So, What Will The Next Xbox One Reversal Be?

So what’s it going to be?

While none of these aspects of Xbox One are as nefariously awful as a constant internet connection requirement or the inability to own the property you purchase, they remain bones of contention for consumers not quite ready to let bygones be bygones. The question is which one Microsoft is willing to part with.

Of the three, Backwards compatibility seems a no-brainer, but Microsoft has been adamant. According to several Microsoft spokespeople, fundamental incompatibilities exist between the two consoles’ GPUs; others have claimed the two systems’ operating systems prevent compatibility. Those explanations ring true, until you consider that Xbox 360′s reverse compatibility was achieved via an emulator, not via compatible hardware or operating systems. It would presumably be quite easy for Microsoft to release a 360 emulator for Xbox One.

But easy or not, Microsoft is no doubt fully aware that, as we saw with Playstation 2 post-Playstation3′s release, previous-gen consoles will have a much longer lifespan than they did a decade ago. Microsoft has a vested interest in a continued revenue stream from (slightly) reduced-cost 360 consoles, and that means continuing to release new content for Xbox 360 as well as maintaining Xbox Live services for the device.

Also, just this week, the company has already announced a deal with Amazon to sell a limited number of Xbox One versions of recent 360 titles for the low low price of $10. It’s a limited-time offer, but it’s likely to be only the first of many such deals. (I fully expect to see downloadable titles at cut-rates via the Xbox One version of XBL). I suspect then that Microsoft considers the matter closed, no matter how much people keep asking.

Verdict: probability of backwards compatibility reversal is Low.

And speaking of Xbox Live. The aforementioned complaints sound small, but for many people (myself included), Xbox Live feels like a worse deal than before, even if it offers everything it used to plus a little more. Steam doesn’t require the repurchase of games when you change PCs, and that’s the closest cognate to the kind of digital downloads Xbox Live offers. Furthermore, locking two of the system’s core perks – cable tv/Xbox One functionality and the gaming DVR – behind Xbox Live Gold also undermines Microsoft’s goal of making Kinect essential.

Xbox Live Gold isn’t expensive – it’s really just five bucks a month if you purchase a year membership. But if you’re a new Xbox customer who purchased Xbox One because you want to be able to shout “Xbox: TV!” in order to catch the latest episode of “NCIS”, it’s probably going to annoy you that you can’t just, you know, do it. The company’s own description of this feature makes it pretty clear you’re running your cable through your Xbox, and probably not actually using Microsoft servers. Having to pay extra to use something you’re selling the device on, something that appears to be capable of working out of the box, isn’t exactly a stellar marketing technique.

Will Microsoft care? Maybe. Despite the popularity of let’s play videos and walkthroughs, the number of people likely to take advantage of the built-in DVR is not knowable, but I’ll bet it’s a tiny fraction of total customers. Microsoft may eventually decide the extra money they make from curious gamers who don’t already subscribe to XBL will be tiny, and make some DVR functionality accessible out of the box.

As for Cable TV/Kinect functionality, lumping that in with Xbox Live does at least superficially make it look more competitive with Playstation Plus, a service that provides a huge number of free AAA Games. Yeah, it still feels like a rip off, but you can bet Microsoft will eventually get around to confirming that everyone who buys a new Xbox One will get a free month of Xbox Live Gold, and that’ll be that.

Verdict: probability of DVR reversal is Medium.

Verdict: probability of Cable TV reversal is Low.

But what about Kinect?

Microsoft has already backtracked on the device once – might they go the whole distance and sell Kinect-free Xbox Ones? They clearly don’t want to. Kinect is at the heart of the Xbox One experience, so the company has insisted from the moment the system was unveiled. But Microsoft may face financial pressure far more convincing than any complaints from customers.

Xbox One’s $499.99 price is probably a loss for Microsoft, but it’s still a bit steep, especially compared Playstation 4, which is exactly $100 cheaper. The two systems are fairly similar, the only significant difference being the bundled Kinect 2 included with every Xbox One. The obvious conclusion is that the extra C-note is the direct result of that bundle.

In any other market, that might not be a huge deal. Kinect provides more stuff to do, and conceivably justifies the higher price. But in the market we actually have, Microsoft has suffered a series of embarrassing PR disasters that has helped make it the public whipping boy of the gamer community. Xbox One’s bigger price tag only seems to be making that problem worse. Don’t believe me? PS4 preorders have sold out entirely in the UK, something Xbox One has not achieved. Meanwhile, Gamestop has just confirmed that customer interest in PS4 is more than double that of Xbox One, and though the company refuses to confirm preorder numbers, it stands to reason they reflect consumer interest.

