It’s no secret that Microsoft faced many hiccups and serious backlash from gamers when the Xbox One was revealed with its strict DRM policies and mandatory Kinect, that still ships with the console itself. After E3 and Sony’s presentation which focused on the basic things that have already been present in the previous consoles, forced Microsoft’s hand and they redacted their vision of an online-only world and reversed their strict DRM policies which included once a day online check which after authenticating online will let players play games on the Xbox One. Without the authentication, the console could only be used as an entertainment hub to watch movies, TV shows etc.
Xbox One is the third console going to be released by Microsoft, who hit a gold mine with their second console, the Xbox 360, which outperformed the third console by Sony, the PlayStation 3, at every turn from its launch till later years until PlayStation 3 started gaining momentum and eventually came on par with the Xbox 360 and finally succeeding. Comparing Xbox One to PlayStation 3, we can point out that there indeed is a third console curse present for the game console manufacturers. One can say that Sony became arrogant with their position in home consoles following the immense success of the PlayStation 2, to the point that they believed that they can sell anything to anyone with any price tag.
Back in 2005 when PlayStation 3 was first announced, Sony presented a prototype of the PlayStation 3 which featured two HDMI ports, three ethernet ports and six USB ports, with a boomerang shaped controller named Sixaxis controller. When the console was again shown a year later at E3 2006, the console was cut back to have a single HDMI port, a single ethernet port and four USB ports, presumably to cut costs whereas the Sixaxis controller regained the shape of the previous controllers. Sixaxis controller initially didn’t have haptic vibration also known as force feedback. Sony emphasized that due to the motion sensors present in the controller, haptic feedback will interfere with motion sensing capabilities. It was later revealed that Immersion Corporation, Haptics developer, was suing Sony for patent infringement and also issued a statement that having force feedback and motion sensors together isn’t a problem and can be overcome easily. Phil Harrison, who was Sony’s president of worldwide studios back then, stated that he doesn’t see the need of a rumble feature citing that rumble was a “last generation feature” and motion sensing is a “next generation feature”. Sony, after settling their lawsuit with Immersion Corporation, later came out with DualShock 3, which retained the DualShock design and Sixaxis motion sensing capabilities while adding the rumble feature to it and became the standard for the new PlayStation 3 models.
PlayStation 3 was launched with a hefty price tag of $599 for its 60GB model which was scrutinized by gamers around the world. Ken Kutaragi, the father of PlayStation, stated in a Japanese publication that PlayStation 3 is that device that people will get two jobs just to afford one. Along with a lot of other promises that were made with PlayStation 3 and later taken back and not fulfilled, PlayStation 3 saw its struggling sales being beaten by the Xbox 360, which was released by Microsoft a year before the PlayStation 3, at every turn.
With the Xbox 360, its improved LIVE subscription and with a tri-core Xenon processor, development on the Xbox 360 was fairly easy as well as optimization compared to the Cell architecture found in PlayStation 3’s CPU. The enormous success of the Xbox 360 placed Microsoft in a strong position, ahead of Sony, who were the champions of console manufactures the previous generation with their PlayStation 2. But maybe all the success got to Microsoft the same way it did to Sony, that is, the ability to think that they can sell anything and everything to the gamers.
With this thought in mind as well as the arrogant behaviour, Microsoft, just weeks before E3, held their own conference where they lifted the veil on their next-generation console; the Xbox One. From the moment the name was announced for their new console to the moment where they only vaguely conveyed the whole message about the console by confusing gamers with their vision, they have seen a lot of backlash from gamers. But the backlash grew severe when at the E3 conference, the price was revealed to be $499 as opposed to $399 for the PlayStation 4. Microsoft was on the path of mishaps after mishaps from their initial unveiling.
From mandatory Kinect to no-used games policy to online verification of the console every 24hours to check whether the console has been modified or not to the power of the cloud, whereas their competitor, after learning from their previous mistakes, did everything right with the PlayStation 4 and won the hearts of the gamers by just conveying and explaining the very basics of the home consoles that have been present for a long time; that is, no restriction to used games and no online verifications for the console to work as a games console.
After facing the serious wrath of gamers with many already crowning the PlayStation 4 as the king who have already won the next-generation war and alleged decrease and cancellation of pre-orders of the Xbox One, Microsoft had to take drastic measures to ensure its vitality in the console business.
What they did was flip a switch. According to Larry Hryb aka Major Nelson in an interview with Angry Joe at E3, who asked if the online DRM check can be disabled easily, to which Major Nelson grabbed the mic and asked if he was on the development team and know any better than him. Later when Microsoft reversed its policies, gamers referred to it as flipping the switch and also pointed out Major Nelson’s earlier statement.
But that’s not all, Xbox One features 8GB of DDR3 memory and an ESRAM alongside it. Recent comments by the developers indicate that flushing out ESRAM manually to use it is a pain, many of the developers working on multi-plat titles also noted that the PlayStation 4 is approximately 50% faster than the Xbox One in GPU performance and this was before Xbox One’s GPU being upclocked.
Xbox One has been heavily advertised as an all in one box that replaces your set-top box. Gamers also commented on that Xbox One should be a games console first and foremost while retaining entertainment capabilities, it should not be advertised or perform better in the entertainment hub department rather than in the games department.
Along with the strict DRM policies, Kinect was also mandatory to be plugged in and switched on all the time in order for the Xbox One to work. Talks of privacy and Kinect always monitoring enraged the message boards, gaming websites and gamers in real life with many associating the act and the data collected to be sent to NSA as part of the PRISM program and stating that Microsoft is a part of it.
Coming back to the name, when Xbox One was announced, it got a nickname of XBONE, which was short for Xbox One, similarly as to how PlayStation One was shortened to PSOne. Major Nelson in a post on NeoGAF stated that he personally dislikes the nickname and is a ‘disrespect’ to the developers of the system whereas Phil Spencer, General Manager of Microsoft Game Studios, embraced the fact that the nickname is there to ‘stick’ with it now.
Lastly, the promise of games. While Microsoft did deliver by showing games and many exclusives for the Xbox One, and while being praised a little by gamers for this gesture among a heap of criticism, came another backlash when many of the games were revealed to be running on a resolution below 1080p. Microsoft also stated that Xbox One can easily output 4K resolution with the help of the cloud, many gamers lashed on when they found out that the games were not running at native 1080p and games were upscaled to 1080p using the Xbox One’s upscaler, which according to Cevat Yerli, does a fine job.
Here’s a list of features removed/policies reversed which were initially announced at launch:
Ever since the initial unveiling of the Xbox One, it has been plagued with issues ranging from DRM policies to being underpowered to under delivering on its promise on games not performing as advertised. Microsoft has been hitting one bumpy road after another with their PR being in disaster, confusing statements, retracting their words and what not. Xbox One is only a month away from its launch, and while the policies have been reversed, owners would have to download a “Day One” patch in order to remove the policies retracted by Microsoft. The update is said to take not longer than 15-20 minutes. With the software level implementation of DRM policies, gamers are still skeptical if Microsoft decides to bring back its DRM policies later in Xbox One’s lifecycle. With Kinect shipping out with every Xbox One console even though it is not mandatory now, the price bumps up to $499 which the gamers responded to as also having a non-Kinect Xbox One to justify the price for those who are not interested in Kinect and are being forced to own it.
People have, however, appreciated Microsoft’s move of reversing its policies, even Shuehi Yoshida, President of Sony’s worldwide studios stated that he praises Microsoft for it.
The third console curse surely is present, whether done by arrogant business decisions or by pure luck, from what we’ve seen so far, it does definitely exists.
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