How will we define the “next-gen” era? Consoles that push the limits of hardware? Games that try to go bigger and better than their predecessors? Well, according to about every website, blog, and account on *insert social network here*, the next-gen era will be defined as the era where Microsoft shit the bed and Sony seized the opportunity to rise back to the top.
Going into E3, I was an Xbox One homer. Sure the murky description of how the new licensing system seemed scary and unnerving, but the new controller, Kinect, and the console itself had my interests piqued. At this point, all I was waiting for was what games would be on it, what new features exist, and clarification of the licensing system.
The games all look awesome. Project Spark (yeah yeah, Sony, LittleBigPlanet did it first) looks really fun and makes level building look a lot more fun than it did on LBP (but we’ll see when it actually comes out). Other exclusives like, Titanfall, Forza 5, Killer Instinct, Below, and Sunset Overdive all look fun, sleek and shiny. The graphics look amazing. While the PS4 may have better hardware giving programmers and publishers more capabilities, it’s only up to the developer how good their game will truly look. (What I’m getting at is that the differences will be minute.)
The new controller improves on the design while still keeping the same “feel” I love (I haven’t actually held one, but reviewers say it feels great). The D-pad finally doesn’t seem like an afterthought, and, while it could be better, it’s still something I use for weapon switching or bitching at someone for killing me with a “lag-shotgun”. (Confused? Play a FPS while downloading a torrent and you’ll know what I mean.)The triggers are redesigned to be more responsive and tactile and, considering I like the 360 controller’s triggers way better than the PS3′s controller, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Ultimately I’ll make my final opinions when I hold one, but so far so good.
I’ve never been a fan of Kinect (or the PS Eye for that matter), but the improvements (and the fact that it’s bundled with the system) make me want to actually give it a chance. I’m all for ease of use and more immersive gameplay, so the fact that Microsoft stepped up their hardware on the Kinect shows me that they feel the same way.
The console itself looks sleek (and way cooler than the abnormally asymmetrical PS4 in my humble opinion), while the improved hardware like a specially made 8-core processor and 8GB of DDR3 (PS4 has it beat with 8GB of faster GDDR5) make for a beefy system that rivals the average PC gamer’s rig.
But despite all that, gamers everywhere are ripping into Microsoft for their new system of selling games, making sure the consumers who bought them are actually playing them, and other random bullshit that no one actually fact-checked. So let’s break it down, because as far as I’m concerned people are angry at the theory of it, and not what Microsoft has actually done yet.
The main worry I see in the “Twittersphere” is that Microsoft is getting rid of used games. First of all, they’re not, and second of all, I’m actually not a big used game consumer; I like cracking open the cellophane for the first time and getting a whiff of that sweet, sweet new video game smell. But the funny thing about everyone’s argument is that nowhere (that I found) has Microsoft saying “You can’t sell back the game you just bought.” The thing that they have said is (and I quote) “We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.” Now while they’re wording isn’t saying used games will still exist, they’re letting the publishers *COUGH*Ubisoft*COUGH* decide how their games will work once they’ve been used. So blame the publishers, not Microsoft. Microsoft is in the business of selling consoles, and if you didn’t know that, it’s time to open your eyes. But the best part about the irrational hate is that Sony is essentially doing the same thing.
Oh wait, wasn’t Sony the company who championed the used gamer?
After hearing interviews after their main show at E3, it’s clear that this DRM-free approach will only be applied to Sony’s first-party games. Jack Tretton himself said “the DRM decision for third-party games will be up to publishers”. And what if you buy a game on your account and then try and let your brother play it on his account with the same console? Sony has yet to specify that either. Microsoft lets up to 10 family members have access to your content while playing online, anywhere, and anyone can play any of your content on your console no matter which account they use. But what truly makes me laugh the most about people freaking out about the death of used games, is that PCs (often considered the best platform for gaming) have never allowed used games. Steam, the service implemented by Valve, sure doesn’t let you sell back your game. And if it wasn’t for Steam, PC gaming would be dead in the water. Gamers everywhere seem to be grabbing their pitchforks and torches to march on Microsoft, but they’re not the only big corporation that is trying to limit piracy. I’m not saying I’m for it (and I’m not disparaging Steam, the greatest service ever) just make sure you know your all your enemies before you go to battle.
But Sam, it needs to always be online!
And that is a legitimate problem… for someone that doesn’t have their system online all the time. I understand that for some consumers, that’s an issue. For me, and almost everyone I know, that isn’t really a problem. (Although I’ve been told that I have rich friends, so I guess that’s the problem I’m in right now.) I prefer being online, and the fact that Microsoft is using that to update the system when you’re not using it is one of the greatest things I’ve heard out of E3. (Yes, I know the PS4 will do that too.) I couldn’t care less about the 24-hour checks and the restrictions applied after staying offline for more than an hour, because it really doesn’t affect me negatively. It could be an issue if Xbox Live goes down for more than a day, but I would bet money that would be a rare occurrence given how many servers Xbox Live will now have. The one thing that did bum me out is that this essentially ruins the possibility of renting games for the Xbox One. But I see no reason why Microsoft couldn’t figure out a system where a renter gets a code that lasts for a week and then the game is locked and the code is free to be used again; but that’s for Microsoft to decide.
The only arguments I’ve heard that actually make me consider the requirement of online-only to be a problem are the terrible launches of Diablo III and Civilization 5. And when I thought about the horrors of waiting to play Grand Theft Auto 5 because the servers are down, it made me pause and think. But like I said, the days of XBLive being down for hours seems to be a thing of the original Xbox era. But I’ll be the first to admit that could burn me.
The last thing that people are freaking out about and apparently no one did any research on either is that the Kinect will always be on… watching you… learning your habits… and then, we will all be taken over by the all-mighty Xbox One after we find out each one was a part of a world-destroying Decepticon. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but Microsoft has said you don’t need it to play your games and you can just turn off the eye. On top of that Microsoft has also said “your [information] is not being recorded or uploaded.” And for those of you worried about the information it stores for when it is being used, Microsoft also said that “data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission.”
With the upped price-point of a 100$ more than the PS4, it looks like Sony is pulling ahead of the pack according to most. But the Kinect being bundled with the system accounts for the pricier system and if you still don’t want it, they released a redesigned Xbox 360 for as cheap as $200 dollars that Microsoft will support for years going forward. Microsoft is going for the high-end consumer with their product, and I can’t blame them for that. Why not offer a car with a faster engine, newer features, (no jokes about having to get verification checks for the keys), and a sleek new look for more money while still offering a great alternative that still has a great engine, slick features, and a new look as well for a cheaper price?
Gamers love to highlight why I’m stupid for following Microsoft, and I think they’re silly for buying a revamped PS3 with a touchpad that’s probably only going to be used to get through menus. You now need to get Playstation Plus if you want to play multiplayer games and I still haven’t seen an exclusive that made me go “Finally, you guys got a Halo for you too!” (Sorry Killzone.) At the end of the day, the days of buying physical copies will eventually be replaced by zeroes and ones on a hard drive (hey, those are discs too). Microsoft is just reading the writing on the wall and taking steps to make sure they’re on the bleeding edge. And even though I wish that weren’t true, let’s face it: the 21st century is the digital age and we’re still in its infancy.
Sam Accardo is a writer for Hefferbrew. The PS2 is still his favorite system and he thinks that Sony is going to use the bad press Microsoft is getting to sit on their laurels. He doesn’t know who will reign supreme, but for now, his money is on Microsoft. Follow him on Twitter @samcar455 and be sure to check Hefferbrew for all your gaming updates.