There's a possibility that you bought your Xbox One and didn't hear a single thing about the events leading up to its release. Most likely though, you got an earful from the store associate about how Microsoft was pushing all kinds of security policies and restrictions on the new console. While it's true that the Xbox One was once a very strict system, things changed prior to the release.
This begs the question "why?" Microsoft had to know that these policies wouldn't be accepted with open arms, but they implemented them for a time regardless. Was it out of pure paranoia, or were they just trying to push the industry forward? While it's hard to say without being inside of Microsoft's inner sanctum, we can still speculate, and predict what Microsoft will do differently when the Xbox 2 is eventually announced.
Join us as we explore what happened to dim the Xbox One's arrival, and how the Xbox 2 can hit the ground running when it is announced.
The Original Plans (Before Changes Were Made Prior to Launch)
When the Xbox One was announced, gamers were glued to their screens, but apprehensive about some of the features. These features, as we all know, were eventually modified prior to the launch of the console, but let's examine them in the original form and the motivations behind them.
1. Always Online
Not every single person who plays Xbox games has an internet connection. In a decade or so, this could be different, but the current prices and availability of broadband internet do not allow for each and every household to access it. The idea here was that Xbox One would always be online, even when you shut it down it would run in a low-power state.
This meant that updates, patches, and any other downloads would simply occur the moment they were available. You wouldn't have to wait for them next time you boot up the system. In addition, game developers would be assured that players are always online, allowing them to create tailor-made experiences for players on the fly.
It's an exciting thought, but here's the kicker: "With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console. Offline gaming isn't possible after this time until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch TV and enjoy movies," a representative said back in 2013 before the console's launch.
The motivation here was persistent online worlds that change and evolve since you're always online. Perhaps this was a preview of future technology, but it wasn't possible for everyone who wanted the system. If you didn't have internet, you couldn't play your games on this console. That alienated a lot of people.
2. Used Games and Lending Games
This was where the company also got into hot water over their policies on the new console. There were rumors for a time that games could not be traded in or sold because they would include a one-time activation similar to modern PC games. This wasn't quite the case, but the company did say that publishers could opt in and out of their games being resalable.
There was to be an option where you could transfer games to your friends but they had to be part of your friends list for at least 30 days. Finally, you could not lend games or rent them, at least not at launch.
This was a major shift for console gamers and wasn't received very well in the broad audience. Microsoft had motivations behind this, no doubt piracy protection, but also the ability to name ten other accounts "family members" which would allow them to log in on their Xbox One and share your games with you.
Even so, such harsh restriction on console games was something gamers weren't prepared for.
3. Always On Kinect
Microsoft prefaced this portion of the Xbox One's original planning by saying that "at Microsoft we prioritize your privacy. We understand that your personal data and privacy are important. Xbox One and Kinect will provide tools to put you in control of your data."
The original plan was to have the Kinect connected at all times to the console. This resulted in an explosion of conspiracy theories and claims that Kinect would be recording your life and transmitting data to the government. You laugh, but a lot of people felt violated by this.
The idea here was to integrate Kinect into everything the Xbox One does. This was a neat idea, but as we know, the Kinect still hasn't reached a place where the responsiveness is high enough to warrant such a priority to the device. Not to mention the fact that the device hasn't been supported very well thus far, and Microsoft recently started selling Xbox Ones without it included.
Lessons Learned After the Turnaround
Public outcry resulted in a massive turnaround when it came to the Xbox One's policies. Within several months of the system's announcement Microsoft completely pulled back on the things they said that originally. The system no longer required an online connection, games could be freely traded and borrowed, and Kinect didn't even have to be plugged in if you'd prefer it that way.
After making the changes, certain special features that were originally planned, like the sharing of games digitally, were taken out. So now we reach the uneasy plateau of where to go from here. Microsoft had some great ideas that required them to implement some restrictions like "always-online" and so forth.
Would it have been cool to play games that constantly evolved and changed? Of course, but that would require a constant internet connection that isn't possible for all of the gamers out there. It's a give and take for sure, but one that will eventually be easier to swallow when technology is more widespread.
