Penny Arcade Report – The XBone Thread

| #Editorial | #games | #insanity | #microsoft | #monopoly | #usedgames |

I’ve been online for a very long time, and read some incredibly stupid things. This used games for the XBone discussion from Penny Arcade Report is damn near the top of my Apparently serious list of insane bullshit from an arguably sane source.

Now, to be clear, Penny Arcade is no stranger to favouring developers over logic or common sense, as I’ve discussed before but this new article on the Penny Arcade Report (by Ben Kuchera) sets a new standard. He says that a total block on used games would be good for gamers.

In that first link I said That’s so wrongheaded I have a hard time being coherent with my reply. I’m not having an easier time of it this time. Everything I said the first time applies this time as well, but there are some new issues that are not, you know, sane.

There’s still some confusion about how exactly this will work (<bVork> at this point MS has been so inconsistent with their drm description that I’m not even convinced that they’ve figured it out yet) but I am compelled to address what PAR thinks will happen: “…you’ll be able to “sell” your used games, but no one except Microsoft will buy able to buy them. Microsoft becomes the entity that controls the entirety of the transaction…”

Because that can’t go wrong. <- sarcasm, yo. "This is good news for a few reasons. The first is that piracy will likely be reduced." I agree, because if fewer people buy the console, fewer people will pirate. It's possibly a byproduct of my demographic's waning interest, but a lot of people are swearing off consoles this time around, because of dumb shit like this. Never mind us, how happy will you be if Microsoft – who is your nemesis, don’t forget – forever controls the price you pay and receive for all games on your XBone? Can anyone point to a centrally controlled market that succeeded?

The next thing is that the used-game market all but disappears. GameStop may not be able to aggressively hawk used games for $5 less than the new price to customers under these new controls, which is great if you’re a developer or publisher. Once that secondary market is removed you can suddenly profit from every copy of your game sold, and as profit margins rise it’s possible we’ll see prices drop.

I’d really like to hear from anyone who can point to the creation of a monopoly that lowered prices. Removing used games removes competition, and that never, ever leads to lower prices. I’m just… It’s… I mean, is he trolling us!?

As a side effect of being able to simply borrow a friend’s disc and pay MS the full retail price to install it on your console so you both have a copy, PAR says “Also, the idea of artificial shortages will go away overnight.” What do you mean, artificial shortages!? As if somehow the idea of producing fewer physical discs, manuals and cases than the market demanded was intentional!? Maybe Nintendo skillfully releases just enough to whip up demand for rare things, but with the rest of the industry? You don’t get a second chance at launch day sales.

Removing the concept of buying a used game will lead to more sales for publishers, more control for Microsoft, but it could also lead to changes in how retail sells games, where the margins can be found in this business, and lower prices across the board.

More sales: wrong
More control: right
Changes: well DUH, change means change.
Lower prices: No, fuck no.

At the end of the article he says the only things that really make sense:

Of course, Sony also told us that we would be able to trade in our old PSP games for some kind of credit on the PSP Go, and then the company just kind of dropped the entire idea. At this stage in the game the situation is likely fluid, and could change at any time.

The possibilities are fascinating though, and potentially good for both gamers and publishers. I’m excited to see where all this goes.

tl;dr Things are changing; everything I like about this change worked against me last time; things could end up different than I think; these changes might be good.

Well, this was a total fucking waste of time.

[ May 24 2013 ]



May 24 2013

1. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if MS was just testing the waters, to see how much outrage there would be, if this daft used game policy actually came to pass. No one at MS is giving straight answers ’cause they’re not sure exactly how aggressively they’re going to ass-rape their customers yet.

2. Just because modern technology allows you to sort-of sell things to customers doesn’t mean you should do it. This is a policy that does absolutely nothing beneficial for customers. The very best you can say is that it might benefit developers, but you have to have a particularly narrow-focus view of the world to make this one even seem plausible.

If your sell-line relies on dubious logic for a possible long-term payoff for the guy who sells stuff to the consumer, you’re not doing it right.

