Welcome to the second part of my four part blog entry exploring my thoughts and feelings on my first month or so of owning/experiencing the Xbox ONE.
Parts 3 and 4 will be released over the next few days, but today's focus is my thoughts on "How you don't NEED but kinda do Need Always-online" and how "Digital is Expensive!" (and what a possible solution could be).
If you have any ideas or thoughts on the subjects I'm bringing up that you'd like to say/vent, please feel free to do so in the comments section below, I'm always up for a good discussion.
So without further adieu, grab a cup'a'joe and I hope you enjoy:
Back when the Xbox ONE was first announced, it was going to be a system that required that you connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours; if you wanted to continue playing your games. I'm sure there were many reasons for this, but one of the primary ones was to enforce the digital rights of the game/app developers and publishers, ensuring you actually owned or were allowed access to the games/apps you were using. On the surface this seemed like a massive restriction and that it would somehow interfere with how we as gamers currently play games, truth be told, it might have, but I'll also say this: I can't remember the last time I played a console or PC game where I didn't check to ensure my internet connection was first working. Well... actually, that's not entirely true, it was when I first heard this announcement, but lately my internet hasn't been the greatest (frequent disconnections and extended downtime) and so I can empathize with people who have poor access, but that doesn't mean it was a bad or evil idea.
You see, because my internet connection isn't the greatest at the moment I am literally experiencing the downsides of an always-online culture. Using the Xbox ONE without the internet is a severely diminished experience and not the reason I bought the X1 in the first place. When my internet connection decides it doesn't want to work I can no longer do any of the following:
What can you do while you are you offline:
Yep, that's about it. Worst part though is that most games have some really cool features for their campaigns that being online enhances, like; for example, the aforementioned Drivatar's in Forza 5; seemless/optional/no extra menu matchmaking in Need For Speed: Rivals, Co-op in Dead Rising 3, live player updates in most sports games, and that's just off the top of my head. Hell, I'm pretty sure the games actually run slightly faster when connected to the net, I know for certain when I play Dead Rising 3 it slows down every now and then when I'm not connected, and MAN-OH-MAN are the loading screens in Forza 5 a drag without the net, takes an extra 10-20 seconds for race summary screens to load because the game is checking you connection in order to update your placing on the leaderboards and show you which of your friends you just beat, and when it finally discovers that you aren't connected it allows you to continue; but damn does it takes it's time working that out with un-skippable micro-cutscenes of your car.
I honestly wish Microsoft had hired a better marketing team to get the message across for the always online and really sold the public on why it was required. The 11th hour alteration to their format has resulted in the loss of a decent digital library, world-wide digital "family" sharing and a whole host of other features that I'm sure will eventually come back, but in a slowly rolled out way.
All of this leads me to say that although you don't NEED to be connected to the internet all the time, the experience is a lot more enjoyable when you are... actually, it really is kind of annoying how you can't access internet explorer when you aren't online. Allow me to explain, you see, my internet connection has me connect wirelessly to a hub that requires a web browser be opened to authorize the devices access to the net (for usage monitoring), and without the ability to load internet explorer on the X1, the only way I can get access to my console is by bridging my PC connection to the X1 using an ethernet cable, which results in my Xbox ONE not being connected to the wireless network, which means I also can't take advantage of the Xbox Smartglass app on my phone; as it connects using the wireless network connection... so annoying, I was really looking forward to using the Dead Rising 3 app. Oh well, win some, lose some. More incentive to find a new place to live with a better internet connection I suppose. I look forward to both that day (a new net connection for me) and the day when you can have a fully digital experience (buy, sell, share and trade all digitally), that day is not yet here, and with the out-dated physical stores holding everything up I fear we won't have a decent version for a while. Unfortunately, that day is a fair way off because:
Why on earth would I buy a digital version of a game for full retail price when I can get a physical copy on sale at any number of brick and mortar stores? The answer is, I wouldn't, and neither would most people, which is unfortunately one of the reasons it is going to take so much longer for an all digital world to exist.
Right now the price of say... Dead Rising 3 on the Xbox ONE Games Store is $109.95 in New Zealand Dollars, however I could pick up and/or have delivered the physical copy for the following NZD prices at these outlets:
I understand the hesitance of physical stores like the ones listed above (and any other international stores like Best Buy or Gamestop), their business comes from not just the initial sales but more importantly the trade-in and 2nd hand sales.
