Weekend Short-Takes: 6/21/13

Xbox One no longer requires online checks, used games policy same as Xbox 360

Simon Wu:
I dub thee... Xbox 180. Actually, Xbox 360 might be more accurate, seeing as we’ve gone all the way around and are back to where we’ve started... oh wait. Personally, I think this was, as Max says, an entirely corporate decision, but I don’t think Sony’s decision not to do this was any less of corporate positioning. They were just better at it this round, and are continuing to outmaneuver Microsoft. Case in point, the GameStop pre-order situation, discussed more below. The next sticking point will undoubtedly be the Kinect requirement and the subsequent price. What if suddenly released an SKU with a built in microphone, which we all know is the real reason they’re being so obstinate about bundling, so that I can switch to my heart’s content AND make it a neat $399. Problem completely solved, initiative regained.

Max Gruber:
Big gesture, but too late. Microsoft has proven they have nothing but contempt for their customers and only did a 180º spin because the PS4 had more pre-orders. This wasn't done out of concern for the impact on consumers; I think this was done to increase their sagging pre-order sales count. I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept the DRM, and said, “Hey everyone! We’ve decided to remove all DRM for our console, along with the always-online requirements, because we love you SO much!” only to say it with their fingers crossed behind their back. However, on the other hand, they have gone out and publicly said that there is a way to remove those features, at the cost of other, more beneficial ones as well.

Jonathan Tung:
While I applaud Microsoft’s decision to backtrack on their used game policy, I feel as if this action was done a bit too late, especially after what happened at E3 last week. With Sony now in the lead in terms of hype, Microsoft needs to step it up and win back their customers with more than DRM. I’m thinking of getting rid of their always-on Kinect, especially since it could make consumers a lot less paranoid about their TV always watching over them, especially after the NSA’s ongoing PRISM scandal. Also, I still think it’s kinda stupid for the company to actually make us download a patch just to allow us to play our games DRM-free. Sort of goes to show how lazy the company is.

Taj Gillani:
Simon’s right: the XBox One is now the XBox One Eighty. I totally agree with Max in that the removal of DRM/online check-in stuff is completely a sales maneuver, except that it won’t work. While it might win back some customers from Sony’s clutches, this whole DRM debate has been a PR nightmare for Microsoft, and Sony managed to pull ahead. The PS4 has so much momentum at this point that it’s going to take more than copycat moves from Microsoft to bring the XBO back up to speed.

John Fenix:
Oh dear, oh dear. Well, I am happy that this came through, but Microsoft is going to be haunted by this for quite awhile, at least for gamers. If anything, Microsoft’s first order of business should be to overhaul their PR department because this debacle came in part because, as the famous movie line goes " a failure in communication." Sony definitely has the advantage now, and as my fellow colleagues stated, Microsoft is going to need more to catch, and to me, they might close that gap because of, ironically enough, games.

Alex Miller:
I completely agree with John that the only reason we are even talking about this is because of a complete and total failure by the Microsoft marketing team to clearly express what exactly their plans were. And in response to Max, of course it is a move based on money, every move by every company is,. I hold no illusions that Microsoft or Sony are running their companies as a charity for my benefit. However, that being said, I can’t say I’m 100% ecstatic about this move. While I am very happy to see things like region locking gone (living half the year in the UK it will be nice that I can now take my games with me) I think we as gamers are losing out on a lot of innovative features and ideas that we might have had, whose absence now sets gaming itself back. Instead of paving the way for true parity between digital and physical content on consoles (in a similar vein to what Steam has done to balance the two on PCs) we now have slightly beefed up versions of what we already had. Because Microsoft tried to introduce too many features too quickly, and because they couldn't explain these features in a clear way without contradicting themselves time and again, people were confused and reacted as humans always do to the unknown: with anger, mistrust, and fear. While I think, ultimately, we have arrived at a more reasonable middle ground for people in the here and now, I think we might pay the innovative price in the long term.
 

Nintendo is releasing a Free-to-Play game 

Simon Wu:
Nintendo does need to try and diversify away from first-party remakes. If traditional game makers with traditional game mechanics like EA and Ubisoft won’t develop or port games for the WiiU, then they have to try and corner or at least get a leading edge on the market for newer forms of games and game mechanics. It may not be the blockbuster or huge change that they were looking for, but it’s a start. Of course, they could always just charge for new characters in games like Smash or Brawl and make instant millions...

