Monthly Archives: June 2013

X-Box One Conflict

I love video games, I have since I was a little kid. I still have fond memories of playing Super Mario Brothers with my mom on Saturday mornings, beating Count Dracula in Castlevania, and being Link. I still have my old Nintendo Entertainment System, and 26 years later I can still play games on it, and occasionally do. 

Fast forward 26 years. I love my Xbox 360, I love the games. HALO 4, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Fable 2, Batman Arkham Asylum/City all favorites of mine. I don’t use X-Box Live much but when I do use it I use the hell out of it, and can ALMOST justify the money I spend on a gold account, almost. I don’t buy brand new games much, I either buy used or I wait a year or two for them to radically drop in price. I take my 360 with me when I go on Government travel, usually because I am stuck in a shitty Navy Lodge somewhere and I want to save my per diem to pay bills. 

I was excited when the news of the X-Box One came out, I thought an all in one gaming and entertainment system was a bit overkill for my needs, but still a really cool concept. I didn’t plan on purchasing one right away. I figured I would wait a while to make sure all the bugs were worked out, maybe a year or so. Then came all the news…..about always on internet (not quite true), always on Kinect (also not true), Can’t loan out games, can’t buy used, etc. After some digging, some of my concerns are alleviated, some are not. I don’t think I will buy  an X-Box One, but I could change my mind. Here are my concerns:

First is the 24 hour mandatory Internet check. Here is what Microsoft states: “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.” They have a host of reasons for this, part of it is Digital Rights Media. They want to make sure the games on your system are games you have license for and that you are not pirating media, and another part is the cloud system (I’m not a tech guy, but what little I have read sounds pretty neat). 

Second is the recommended 1.5 Mb/s internet speed. Again, Microsoft states, “For an optimal experience, we recommend a broadband connection of 1.5 Mb/s. (For reference, the average global internet connection speed as measured recently by Akamai was 2.9 Mbps). In areas where an Ethernet connection is not available, you can connect using mobile broadband.” I can see why they recommend this, and only have a small problem with it. 

Third is the Kinect Sensor. However, this is partly due to my conspiracy theorist nature and the whole PRISM Scandal and Microsoft maybe being part of it

Fourth is the 500 dollar price tag.

Fifth is Microsofts lack of caring for its customers. 

My problem with the 24 hour check in thing is that at the end of 24 hours if you do not have internet you can’t play games. Yes I know, if you live in a big city and you are reading this you are wondering “Why doesn’t have internet?” Actually quite a few people don’t, including gamers. One of my best friends was gifted a 360, but can’t afford internet. He playes borrowed and used games, and if he needs internet he goes to starbucks or an Internet cafe. I live in a town where their are basically two internet providers: Verizon and Mediacom. Verizon only offers basic DSL at less than the 1.5 Mb/s required, Mediacom has the worst customer service I have ever come across, and I know many people who complain that it is always going down, sometimes for days on end. My grandparents live 60 miles away, and the only internet service they can get is either America Online Dialup (yes, it still exists), or satellite internet. 

I personally have the uber slow Verizon .5 Mb/s internet plan because it is all that is offered here. It has gone down for more than one day at a time before, and I was still able to play my games on the 360. With the X-Box One I would be hosed. Plus, even if my internet never ever goes down, the One wouldn’t work right anyway because my connection is slow. 

What about military stationed in the sandbox or other remote areas? Huge gamers, usually shitty to no internet connection. Just cut out a huge chunk of customers. 

To me it just seems stupid not to at least play 1 player games without the internet check, or some other sort of verification system.

The Kinect Sensor is always partially on, and you can’t unplug it. Here are the bullet points that Microsoft said about Kinect:

You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear: By design, you will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded. 

– You are in control of when Kinect sensing is On, Off or Paused: If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say “Xbox Off.” When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command — “Xbox On,” and you can even turn that feature off too. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you’ll need to turn it back on for these experiences.

– You are in control of your personal data: You can play games or enjoy applications that use data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate and more, but this data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission. Here are a few examples of potential future scenarios:

— A fitness game could measure heart rate data to provide you with improved feedback on your workout, allow you to track your progress, or even measure calories burned.

— A card game could allow you to bluff your virtual opponent using your facial expressions.

You can use other inputs to control your games, TV and entertainment experiences: While it’s faster to find what you’re looking for using your voice and gesture commands with Kinect, you can use a controller, your remote controls or your smart devices instead. And you can use all of these devices when Kinect is paused.

Now is seems to me they are taking in to account some privacy concerns. However, the thing can measure my heart rate (scary), is connected to the internet if it isn’t paused, and reports back to the Microsoft mother ship. So you have an “always-on” Xbox tracking you with the Kinect “eye,” beaming info back to the aformentioned mother ship which, as we now know, is probably tapped by the government.Even if you do pause it, who is to say someone can’t hack the network and watch you through your supposed paused camera? I concede that this could just be all paranoid speculation, but we know the NSA is already watching us. 

I do know we live in a society that no longer values privacy as it used to, so this is probably not an issue to many younger gamers. 

I mentioned Microsoft’s lack of caring for its customers. Microsoft had a chance to hit the PR ball out of the park by addressing customer concerns on this stuff, many people have the same concerns that I do, or at least similar concerns. Microsoft could have better explained why they are doing things, used the chance to alleviate fears better, or even say that they are listening to customers and are considering their complaints. Instead many news articles (like this one from CNET) reported this:

“In an interview with Spike TV at the E3 show Tuesday, Xbox executive Don Mattrick responded to the complaints about the Xbox One’s demand for an Internet connection. Mattrick described the $499 Xbox One, coming in November, as “a future-proof choice,” saying that a console designed to be used online offers certain advantages, such as the ability to link games and entertainment.” 

And for those people without Internet access?

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity,” Mattrick said. “It’s called Xbox 360.”

The interviewer then chimed in, saying “So stick with 360, that’s your message…?” To which Mattrick responded, “Well, if you have zero access to the Internet, that [360] is an offline device.” Citing one unusual example, the Xbox exec said he read a blog comment from someone who serves on a nuclear sub.

“I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub,” Mattrick said. “But I’ve got to imagine that it’s not easy to get an Internet connection.”

Dude…not all of us with poor to no internet connections live in a sub. I find this response to be snarky, rude, and just plain dickish. He may not have meant it that way, and a might as well be brother of mine said he didn’t see it as rude. However, plenty of people did. Bad PR move. 

As for the price complaint…well hell, I am just cheap. 

I can see why Microsoft has gone this direction, I really can. They are in the business to make money,and they want to push boundaries. I think the cloud tech does that well. I just have issues with how they are doing things. DO I still want one? Yes. Will I get one? Probably not. I would have to either move to a city (I hate cities) with a good internet connection, or a provider would have to upgrade existing infrastructure in this area, not likely to happen. But if it did happen, and I could get great internet speed (even with my shitty wifi modem/router), and I could spare 500 of my tax return, I may just do it. If I did, I would probably unplug it or turn it off at the power strip though…………..I don’t want that Kinect eye watching me…..we already live too close to Orwell’s 1984 as it is. 

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