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August 5, 2013 | by  | in Arts Games | [ssba]

Xbox One

The benefit of writing an article on a major gaming announcement several weeks after it has been released is that murky details can be clarified, and shockwaves from drastic changes have had time to settle. That’s my excuse for waiting so long to write a piece on Microsoft’s new gaming console, the Xbox One (not severe procrastination, which is the real reason). However, given the complete about-face Microsoft has taken to some of its Digital Rights Management features, I am kinda glad I did.

If you have been living under a gaming rock for the last little while, the annual gaming convention E3 was held from 11–13 June. This year was particularly exciting as many fans, myself included, were anticipating a first showing of the next generation of console tech. We certainly weren’t disappointed in that respect, although I’m not entirely sure that what Microsoft initially presented was actually a gaming console. My crib notes read: online connectivity at least once a day (with a preference for constant connection); a Kinect camera that can’t be turned off; limited ability to buy or sell second-hand games; and no backwards compatibility (though that was to be expected). Microsoft proudly announced all these features with an optimistic outlook on the ‘future of gaming’. To which everyone on the internet immediately responded: “Sony wins; Microsoft, you’re not invited to Christmas dinner”. By basically doing nothing besides saying they weren’t Microsoft, Sony walked away with the unofficial trophy of victory.

Jump forward a week, and Microsoft is in the awkward position of having to announce that they are actually dropping most of their hyper-aggressive DRM measures. A much more friendly one-time internet connection per game, an assurance you can turn off the Kinect (although the government may still use it to spy on you), and freedom to buy and sell second-hand games were offered as tribute to appease the furious internet gods. The console is still locked to games from its own generation, but we can’t win all the time. Three out of four: that’s still an A-! What intrigued me most, however, is the speculation over the cause of this sudden turnaround.

What did seem to make an impact though was the outcry from US medical institutes and the US armed forces. The day before the big 180, I read several articles and interviews from people in these fields who outlined the benefits of the Xbox 360 in comparison to the proposed Xbox One, although granted, the focus in both cases were issues over the internet-connection requirements. I get the feeling that Microsoft was terrified that it had angered the US military, and so order was restored to the Universe and once again we are left with two bland, indistinguishable consoles.

While I may not have agreed with the plan Microsoft had, it was at least aiming for a future of gaming, as dystopian as it might have been. Instead of setting sail for an adventure into the unknown, though, both Sony and Microsoft have settled for making a console for the gaming of the present. I worry that with no one keeping an eye on where we may be able to head, these brand-new consoles may stagnate and require replacement in only a couple of years’ time. I am left to mourn the death of a console I can’t even purchase yet.


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