3. Microsoft does not have a history of treating locked-in customers well. Backwards compatibility issues with all of their products (Windows, Office, Xbox, Surface) plus their penchant for simply dropping products without so much as a fuck-you (Plays for Sure) plus their habit of not supporting their own products for much longer than the time it takes to ship the remaining stock (Zune, Kin) equals a damned big risk for the customer.

Seriously, this new console means you are utterly and totally relying on Microsoft to allow you to keep playing and I’d like to know if anyone actually trusts them that much. It’s not a small investment, and there’s no selling it when you’re done.

4. They’re positioning the XBone as a media center that also plays games. Every generation since the first one tried this. It’s educational! It’s online! The trojan horse aspect never works, I’m surprised everyone buys into it every time, like a collective delusion every game journalist wants to believe. It’s true, that every new console does more of these things, and to their credit it seems like the XBone will be the best at it, but who’s the audience here? Is this really the best media player ever, that also plays really good games?

And don’t fucking get me started on Microsoft’s inability to support different formats in a media box. How well does your X360 play .flac, .ogg or .mkv files? My TV streams media better than my XBox, and it’s not bombarding me with ads or asking for money all the time like my X360.

Seriously, this is outrageous. No one likes the X360 and its slow-loading ads scattered throughout the dreadful dashboard. Microsoft doesn’t do these things right, they never have. Every release has been worse.

Why is anyone believing this time will be different? Fucking stockholm sydrome up in here.

5. Finally, the hardcore gamers are getting the shaft. The people who most want games to last forever, to sit on their shelves and be playable till they die, are the ones least likely to be pleased by Microsoft. How long will the games be viable, before they shut them the fuck down like Hotmail, Messenger or Plays for Sure? The very people most likely to carry a love for your brand from now until the end of time are the first people jettisoned in Microsoft’s new foray into battle.

I have no horse in this race. I don’t plan on buying the new consoles. This doesn’t matter to me at all, and I’m still pissed off about it. Anyone planning to drop five hundred bucks on a system and game at launch is taking a very big risk. The games had better be staggeringly great to justify renting a system and games for prices like that.

And that’s what it is: renting. Which is good, because there’ll be no more actual game rentals in the next generation of consoles.


May 24 2013

Ars Technica talks about how the XBone will offload some graphics rendering to the cloud, which is about as daft a fucking thing as I’ve ever heard. It’s like Microsoft asked every staff member to put a buzzword in a bucket, and instead of pulling out the favourites, just decided that XBone is Every Buzzword.

XBone: The first console ever made where the best graphics go to the guy with the fastest internet.

The guys on shitty connections get high-res polygon actors on JPG’d-to-shit low-res 5-fps backgrounds.

In other news, a friend of mine confirms my suspicion that it’s just my demographic (ie: old fuckers) who think this new XBone is a pile of horseshit.

unfortunately i really _do_ think its your ( our ) demographic and that 99.99% of the console/games buying market are clueless or doesnt care

so it wont make a difference that we all swap to PC gaming ( again )”


Jun 18 2013

This Reddit post attempts to clear up a few misconceptions about the XBone, by listing specific details about how things like used games will work with the console. This is solid information, inasmuch as you can believe anything that doesn’t actually exist yet, I’m sure MS is constantly considering changes to it all.

But one thing that annoys the shit out of me is what’s not said. For every single ‘feature’ listed, the line as long as the servers are working is omitted. This is critical, dammit – if Microsoft goes offline, your games stop working. Sony’s servers were offline for damn near a month in 2011, and that should be a damned sobering dash of cold water in the face for everyone who isn’t outraged by Microsoft’s new policies.

Is that really OK for you? Your entire library dies if Microsoft has a problem for more than 24 hours.

The other thing that gets me, and this is mentioned by a few commenters in that Reddit thread, is that this is a whitelist, or permission-based system. Everything you do has to be approved in advance. Every shop that deals in used games will have to meet whatever criteria MS demands, and they can be cut off at any time. They might not do it to Gamestop or EB, but if you’re an independent outlet, or a small chain, I feel pretty safe predicting that your terms will not be generous.

I don’t believe in software licensing. It’s mine, I own it. That technology allows this level of control by publishers does not mean that it should be encouraged, or even allowed.

