Thursday, May 02, 2013

Console Post of the Week: Breaking My Own Embargo

I know that I said I wasn't going to talk about the next Xbox until the official unveil later this month, but some information has come out that has broken my resolve.

Sources tell Polygon that the next Xbox will indeed have some form of an always-on requirement. That will be both to support the suite of non-gaming entertainment applications that will be launched alongside the console, like streaming video services, but also as a possible anti-piracy tool. Currently, the console will support digital rights management and anti-piracy checks using an internet connection. Under Microsoft's current guidelines, which may still be changed, the decision of whether a game will require an internet connection to work and if that is a one-time authentication or a constant connection, will be left up to individual publishers.

You may think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not: this is great.

What a perfect lab environment for us to find out whether enough people actually care about always-online DRM to have it affect their purchase. Now we can find out, and easily.

I'm willing to bet that publishers can also lock out used copies of their games. Again, great laboratory. Let's see if games sell more copies if they can't be resold, as publishers have always claimed. Let's see if it affects the ecosystem in general.

Second, and this is clearly not great:
Microsoft will initially offer two pricing models for the console: a standalone version for $499 and a $299 version that requires a two-year Xbox LIVE Gold commitment at an expected price of $10 per month.

That would be $499 and $539, then.

Wow. Grandiose arrogance that is last-gen Sony-worthy. This will end well.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that this information is correct. Consoles have, at launch, traditionally followed the razor-blades pricing model (which is actually the Rockefeller kerosene lamps in China model, but I digress)--the console (razor) is sold at a loss, but selling content (razors) over the long-term makes the product successful.

This model has been abandoned by Microsoft, apparently, in favor of the new "this shitty model has no chance of working and will get everyone fired" model

I can go on Amazon right now and get a one-year Xbox Live subscription for $46.92. The regular price is $60.00. Seemingly, Microsoft is taking the opportunity to double the current retail price of Xbox Live.

So I can either buy an Xbox 720 at PS3 launch prices (and that went really, really well for Sony), or I can pay double for an online subscription which, over the required two years, costs me $120 over what it would cost me today.

Let me get this straight: this product is a gateway to sell thousands of other products to me, but it's going to be priced so ridiculously that I won't want to buy it? See the problem here?

If this pricing information is correct, then let me say this right now: this console will fail.

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