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Space for Rent: Ever Vigilant


Tweet of the Day: When Does Fan Fiction Cross an Ethical Line

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In a stunning reversal for the video game industry, Microsoft announced that it will not longer require a regular online check (every 24 hours) on its next gen console, the Xbox One. This has been chalked up as a victory for consumers who hated the restrictions imposed by the new hardware on their ability to use, share and sell disc based games. However the situation is a bit more complicated than that:

  1. Microsoft removed some of the features tied to the online requirement, such as sharing single player games with people on your list.
  2. The machine will still require a one time online setup when first turned on.
  3. Nothing prevents Microsoft or software developers to “slow roll” similar features into the future.

The backlash against Microsoft monopolistic approach took multiple forms. Gamers took to the internet to lambast the new console, certain web based game reviewers challenged Microsoft stand, among them one Joe Vargas from the appropriately titled Angry Joe Show, who confronted a top Microsoft rep policies on camera (video NSFW do to language):

 

 

And on top of it all of, the PS4 outstripped the Xbox One on pre-orders within days of Sony’s announcement that it would maintain the status quo as far as game trading and sales were concerned. Many a commenter and gamer on the internet remained unconvinced, since other bad features remain, such as the $100+ (US) cost difference between the new consoles, the need to have the Kinect 2.0 motion sensor peripheral and like I mentioned above the fear that the major companies will seek to reintroduce these measures (or their functional equivalents) in the future. That fear is very real, since gaming is primarily an industry driven by impulse buying. Product depreciation is not based on the wear of the media but on the “newness” of the product. While some games fall into the realm of “classics” many others, even memorable tittles quickly lose their luster within a month(s) of release. Gamers are always looking for the next big title, with new features and better gameplay and don’t have the patience to wait out the industry even when it treats them like garbage. The impulse to get the next game creates a sort of short term memory phenomenon where in consumers yell loudly when they feel cheated, then turn around and buy the next product from the same company as soon as it arrives at in stores.

Then again, an argument can be made that while gamers may be quick to forgive, they are slow to forget. The industry has tripped over its feet in recent years, from requiring online connections for games like Diablo III and Simcity (then failing to keep up their servers on launch), pushing microtransations (in-game stores where you can buy in-game items for real cash, like many a Facebook game) on more and more titles and general fall in quality. Still, I read enough comments to see that some people were again, quick to forgive Microsoft for its transgressions. There even some backlash against those that complained due to Microsoft removing features along side the 24h check requirement, even though, as I argued here and in other forums, those features could easily be tied to existing online accounts on the Xbox Live service.

Perhaps the real lesson to consumers is, “Remain vigilant!”

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