“If You Want A Picture Of The Future” – Xbox One

With Microsoft’s Xbox One, we’ll all live in a room with a large television that shows adverts from Microsoft’s partners and TV shows based on their games. It will be connected to Kinect, a camera and microphone that is always listening and can even monitor your heartbeat.

New content, the almost limitless possibilities of an internet connection and what ‘the cloud’ can offer, and a powerful, sensitive device with which to control our entertainment future.

Xbox One sounds brilliant.

In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith lives in a room with a large telescreen that shows propaganda and approved messages. It also listens to him and acts as a kind of surveillance camera that is so sensitive, it’s thought that it can detect a heartbeat.

Constantly being monitored, listened to, watched. Being served entertainment and current affairs coverage that’s pre-approved and tightly controlled. Our own living rooms reporting back to a central location about our habits and that information being used against us. Doesn’t sound so good now.

The Xbox One does not have a requirement to be always online. That is, as far as we know just now, a fact. So it doesn’t need a constant internet connection. Well, some games might, but that’s up to the developers of those games. Actually, it’s probably up to the publishers of those games.

It’s my experience that a game developer just wants to make his game and for lots of people to play it – a game publisher is more concerned about getting people to pay for it and then making sure nobody is playing it for free. So it’s the publisher that wants to make sure you’re authentic – by checking over the internet, if they can.

The Xbox does not require a constant internet connection but it does require a regular one. At least once every 24 hours, it will need to be online so that it can check that you still own the license for the game you’re playing. That’s exactly like the digital rights management Valve pushed on PC gamers with Steam, except there it’s a 30-day limit rather than 24 hours.

30 days gives much more leeway for people moving house, people on inconsistent connections and people who might not be able to count on their domestic connection and need to use some form of mobile internet to authenticate (many university halls, for example).

So, at some point as-yet-undefined, when Microsoft or their third party partners decide to switch off their authentication servers, all of your Xbox One games will expire. They’ll cease to work. Videogames now have a finite life.

And don’t get too complacent, PlayStation fans. This sounds like something Sony is considering too – they’ve said that they won’t have restrictions for used games but they’ll allow publishers to set their own rules for that stuff, to an extent. Microsoft’s own ‘clarification’ stipulated almost precisely that – except that they also defined the timings of checking on it.

In exchange for this frequent monitoring, Microsoft is allowing us to play our games on any console, as long as they can check our right to do so every hour instead of every 24. They’ll allow us to give away a game to someone who has been on our Friends List for more than 30 days and up to 10 people (‘family’ members) can be authorised to play a game on a different console via the cloud. So it’s not all bad, it’s just that what is bad is very bad indeed.

Kinect can be switched off. Microsoft confirmed that, at least. It can be deactivated completely and you can choose the option of never sending any data back to Microsoft. They’ve also said that, although it’s possible, Kinect won’t record you and send that data to them. It’s almost like they’re saying “We could be really, horrendously evil if we wanted to but don’t worry, we won’t. Promise!” I’m sorry, that’s not really enough for me.

Call me ‘conspiracy theory Pete’ but I’m not sure the word of massive, rich corporations is really all that dependable.

And perhaps more interesting than whether this most recent ‘clarification’ is actually terrible news or not-quite-as-bad-as-all-that news, Microsoft still hasn’t really managed to find a consistent, clear message in what is rapidly becoming an utter embarrassment of a PR disaster. There’s still confusion.

For example, and it’s only one example in many – for the sake of brevity – what’s the difference between a ‘friend’ you can gift a game to and a ‘family member’ who can play your games anyway? My guess is that the difference is a group Xbox Live Gold subscription for families but that’s only a guess because we simply don’t know.

Another point of confusion, and I quote: “Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.” So what about all that stuff about people being on my friends List for 30 days? Doesn’t that mean I can’t lend them a game? Does this mean they can’t return it to me when they’re finished?

