The Positives and Negatives of the Xbox One’s Policy Changes

Posted: August 16, 2013 in Blogs, Xbox 360, Xbox One

In a recent Reddit AMA with Xbox Corporate Vice President Marc Whitten, the Xbox One was revealed to not need the Kinect to function. This comes after Microsoft changed its DRM, indie publishing, and always-online policies. They have done this for a myriad of reasons, including community backlash, pre-order figures, and their main competitor’s policies. This can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, and there are reasons for both. I view it as some of both. Here are my reasons:

The Good

The most obvious upside to Microsoft changing many of the policies of the Xbox One is that gamers will now be able to do many more things than they were previously going to be able to do. These include being able to share used games with friends, not having to check in online every 24 hours, and being able to disable the Kinect without the system turning off or not running.

Changing Policies Because of Community Feedback

Changing Policies Because of Community Feedback

Not having to check in with the internet every 24 hours allows people that have bad or no internet connection to be able to use the Xbox One without it turning off. Before, many people were complaining about this everywhere on the internet, and Microsoft responded. This will allow offline play for people with bad connections, save for a one-time update when the console is first turned on. This could bring back some people who were going to switch from the Xbox 360 to the PS4 because the PS4 doesn’t have to connect, but Microsoft did their best to patch up some of those relations.

Another positive to the Xbox One’s changes is the repeal of the used game DRM. After all of the complaining, Microsoft changed this as well. There was going to be a strange restriction for used games that was explained only in a nebulous post by Microsoft and the full details were never completely known. However, this has all changed. There will be no used game restriction for Xbox One games now, satisfying displeased fans. This, as well as the offline play, will bring some people back to the Xbox One that otherwise would have switched to the PS4 because they didn’t agree with Microsoft’s policies.

Indie developers are also affected for the good due to Xbox One’s policy changes. Indie publishing was something also left vaguely explained by Microsoft before announcing the inclusion of self-publishing to the Xbox Live Marketplace. In fact, many indie developers were clamoring for self-publishing on both consoles. The PS4 had announced it at E3, and the Xbox One followed up in a post later. This will spotlight some games that would not have received any attention otherwise, making talented developers more inclined to develop a game for either console for the chance to be spotlighted.

They Unite!

They Unite!

Finally, the Kinect sensor no longer needs to be connected for the Xbox One to work. This will silence people complaining that it will be watching at all times, spying on whoever is in front of it. Once again, this was a major turn off to people comparing the two consoles, although the Kinect is still boxed with every Xbox One. This will also turn the Kinect into a useful object instead of a nuisance for many people. Many games will come to Kinect seeing that it is with every Xbox One and instead of having people look at it angrily as it would be always on, it would become something that good games use properly and people would have fun with.

The Bad

As is common with positives, negatives are always somewhere close by. The Xbox One policy changes isn’t an exception to this. The positive changes for gamers hurt Microsoft as a company with its reputation and possibly even its relations with other companies.

Due to the fact that Microsoft is so fickle with the Xbox One’s policies, my main negative for the policy changes is the respect for Microsoft lost from many people over the course of all of the changes. With the inconsistency of the messaging for Xbox One’s policies, there is no way to tell why Microsoft chose to implement those features in the Xbox One and what the positives were. All Microsoft said was that something was in Xbox One. There was no statement whatsoever on why those things were good for the gamer. Instead, many people’s views on the console were plagued by the small minority of people complaining on the internet and calling Microsoft the worst company in the world because of a business decision that was made.

While the decision was eventually made to overturn these policies, the inconsistency in messaging and in the product as a whole gives off a feeling of unconfidence for their product. It seemed as though Microsoft were playing it by ear to see how the console was received, as they explicitly said that they “may change its policies, terms, products, and services to reflect modifications and improvements to our services.” The fact that they said this so clearly in the article explaining the DRM policies makes it seem like they weren’t sure whether or not they wanted to go ahead with these policies. That is something that, in a console “war” like the one between Microsoft and Sony, is unacceptable. They should be able to announce their product and its services with confidence and sell it by saying why everything on the console is great, even the ones some people don’t like, and why it is necessary for the next generation. Sony has done this, and, even though the consoles are now fairly even, they have won over a seemingly large portion of the Xbox fanbase solely due to bad messaging for the Xbox One’s policies.

A Perceived Lack of Confidence

A Perceived Lack of Confidence

Along with the major negatives, the policy changes have a few smaller downsides that have been either overlooked or not spoken about by Microsoft.

First, as of now, the Xbox One still costs $500, because of the Kinect being packaged in with the console. This is still $100 more expensive than the PS4 and will turn off many people choosing between one or the other. To make the prices equal, the Kinect would have to be taken out of the box, although this would cause fewer Kinect games to be made, rendering it much less useful as it would be. Due to Microsoft wanting to have a Kinect with every Xbox One, they are unlikely to change this price point, although nothing is impossible.

Next, the Xbox One has been recently announced to only be releasing in 13 markets this year, compared to the previously announced 21. While Sony hasn’t confirmed an exact number of markets the PS4 will be releasing in, it looks to be more than the Xbox One. This will hinder the sales because many people are on the fence about which console to buy, and if the Xbox isn’t coming out until a year after the PS4, there is little reason to wait for the Xbox.

Finally, Microsoft have probably hurt some relationships with publishers with the removal of DRM and always-online policies. Companies like EA are known for putting Online Passes in many of their games to fight against DRM, but they stopped those most likely due to the Xbox One’s DRM policies. However, the removal of these may either make EA come back with Online Passes, as the publishers can decide on their own policies for games, or they would take a huge hit with used game sales and piracy that give no money to publishers or developers.

My View

While I have gone over some of the changes and their positives and negatives so far, I haven’t given my opinion on what I think of the changes.

Personally, I think that these changes’ negatives slightly outweigh the positives for Microsoft. After everything that has happened, the two consoles have become basically identical, with the only difference being the $100 advantage for the PS4. Microsoft, instead of giving in to the small yet vocal internet community, should have given a statement on why all of these policies are good for the console. They should have said something about Family Sharing and similar services that would have made the console stand out compared to the PS4. This would have made them stand out- give a policy that would have normally been negative and convince everyone why it’s a good thing. Instead, Microsoft has had more bad publicity than good, losing respect from many people because of the lack of confidence in its product. The console may still turn out to be fantastic, with amazing games and services; but it has left a sour taste in many people’s mouths that might not be able to be fixed.

What do you think about the Xbox One’s policy changes? Good or Bad? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, thanks for reading and PI!


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