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Editorial   

Xbox One is the Future

Like it or not, Microsoft's policies are a harbinger of things to come.

It’s safe to say that Sony delivered an impressive showing at their E3 press conference and gained a ton of good will with gamers looking to upgrade to next generation consoles. While it’s far too early to declare the PS4 the winner of the next console war (the systems are five months away, after all), many people in the gaming community have latched on to the system since it still offers gamers the freedom to trade, sell, and buy used games. It would be foolish to count Microsoft out at this point, however, and even if many elements of the Xbox One are less than attractive, people should understand that it’s a glimpse into the future.

Microsoft took a gamble by pushing the 8th generation even further towards an all-digital space. It’s a gamble that isn’t paying off for the company in terms of good will, but it’s a sign that Microsoft understands where the market is heading. It’s reminiscent of when the original Xbox launched with a broadband internet connection. At the time, high-speed internet was still in its infancy (and to be fair, is still growing), but Microsoft maintained that technology would catch up to their system, and eventually they would have a large user base for Xbox Live, which indeed happened over time.

By making game discs largely useless, Microsoft is pushing the industry—and its consumers—towards a mindset of purchasing content digitally. After all, if you can’t lend out games and selling them comes with so many hurdles and caveats, why bother with the discs to begin with? Unless you’re a crazy game collector who clutches onto physical media (as I do), there’s little incentive to mess with buying Xbox One games at a store and putting a disc into the console.

Now, of course there are a lot of gamers out there who do put a premium on physical media and want to have that satisfaction of ownership. If I go out today and buy Remember Me for my Xbox 360, I can play it, put it on my shelf, let a friend borrow it, or trade it in towards The Last of Us for PS3, for example. That’s a great feeling, and most people reading this article would agree. However, there’s a rapidly aging new generation of gamer that isn’t nearly as attached to physical media. These tweens and younger have grown up downloading music to their MP3 players and have been playing a lot of great games on their smart phones. For this generation, fiddling with DVDs and Blu-Rays is likely more of an annoyance than a boon. If the 8th console generation lasts as long as the 7th generation has, these young gamers will be adults by the time the next set of machines is ready to launch.

When that generation comes, there’s a very real possibility that the Xbox One eco system will be the standard, instead of this confusing and hindering outlier. Make no mistake—as great as Sony comes off with the PS4, you can be sure that the company had discussions about going the same route as the Xbox One. By holding off a generation, they are in a position to win back any fans they lost with the PS3, and possibly pick up a host of new consumers. The PS4 has the infrastructure in place to move their user base towards the reality of buying games digitally, and PS+ is a great Trojan horse for players to get used to having a large digital library on their console.

Physical media isn’t going to vanish by the console generation after PS4 and XBO, but year by year the audience will begin shifting towards consuming video games digitally. It’s already begun: many gamers enjoy having a huge library of games on their PC through Steam, and most PS Vita owners will tell you that downloading new games to the memory card is the way to go. For younger gamers who haven’t grown up around a mountain of cartridges, CDs, and DVDs, this will be an easy transition. It will also be more appealing to people who simply don’t like having a ton of game cases on a shelf—I know quite a few people that pre-ordered the Xbox One right away and aren’t bothered by the used game scenario at all. For those of us that put a value on owning our games outright, well, it’s going to be a rough road ahead. But hey! In the meantime, we can enjoy our Wii Us and PS4s.


 

Comments

Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

06/13/2013 at 09:29 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I agree, Julian, this probably is the future, but I don't think it has to be. Similar to how the music industry still supports CDs and even Vinyl, I don't see why gaming companies can't continue to offer physical products (at a premium) to those of us who'd rather own something than purchase a license.

Seems like they're all too eager to take our ownership rights away and smash the retail market. I mean, maybe that will pay off for them in the long run, but I think they're losing a pretty vital partner when they do that. Gamestop may seem like the devil, but they're pimping games every single day and acting as a salesman for a very small cut of the profits. Shelf space at big box retailers is no doubt expensive, but it's also a valuable marketing tool to reach the market who isn't into gaming as rabidly as we are.

As a collector, this topic hits very close to home. While a move to digital seems like it's going to come up as all roses in these content providers' minds, I don't think it's going to be as fruitful as they perceive it to be.

I won't even get into the planned obsolescence issue that consoles have with digital purchases, but in the end I think that consumers are going to have to sacrifice a lot more than they're willing to in the name of "convenience."