Let's take a look at those three original features one more time, but let's assume it's roughly 2018 or even 2020 and try those things again with new technology and a different world to work with:
1. Let's Try Always Online Again (2020 Edition)
In the year 2020, if Microsoft said that their system must be online once every twenty-four hours, the outcry would not be near as vicious. An estimate made by the Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in 2013 said "By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected."
This led to some skepticism regarding the viability of internet in third world countries, but Google is already taking steps to spread internet, even just the mobile smartphone kind, to new and exciting places. Other projects are underway as well, and if this turns out to be true, the idea of an always online console won't seem so shocking.
As it stands many Americans are online 24 hours a day via their computers or smartphones. The idea of always being connected is slowly, but surely, growing on everyone. It wasn't a possibility, nor was it the norm for all people when Xbox One was announced, but with Xbox 2 it may be.
This doesn't mean that they can copy/paste the policy though. Even if everyone is online all the time, the idea of a "check-in" once every 24 hours just feels like an overbearing parent trying to make sure you're not doing anything you shouldn't.
Microsoft should offer additional features and specialized games (more so than they do already) for people who are always online. By doing this, they can expand their portfolio immensely and still account for the smaller minority in 2020 that doesn't have internet.
For this case, it was too much too soon and the wording was all wrong. They need to pitch this more like a feature and less like a restriction in both its function and its announcement.
2. Used Games and Lending Games
People love having their games on a disc, I know I do, but the world is moving toward a digital age. Moving, not sprinting; which is where Microsoft went wrong with Xbox One. People could transfer or lend their games to friends, but only the digital version, which requires internet.
If the Xbox 2 decides to ditch discs (it will almost certainly have to) then people won't cry out when they realize that they can't sell the disc or bring it to their friend's house. In most cases, they will be able to easily contact their friends through hyper fast internet and transfer games via their console or whatever comes of the current HoloLens technology.
Things like used games won't be around anymore in 2020, which is why there won't be an issue with not being able to sell them, because there won't be any discs. In this particular case, Microsoft should stress the convenience of having your games wherever you go and being able to share them with whoever you wish. That's the real takeaway here.
3. Always On Kinect
There won't be a Kinect included or even made with Xbox 2. I can say this because it's clear that Microsoft is moving towards a more integrated and seamless interaction with how you play your games and experience your entertainment. The HoloLens, an augmented reality wearable visor, is the precursor of such a device.
The HoloLens is still a couple years off from doing what Microsoft wants it to do, but it shows that we don't need a camera watching or scanning us anymore. Technology will allow us to see through the eyes of the system and into a world that is similar to our own, but augmented by the various images and 3D holograms the visor shows us.
Privacy will always be an issue, but the best way that Microsoft can handle this kind of device or announcement is to showcase the security features, but more than that, just don't request personal information or even mention it. Microsoft felt the need to originally state that none of your personal information would be disclosed outside of your Kinect without your explicit permission.
Why did that even need to be said? Technology like the HoloLens will only see what you see and it won't have need for any personal information unless you're accessing your Xbox Live account for example. People see a camera that is connected to the internet, and they are trained to cover the lens, to unplug it, because that's the world we live in.
A wearable augmented reality visor? That hasn't been used to steal anyone's personal information, except maybe in science fiction. The point is, Microsoft should push privacy and explain how new technology empowers consumers to be in total control because it only sees what they see.
Some Final Thoughts
Honestly, much of this is speculation and based on public opinion, but I've been a gamer since the Sega Genesis and I worked in the industry for over 8 years, so I felt the need to put the opinion out there on how Microsoft could potentially pitch similar policies in the world of 2020 with fewer backlashes.
Part of it is how the policies are explained, but a major part of it involves understanding the technological climate that the Xbox 2 is releasing in. If you're going to do always online, make sure everyone has internet. It seems simple, but Microsoft tried to do something ahead of its time and they were beaten back by the general public.
Progress and innovation are always welcome, but when sacrifices must be made such as an online check-in every 24 hours, one must weigh the pros and cons in the eyes of the consumer. The former has to outweigh the latter, or the entire scenario must be very easy to accomplish for the majority of gamers.
Microsoft has seen some serious staffing changes since the dawn of Xbox One and while the system is still finding its place in the world, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft has learned from and adapted to the experiences of the Xbox One's pre-release.
Thanks as always for reading and be sure to weigh in with your opinions and advice for Microsoft in the comments below!