TECH in AMERICA (TiA)

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E3 2013: Selling the Xbox One, PS4, Wii U in a tough climate

by  (courtesy LATimes) LA GAMES CONVention

Thanks to a combination of poor timing and confusing corporate rhetoric,  Microsoft has found itself at the heart of some nasty rumors swirling around  this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

The company revealed that its upcoming Xbox One gaming console will be  “always on,” a startling feature in the wake of revelations about the National  Security Agency’s efforts  to collect American citizens’ phone and e-mail records. The Xbox One system  will require an online connection to allow users to play games they have  purchased themselves (the system requires a login to Xbox Live at least once  every 24 hours), and will broadly the buying, selling and trading of used games  by associating each game to its individual owner. Microsoft has said that  players will be able to share their Xbox One game library with up to 10 “family  members,” but the net effect is that selling or swapping used Xbox One games on  sites like eBay and Craigslist will likely be impossible.

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The company has also said it may work with “partners” to make possible the  sale of used games. Though they’ve been vague on details, the implication is  that Microsoft would strike deals with chain retailers like GameStop (which buys  used games at a heavy discount, and then resells them for just a few bucks below  retail price) to implement some kind of a tracking system to keep its database  current. Such an arrangement would further marginalize mom-and-pop game shops,  already a rare bird in the gaming ecosystem.

There’s more. In addition to the required online tracking system, Xbox One  will ship with the second generation of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor in the  box, a connection to which will be required for players to use their consoles.  The Kinect 2 is also “always on.” It’s able to identify individuals based on  face and body recognition, works in the dark, records audio and is constantly  connected to the Internet and 300,000 Microsoft servers. Even when your Xbox One  is off, the Kinect is still listening, watching and waiting. (It’s also worth  noting that late last year Microsoft filed for a patent that would use the  Kinect camera to monitor the number of viewers in a room, checking to see if the  number of people in a given room exceeded a particular threshold set by the  content provider. Too many occupants, and the user would be prompted to purchase  a license for more viewers.)

As a series of bullet points, it’s rather grim stuff – a new and seemingly  more menacing level of Big Brother oversight. From another angle, however, the  used-game issue in particular can seem almost semantic: It’s an established fact  that purely digital game ownership – be it on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Steam – is subject to DRM, so why should disc-based game ownership be any different? If  all Xbox One purchases were to happen by digital download instead of physical  disc, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

Still, Xbox has dug itself into a hole. To call it a PR disaster would  probably be an overstatement, as evidenced by the fact that the console is  selling pre-orders at a rapid clip. But its confusing messaging (and Sony’s own  counter-tactics) have put the company on the defensive. Microsoft has gone so  far as to cancel nearly all of its executives’ press interviews at E3. If  Microsoft isn’t explicitly clear about its policies, it’s likely to face  lawsuits from disgruntled fans expecting to be able to buy and sell their games  as they wish, along with the inevitable kickback regarding its Kinect-related  privacy issues. If it’s too communicative about its policies, however, the  company risks alienating millions of potential consumers in its latest bid to  control the living room.

Thank you. TiA.

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One comment on “E3 2013: Selling the Xbox One, PS4, Wii U in a tough climate

  1. Pingback: What Should Microsoft Do Next? – Semiconductor Product Marketing

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2013 by in GAMING, MICROSOFT and tagged , , , , , , , .

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