Taj Gillani:
I’ll start things off with the simple fact that this can go either way. Nintendo is on record as having said that the F2P game will be a new Steel Diver, which did terribly in it’s original form on the 3DS, so I don’t really think they believe this new one is going to do well. More likely is that Nintendo is using it as a test case, experimenting to see what people will and will not buy, before dropping a big F2P game that will really get people interested. Following the gaming community’s reaction to Dead Space microtransactions, I think that’s actually a pretty clever move on Nintendo’s part.

Jonathan Tung:
The moment I learned that Nintendo's first F2P would be Steel Diver, I felt as if I was going to fall face first into the ground. Out of all the possible IPs they could choose, they just had to choose the one that was best known for being an early DS tech demo from E3. However, as long as the company doesn't shoehorn all kinds of ridiculous microtransactions, then it should be fine.

Alex Miller:
While the game itself might not see much success, I applaud Nintendo for taking the steps towards making F2P a legitimate option for non PC games. While some may argue the slippery slope that soon you will have to pay for everything in the game, this is an idiotic argument. Successful F2P games, and there are many of them on the internet, give a player a solid core game for free and then offer them additional content that improves the experience for them. Because the whole point of a F2P game is that it costs no money to play, it has to be entertaining at its core in order to lock in an audience, one that does not feel the same desire to get their money’s worth out of it in the same way they would with games they have bought. I am happy to see more F2P efforts outside of just the PC and wish Nintendo the best of luck in this project.

gamessystems.co.uko


 

PS4 Pre-Orders at Amazon, GameStop Outselling Xbox One Two to One

Simon Wu:
Following the bombshell that Microsoft dropped yesterday, Xbox One preorders have already rebounded and are now above the PS4’s. It’s certainly clear that stories like this were instrumental in forcing top execs to recalculate how far they would push their new connected vision. I eagerly anticipate the fully revised figures a few weeks from now... I suppose from amazon exclusively, given the other news below. Then we’ll have a clearer picture of how much pure price separation changes demand. Interestingly, it’s clear that Microsoft’s half-hearted limited edition was not nearly enough to beat the DRM scheme. It lacked what a limited edition needs most, a distinct console, and included what a limited edition needs least, distinct packaging.

Max Gruber:
It’s apparent that this happened because of the pricing for the PS4 and the absurd number of DRM measures for the X1. But, as Simon pointed out, the X1 is now taking the lead for pre-orders when they dropped their always-online and used game DRM measures—if it’s to be believed. It wasn’t much of a surprise that the PS4 would take a demanding lead in pre-order sales over the X1, given how poorly Microsoft marketed the X1 before E3 started. I’m getting a PS4 first, then the X1 when there’s a price drop that puts it at either the same price as, or lower than the PS4. $500 dollars for a cable box is ridiculous as it is. But there are people who will spend that much money on something that they’ll think was worth it in the end, I suppose.

Taj Gillani:
In this day and age, most of us already have cable boxes set up and installed, AV systems that we know work, and so on. We don’t need another big metal and plastic brick sitting on our shelving with a mass of cables attached to it; we already have boxes for that. What we do want, though, is a new gaming console, and if you direct your attention to the right, *points at PS4* you’ll see a box that does just that. We already have stuff to watch TV on; why would we pay an extra $100 for another one? I think the singular reason that the XBO has retaken the pre-order lead is because of their announcement of the removal of most DRM has drawn back a few loyalists from the exceptionally large X360 fanbase.

John Fenix:
Well, while rendered somewhat moot by Microsoft's recent actions, this comes down, once again, to price. PS4 definitely has an advantage there and many gamers are going to get it because it is cheaper. Yet, unlike my colleagues, I would not count Microsoft out just yet. This is because Microsoft is trying to be an Entertainment console, which includes gaming. Some complain, asking why they would want the Xbox when they only want to play games and want a dedicated device just for gaming. I have talked in previous Short Takes about the use of multiple devices in front of the TV, and here Microsoft will have an advantage. They can potentially bring in "non-gamers" because it is designed to stand in for these other devices and do all their jobs in a single package. The days of having a dedicated device for just a single activity like video games is becoming antiquated and this strategy might end up hurting Sony in the long run.

