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Xbox One: Reversing the Curse

Written by Taryn Beach

I think it has been talked about enough that I don’t have to give you too much exposition on it but there’s been a trend in the console business that has been dubbed “the curse of the third console.”  In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a little back story.  When Sega launched their third console, the Saturn, it had a tumultuous time on the market to say the least.  Likewise, Nintendo struggled with the N64.  Both lost out badly to Sony’s upstart, the PlayStation.  Both Sega and Nintendo rode the wave of market mediocrity into the next generation with the Dreamcast and GameCube respectively.  The Sony PlayStation 3 also shared a similar debut struggling at the insane launch price of $600.00 and was soundly trounced by both the Wii and Xbox 360.  2013 has been a busy year, especially for Microsoft.  After Sony unveiled some of their plans for, and announced, the PlayStation 4, Microsoft followed suit with the Xbox One and came immediately under fire from the gaming community.

While I don't endorse these numbers as accurate, this image perfectly illustrates the various console generations.

While I don’t endorse these numbers as accurate, this image perfectly illustrates the various console generations.

The initial unveiling of the Xbox One revealed its somewhat backwards name as well as a plethora of functions that didn’t seem to really be aimed at gamers.  The majority of the press conference was multi-media tech demos that highlighted Kinect 2.0 improvements, Skype chat, web browsing, multi-tasking and cable/satellite television connectivity.  Their conference followed Sony’s spectacular PlayStation 4 announcement in February and with E3 just around the corner, little did Microsoft know, a storm was brewing.  To be fair, I’m sure Microsoft was fully aware (or maybe they weren’t), that there was going to be some backlash at E3.  The events of E3 turned out to be the tipping point for Microsoft’s massive black box as it seemed the two entertainment behemoths (Microsoft and Sony) were taking divergent strategies.  Sony was aiming the PlayStation 4 straight at the hardcore gamers with a console $100.00 cheaper while Microsoft was trying, once again, to create a product that will dominate the living room and become the multi-media hub of every home.  Both consoles were available for pre-order shortly after E3 on Amazon.com and the numbers in favor of the PlayStation 4 were impressive.  It didn’t help Microsoft’s case that at every opportunity the company seemed to be confusing, rather than clarifying, consumers regarding the key issues and questions gamers had regarding their new DRM (Digital Rights Management) policies for sharing and trading games.  It also didn’t help that then President of Xbox Operations Don Mattrick was telling gamers that they could go buy Xbox 360’s if they wanted to play offline.

Soon after E3 though, lots of things have been happening and the landscape has constantly been changing due to a flurry of press releases and interviews where Microsoft has been back-pedaling on their vision for the Xbox One.  Where once the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One seemed only identical in hardware, the two entertainment machines now seem more closely aligned than ever, which has lead to the moniker of “Xbox One-Eighty.”  It seems that no matter what Microsoft does, they can’t help but be the butt-end of jokes right now, but for all the schtick their taking on the chin right now, this is likely to pay off in the future.  Say what you will but regardless of the motivations for changing their policies, the fact that they changed at all is impressive.  While it may seem that they didn’t believe in their vision for the Xbox One enough to stick to their guns and convince us to buy one, their flexibility to adapt and listen to the community is going to pay off huge dividends.  Whether they were listening to the dollar signs falling out of their wallets as PlayStation 4 pre-orders soared is a moot point here.  Many gamers that I follow on Twitter are now seriously considering the Xbox One after the reversal of Microsoft’s DRM and “always online” strategies for Xbox One.

Never underestimate the internet's ability to create memes that completely exaggerate the situation.

Never underestimate the internet’s ability to create memes that completely exaggerate the situation.

The latest reversal on policies happened with the news that Xbox One no longer requires Kinect to be connected to the Xbox One at all times.  This is the one change that left me with the strongest of mixed feelings if they decide to sell the system without it.  On one hand I find the new Kinect hardware to be incredibly creepy, especially in light of the news in the United States regarding NSA spying.  In that respect I am grateful that it does not have to be connected at all times.  On the other hand, by forcing Kinect upon its consumers Microsoft ensures the install base for Kinect to show us and convince us that their ideas for Kinect integration are going to take us to the next level of gaming.  That could still happen though if they decide to keep the Kinect bundled with every Xbox One while not making it a mandatory part of the hardware.  The hardware itself is impressive, with its enhanced features that include near 1:1 motion detection, facial and voice recognition.  The new Kinect has been touted as being able to read your expression while you consume media as well as recognize others around you.  One of the mind-boggling features of the new hardware is its ability to see through your skin to monitor your body’s level of excitement in relation to pulse, and temperature.  Its cameras have also been touted by Microsoft to be significantly improved regarding depth of field which will apparently allow it to function in much smaller and confined areas.

Microsoft may be taking their lumps now for waffling on their vision for the Xbox One but it is going to serve them well in the coming months and years.  The Xbox One is now in a much stronger position than it was at E3 and in a couple of years, their debacles will be nothing more than a distant memory.  Remember back to the PlayStation 3 and Sony’s hubris regarding their system?  They believed people were so rabid for PlayStation that gamers would get two jobs to be able to afford the system.  Microsoft on the other hand may have started off arrogant but have since been eating some humble pie.  Their ability to adapt to the current console climate has been remarkable.  With their current announced line up of software, especially some of their exclusives, it may even reverse the “curse.”

About the author

Taryn Beach

I play a lot of video games. I'm a fan of most genres but have an affinity towards racing, rpg, shooter and fighting games.


  • While I’m glad that Microsoft decided to reverse most of it’s policies to make me feel inclined to buy Xbox One, but I still can’t get over the fact that price tag is so god-damn expensive!

  • Never really thought about this before, but you’re right. If there is a trend here, ps4 should do will, as the Wii (4th) did better than N64 (I assume).

  • GREAT article. Don;t usually find such well read stuff through N4G.

    You sir, have hit the nail on the head (no Sony bashing either).

    I think Sony has built the better console as it is known at the moment. Pending any changes, it’s smaller and has slightly better components. 30-50% better I doubt, but technically better.

    I think MS will be around a little while longer.

  • I have to agree that Microsofts flexibility and speed in changing their tune has been admirable, especially considering the size of the company.

    I think it’s great that they got a bloody nose early and learned very very fast from the lesson. The console isn’t even out yet… and they’ve managed to get this ‘arrogance’ thing out of the way nice and early(it took sony 5-6 years with the ps3 before they learnt the same lesson). So… eat that humble pie Microsoft… and come out of this a whole lot stronger please….

    BTW… I’m waiting very eagerly for the ‘surprise’ news on the hidden GPU on the main chip. Can’t wait to slam into those Failstation 4 fanboys with some concrete facts about the Xbox Won being the superior machine… the superior machine by a long way :)

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