It’s no secret that the Xbox One’s policies concerning used games and DRM have caused quite a stir. However, these seemingly anit-consumer restrictions probably won’t affect the majority of privileged folks who are crying foul just for the sake of complaining. But what about those who are directly affected by the Xbox One’s unreasonable requirements? In particular, active service military members who spend much of their down time enjoying games with fellow squadmates in the barracks. Well, in an article posted on NavyTimes, service members are speaking out about their concerns and frustrations over Microsoft’s next-gen console.
The article points to three major problems in particular: Region locking, accessibility, and Kinect-posed security issues. For those who don’t know, region locking a console means that games have to be purchased from the same region in order to play on specific consoles. As such, US Xbox One consoles will require US copies of games, as well as one-time activations taken place within that region prior to being allowed to use the game in question. This is an issue because it means those games service members receive in care packages while overseas will not function, as attempts to activate a game outside of the initial region are a no-go. It also means soldiers have no hope of buying games locally while deployed. Basically, soldiers will only have the games they bring from home with them when they first ship off, otherwise they’re out of luck.
The second issue, accessibility, is tied to both a need for reliable internet and the Xbox One’s limited region support at launch. The new console is only scheduled to release in 21 countries at launch, and since Microsoft isn’t confirming how wide of a gap there is between regions, we can only assume the Xbox One won’t work in countries not directly supported. Curiously, Japan is absent from the list of supported regions. The Xbox brand has never sold particularly well in the Land of the Rising Sun, but as a major gaming region, it shouldn’t have been ignored. Either way, even if service members are fortunate enough to have a broadband connection that meets the Xbox One’s daily check-in demands, they better hope they’re in a supported region or the console is basically barracks decor.
The final major problem the troops have with the Xbox One is brought about by “serious security concerns” in regards to Kinect. As we know, Kinect is now mandatory with the Xbox One, and in fact will not function without the camera powered on and connected. As you might imagine, the military isn’t too keen on the idea of having a camera and microphone constantly listening in on soldiers while they’re playing games and shooting the breeze.
All of these problems amount to a single conclusion, summed up by naval aviator Jay Johnson, who states that, “Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military. And not just the U.S. military — the militaries of the entire world.” Johnson says that he’s spent the better half of the past three years either training or at sea, and that gaming has been, “my sanctuary. It is where I went to calm down after a long day of flying.” Reaffirming his stance against the Xbox One’s current policies, he believes his unit’s days of playing Microsoft exclusive franchises “are now firmly behind us.”
It certainly doesn’t help Microsoft’s case when their response to all of this drama is a mix of arrogance and miscommunication. Just days ago, Xbox support took to Twitter and announced that users will lose access to their entire purchased content libraries if their Xbox One’s account is banned. Shortly after, Major Nelson said this was incorrect, and the account has since backtracked and apologized. This kind of misinformation doesn’t inspire much confidence, and that’s to say nothing of Microsoft’s comments about the new policies that have been confirmed.
During E3, Xbox exec Don Mattrick told Gametrailer’s Geoff Keighley that, “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.” He then proceeded to insert his foot even further into his mouth, stating that, “When I read the blogs and thought about who’s really the most impacted, there was a person who said, ‘Hey, I’m on a nuclear sub.’ I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub, but I’ve got to imagine that it’s not easy to get an Internet connection. Hey, I can empathize. If I was on a sub, I’d be disappointed.” Somehow, I think empathy isn’t quite the right word here. It’s also impossible to forget Adam Orth’s infamous “#dealwithit” when discussing Microsoft’s “empathetic” approach to the Xbox One.
All of this has led a lot of folks to wonder what Microsoft is thinking, and how far out of touch with consumers they’ve become. Whether or not the Xbox One will undergo any dramatic policy changes remains to be seen, but many are skeptical Microsoft even cares enough to try. In particular, Extreme Tech‘s Joel Hruska believes that, “the remarks that’ve come out to date paint a picture of a company that’s so drunk on its own Kool-Aid, they aren’t listening to outside criticism or commentary any longer.” A pretty grim assessment of a company that’s cultivated such an impressive fanbase in just two console generations. (Or perhaps “culled” is the more appropriate term, in this case.)
Personally, since neither console has released, it’s absurd to say whether or not either company is a success or failure; It’s simply much too early. We’d have to wait until the end of the second year to properly assess where each console maker is at and how their hardware is faring out in the market. That being said, Microsoft seems to be handing Sony all the ammunition they need to dominate the eighth generation of consoles in what looks to be a landslide. Only time will tell if either Microsoft will make the necessary changes consumers are demanding, or if the public at large will simply obediently comply with Microsoft’s overbearing lust for total control.
Where do you folks stand on the issues brought about by the Xbox One’s new policies? Should service members simply migrate to the PS4 and give up on Microsoft? Or does the Xbox One need to find a solution to accommodate active military? Share your thoughts in the usual place, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.