Apparently, Microsoft has just remembered that it needs gamers to sell a gaming console. In a complete and humbling reversal, Microsoft's next-gen console just dropped some of the contentious bits that had formerly loyal gamers shouldering pitchforks and heading to Redmond. And thank goodness — now we've got a fairer fight on our hands.
So what's out? Microsoft brought the axe down on its requirement that the Xbox One would need to connect to the Internet once every 24 hours, and also rolled back its most user unfriendly copy-protection (i.e., DRM) limitations. In an official Microsoft blog post, Interactive Entertainment President Don Mattrick invites gamers to "[t]rade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today." The company also dropped regional restrictions for games in the Xbox One's stable.
And unlike last week, the Xbox One leads the PlayStation 4 in launch day pre-orders today.
Features On The Chopping Block
Unfortunately, hushing the public backlash against the Xbox One comes at the cost of a few previously-announced features, at least at launch. The Xbox One will not allow users to share games with up to 10 "family" members — one of the system's cooler new perks.
And some old annoyances are back, too. For instance, users can download games from disk to the Xbox One's hard drive in order to improve performance — but they'll still need to put the physical disk in the console to play them.
Was The Xbox 360 The Gamer's Console All Along?
Why did Microsoft change its tune? As much as the company paraded the next-generation Xbox One as an all-in-one living room entertainment system, it's still a gaming console at heart.
According to a surprising 2013 Nielsen report, the Xbox is where the gamers were all along. In 2012 PlayStation 3 users lead the charge on non-gaming entertainment, spending almost a quarter of their time streaming movies or TV shows — not playing games — on the console. Xbox 360 users spent around 13% of their usage time for video-on-demand and other forms of streaming media.
PlayStation 3 owners only spent 46% of their time playing online or offline games, allocating the rest to the broader entertainment features that are supposedly the domain of Microsoft, while Xbox 360 users spent 66% of their time playing games on the console. Sure, Sony's inclusion of Blu-Ray on its last-gen console counts for something, but video on demand and streaming media accounted for the lion's share of the difference — and that's something both consoles have equal access to.
Can Microsoft's Backtrack Bring Gamers Back?
Last week, Sony jumped at the opportunity to spin the PlayStation 4 as a console built for gamers, not just for whatever family members happen to be ambling around the living room. And for once, the gaming community at large seemed agree on something — namely that it wouldn't stand for the Xbox One's restrictive policies and it was happy to pre-order the PlayStation 4 instead. Pre-orders for Sony's PS4 poured in.
Now that Microsoft has been humbled by the core gamer demographic it threw to the wolves just last week, the big question is whether it's done enough to repair the damage. We'll have to track console pre-orders and social media to see how it all plays out, at least until the consoles hit the market this fall. By that time, the rules of the game may have shifted yet again.
Xbox 180 image via imgur, provenance unknown