying constant attention, you probably still don't know a whole lot for sure. See, after months and months of speculation on possible features of the next Xbox, Microsoft stupidly decided to not firmly address any of that speculation at the release event for the Xbox One. The most troublesome in terms of bad press have been rumors about online connection requirements and how used games would be handled. I say press, but perhaps I should rather say non-mainstream press, because it's really been the smaller blogs and citizen journalists that have produced a roundly negative buzz for the Xbox One.
You would think that in a negative and uncertain climate that's been brewing for the past several months, Microsoft would use the official release press event as a way to clear all of this up. Good answers or bad answers, it's important that the public and the press have a firm understanding on what to expect out of the console. Aren't we constantly told that uncertainty is four letter word in economics and business? That's why it's so curious that Microsoft appears to have provided very little in the way of answers and what answers it has chosen to supply have been both contradictory and confusing.
So, let's take the two issues in order. First up is rumors about online requirements.
It turns out that the detail we were murkiest about was the one Microsoft themselves are the murkiest about. The official Microsoft party line on the day the company revealed the Xbox One: "It does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet."
Welcome back. I say that because I assume you just spent the past fifteen minutes rereading that last sentence over and over again trying to figure out what the hell it means. As it turns out, the key word is "always." The Xbox One will require an internet connection at certain points, but it won't need to constantly be connected to function. So, what are those certain points? Well, nobody, including Microsoft, seems to know, which is strange of them to admit since it's their nun-punching freaking product
. Microsoft executive Phil Harrison told Kotaku that he "believes" a connection is required once every 24 hours. Oh, and possibly one is needed in order to play a new game for the first time. Also when you first use the console. The lack of finality in these answers is astounding, particularly coming from a Microsoft executive giving interviews at the release event
. Imagine going to your local auto show and having a Ford Motor VP telling you how wonderful their new car is, but can't firmly answer any questions about its motor or how many miles-per-gallon it gets?
And with the question of used games, we do no better. Harrison told one reporter:
"We will have a system where you can take that digital content and trade a previously played game at a retail store. We're not announcing the details of that today, but we will have announced in due course."
Then told another:
"We will have a solution—we're not talking about it today—for you to be able to trade your previously-played games online."
What you immediately notice is not only the lack of any specifics to one of the major questions hanging over the console like a set of rain clouds, but even these two non-answers are different. The first talks about used games being traded at retail stores, while the second seems to mention trading games online
. That'd be a huge development if true, with some kind of Microsoft online trading platform threatening GameStop and other used game retailers. Speaking of which, reports are already surfacing that Microsoft is requiring agreements limited to select retailers
to actually be able to buy and sell used games. If those reports are accurate, trading games will only
be possible through those select retailers and the game publisher and Microsoft will take a massive cut of the transaction, leaving retailers with very little margin. The end results of this setup will be higher prices for used games and the inability for gamers to trade games with one another.
Still, as bad as that would be, Microsoft hasn't even officially confirmed that program either. Between that uncertainty and that of online connection requirements, it's no wonder the general public hasn't been keen on the Xbox One release yet. There is a market, sadly, for the kind of walled gardens and restrictive requirements discussed above. Apple's mobile devices prove that. But where Apple officially and boisterously owns those concepts, Microsoft's opaque stance on these questions can only mute any release buzz for their new console. It's high time the company got everyone on message.