Michael117

06/13/2013 at 02:57 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I remember having a similar conversation with somebody before on the topic, in regards to everybody continuing to do physical copies at a premium. They will certainly continue to do it, but it'll be in the minority like how vinyls are. If they can make money off it they'll always continue to do it, and there's some people out there who will always want physical copies and they'll be willing to pay a premium for them. Especially collectors editions. Physical copies of games won't be the status quo anymore, but instead just one premium option in the larger picture where digital games are the main method and the cheaper faster easier method that most consumers will end up warming up to I'd think.

gigantor21

06/13/2013 at 09:33 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Damn it, Titus, I was JUST going to post a blog that said the same damn thing! D:

But yeah. As much as I can't stand it, the fact is that we are the last generation of gamers old enough to be attached to the physical games market. Kids now are growing up with stuff like iPhones and tablets. I don't see Angry Birds permanently replacing big AAA console experiences, but I sure as hell don't expect younger kids to be as attached to secondhand sales and game sharing as we are. And by the time the PS5 and such come out, they will be the main audience, not us.

I fully expect the next round of consoles to be all-digital. There will be so many gamers used to getting their content like that, that they won't see it as a big deal. Plus publishers would love nothing better to cut both retailers and eBay/Amazon Marketplace out of the equation. Microsoft's mistake was simply being too forceful about that direction too early.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/13/2013 at 09:46 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

You should still write it. I bet you have some great points to add. There were some things I wanted to include that I didn't have room for, such as MS doing a poor job of telling people the advantages of digital purchases.

transmet2033

06/13/2013 at 09:39 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I think that the price, sony exclusives, and the optional internet connection is what really sold me on the PS4.  The used game issue is less of a concern to me.  Unless I happen to buy a game that is a piece of crap, I probably would keep them all. 

I was thinking about it last night, and it is true.  The Xbox One is most likely the future of gaming.  The only difference is that Microsoft is thrusting you there right now, and Sony will probably slowly transition there over the life of the PS4.  The other big difference is that Microsoft just expects people to have a good enough internet connection.  The next console cycle will probably be the perfect time for what Microsoft wants the future to be.  Right  now, I do not think so.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/13/2013 at 09:47 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

To be honest, I buy 99% of my games new these days, and I don't have any friends that would be borrowing my games. So really, the approach MS is using on the XBO doesn't affect me personally all that much. As a collector, I could still buy a bunch of XBO games and keep them. Of course, once MS shuts those servers off the system would brick in 24 hours...

transmet2033

06/13/2013 at 10:02 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I tend to let my one brother borrow my games, but I do not see him coming into the next console generation.  He has another kid on the way, and is finalizing buying a house.  So, it should not affect me anymore.  

I would like to hope that by the time they decide to kill the console, they will shut off the current policies so that we can keep playing after the fact.  I will not hold my breath though.

to clarify, I am not afraid of this brave new world. 

SanAndreas

06/14/2013 at 02:39 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

My big objection to the Xbox One is Microsoft's intrusiveness. They've turned Xbox Live and Kinect into a surveillance system. I get enough supervision at work. If Microsoft wants to supervise my gaming, I don't need them. The only Xbox One I would consider buying is a jailbroken Xbox One.

transmet2033

06/14/2013 at 06:11 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

For some stupid reason, I keep forgetting about that aspect of the Xbox One.  That is not cool man.  

Remy LeBeau

06/13/2013 at 12:35 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

If this is the future of gaming, than I want no part of it. Microsoft is screwing over all their loyal customers in the name of greed. Taking away almost all of our rights. Their arrogance knows no bounds. If you don't have an internet connection? Well, the 360 is an offline device. Everything that comes out of their mouths only pisses me off even more. When their servers shut down for the X1, all those systems are going to be nothing more than paperweights. All those digital games you mention will be useless. You don't actually own any of those games your purchasing, but simply renting them for a long period of time. I'd rather have a system that I can actually play without someone checking on me every 24 hours or watching me through Kinect.

GamerGirlBritt

06/13/2013 at 01:19 PM
This comment has been removed.