Alex Miller:
Continuing a trend this week I again find myself in total agreement with John. The notion that people want their devices to do less instead of more is just stupid, and I think the new numbers reflect that. Having taken away the single biggest (and it was quite large) roadblock gamers have returned to Microsoft, if somewhat begrudgingly in some cases, because of both the exclusives (which there are many) and the consoles vision (one of complete media integration in the easiest possible way.) A difference of $100 gets you a console that does quite a bit more and still plays the exact same games in essentially the same way (gone are the days of a massive quality divide between Xbox and Playstation.) Now that I know I can buy one in the States and take it with me to the UK, I know which one I want in my new flat.

softpedia.com

GameStop stores hit Xbox One launch cap; pre-orders ceased


Simon Wu:
It’s fair to say that Microsoft gets a seriously and unduly unfair rap from the Internet at large. But you can’t get away with saying it’s not sometimes deserving. In the case of the Xbox One, it has been truly astounding how bad Xbox execs have been in communicating the now-scrapped DRM plans, something that is largely to blame because of this lack of clarity. Now only these same execs could turn selling out all preorder unit allocations into “being pulled from the system” and “halting all further preorders.” To be quite honest, it reminds me of the ham-handed comments Sony made about why the PS3 was so late and expensive: "The next generation doesn't start until we say it does."

Max Gruber:
If a company hits their launch cap for a product, that means the item in question was either in high demand, or they didn’t manufacture enough for the launch rush; and it would seem that the latter is a possibility. I think this happened because of the earlier article about them removing the always-online and used game DRM measures, since they would need to fix it and remove them from the device entirely. But, then again, it is coming as a day 1 update, so I am still skeptical about GameStop ceasing pre-orders for the X1.

Sony has no plans for PS3 price cut

Simon Wu:
Wow. It now appears that the last-gen consoles from each manufacturer are heading into the holiday season with the PS3 holding the edge. Why? Since Microsoft at E3 confirmed no price change on the Xbox 360 Slimmer, which costs $300 for the 250GB Kinectless version. The 500GB PS3 Slimmer at the time of writing is $300 on amazon, bundled with either AC3, GTA V, GT5, or GoW: Ascension, or the 250GB SKU with Uncharted 3 and 1-year PSN Plus subscription at $270. While the holiday season will surely see bundles come about for the Xbox, now I’m really not sure how Microsoft projects they’ll move 25 million more units. They must be REALLY confident about the software and services play.

Max Gruber:
I’m surprised that they aren’t lowering the price for the PS3 anytime in the future, given how popular the PS4 is in terms of pre-orders. Considering that if you have huge demands for your next-gen console, it would seem practical of them to lower the price for their current system, in order to make sales from the console that’s currently out right now. But of course they’re too stubborn to do that, as they need as much money as possible.

John Fenix:
While a little surprising, recalling how there seems to be a notion of continuing this generation for a number of years, it is not too surprising to see this happen. I have a feeling, though, that by the next year, prices will be dropping rapidly.

Alex Miller:
While I wasn’t all that surprised when I saw the $500 dollar price point for the Xbox One, the fact that the new Xbox 360 did not get a price cut was shocking to me. While I understand that the Xbox 360 has a huge fanbase and a quite popular user interface/experience, this strikes me as the resting on their laurels attitude I mentioned last week, an over reliance on the past that I think will do them very little good going forward. Hopefully we see a price cut soon, because otherwise I have a hard time seeing them shift even half of their target number of units.

gameinsight.org


 

Solifluktion's picture

No PS3 price cut? Well I guess not everything Sony does can be smart. They probably used it all up during their E3 conference.

giddydrunk's picture

For the diminishing amount of people around the world who don't have or can't afford broadband the X1 still isn't a choice as there's a day 1 patch to remove Microsoft's previous blunders.

disgruntledavians's picture

@giddydrunk

I would sincerely hope that Microsoft is able to provide it on physical media or at least have the ability to download it to physical media, just like the backwards compatibility patches for the 360. I mean, if these people are even going to find out about it they must have internet access in some form or fashion. Maybe not the amount necessary to power Live, but enough for a small patch to put on a flash drive.

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