A lot can happen in a console generation.
If we examine the last round, Nintendo lit the nitrous oxide boosters early, Microsoft kept it slow and steady throughout, and Sony finished strong. We have a lot of years left in this fight and all it takes is one killer game (Wii Sports), one great idea (PS Plus), or one hell of a discount to turn the tide. One of those options is much easier to come by than the others, so just recently Microsoft decided to axe the Kinect and offer a console only SKU for $100 less. Without question, the most fascinating story of this generation so far has been the story of the Xbox One.
Here’s the quick and dirty: Microsoft dug itself into a hole early on, preaching a narrative prior to launch that many felt was anti-games gamers and gaming. At the forefront were its used games and always online policies. The public rebelled, but MS (at first) stood strong, arguing that this was its vision for the future. But in June, Microsoft caved and gave the people what they wanted. The people still weren’t happy. “They should have stuck to their guns,” many argued. Microsoft was damned if it did, damned if it didn’t.
But wait! There’s more. Microsoft’s early vision for this generation also included the Kinect 2.0 motion sensing peripheral. Nobody asked for it, but Microsoft argued it was a necessary component developed in tandem with their console. At one point, dialogue included the idea that not only was the Kinect essential to the Xbox One, the console could not run without it. People hated this idea, too. After all, the Kinect for 360, many argued, was mostly useless trash. So just this week, Microsoft caved again and (again) gave the people what they wanted. But haters are gonna hate and the dialogue is (again), “they should have stuck to their guns.”
I think this criticism is born from two mindsets. The first is that it’s simply another way to hate on a console and corporation many of us felt wronged by. Let’s face it; nobody supports (with their wallet) a company solely because it stuck to its guns in regards to policies that were nearly universally lauded. Besides, Microsoft wants your money, not your support.
The second is that many people, maybe without realizing it, were interested in Microsoft’s original vision for the Xbox One. It felt more… next gen, unique and purposeful (in addition to all the negatives). I believe (myself include) many folks were genuinely curious to see Xbox One’s next-gen concept come to fruition, even if they weren’t ready to adopt it themselves. But after sacrificing its “vision” for a quick fix, the messaging makes it sound like Microsoft is a touch bitter, in a “this is why we can’t have nice things” kind of way, which is not the right approach to this situation.
So now, we have a visionless Xbox One pining for the past competing directly with a more powerful PS4 that’s desperate for great games. Meanwhile, an already one and a half year old Wii U on life support waits in the periphery until Nintendo can wheel out enough Zeldas, Marios & Pokemons to convince the masses that they’re missing out on something.
Where do I stand on this whole thing? Well, I don’t feel like the next generation has arrived yet. When I feel like it has, I’ll let you know.
What I can tell you is that Microsoft needs to stop playing the martyr. If they really believe in the Kinect, then there should be a reason for people to want it. Give the people that reason, Microsoft.
Give it to them!