GamerGirlBritt

06/13/2013 at 01:20 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

 do believe we may be heading in this direction sometime in the future, but I think everyone was hoping society at large would be in a more able position to do so whenever the time came, which is probably why Microsoft is seeing so much trouble with this transition (as they were years ago with broadband internet connection). That being said, I'm 17 years old, I've never digitally downloaded a game, or purchased anything on PSN or XBLA, and I have a huge cabinet beneath my television with nothing but games, physical media, controllers, consoles, handhelds, and strategy guides. And even though I've been downloading music onto iPods/iPhones since I was 11, nothing beats going into a game retailer and walking out with MY game in hand. However, I realize at this point in time I am the exception, not the rule, and older people will continue to see my generation as people who generally prefer such digital trades.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/13/2013 at 01:24 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

That's very curious to me. How about your friends your age that game? Do they also love hitting up game stores and buying the actual discs? I could be overestimating the generation coming up, although I was more talking about kids that were born around 2000-2003.

Anonymous

06/13/2013 at 09:08 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

being a kid born in that era, i do indeed get money for chores and helping my father, and when i buy games, they are used. my vita games are downloaded because they are all indies. i always get used games and we use gamefly. that is why i want a ps4. and before you say i dont know what im talking about, i actually do. 

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/14/2013 at 12:17 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

When I was a kid, the used market wasn't really a thing. There were very few stores that bought and sold used games, so we rented a lot.

The all-digital future isn't one I'm interested in, but it needn't be terrible. I don't see why there wouldn't be options for renting games digitally, as well as the potential for varying price points and drastic sales, ala Steam. And who knows...if there's no longer a used market maybe publishers will stop forcing developers to shoehorn multiplayer into games that don't need it.

BrokenH

06/13/2013 at 09:42 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Playstation + is a Trojan Horse to get gamers more used to digital purchases. Very well said,Julian! Luckily, at least for now we'll still have the choice of physical media. Besides, Steam didn't bring forth the death of physical media so perhaps there's still hope. Aka, there's no reason why playstation + cannot live in harmony with cds and blurays. (Until we run out of the raw resources necessary to make those things. However, by that point we wouldn't have enough raw materials to make game consoles,pcs,and other electronics either.) 

mothman

06/13/2013 at 10:08 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I have no illusions about PSN+ but as I've said many times everything I've downloaded is because it was either free, dirt cheap or something I was unable to find in physical form. Most of the games I would never have bothered with if they weren't provided to me free. I'll delete a lot of them and the ones I really like I'll keep playing as long as I have a membership.

As Nick said, Microsoft's future doesn't have to be accepted. If you wish to go gently into that good night then so be it. For my part I intend to rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

SanAndreas

06/14/2013 at 02:41 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Absolutely. It may be very unlikely, but a hostile enough market reception to Xbox One's policies may scare Microsoft and Sony away from trying them in the future. For my part, I hope the PS4 wins the same one-sided victory against Microsoft that the PS2 did.

Atlus*Aspect

06/14/2013 at 03:58 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Excellent article.

Always good to be reminded why I visit this site.

Coolsetzer

06/14/2013 at 04:23 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Thinking long term, I think Microsoft is cutting their own feet out from under themselves. I'll be done with consoles when they go all-digital. I don't want to be tied to the internet in my daily life, even though my main hobby is gaming. ESPECIALLY since news of this Prism program came out. There's no privacy anymore. Companies regard customers as automatons of data to be mined and advertised to, and Big Brother is always watching. Games, same as movies, still have value in physical form.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/14/2013 at 12:22 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I think MS' decision to go with the always on camera is more of a problem than the DRM and always connected thing. But in this piece, I'm thinking long term: 15+ years in the future. Imagine: if there isn't a disc anymore there isn't a used market. If there isn't a used market, game companies can ease up on some of the weird and restrictive things they do. If future consoles are all digital (or allow you to buy discs that have to be in the drive to play) and they lock down their network well enough, there would be little need to be always online.

It isn't neccessarily going to be the dark, oppressive future people seem to think it is. For me as a collector it's not one I'm interested in, but at the same time, I'll have to get off of this ride at some point.

Dandichu

06/14/2013 at 05:07 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Everyone is going to be really upset when a solar flare wipes out these all-digital consoles. Hehehe.

Amazing update, though! *goes off to dust her vinyl records* I feel so old(school).

mothman

06/14/2013 at 01:19 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

The cool thing about vinyl is that it hasn't gone away. The CD was supposed to have killed it years ago but it's growing back. I still prefer good solid vinyl to CDs.

keysy

06/14/2013 at 07:52 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I joined your site to speak to you on your point of view. Digital is part of the future yes, it is not the future. Nick mentioned the music industry, the reason those items sell is becuase people like different things, classics. In gaming, the things you can't get in the future are classics. Say for example a game comes out, that is amaizing.Halo 2 for example, you know how mad people where that they could no longer play the orginal online.

