Editor's Opinion: Fighting Reality
Posted by Ken Barnes
How to lose an unwinnable war.
The preparation leading up to this battle was almost perfect. An industry-leading console that dominated the US and UK markets. An online service that people were willing to pay a significant amount of money for each year. An enviable lineup of independent developers making games for the console, and pricing those groundbreaking new titles cheaply. Big games? Hell, yeah! Barring the other team’s first party efforts, the system had everything they had, as well as Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. It even had motion-controlled gaming and a handful (a small handful, but a handful nonetheless) of fun casual titles like Kinect Sports and Dance Central going on. The only dents in the armour were due to hardware reliability - which hadn’t been an issue for a good four years but still got trotted out at every turn as if people’s consoles were spontaneously combusting after 45 minutes of use – and the fact that people wanted to play online for free.
But that was nothing. The tale of the tape said that this was going to be a landslide victory. It might even be a first round knockout. The crowd would be chanting…”Easy! Easy! Easy!” as we barely broke a sweat and laughed in the face of the opposition. We danced around the ring, showboating for the gathered masses, and invited the underdog to dare to take a swing.
They threw a few punches. Tons of indie games. A pretty sharp-looking social network. 5GB of GDDR5!
We shook it off, and readied ourselves for our attack. Our arm came back – “TV! TV! TV! TV! KINECT! TV!” – and we fluffed it, missed by a mile and left ourselves wide open. “Your Xbox One console will need to authenticate itself every 24 hours with our servers, or you won’t be able to play offline games. Not only that, but our DRM will be so restrictive that you won’t be able to lend games to your friends!”
Yeah. We had missed the shot so badly, that we’d punched OURSELVES in the face. But it wasn’t over yet.
The round ended, and we geared up for the second. A strong start was needed.
The second round began and we rushed to the center of the ring. “Quantum Break!” A right hook. “Forza Motorsport 5!” A quick jab. “Halo!” An uppercut. One more…one more and they’d be dazed. “£429 in the UK!”
Nope. Missed again. We’re looking a bit punchy, if the truth be known.
From nowhere, the opponent started to fight back. The jeering started from the fans of the formerly-oppressed opposition. The cat-calls rang out. We were teetering, fighting for breath as the blows reigned down and the canvas seemed to be drawing us in. Bloodied, battered, and beaten, we waited for the final punch – that one shot that would put us out of our misery and end the fight. We couldn’t believe it, but there was no denying that without divine intervention (and no, Shenmue III didn’t miraculously appear from the heavens) it was heading our way like a freight train.
Jack Tretton, the affable 52-year old underdog from Massachusetts let fly with a volley of shots. “There’ll be no DRM…” Ouch! “You can trade your games with whoever you want…” The room was spinning. “You can play your games offline!”
…and down we went.
1!...2!...3!...quick, let’s look back at our own press conference and see if there’s anything we can fight back with…4!...5!...6!...Halo? Everyone loves Halo, right?...7!...8!...9!...But, our machine does shiny television things and it has Kinect…
It was over.
The camera-bulbs popped and flashed as the victor was carried a shoulder high. The crowd sat in stunned silence, unable to process what had just happened. Sony had won the war, and we were due to slink off into the distance, never to be heard of again.
Or at least, that’s what people seem to think has happened over the last few months. That’s how people seem to see things in this industry. Everything is a war. You can’t just like something without hating something else, and you can’t not have a preference. If you like the Xbox One, you have to hate the PS4 and the Wii U, it seems. It’s always been the way.
The reality though is that at the time of writing, the PS3 has shifted 77.58 million units worldwide. The Xbox 360 has sold 77.48 million units worldwide. Neither machine will clearly be in the lead by the time the next-generation machines hit the shelves.
And you know what? We’ll probably be in the same position when the ninth generation rolls around as well.
Sony got through the network hacking scandal without too much trouble, and Microsoft will get through this. We at Pure Xbox will continue to bring you Xbox 360 and Xbox One related news no matter what the outlook, mainly because that’s what we do. All of the staff here are gamers first – I personally make sure of that. We own PlayStation 3 and Wii U consoles, we’ve got Sony and Nintendo’s handheld consoles kicking around too. You’ll notice that some of us have written and will continue to write for this site’s big brothers – Push Square and Nintendo Life – from time to time. Personally, I’m waiting by my mailbox for The Last of Us to be delivered, and I have been for about four months. It’s so close that I can taste it.
With that said, of course we as a site want the Xbox One to be successful. Without interest in the Xbox One, we don’t have any readers. Without any readers, well…what’s the point? That doesn’t mean we’re going to paint everything as rosy, or delude ourselves.
It is my intention that this site takes advantage of the benefits provided by being independent. We are fans, but we aren’t fanboys. We don’t answer to Microsoft in any way, so we don’t kneel before them. If we think their policies suck – and it is my personal opinion that the DRM and online authentication policies suck out loud ALL DAY LONG – then we’ll say so. We're in it for the long haul.
Now that we’re clear on that, the people declaring that the Xbox One is dead need to take a little nibble on a reality sandwich. The preorders have been rolling in just as they have for the PS4, and by the end of the year there will be a few million Xbox One owners playing games online and building collections of game discs just like they do now. You might be one of them. You might not. The fact is that a fair few million people aren’t all that concerned about having their device authenticate itself every 24 hours. There are a fair few million people – 70% of the gaming population, in fact – who NEVER trade games for cash or credit, who won’t necessarily give two hoots about that side of the DRM policy document. Both systems will come out of the gate strongly, and the PS4 will likely take an early lead in the sales race due to the pricing, more than anything else. But companies make adjustments relatively often. Remember the 3DS that was too highly priced and dying a death at retail? Fixed by a price drop and some free games for existing users. How about everyone hating on the PlayStation 3’s online service? Fixed – in most part – by PlayStation Plus. Hell, remember how the PS3 was just a George Foreman grill lookalike with the Spiderman logo tattooed across its belly, that was just too expensive to succeed? How did that work out?
Things change. Policies change. Prices change. A certain Mr. Pachter seems to be of the opinion that we’ll see an Xbox One price drop early in 2014 if things are going badly. We don’t know what will happen, but we’re saying that it’s far, FAR too early to be calling for the bell just yet – mainly because it is. Not that a bell is due to be rung anyway, because even if Microsoft screws things up more than it has, the Xbox One will still sell millions upon millions of units, and only a simpleton with no sense of rationality would think otherwise.
As Mr. Tretton himself once said: "a rising tide lifts all boats." Two next-generation consoles launching within a few weeks of each other? The tide doesn't rise any higher than that.