Well, here we are again. Yet another Microsoft blunder belly-flops into mainstream news. Today, we learn that the new Xbox One, despite setting its customers back a hefty $499, will not provide access to all of its features, unless faithful customers dole out money to satisfy subscription fees. In essence, the console will be locked by default, with many of its key functions hidden behind a subscription fee wall.
The device was heralded as a “great” innovation by ex-Xbox Games President, Don Mattrick, prior to his departure to join the social gaming mega-corporation, Zynga. Prior to the E3 entertainment expo, Mattrick was queried by Geoff Keighley over Microsoft’s always-online requirement (which has now been axed). Mattrick described the inter-cooperative nature of the device’s gaming and entertainment-based features:
“They’re gonna understand (Xbox One customers) what we’re trying to create, and how it links games and entertainment, the functionality of the box, some of the advantages that you get of having a box that is designed to use that is in an online state.”
Alas, what Mattrick failed to point out was the necessity for an annual Xbox Live subscription fee to facilitate access to many of its über-promoted platform features. According to a recent reveal, presented on Microsoft’s Xbox One web page, the subscription will enable access to its in-built DVR system, Skype video calling, SmartMatch services and the OneGuide TV programming suite.
SmartMatch is a fanciful term to explain the console’s ability to match different players, based upon their abilities, whilst the OneGuide feature analyses the content an individual user watches to determine the type of streams and television shows that might be of interest. The PVR function continuously records the last five minutes of a gamer’s session; the resulting footage may then be uploaded to the Xbox One cloud system, where the user can manage, edit and share whatever they desire.
These costs will set customers back an additional $60, and will more than likely leave a few feathers ruffled. As a customer, if you were promised all of these wonderful, key features during the big launch events and press releases, would it not be a source of immense discontent to find that they were locked away behind cunningly designed subscription fees?
Let’s face it, Microsoft has performed this stunt on prior occasion. Take the old-generation hardware setup, the 360; to capitalize on the system’s capabilities, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus (which need their own subscriptions) and a variety of multiplayer modes, an Xbox Gold subscription was mandatory.
In trying to find a source of defense for the console giant, which is admittedly becoming increasingly difficult, only a single subscription fee is warranted for both the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One. Also, gamers will manage to get their hands on two free games every month. This isn’t a bad bonus, considering the high retail price of today’s games; however, the quality of these game releases is yet to be seen.
The Playstation 4 platform is also based upon a subscription model, touted as Playstation Plus. Immediately after Microsoft’s subscription model was unveiled, a Sony Computer Entertainment representative was quick to explain, unconditionally, that streaming services and game recording would not be restricted if players were not a part of their subscription. It looks like Microsoft may have dropped the ball, again.
During an Xbox One unboxing event, beamed to the Internet by Microsoft’s enigmatic Larry Hryb, on Major Nelson’s gaming blog, the following slew of additional features and accessories were revealed (alongside the obvious, such as power cables, etcetera):
- Binding setup button
- Slot-loading blu-ray drive
- Wireless networking
- A single 500gb hard drive
- An 8 core x86 processor
- The newly designed Xbox One controller
- Kinect 2.0 device (sporting improved gesture and voice control)
- Mono-chat headset
- 4K-rated HDMI cables
I hate to be “that guy” that creates a lot of lists, but, for completion, here is the hoard of connections that the console boasts:
- High speed USB 3.0 ports
- Optical audio-out
- HDMI-in (to your TV/monitor)
- HDMI-out (allowing input of satellite/cable feeds)
- An I/R blaster connection for the Kinect
- Gigabit ethernet port
Here’s the reveal, for those who want to see the console in all of its glory:
Most of these features were expected, with the exception of the headset, which was thought to be sold separately.
Taking the Xbox One’s unboxing to one side, however, fans of Microsoft’s console brand will be slightly disappointed with today’s news. Many will regard the locking of key features, behind subscription fees walls, to be an affront. In retrospect, it is not the first heavy slap in the face that gamers have received from Microsoft over the controversial console’s launch, and it probably won’t be the last.
By: James Fenner