First let’s get something out of the way right away, I strongly believe Microsoft made the right decision on removing their restrictions and online authentication. The reason I say this is because growing up my family couldn’t afford to buy me every new game that came out. As such lending and renting games was a very big part of my childhood. There are millions of people all over the world in that exact same situation, and if they’re lucky enough to even get a next-gen system they might have no choice but to rent games or pass games around to friends. That doesn’t even include the armed forces. Why should soldiers, who are protecting the well-being of your country, be forced to be without a next-gen Xbox?
That’s my stance on all of this, but it doesn’t mean I’m blind to the potential. I know where Microsoft wanted to take the Xbox One, but it was their PR failure that led to the public outcry. Ultimately their goal was to have iTunes and Steam as the core of their platform, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The problem was mixed messages, and a complete lack of cohesion. Sadly many projects have likely been canceled as a result of this dramatic turn. We already know their services are being completely rewritten because of yesterday’s announcement. So what might the Xbox One have been like had things gone completely different at the Xbox One reveal?
When Microsoft was talking about their entertainment suite during the Xbox One reveal they placed an emphasis on how you would be able to integrate your cable box into your Xbox One and use Kinect to easily search for TV shows, movies, etc. What you may not know is that if you actually purchased digital item from the Xbox Live Marketplace you would have been able to share those movies/shows via the company’s newly announced Family Plan. It would have worked exactly as it does on iTunes, whereby you activate a select number of systems to use your account’s digital downloads (in this case it was 10). Apple only allows you to activate five devices, so right there that would have been a really big deal. Now the family plan has been completely scrapped, and let me tell you Apple must be extremely happy about this. They’ve just lost a competitor if they should decide to ever push into the living room in a big way.
While games would have worked exactly the same, they were set to go one step further. Microsoft’s goal with the Xbox One was to create a Steam-like service on the platform. Games were supposed to be significantly reduced in price, patches easier to update, etc. While Microsoft still has a strict licensing model that needs to be replaced ASAP, the idea behind what they were attempting was solid. Imagine having summer sales where you could buy the latest Halo for $5. Not only that, but you’d be able to share all your games with up to nine of your closest buddies. You could log-in with your Live account, but have full access to their games because the games would have been activated on your console, much like how I can share my iTunes music with anyone I want to.
Now these features have been scrapped, and Microsoft is moving to the exact same model they had on the Xbox 360. Games will not be tied to your account, and must be shared the traditional way, by actually giving someone the disc. Doesn’t what I mentioned above sound pretty exciting? Being able to give your friends complete access to your entire game and entertainment collection? The problem was Microsoft’s inability to properly convey their message. Instead of going into detail about everything I just mentioned, they released crappy press release after crappy press release on the restrictions. Some of these weren’t restrictions at all when you know the whole story.
As I said above, I am happy Microsoft switched things around if only because their previous policies would have limited the console’s reach. Part of me is curious though, just how many other services have been scrapped as a result.