Well, it’s certainly quite the news day in video game land. After getting KTFO-ed by Sony in the big PR war at E3 2013, Microsoft has decided to backtrack on its plans for the XBox One to be an always-on console and allow for things like used games and offline play.
Since last Monday evening, people in the Sony camp have been dancing in the streets shouting, “WE WON! WE WON!”, and as of today Team Microsoft is rolling up on them, shouting “NOT SO FAST! WE’RE COMING FOR YOU!” And so the console war rages, in which predominantly middle-class white people engage in vicious discourse about which corporation is more worthy of claiming their money, months before either system has even hit a store shelf. Before everyone gets all worked up into a lather over this, let’s consider a few things:
You’re Going to Buy Them Both Eventually Anyway
From what I saw of the last generation, if you owned a 360 then chances were you had a PS3 as well. Video game fans are notorious for making grand statements about not supporting certain practices/titles/whatever, but then totally backing off when the shiny new games arrive (SEE: Left 4 Dead 2). As much as people are going onto Twitter now and vowing to never support Microsoft for their terrible ideas about being always online, once that first wave of really good exclusives comes along most people will quietly purchase it and forget what all the fuss was about in the first place. It’s happened a bunch of times before, and I don’t see it changing any time soon.
Your Concerns About Always Online Were (and Are) Not (Really) a Factor
Sorry to say, but there is only one reason why Sony decided to undercut Microsoft and opt out of requiring the PS4 to be always online; they can sell more systems and make more money. That smirk on Jack Tretton’s face at Sony’s presser wasn’t because he could barely contain his excitement at providing great customer service; he was thinking about the instant pre-orders for new PS4 machines on Amazon. As for Microsoft, the only reason they’ve followed suit and reversed their position on this is because they bet big and got their bluff called by Sony. That’s fair enough as well — these are corporations that exist only to make tons of money, and it’s important to remember that. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve… they are not your friend and are only playing nice right now because they are smart enough to see that this is how they will sell more consoles. Period.
Fans Are Fickle; Opinions Can (and Will) Change At the Drop Of a Hat
It’s all sunshine and rainbows in Sony’s world right now, but it’s only a matter of time before someone puts a microphone in front of Kaz Hirai and he says something stupid, or before their system gets hacked again, and the hive mind will shift to the other side. Once that happens, Microsoft will be the good guys! They’ve got solid online architecture and they appeal to core gamers, and they will be on top once again… until they get cocky and take their user base for granted. It’s the same thing with publishers. EA is the two-time champion ‘worst company in America’, but a few years ago it was Activision that everybody hated. Before that it was Ubisoft (who incidentally created the ‘always online’ model).
So congratulations Sony for figuring out that not being a total asshole to your customers is good business practice, and congratulations Microsoft for eventually realizing that you were going to end up being this coming generation’s Sony if you weren’t careful.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.