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XBox One

Microsoft has another DUH moment

How do these idiots get such high-paying jobs? You may recall that The XBox One currently includes the Kinect motion sensor. This adds $100 to the price of the console, despite the rather obvious fact that many people have no interest in flapping their arms at their game console in futile attempts to make it do something useful.

Now comes word that Microsoft will soon ship a version of the XBox One without the Kinect. According to Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's XBox division, "We've also heard from people they just like to play games with a controller in their hands." Well, DUH.

In another stunning insight, Microsoft has also realized that forcing people to pay for a Gold XBox Live subscription just to watch videos was a bad idea, and they'll soon be dropping that requirement.

Your XBox One doesn't want you to swear

The XBox One makes it easy for players to create and upload gameplay videos using a feature called 'Upload Studio'. Uploaded videos are viewable by any XBox One user. This seems like a useful way for gamers to promote the games they play, but there's a catch. In making the process of publishing gameplay videos so simple, Microsoft also made it easy to inflict foul language on random, unsuspecting users. Apparently this prospect frightened Microsoft enough that they added a profanity detector, which will temporarily ban offending XBox Live accounts from uploading more videos. This restriction apparently doesn't appear in the console's Terms of Use, which has some XBox One owners understandably upset.

Update 2013Dec05: Techdirt has more about this.

Here we go again...

There are early indications that some new XBox One consoles have bad Bluray drives. The problem is immediately obvious: the drive can't read discs, and may produce abnormal knocking sounds.

Microsoft says that the problem is "affecting a very small number of Xbox One customers". Sound familiar? That's what Microsoft said about the classic "Red Ring Of Death" problem on the XBox 360. That problem led to at least one set of design changes for the 360.

Microsoft also says: "We're working directly with those affected to get a replacement console to them as soon as possible through our advance exchange program." So if you experience this problem, contact Microsoft support to get a replacement.

UPDATE: Apparently Microsoft is giving away free games to XBox One owners affected by this problem, and at least one person was able to fix their console through application of "percussive maintenance".

Your newly-unpacked XBox One is a brick

In a move that has baffled many observers, XBox One consoles will be useful only as expensive paperweights until they are connected to the Internet and a critical update installed. Once again Microsoft seems oddly biased against people with poor or no Internet access, and there will be many sad faces on Christmas morning as a result.

Kinect will not be mandatory on XBox One

According to The Verge, Microsoft has reversed another XBox One decision. Earlier, the Kinect sensor was described as being essential to proper operation of the new console. In other words, it would not be possible to turn off the Kinect. This raised all kinds of privacy concerns, and Microsoft previously assured potential buyers that they could control what the Kinect was allowed to detect. But in the midst of the current and growing concerns about NSA spying, Microsoft has gone further, saying that the XBox One's Kinect can be disabled completely while still allowing the console to function normally.

Microsoft backtracks on some of its idiotic XBox One policies

Surprise, surprise. Microsoft has already started backtracking on some of its less enlightened policies for the XBox One.

The changes are:

  • An Internet connection will not be required to play any disc-based game. As with the XBox 360, disc-based games can only be played with the disc in the console.
  • There will not be a requirement to connect to the Internet every 24 hours.
  • There will be no limitations on how games can be shared, loaned, resold or traded, except that you cannot do any of those things with downloaded games.
  • You will be able to play downloaded games offline.
  • There will be no regional restrictions limiting where games can be played.

Never underestimate the power of the Internet.

More XBox One idiocy

If you can stand to hear more XBox One criticism, check out this Forbes article covering recent revelations that Microsoft's baffling policies for the new console include one that requires all games to be produced by a major publisher. That policy will exclude games like the independently-produced Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty from the XBox One lineup.

This is yet another easy victory for Sony, since that company already encourages independent game development for its consoles and has no plans to change that with the PS4.

Microsoft clarifies XBox One features

Microsoft has finally answered some of the nagging questions about the next XBox:

  • "every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection" - In other words, a high-speed Internet connection is a requirement for using this game console, despite the fact that the vast majority of console games have no specific requirement for network connectivity. People who live in areas with poor or no Internet service are simply out of luck, the same as if they had no electricity.

  • "your system, games and apps are always current and ready to play - no more waiting for updates" - Many people (myself included) are happy to wait a few minutes for an update if it means they have control over what their devices are doing when they're not watching. This sounds like a nice feature except when you consider that every XBox One will be constantly updating itself, even games that the owner is no longer playing. This will increase bandwidth use unnecessarily. Hopefully this feature can be disabled.

  • "Access your entire games library from any Xbox One - no discs required" - Not having to swap discs constantly is definitely a good thing. The only reason discs are always required for the XBox 360 is copy protection. Microsoft is shifting the copy protection to a network-based model; hence the need for always-on Internet. Convenient, yes - but at what cost?

  • "buy disc-based games at traditional retailers or online through Xbox Live, on day of release." - This is a welcome break from traditional (and senseless) release windows. No more need to push through crowds at GameStop.

  • Improved networking - Gigabit Ethernet (as opposed to 100 Mbit on the XBox 360), and better wireless (802.11n, 5 GHz, two antennas). Good stuff.

  • "While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend." - Okay: strictly speaking, an 'always-on' Internet is not required, but in practical terms, it amounts to the same thing.

  • "With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies." - Yes, your shiny new game console is about as useful as a brick if you lose your Internet connection. Because, um, piracy!!!

  • "Anyone can play your games on your console--regardless of whether you are logged in or their relationship to you." - Well, that's a relief. With the technology already in place on the new console, Microsoft could have required a separate license for every user. Don't laugh: if Microsoft thought they could get away with it, they would do this.

  • "game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games." - So Microsoft won't charge a fee for trading in games, but individual game publishers may or may not enable trade-ins, and may or may not charge a trade-in fee of their own. That is extremely lame, and likely to hurt overall game sales.

  • "game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends" - Sounds good, until you realize that again, the publisher has to enable this. Also, you can only give a game to someone on your XBox friends list. And a game can only be given once. Lameness, you have found your pinnacle.

  • "You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear" - Well, that's a relief.

My prediction: when XBox One sales tank immediately after the initial buying frenzy, Microsoft will scramble to backtrack on some of these restrictions.

Ars Technica and The Verge have their own analysis.

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