I was somewhat was disillusioned by yesterday’s Xbox One reveal. I started watching as hyped as anyone (who has used the Xbox 360 more than any other console for the last seven years) could possibly be. The first ten minutes I was happy – almost impressed – but then something awful happened.
EA Sports happened. And with that, all feelings of excitement slowly ebbed away.
For the next three quarters of an hour – topped by a wholly unsatisfactory climax of Call of Duty – I watched Microsoft tell me, in no uncertain terms, that they really weren’t interested in courting me.
Fifa, Madden, NBA, Call of Duty, the obligatory Shiny Car Parade – oh, and not forgetting that thing about real life girl crashing a CG boat into bridge – you’d be hard pushed to find a line up of games that I couldn’t be less interested in. I know for a fact that many of you feel exactly the same way as I do – but playing devil’s advocate here for a moment – do Microsoft really need to court me? Honestly, I’m completely surplus to requirements.
As a gamer, Microsoft doesn’t owe me anything. I’m not entitled to anything – and it’s important to understand that. Yesterday’s presentation made one thing abundantly clear, Microsoft isn’t trying to sell games consoles. Truth is, right back to the original Xbox, the never were. The original Xbox was a living room real-estate takeover – by stealth. Two generations of getting consumers used to the idea of a Microsoft box under their TV – and goddamn has that strategy worked wonders for them.
I’m a self confessed niche videogame-loving junkie. I pride myself on playing games nobody else likes and yet, and YET, my Xbox 360, which doesn’t necessarily best serve that passion, is the beating heart of my living room. I watch more movies and TV though it than any other device. I listen to music though it – it completely services the entertainment needs of my home.
Google, Apple and one other device that wouldn’t be appropriate to share with you here, completely serve the entertainment needs of my pocket.
And here’s the thing – Microsoft isn’t selling a console. It’s selling a platform – an ecosystem – that people will want to use. Simple, immediate packed to the rafters with mainstream entertainment channels – that your average ‘person’ – not ‘gamer’ – can easily identify and connect with.
Do I like this? As a gamer?
No – not particularly, it doesn’t push my buttons. Is it relevant to me as a person who consumes most of my media in my living room. Yes. Yes it is. If I focus on this alone – parts of the Microsoft Presentation were actually quite interesting. Joke as much as you want, but the immediacy of Game-to-OS, for example, genuinely appeals to me.
Once of my pet hates on 360 – on ANY device actually – is waiting stuff to load. Look at the 360 dashboard for example. I wait for Sky to load. Find I don’t want to watch anything. I wait for the dash to load and then wait for Love Film to load. Find I don’t want to watch anything. Wait for 40D to load. Find I don’t want to watch anything – and then look for the remote to turn back to terrestrial TV again. Even for a guy who cut his teeth on the ZX Spectrum – I’ll gladly not have to wait for anything to load ever again.
If Microsoft can push this ecosystem into enough homes – and I have little doubt that they’ll succeed in that – the games will inevitably follow. If you have an ecosystem for content to live on, in enough homes and hands, then developers regardless of who they are (mainstream or niche) will want to reach that audience – and so the games will inevitably come.
The sad truth is, more people like Call of Duty than Nier. More people like Fifa that Disgaea. More people want to play as an armoured dog than…
…anyway. With the best will in the world, you’re never going to push enough boxes into enough homes because Nippon Ichi are developing a sprite-based jrpg for it. As much as I wish that wasn’t the case!
So for me the jury’s still out. Part of me wants to continue to admonish Microsoft for their poor presentation and bemoan the lack of games shown, but in reality, it’s somewhat churlish with E3 around the corner – where ultimately the standoff will come down to which games are shown, or aren’t, and on which console.
While it might seem like sticking the boot into MS is the thing to do this week (guilty as charged) secretly, quietly, I’m still curious to know more – and will refrain from laying down any pre-order cash just yet…
ILJG runs the I Love Japanese Games Facebook Page.
His views are not necessarily those held by Rice Digital or its partners.
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