It’s okay though, you’ll be able to trade in games, at a publisher’s discretion, as long as it goes to a “participating retailer”. So, as long as you’re trading in games in a way that someone with lots of money can make a bit more money, that’s fine. Sticking your own games on eBay to make a few quid to fund your next purchase? No chance, you grasping prole scumbag!

In the wake of the Xbox 360, there was an accidental consumer rights furore based around what became known as the Red Ring of Death. It looks like the consumer rights furore that will come in the wake of the Xbox One launch isn’t going to be accidental at all.

In 1984, Winston and Julia had a love affair that was illegal. Winston hired a room in which to conduct their meetings – a room that he thought was without a telescreen. In that room was a picture of St. Clement’s Church, a scene of simple joy that inspired the couple to sing the song about its bells. But the telescreen was hidden behind it, watching.

Will Forza 5 be our St. Clement’s Church?

Will we invite Big Brother in, to hide behind the next generation of entertainment media?

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

79 Comments

  1. Regardless of MS rhetoric, given the recent reveal of the PRISM program, I will not be letting this into my house
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/07/prism-tech-giants-shock-nsa-data-mining

    • After reading that thread of yours last year I’m surprised you let anyone in without a full cavity search. ;-)

      • I told G4S to do one the other day when they tried to read my gas meter lol. Coincidently Bilderberg is in Watford this week.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if Gates is at the meet, the heads of Google & Amazon are. Shady goings on for sure.

      • @E8_ball – Gates isnt really MS anymore though, he invested in Monsanto instead, controlling food supply instead, so if he is there it will be to find out why europeans dont like GMOs and how much he has to bribe each government to be allowed to get them into our homes…
        http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/04/bill-gates-dodges-questions-on-why-he-owns-500000-shares-of-monsanto.html

      • GMO crops, interesting, considering he said there’s too many people on the planet. No doubt he shares the NWO philosophy of depopulation.

    • Thanks for that link…what a wonderful world we live in. Take me back to the 60’s/70’s cus that looked a lot more fun.

      • its ironic given the US have Bradley Manning on trial for sharing data – MS were the first to sign up to PRISM in 2007, their current slogan is also apparently “Your privacy is our priority” (so we want to have an always connected to the internet camera in your house…)

  2. Will consumers be told they need an internet connection to play games upon purchase of their shiny new Xbox? I’ll put money on that not happening. Kids arriving home to discover they can’t play their games will fast become the new red ring for Microsoft.

    • It’ll probably be in 6pt small print on the box… the bottom of the box… in 95% black on a black background… In helvetica extra light.

      • …and they will have forgotten to do a nozzle check so it’s not even printing nicely.

      • I hate those naughty printers who don’t print nicely! ;)

  3. New for Kinect, the 101. We hope you like rats!

    Microsoft had better pull off something ruddy spectacular at E3 if they’re not going to be considered the Big Brother of new consoles. But then, I’m waiting for Sony to make their move. They might be pulling the classic JRPG twist of being the mastermind all along.

  4. This sort of thing will push me completely to PC if they both go down this route, granted the PC has DRM but it does not come across as being so intrusive and draconian, as well as the games usually being a damn sight cheaper on PC and obviously running better to boot.

    Exclusives would be the loss I guess.

    Drac.

    • Same here. Why should I pay Microsoft a premium for the privilage of jumping through all these hoops when my PC can do exactly the same things faster and cheaper?

      I didn’t think it was even possible for console gaming to be more stressful and convoluted than PC gaming. So I guess Microsoft needs at least some kudos for proving me wrong on that count.

  5. Reminds me of ‘Sliver’.

  6. “Xbox One sounds brilliant.” – what?! Ow, yes. brilliant for SONY.

  7. Man, you should’ve put a spoiler alert for those few who haven’t read 1984. It has a lot more impact when you read it yourself and you get to that point where the telescreen was behind the painting, frigging great book.

    Also, MS u-turn imminent. Or so they’ll say.

