As E3 rears its shiny head, there is a quiet sense of dread among the gaming community. Or rather, a loud and wailing sense of dread, if Twitter, Youtube and blog comments are anything to go by. In the wake of the colossal failure that was the Xbox One reveal event back in May, with the announcement of pre-owned fees, always-on Kinect and mandatory internet connection, people are angry and rightly so. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some form of riot at E3 in the next few days: the French Revolution of console gaming. Microsoft are probably going to have to give away gold plated consoles dipped in chocolate in order to convince people to like their newest product.
It’s little wonder then that Microsoft felt the need to make an official news release on Xbox Wire, written in mangled PR jargon, which did the internet equivalent of mumbling to itself. Though the release featured a lot of tech speak about the apparent marvels of The Cloud and ‘family’ gaming, the biggest elephants crowding up the room were of course the policies regarding used gaming – where each game seemed to only allow a single download, with no possibility of selling on games once you used them. The days of the used-game market, and even innocently passing on games to your friends to try, are apparently limited.
So it’s woefully hilarious to see the response which Microsoft has desperately cobbled together: it turns out that yes, you can give away your games to a friend to try, but only if they have been one of your Xbox Live friends for more than thirty days, and even then, only once. ‘It’s okay!’ says Microsoft. ‘We know you guys were worried about used games and lending games and having to pay ridiculous fees in order to do what you’ve been rightfully doing for years. But it’s okay now! You can hand this out to a grand total of one friend. In the singular. Only one. Aren’t we nice people?’ I’m now going to have to choose which friend to lend a game to. Perhaps I’ll have to use a lottery system, or opt for a more Hunger Games style initiative, where my fellow nerds battle to the death in order to borrow a measly copy of Call Of Duty: Ghosts, just to see that goddamn dog (which I urge you to follow on Twitter now).
In its current form, I will never, ever go near an Xbox One. That is a promise. I speak as a former loyalist of the Xbox fleet. What mostly sold me over to the 360, aside from a stonking amount of peer pressure, was the feel of the console. PS3 players seemed to me – at the time – to be a kind of samey bunch, mostly playing a range of FIFA and sporting games. Xbox 360 felt cinematic and interactive, championing challenging and interactive games such as the Halo series, Portal 2 and Left For Dead, with a heavy focus on game play and Gamerscore. Now Xbox One feels more like a cash-cow mixed into a 1984 novel. It’s all very Orwellian, to the point where I feel there should be a mandatory ‘Xbox Kinect Is Watching You’ slogan stamped over every ominous-looking black-box console. But rather than take the fool’s route – and buy the damn thing – we can do better. I am rallying the battle cry on behalf of all nerds. DO NOT BUY THE XBOX ONE. Get up, stand up: stand up for your consumer rights.
In the midst of all this, the great challenger to Microsoft, Sony, have kept their cards close to their chest. Aside from some side-splittingly hilarious teaser trailer shots – the titillating equivalent of not so much a flash of thigh, but maybe a blurry elbow or an out-of-focus knee – PS4 have been surprisingly quiet on the actual look and feel of the console, as well as their used game and lending policies. Until E3, then, we can only desperately pray to the gaming Gods that they will have the sense to not screw up like Microsoft have. I never thought I would say this, but help us, Sony – you’re our only hope.