Microsoft has not had a lot of luck in the marketing phase of its campaign against Sony’s PlayStation 4. In a lot of way, the company’s own efforts at touting the benefits of the Xbox One have been a major part of the issue. Not only has Microsoft been party to poorly staged (and in poor taste) banter at one of its E3 events, it’s done a poor job of explaining its thinking and aims when it comes to digital rights management, or DRM. When Sony came out and cleverly stated that it would not be including DRM, it seemed it was game, set and match in Sony’s favour – despite the fact that it was bit of a porky.
Sony will still require a disc in the drive of its consoles, which has been the traditional DRM strategy for years. What’s more, the company has only stated that its own games will be DRM-free. Third party developers can go nuts if they want.
It’s just not as simple as saying anyone has ‘won’ or ‘lost’ just yet; there are so many other parts to his equation, such as game pricing, which are yet to be revealed.
Unless, that is, you take into account the anonymous post made to Pastebin overnight, purporting to be from a Microsoft engineer. It’s a telling, and far more eloquent, defence of Microsoft’s strategy with the Xbox One.
The main thrust of the so-called engineer’s argument certainly seems sound. “Think about it,” he opines, “on steam you get a game for the true cost of the game, 5$-30$. On a console you have to pay for that PLUS any additional licenses for when you sell / trade / borrow / etc. If the developer / publisher can't get it on additional licenses (like steam), then they charge the first person more. [...] If we say ‘Hey publishers, you limit game to 39.99, we ensure every license transfer you get 10$, gamestop gets 20$’ that is a decent model... Microsoft gets a license fee on first and subsequent game purchases, compared to just first now? That's a revenue increase.”
It’s a great point, and he makes it even clearer. “The goal is to move to digital downloads, but Gamestop, Walmart, Target, Amazon are KIND OF FUCKING ENTRENCHED in the industry. They have a lot of power, and the shift has to be gradual. Long term goal is steam for consoles. [...] If you always want to stay with what you have, then keep current consoles, or a PS4. We're TRYING to move the industry forwards towards digital distribution... it's a bumpy road.”
Steam, as the engineer himself points out, was reviled by many sections of the gaming community at launch, but Valve’s decision to stick with it has ultimately lead to cheaper games, more variety, and more cut-through for developers of every stripe. If Microsoft is indeed aiming to do the same thing on the console market... this can only be a good thing for gamers.
And if it can drop prices of Xbox One games, then the price-premium you pay for the console itself is more than offset by the ongoing savings you make on games. It’s a win-win scenario for Microsoft and its customers at each level of its business, developer and customer.
Our anonymous engineer also addresses the ‘don’t buy an Xbox One’ argument for those who don’t have/want and always-on console, though here’s he’s almost as blunt. “Instead of 10mins, is 24hrs for your console, and 1 or 2 at a friends house. Really the majority of people have a speck of internet at least once a day. And if you don't. Don't buy an Xbox 1. Just like if you didn't have a broadband connection don't get Live, and if you don't have an HDTV the 360 isn't that great for you either. New tech, new req. This allows us to do cool shit when we can assume things like you have a kinect, you have internet, etc.”
Basically, if we can take the post at face value, Microsoft has made the decision to force innovation on its customers. A brave move, and one that the company has so far not sold well, but it has be said that when all Xbox consoles have Kinect capability, it will be developed for with much greater frequency, and in ever more creative ways.
He or she closes with a pretty interesting piece of bi-partisan advice for console buyers. “Honestly, if you care about anything other than pure games AT ALL. Xbox 1 > PS4. If all you do is play games, and nothing else, PS4.”
Suddenly, I know I’m feeling a lot more positive about Microsoft’s plans – assuming the post is valid. But even then, these are some pretty solid arguments.
And the war is far, far from over.
Note: We've posted from the 'engineer's' comments verbatim, without editing for grammar, to maintain a sense of his original words.