So, What Will The Next Xbox One Reversal Be?
Which next-gen console will be better? Game Front gives the definitive opinion with our massive Xbox One vs. Playstation 4 Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
Where earlier this summer it would have felt seismic, Microsoft’s confirmation recently that Kinect will no longer be required for Xbox One to function seems almost perfunctory. It is, after all, the fourth time in less than two months that the company has decided to change its position on a given Xbox One feature after weeks spent denying it could even be done.
Microsoft started this process back in June, with the removal of two odious forms of DRM that received near-universal criticism. This was followed less than a month later with the July 24 decision to go ahead and allow indie developers to self-publish. And now this.
We can’t deny that seeing the company making a real effort to give its customers what they clearly want is a nice change. I for one prefer not being condescended to when accurately pointing out how terrible something looks. But it’s also fair to note that the company had to be dragged, somewhat, into doing it. Microsoft’s decisions have been largely reactive up to this point – each one intended to resolve a specific complaint – giving the impression that it is more hoping that with each reversal it will have stemmed the tide of complaints.
That isn’t a bad thing. The company’s vision didn’t line up with what consumers wanted, so they’ve changed it, and Microsoft now gets to openly declare that “the two way conversation we have with customers is a strength.” Yes, you have to wonder what data it was analyzing to provoke that conversation in the first place, but the Xbox One as it appears to exist today is a vastly improved console over the restrictive, intrusive mess Microsoft unveiled to the world back in May.
At the same time, it is highly likely that complaints are going to continue. Not only because the system retains a few features that aren’t well-liked, but because the consumers have learned Microsoft is (grudgingly) listening, and will continue to take advantage of that. And that means, if the past is any indication, that Microsoft has at least one more big reversal in its future.
Right now, there are three major areas still at the receiving end of fierce complaints:
For Xbox 360 owners, backwards compatibility is a big deal. Xbox 360 was ultimately backwards compatible with about 120 original Xbox titles. That’s down from an initial list of 279 games, but still a robust number of playable previous-gen titles. Even if it took a while to shore up backwards compatibility, its existence made transitioning to the new console much less painful for many Xbox users. It may even account somewhat for Xbox 360 outperforming Playstation 3 for several years. Sony revoked backwards-compatibility early on, a move for which it was roundly criticized – especially since it was only removed for Playstation 2 games.
But Microsoft was apparently never that enthused about it. Former Xbox chief Don Mattrick was quoted earlier this year saying “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards,” and later claimed that only 5% of Xbox 360 users ever took advantage of the feature. That may indeed be true, but used to the perk, it came as a surprise to Xbox owners when Microsoft announced earlier this year that it would not provide backwards compatibility for Xbox One. Fans have not been quiet about how much they kind of hate this.
Xbox Live Gold Membership Issues
Let’s be honest: there is a strong likelihood that everyone one of us who ends up eventually getting an Xbox One will also keep our Xbox Live Gold memberships. Microsoft’s servers host the service, so it’s hard to complain about paying to play multiplayer, or to use movie and TV apps developed by other companies. And it isn’t like it’s expensive. But even acknowledging this, one can’t help but think the service as it will exist on Xbox One feels like less of a good deal than in its current form.
First, in order to use the cross-functionality between your cable television service and Kinect, as well as the built-in gaming DVR – you know, the centerpieces of the Xbox One reveal event last May? – you need Xbox Live Gold. Second, Xbox 360 owners won’t be able to carry over their Xbox Live-only titles to Xbox One. Which means if you want to play all the games you downloaded, you’ll have to keep your 360 plugged in or buy them again.
Like I discussed above, Microsoft has already pulled a huge reversal on Kinect. For months now, the company has insisted that the always-on Kinect was irrevocable. In fact, though company spokespersons never quite said so, it was always strongly implied that the system wouldn’t even work without it. We now know that claim was not an entirely accurate representation of the situation, and so it’s no shock that calls for a version of Xbox One that doesn’t include Kinect have continued without interruption, though Microsoft continues to say there won’t be one.