We’re only two months out and Xbox One is, by all available metrics, still trailing behind PS4. Microsoft may indeed value the two-way conversation it’s having with customers, but all its reversals have likely been made because of internal sales numbers, not specific complaints. Money, dear boy, is the thing that will motivate them, and it’s looking like they’re going to have quite a lot of motivation. The company may wait a bit longer to see how things shake out come launch, but from where we stand now, it’s looking like Playstation 4 has a solid chance of outselling Xbox One at the onset.

Microsoft continues to say it has no plans to release a Kinect-free Xbox One. But the company has already decided to allow people to completely turn the device off. The company may have intense strategic reasons for not wanting to sell a Kinect-free Xbox One, but logistically, it’s a very small step between allowing people to turn Kinect off, and just chucking the thing altogether for lower-priced models.

At this point, it isn’t a question of “if,” only “when”. My guess is very, very soon.

Verdict: probability of Kinect reversal is High, Almost guaranteed.

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8 Comments on So, What Will The Next Xbox One Reversal Be?

Aedelric

On August 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

Bit late for Microsoft, everyone has already preordered Playstations.

Hag

On August 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

You’d think Microsoft would want to bring in backwards compatibility and have something over PS4, since a lot of people (including massive Playstation/Sony fans) are annoyed that it’s yet another console they’ll have to buy and keep in front of the TV at all times depending on what system they want to use, when it would be very easy to just allow the PS4 to play PS3. But for some reason Microsoft just wants to fail on this.

John

On August 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

This is a well-written article and you bring up some good points. I hope that you’re correct because the thing that would compel me to keep my Xbox 360 and purchase a PS4 rather than an Xbox One (Eighty) is the higher price for an accessory I have zero desire to use.

Given the corporation’s reversals to date, I predict that Microsoft will release a “Kinect-less” bundle for a lower price by the end of calendar year 2013.

Roman

On August 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

@ Hag – ps3 had (when it launched) backwards compatibility. I had one, I use like one or 2 games for a short about of time, before I was all about the new games coming out. I only have playstation, so I don’t know what M$ can do. Gamers are going to get their systems. Some have both, or all of them. If both new systems just had games that you could get both versions (ps3/ps4 or 360 / one) games in them for maybe a little bit more, I think you may be able to get some of the heat off of needed it to be backwards. Plus with todays “need” to be connected to play, and them not having cross platform/cross system workablity, they don’t see the need.

M.A.

On August 26, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I really hope they keep the Kinect in every purchase of the ONE. I’ve heard nothing but praise for the new tech, and would like to actually see it used. But if it’s dropped from “packed in” to peripheral, no developer will waste their time with it (See the PS4 Eye).

Say what you want about the original plans for the ONE, but at least it really sounded “next gen.” Now, both consoles sound like the mediocre upgrade the WiiU was, and IMO, that’s really backwards and disappointing. As it stands, I’m seeing the consoles to be more like PS3.5 and Xbox 720. Get rid of the kinect, and it becomes nothing more than an Xbox 540.

Yusuf

On August 26, 2013 at 5:56 pm

@Aedeiric +1 Playsation rise up

Stephen Heller

On August 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I’d like to confirm that Australia has already sold out of day one allocation for the PS4. I travelled to three EB Games stores (owned by GameStop but operating under a different name here), along with seven other retailers who stock video game consoles. The main EB Games store has a waiting list of 450 strong as of two days ago, with second round stock not available until January 2014.

I did the same check for the Xbox 360. Each and every store still has day one allocation stock, and all but the Melbourne Central EB Games store has the limited edition launch console still available.

Microsoft has to be hurting for sure.

Huntsman06

On August 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I think Microsoft will will include backwards compatibility for Xbox One. Sony clearly made a statement with PS3 that backwards compatibility was not at all one of their concerns, and I think that Microsoft has an opportunity to capitalize on that and “1-up” Sony in that matter.

Now many of the truly amazing games will receive updated versions for new consoles. The PlayStation 3″Collections” of Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, etc are proof of that. Although, only the popular games will receive such and if you’re #1 favorite game was a bit more of a obscure title, there is little chance you’ll be playing it on a new console.

Next, why does nobody criticize Nintendo for having backwards compatibility? There are no “You’re living in the past” comments surrounding it or really any negative reaction. And if something isn’t negative that would….make it positive? The first time I ever played a video game was in fact a ps1 title on a ps2 we received for Christmas.

Lastly, about backwards compatibility, I don’t’ want to pay for them again! The day I bought an xbox 360, I owned exactly two xbox 360 games (lego Indiana Jones and kung fu pand), not exactly and all-star selection of games. No problem I can just crack out my old Halo and play that instead. This is a good example, could I buy Halo 1 specifically for the 360 so it will be HD? Yea that would be cool. But I’m not going to drop the $40 or $60. In my opinion, it’s never worth re-buying a game UNLESS it’s for PC. (I do in fact own Halo for PC as well).