That was classic, Imagine 20 years from now and you want to load that up for your grandkids and show them where it started getting crazy in games. You can't  and for that  alone, all digital systems will never be a success.

I dont even understand how you could imagine paying for a 60$ peice of digital content that you dont even own. I'm a democratic, but damn are you out of your mind. You would support that! Their killng the hobby. You know why people smoke weed, most of the time. Because its a hobby, you can smoke it,  trade it, compare it, preserve it. Really what every you want with it, just like every other hobby (weed is a great example). Now with xboxone you can 't do half of that, they are destroying the hobby.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

06/15/2013 at 12:25 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Thank you for joining the site. It's much easier to have a conversation with someone when they aren't posting anonymously.

When did I say that I support this? I mentioned in the article that I'm one of those people that values physical media. I'm a game collector. I still buy CDs. I have a library full of musty books that I cling to like Gollum with the One Ring. When things begin to move closer and closer to an all-digital realm, I'm probably going to stop gaming, and just look back and play things out of my collection.

But you make some assumptions, as well. I don't think that games would be $60 bucks across the board once this happens. I think we would see games varying wildly in price. A game like God of War might be 20 or 30 bucks, while a huge RPG like Final Fantasy or Dragon Age might be more expensive. And there's a good chance that discs will still exist, but we'll pay a premium for them. Those discs would be required to play the game, much as they are now. I've heard reports that the XBO will allow players to play without that 24 hour check in, as long as the disc is in the drive, but I can't verify that.

What's the point in saying I'm out of my mind? That's far from constructive. I feel that I've explained my points well in this article. It's not a future I want to see, but it's a future that I can see happening. This was a cautionary report, not an endorsement of the Xbox One. In fact, I pre-ordered a PS4 immediately following the Sony press conference, and will most likely never purchase an XBO.

gameover62

06/15/2013 at 10:56 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

When the gaming world decides to go full digital we'll see two things: first, a price difference between the games found in a store and the digital versions. This will be a big selling point if a game can be purchasesd for less as a download then having to go out and buy it in store.  Second, the games won't be available in stores, only digitally.  This forces us, the gamers, to buy it  the only way we can get it.  

Anonymous

06/16/2013 at 11:04 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I own a 360, I plan on staying with microsoft and getting an xbox one, I think all of my purchases in the last 12 months have been digital, my xbox is never offline, and i love all the extras the one will have, Kinect, TV and twitch? all these things I know i'm gonna love and the exclusives...They mostly look amazing, I know Titan fall isn't an exclusive but it does look amazing in my opinion, Ryse intrigues me, project spark looks awesome as well as sunset overdrive, xbox one will be my choice from the new generation in gaming. 

leeradical42

06/20/2013 at 01:34 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

As you are correct in that this is a glimpse into the future of gaming but to be honest theres way to many gamers like myself who are not ready for this digital leap and i personally think Microsoft made the leap a little to early now when the next gen hits im sure this is the direction gaming will be going but for now were just not ready and by Microsoft dropping the 24 hour Drm thing and game llimitations i think that was a good call, but in reality the damage is done. And the big brother kinect issue may be a little bit overstated by gamers were not ready for this either i mean no one wants a spy camera in there living room without the reasurring that it will be used in a players option only and nit a possible spy camera intruding in your living room.

Keegs79

06/20/2013 at 08:10 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Vita is a bad example since its something you can carry and play as you travel and such. Steam I would say to since its nearly universal with all PCs you upgrade to. There is not any big change that has a impact that would benefit and attract gamers with digital only. The only thing would be if they would cut the price dramatically. Cutting retailers will have a negative impact in various ways. I dont see Nintendo ever going digital. They are always behind on everything internet. You would see Nintendo everything in stores but only Sony and Microsoft's systems on the shelve. It wouldn't even look like there is any games for them. Nintendo would own the gaming space.

Its good to see that Microsoft caught on. The people have spoken. Digital media has an incredibly long way to go before it becomes acceptable.

dustin

07/21/2013 at 05:05 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

The only policies that are going to matter are the mandatory 500GB hard drive and the mandatory Kinect.  The rent on this console is just too damn high.

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