Be Grateful for the Xbox One


Console War of Attrition

I don’t like the Xbox One. I don’t hate it, because hate is something I reserve for bigots, escort missions and people who talk in the cinema. But the Xbox One is not a console that I have any particular affinity towards. It’s overpriced, it under-performs, and I have no interest in the Kinect, voice activation or any of the other features tacked on in the name of progress. In terms of what I would want from a console, the PlayStation 4 seems to be far closer to the mark with fewer restrictions, higher power and a lower price point. I also object to the advertising laced into its very existence, Microsoft’s slightly iffy definition of what qualifies an Indie developer, and the micro-transactions that infect it like a particularly troublesome form of mold. But for all of the Xbone’s spiteful, patronizing, money-grabbing drawbacks, I’m still glad that it exists. Because the alternative is worse.


To clarify, let me take you back to the halcyon days of early 2013. More specifically, the Xbox One reveal. Thanks to an overemphasis on TV functionality, Skype and the lack of anything resembling a game, the Xbox One became a bit of a joke in certain corners of the internet. The nickname Xbone was pretty immediate, followed by all the comments poking fun at the constant use of the word ‘television’ and all those sun shafts in the COD: Ghosts preview. More specifically, the diehard PlayStation fans made sweeping statements about ‘the death of Xbox’ and “PS4 rules, ok?”, without considering the fact that the ‘death of Xbox’ as unlikely as it was, was something they should want to avoid at all costs. Partly this is because forming an unwavering allegiance to a range of inanimate objects made by international corporations is like swearing fealty to a favorite brand of ice cream. Sure there are some idiots who swear the superiority of Haagen-Dazs over Ben and Jerry’s, and vice versa. But generally speaking, people just love dessert, they don’t care about brands.

But say, sticking with the overly complicated but delicious metaphor, the two companies launched a new flavor each. One was more flavorsome, had a higher chocolate content and came in at a lower price. The other tasted worse, cost more, came in an ugly looking tub and forced you to buy an bolted on spoon whether you wanted one or not. But regardless, they have their fans and detractors and people buy both in droves. But then, the more expensive, less tasty, and uglier ice-cream starts charging you for chocolate chips, even though they should have been included in the price. And then every few bites it shouts at you with an advert for Doritos, or Mountain Dew or even worse, Windows 8. This is of course, terrible. And so, of course, one of the ice-cream flavors ceases to be. And acolytes of the surviving brand rejoice and party on. And the world is perfect and magical for ever and ever. Except, of course, that it’s not. Because as time progresses, the other ice cream starts to implement all of the awful policies that drove the other company into the ground. But this time, they can get away with it, because there’s nowhere else for the consumers to turn. And so they’re left with no choice but to stomach the awfulness thrust upon them by the company whose products they once praised to the rafters.


Now, this is an overly-simplistic view for a lot of reasons. The Xbox One is selling well – both consoles are, and the large fan backlash against the money grabbing policies of games like Forza 5 have already caused changes. And of course, things aren’t that black and white. Sony are capable of, and indeed are guilty of, equally abhorrent practices, and consumers aren’t as powerless as the above example dictates. But that doesn’t remove the very real possibility that the exploitation of systems like DLC and micro-transactions causing serious problems for the gaming industry. Already people are talking about the ‘micro-transaction bubble’ like it’s inevitable. And it probably is. But given the damage done when bubbles burst (metaphorical ones that is, not the real kind. Those are harmless) I think it’s a scenario that we’d all like to avoid.

Personally, I have no great allegiance to either console, but from my current point of view, the PlayStation is the system closer to my heart. I suppose I am a fan and might, at a very considerable stretch, be called a fanboy by some. But that means I want the Xbox One to remain competitive just as much as all the people who get angry when you use words like ‘1080p’ and ‘not having to pay £32.50 for a single bloody car’. Because if the Xbox goes under, and Sony’s subsequent monopoly makes them untouchable, what’s left for the rest of us?

PC I guess. But everyone knows those are for nerds.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect SpawnFirst as a whole.