    • Microsoft will only only do a U turn when its too late, and no one gives a fuck anymore. Getting Microsoft to change their mind on something like this is like doing a 3 point turn in an oil tanker! Xbox 360 has been a fluke for Microsoft, an they have got extremely arrogant with their fleeting success. Microsoft will learn how quickly things can turn against them as SEGA and Nintendo have learnt in the past.

    • A spoiler warning for a book from 1948 that’s widely referenced in popular culture?

      • A spoiler is a spoiler at the end of the day.

      • Didn’t everyone read it at school?

        After a few years, I think it’s generally accepted that you’re not really spoiling it for anyone that gives a damn anymore. If you’ve not yet played Heavy Rain, is it really that high on your list of things to do that spoilers will put you in a big funk for the next 3 weeks?

        Of course, feel free to ask people close to you not to discuss spoilers if, for example, you’ve come up to Harry Potter 6 and don’t want to know the twist at the end, having miraculously made it this far already.

      • I dont know anybody who read that book at school. They’re still madly in love with Shakespeare.

  8. Sounds like we’ll all be living in the DPRK to me? (well Pyongyang) Certainly sounds like the end of gaming as we know it!

    • LOL. As if they have reliable internet connections.

  9. Considering all the stuff about the NSA over the last couple of days does it matter what MS say about collecting data. As for being able to switch off Kinect, if it has to be plugged in at all times is it really off?
    Sony may seem the better option at the moment, but there’s been no detail of the PS4 Eye. Will that be the same as Kinect? As Move is built in to PS4 pads I’d assume that it’s going to have to be connected constantly too.

  10. Certainly some annoying principles being applied here but fortunately they shouldn’t really effect me too much.

    My internet has never been down for over 24 hours *touches nearby wooden coffee table* so that should be fine – plus, I only game once or twice a week these days anyway.
    I have no intention of buying any games second hand (not when the price gap between used and new is so small) but its good to know I can trade my older games in at somewhere like GAME towards my next purchase, or indeed perhaps swap games with a mate of mine when we are both looking to play something new.

    I can see Microsoft (and indeed Sony) facing plenty of angry customers (both before and after purchase) as they are used to gaming being a certain way, but personally I don’t think they will cause me too much of an issue.

    Once we see the E3 lineup from both companies I am sure many will just bite the bullet and forgive for love of the hobby :)

    • What really concerns me, now, is Sony’s stance on things. If they emulate a lot of what Microsoft has chosen to do I can see myself sticking with the PC. I really don’t want to as I’ve always loved Sony’s exclusives, let alone the breadth and depth of their gaming catalogue on all PlayStation generations… but if I think they’re taking the piss then I’ll simply say “no” and walk away from anything to do with them.

      • If Sony go down the same route then I’ll stick to my Vita. PC gaming isn’t a viable option for me. It will probably lead to me not playing many games at all any more.

      • totally agree with this. If Sony even think about doing something like this. It’s PC all the way for me.

      • Think I’ll stick with PS3 tbh, but I dont expect Sony to be as draconian.

      • I think the biggest clue to all of this is EA’s recent cancellation of it’s ‘Season Pass’ mechanic for clawing back revenue from second hand sales.

        The only reason I can see EA, a company famed for it’s attempt to mine as much additional spend out of it’s customers as possible, giving up a relatively lucrative system like this is if they are guaranteed the same revenue from a new resale licensing system such as the one Microsoft is proposing.

        The kicker for me is that EA has abandoned Season Passes on BOTH X360 and PS3 consoles. That is as clear an indication as I need that EA, at least, are sure that the Sony and the PS4 are going to offer another method for ‘taxing’ second hand games sales that is best analogous with the XBO’s and at worst exactly the same.

    • Ignore my previous post, lol. I’ve just read the part about the 1.5mb connection requirement. Now I’m worried. I don’t think my connection has gone over 1.2mb in the 4 months I’ve lived here, lol :-|

      • Highlighting one of the major reasons this shit happens.
        “Oh it doesn’t impact me because of xyz so I don’t care … ” until it does impact you and it’s too late for you to do anything about it because you already accepted it.

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