According to a new report from Edge, Microsoft’s next Xbox, codenamed "Durango," will feature 50GB Blu-Ray discs and a new, improved Kinect shipping with the console itself. On the less positive side, the new Xbox will also apparently require an internet connection in order to access the console and will do everything in its power to block access to used games. We already know Sony is thinking about implementing technology to prevent used games from working on the upcoming PlayStation, codenamed Orbis, but now with two main gaming competitors attacking the used game market, the next generation is certainly going to be an interesting one.
The first mistake from Microsoft, if this report is to be believed, is that the upcoming entry in the Xbox line will require an internet connection to play. Now, having no means of connecting to the internet is almost unheard of in the first world—let alone from those who regularly play video games. What isn’t so uncommon, however, is a shoddy connection. This is especially true for gaming consoles, which have a very different process of connecting to Wi-Fi than computers do. Admittedly, I am coming from a biased point of view, given my own poor internet stability on game consoles, but I am surely not alone. It’s hard enough for my Wii U to access Miiverse, the eShop, or other integral features that make the system worthwhile, but the console does allow offline play nonetheless. Frustrating though it may be to rarely use these services, I can at least take solace in the fact that I can still play video games when my console is having trouble connecting—which happens to be just about all the time. Such is also the case with many of my other consoles.
If, however, any future console requires players to have a reliable internet connection, surely sales will take a hit. Whatever advantages the console may bring online are fine and dandy, but there’s no reason it should ever disenfranchise gamers who have trouble connecting to the internet. Such ridiculous and expendable requirements only serve to sell fewer units and decrease a company’s consumer satisfaction.
The second big mistake Microsoft could be making is the restriction of used games. By shipping copies with once-time activation codes, Microsoft is able to ensure that all games sold secondhand or even borrowed by friends are rendered completely useless. While this decision is initially made to discourage people from buying games at discounted prices and bring more money directly into the hands of software publishers, the additional cash flow from people buying all games new will be balanced or even counteracted by the reduced number of people buying games from the start.
It’s no secret that new games are expensive. Some customers will, no doubt, dismiss the extra five-dollar increase and buy games new, but often, the reduced price is the determining factor in buying a game. In cases wherein price does make this difference, the absence of used games will simply result in reduced software sales. Furthermore, many customers only buy games because they know they have the option to resell their copy once completed, rather than letting it sit on a shelf. Without the option to make back a decent fraction of the money blown on the latest game, these types of gamers will also be left with the option to spend more precious cash and never make it back, or to seek new experiences from other consoles.
Whether or not Microsoft implements these two key aspects of the next Xbox could determine the outcome of the next console race. If Sony also goes through with attempts to squash used gaming, a new golden age for Nintendo’s market could be upon us. We may very well see the rise of Valve as a hardware developer with the Steambox, as well. What do you make of all this? Do you think we may be seeing the last of Microsoft and Sony’s consoles, or will they correct these steps backwards quickly enough to minimize their losses?