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.