Why Gamers Don't Lose With Microsoft's New Moves

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

Why Gamers Don't Lose With Microsoft's New Moves

With the flood of news that arrived yesterday regarding Microsoft's gaming future, it wasn't surprising that some would start considering the implications of such news, much as we did yesterday. But I caught one article today about how the end of Microsoft's impressive vision for the next generation means that we all lose, and to that point, I had to respond.

Some have already suggested not really incorrectly, that Microsoft's constant backpedaling will make it more likely to fear change in the future, since it got on the bad end of change this time around. Also of note is Microsoft's “refusal to stick to its guns”, its “botched...messaging around the Xbox One's launch,” and indeed, an idea that it may have gone to this innovation a bit too soon. Of particular note is a point that I've personally been echoing for some time, pointing to word from Microsoft senior director of product Albert Penello, in which Penello noted: “...I'm glad we've gone back to the disc model. People have to accept it. The Internet bandwidth caps have to support it globally. Internet infrastructure has to support it globally.”

But where I part company with the concerned on this point is the idea that, just because people weren't interested in Microsoft's grand vision this time around, that they don't want anything new. And in a sense, those who feel that way have a point. But I don't believe that those who feel that way are considering the issue sufficiently far.

Look at the things that the market rejected about Microsoft's “grand vision.” A variety of points required a constantly-on Internet connection, and one that ran at a certain speed as well. Everything from DRM that required constant reconnection to a system that required the Kinect to operate in order to play the device, much of it required something that, for a lot of people, simply doesn't exist yet. Microsoft was essentially trying to build a better horse-drawn carriage in a land where horses didn't exist. It wasn't that Microsoft's ideas were somehow “wrong” or “too scary”, it's that for many, they simply weren't feasible. Worse, the reaction wasn't exactly helping matters either; we all remember Adam Orth. Yes, we can leave it at the name alone, because Adam Orth's name carries the same sort of dark resonance for gamers that any of a hundred names might carry for different groups.

Indeed, there's a point about how gamers don't really want a whole lot of new in their diet. Consider how the biggest selling games are often sequels or imitations of something else. Innovation is often punished with lower sales, even if it makes it up in online buzz. After years of MMOs making their way to the market, what's the biggest one in town? It's still “World of Warcraft”. For crying out loud, it beat a “Star Wars” MMO that should have been printing its own money given the sheer number of Star Wars fans out there.

But I can't look at this market and say that no one wants anything new. It's a matter of getting the right kind of new at the right time, and this simply wasn't the right time. Had Microsoft gone forward with its vision, it would have lost a huge amount of business. A massive number of players simply would have been unable to buy an Xbox One, and that's not the kind of foundation on which a gaming operation can last, not even one supported by several other breeds of business. Microsoft got a little too close to the sun this round, but managed to adjust its course and come back down to Earth where us regular folks could get in. That doesn't mean there won't be room for innovation later, it's just that the innovation needs to be correctly applied first.

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