I do not understand the point of view of people who are OK with this. What is important to you, if this isn’t? What are you getting from the system that makes this alright?


Jun 19 2013

Lotta noise about Microsoft coming to their senses this morning and going back to the way things have always been with the new XBone. No more 24-hour checkin to keep your games from self-destructing, no more limits on trades and rentals, and you’re free to give your games away if you want. The only restriction now is a single checkin when you first install the game.

Gamers are, of course, never happy – and they’re right to be upset still. Microsoft has extended a very emphatic middle finger to the gaming community.

So you can now give your game to a friend, and it’ll activate the first time he installs it. You’ve still got your copy to play, until your machine checks in and MS removes it. So from a piracy perspective, you can have that game for free as long as you don’t install anything else. That seems fair to me – and MS is prepared to let you get away with it, because really, who in the real world plays one game offline for any serious amount of time?

But because of this, they’ve turned off other features:

No more sign-in-download-anywhere. You can’t go to a friend’s place and download your games to play while you’re there. There’s no reason for this at all – the first-time check means every system that used to have the game is running on borrowed time. You can’t play online or install another game without losing the old game.

So taking this ability seems like sour grapes. MS is taking away the convenience because we didn’t like the insane parts of their plan? Petty, guys. Real petty.

And now, MS says your digital/downloaded games cannot be shared or re-sold, which is the way Steam operates… Except that Steam looks like they’re preparing to allow this functionality. Aww, poor Microsoft, always chasing the people in the lead.

No regional restrictions, hurray! But this probably doesn’t mean we get access to foreign marketplaces. A lot of X360 games were region-unlocked, but that didn’t ever mean you could log in to XBoxLive Japan and buy cool new games from there. This is a nice gesture, but I do not think these words mean what a lot of people think they do.

Requiring the disc be in the tray for an installed game is an inconvenience for anyone who likes to play a lot of games for a short time. Removing the ability to play without it because they can’t keep daily tabs on us anymore seems petty again.

I gotta say though, requiring the disc for a first time install makes perfect sense. MS tried to sell us on the dream that discs were unnecessary, that you could just pop ’round to a buddy’s place with a flat of beer and your Live login, and play HotNewGame all night, but that’s just silly.

Unless you’re going to buddy’s for several days the idea of downloading 5GB just to play for the evening is pretty absurd. Never mind data caps, how long would it take to download that much data?

So hurrah for not being dicks, Microsoft. We punched you in your wallet and you heard us. But, you childish fuckers, you didn’t have to break your other toys to spite us. You’re a massive international company, not a pack of petty nine year olds.


Jun 19 2013

I think you may have misread, or they changed the announcement after you read it:

“After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again.”

It’s not a per-disc checkin, but the initial system setup. They’re basically going to support the model that the 360 uses today, as far as I can read. you need the disc in the tray to play installed disc games on the 360, too.

But still, yeah, they burned a ton of goodwill, and Microsoft isn’t a company that garners goodwill easily. I would have expected them to be a lot more careful with it. :)


    Jun 19 2013

    You’re right, I did misread that. Curses, now everything I wrote is meaningless! Why you gotta bring me down with facts, man!? =(


Jun 19 2013

It’s still not clear if digitally downloaded games will require you to ‘check in’. If you look closely, it seems this only applies to disc-based games, where possession of the physical item equates to “proof of ownership”, as much as Microsoft seems to dislike that.


    Jun 20 2013

    You’re right, that does seem to be very likely. Physical disc = same as before.

    Might as well delete this whole page now, heh. =(


Jun 20 2013

Gizmodo is decrying the change:

They’re literally defending DRM. Their argument is that “DRM services don’t just disappear anymore”. I know lots of DRM services that have disappeared. Xbox Live for the original Xbox disappeared, and the original Live Arcade games are no longer functional.

I wonder how soon the Live service for the 360 hardware will be EOL’d, and exactly how that will impact you XBLA and Xbox Indie Games?


Jun 20 2013

I’m already finding useless OnLive consoles dumped off at thrift stores.

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