One of the major reasons I feel that the move to digital that Microsoft was trying to make failed was because of a few things:
That last one is a big one. People had fears and questions after the announcement and no-one could answer them, or they would, only to be given different information from another source. It was a mess. Were we able to still trade-in games? Yes, but only to selected outlets? WHAT? Who? How? None of this was answered in a way that could satisfy the masses. Personally I hate trading in games to retail outlets that sell the games new, I have only ever done it once and I felt gross afterwards. Now, there may be people out there who say why? to such a claim, but my thoughts are that games don't really age. The 2nd-hand outlet is make pure profit out of those titles and it just doesn't feel right. I love games and I want more/better games from amazing developers, but we won't while such a large portion of the world-wide gaming community purchases titles from 2nd-hand outlets that don't share the profits. You may argue that Car manufacturers don't get a cut, why should publishers/developers... simple answer is that games give the exact same quality experience whether they are new or old, the code doesn't change, only the number of scratches; Scratches can be mended, cases replaced and the games will still work fine, so why are the publishers/developers not getting a cut. The only lost value in games is how long they've been out and whether or not they have a sequel or an upgraded version of them. Games naturally decrease in value overtime as customer demand goes down.
I propose a system similar to the original Xbox ONE digital system, only it's done in a way that will allow for people to continue using Discs online and offline as much as they like, the only "Always Online"/Online check-in system would be for those who wish to go completely digital. A fully digital system couldn't properly work if you did away with any sort of online check, DRM is an issue and to ensure people can't take advantage of it I would do the following:
I've had a conversation with a friend about this topic and his first thoughts on it were:
"A small fee ($1 or so) should be added to the transaction to make a game able to be shared which would allow Xbox to increase security and help prevent the sharing turn into stealing. You advertise it as paying a small, one off fee to ensure that the devs can keep making better games and so that Xbox can hire people who are dedicated to improving the sharing experience; which in this case, is the truth, it allows the devs to keep making their hard earned cash while also improving on the service... As soon as you start selling codes with the discs, sales will drop because people will start buying the discs and giving the code to a friend."
I respectfully disagree, you see you can't do that, it doesn't cost people to share games now, charging for the ability too would cause gamer riots. Digitally lending in this model has a time limit (see below), so stealing isn't possible and as far as people buying the Disc+Code copy, if you make the Physical copies that include the Disc more expensive (because of the cost to manufacture the physical disc), then that would incentivize people to get the digital version.
As far as the price difference goes, I'd make it:
For a super simple way to look at all of that, see the following diagram:
It might also be worth looking into a few different Xbox Live Gold versions that include pre-paid for worldwide TV/Movie and Music services, similar to Netflix but exclusive to the Xbox ONE. We can already rent or buy movies and music through the Xbox Live Store on the Xbox ONE, why not include TV Shows and make a new price teir. With the addition of the new service, it might be nice to discount the current Gold service by about 20%, that way a Platinum service can be slightly more expensive, but not overwhelmingly so, and during the transitional period give all Xbox Live Gold members a free month of Platinum and the option to put their remaining Gold subscription time towards upgrading to the Platinum service; eg. they pay and extra $2.99 NZD ($1.99 USD)/month of Gold service to upgrade.
This hypothetical new subscription model could cost something akin to:
Obviously those prices are ball-park/off the top of my head, but I don't think a platinum subscription should be TOO much more than what gold is worth at the moment
So there you have it, my idea of how a Fully Digital world could co-exist with the current physical method that we have been using for years. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, it really is quite simple and everyone wins. Although I am only human, so if you see a fault in my theory or if I have missed a crucial piece of the puzzle, please speak up, I'd be happy to discuss it in the comments section below.
That brings me to a close on Parts 1 and 2, in summary:
If you made it to the end of Part 2 and enjoyed what you've read, please hit the like button, follow me and share the piece around.
What are your thoughts on the the offline vs online modes, the price of digital content and my hypothetical new digital methods/services? Comment below and lets have a conversation!
Part 3 will be live in the next day or so and until next time,
Thanks for reading.
Home Page: http://nzgamer.com/lukeb/blogs/
Birthday: 17th December 1983
Location: Whakatane, New Zealand
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