When a console that can not make it into the Los Angeles Convention Center has a better E3 than one of the main draws, something is not right. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it was their new pride and joy, the XBone, that was outdone by the Ouya. To say that E3 was not kind to the XBone is quite the understatement. The damage done to Microsoft seemingly came from all angles, with a majority being self-inflicted. Not since Hitler unveiled his final solution have so many people cringed at the intentions of an organization. In what had to be an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging, Microsoft’s answers to XBone inquiries began to get a bit cloudy. Considering how confusing the new game-sharing policy is (I am still waiting for the flowchart on that one.) it should have been no surprise that other formerly simple ideas have been made just as confusing.
In a move that surely disappointed all five members of the Asian branch of the Microsoft Fan Club, the XBone will not launch in Asian countries this year. Hell, if things screw up even a little bit, they might not even get their hands on the biggest boner they have ever seen until 2015. This delayed launch may have to do with the fact that all 360s were built in China, so Microsoft may be rewarding the entire continent of Asia by not foisting this steaming turd on them this year. To add on to the mountain of disappointment, Microsoft is apparently region-locking the console so that it will not function outside of its country of purchase. Those five Japanese who are positively radiant about the XBone will sadly have to deal with a PS4 while they wait for Microsoft to get around to them.
People that are not part of the initial twenty-one markets are not the only victims of this region-locking, however. Those poor fools who had intentions of traveling with their XBone to other countries may be treated the same as importers it appears. When asked what region-locking meant for the “always connected” XBone, Microsoft served up this statement:
While the console itself is not geographically restricted, a user’s Xbox Live account, content, apps and experiences are all tied to the country of billing and residence.
So I am able to use my XBone in other countries, just not my Xbox Live account? That is great news, except for one thing, the XBone needs to connect to Xbox Live every twenty-four hours for authentication. This leads me to believe that if I move to Mexico (a country that is part of the initial launch market), I will have to repurchase all of my games because they are tied to an American Xbox Live account. Also, because of my American Xbox Live account not working in another country, I will not be able to deauthorize my previously purchased games until I travel back to the USA.
Another important question that has gone without a satisfactory answer has to do with the future of the XBone. Specifically, what happens when Microsoft stops supporting the console. It is early to already be looking to the next generation of consoles, however, gamers are a nostalgic group. We love to go back and play our classic games to relive the experience and with most consoles not supporting backwards compatibility, we need to hold on to our past consoles so that we can play those classic titles at will. The last thing that a gamer wants to discover is that their collection of games that they spent hundreds of dollars on were little more than extended rentals. Shutting off the XBone servers will also render the console itself unusable as authenticating will be impossible without the servers.
Then, in one swift move on Wednesday, Microsoft trolled me. Wednesday’s announcement that Microsoft would retract their insane DRM and internet connection policies effectively means that, for now, region-locking and servers going down will not hinder a user’s ability to play with their XBone. These policies will be removed from the XBone through the release of a day one patch, because that worked so well for Nintendo. While many celebrated this decision as Microsoft listening to gamers, this is probably more a result of lagging pre-order numbers and pressure from retailers. If Microsoft truly cared about the opinions of its consumers, these features would have not been included in the first place. This announcement will mean that the XBone will pull itself a bit closer to the PS4 as many Xbox fantards were merely waiting for Microsoft to give them a reason to jump off of the PS4 bandwagon.
Microsoft’s lone good decision of the last two months basically involved them admitting to all the mistakes they made with the XBone. Congratulating Microsoft for correcting their self-made problems is a little like giving a dog a treat for eating its own shit after an accident. The troubling part of Wednesday’s announcement is that Microsoft is completely silent on how long the policy change will remain. Every part of me believes that this is not the last we will see of their DRM policy. Even if Microsoft decides to abandon DRM altogether this generation, they will still have a hamstrung console with an operating system that moves at the speed of Netflix streaming on a 56k modem. The XBone still has plenty of problems, but Microsoft (temporarily) fixed a few of the biggest.