The Xbox One
, the latest entry in the ongoing console wars, has been filled with a lot of questions of late. A lot of restrictions, a lot of strangeness, and a whole lot of unexpected and unusual constraints on the system. But one more has come to light that is shaping up to be yet another shackle on a system that has been packed with them: region-specific coding.
Essentially, the current reports suggest that all software on the Xbox One will have to match the regions that the consoles were released in; games released in the United States, for example, wouldn't be playable in Europe, and Japanese games would be unplayable in the United States, unless someone had purchased an Xbox One from those particular locations.
Thankfully, the region-specific coding isn't going to be universal. Microsoft is set to leave the decision in the studios' hands for the most part, though the PlayStation 3 is--and potentially the PlayStation 4 will be as well--region-free, allowing most any PlayStation 3 game to play in any PlayStation system.
In some cases, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, there are certain regulations that need to be met before a game or movie can be sold in some countries, so region locking can be a useful tool to make sure those regulations are met. But by like token, some studios want to open up the biggest market possible, so they can in turn leave the region open.
But when this adds on to the earlier issues, like the still-unresolved fracas with used games, and it adds up to yet another potential problem for Microsoft users to resolve. In fact, from a marketing standpoint, one has to wonder just what Microsoft's
thinking anyway. Why is Microsoft making it so difficult to get a game and play it on an Xbox One? Rentals may need fees to get in on the action, used games could be in a bad way--there are even reports that GameStop
stock took a hit on the strength of those suggestions--and now imports are on the ropes?
Making the system easy to work with, more convenient, and the like would seem to be the order of the day, but Microsoft seems to be going out of its way to make things harder and less convenient. Microsoft is competing with Sony--and indirectly with PC and Nintendo and even mobile devices--and Microsoft's experience seems to be only getting more complex the farther in we get.
It's gravely disconcerting to think of how Microsoft can build a decent value proposition around the idea of making a system harder to work with. But thankfully, there's plenty of room for these reports to ultimately be proven wrong between right now and the final release of the Xbox One. Hopefully, Microsoft will be focusing less on protecting the system from its users, and more on making the system easier to get along with.