Many gamers were overjoyed on Wednesday when Microsoft announced it would remove the most controversial restrictions for the Xbox One after much backlash. No longer would Xbox One owners need to connect their consoles to the Internet once a day or face byzantine restrictions on selling used games when they buy the systems in November.
While the stunning change of heart showed the power of public pressure, the death of these features to quell angry gamers has brought out another set of critics.
It's clear that Microsoft had envisioned a future of gaming that was really, truly always connected -- though some of their assumptions may have been a bit ambitious. The original page on the Xbox site regarding connecting online made the dubious assumption that "every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection."
But Microsoft's original plan would have allowed digital games to be shared with 10 friends and family, with others being able to log in and play the titles. The cloud-based system would mean that software could be available from any console, sans physical disc, and downloaded titles could be shared and sold -- though it wasn't necessarily clear how.
"We think, actually, that having the content that’s yours go with you is an important thing," Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer told Edge, before the company's about-face. "You could have multiple Xbox Ones, your content is yours on every one of them, and it doesn’t require that you carry discs back and forth."
Over at Gizmodo, Kyle Wagner broke down the Xbox One's vision for the future of gaming and how -- perhaps a bit optimistically -- the system's setup would lower game prices. With publishers missing the entirety of the $1 billion the used game market nets Gamestop alone, this new used game ecosystem would mean more money for the people that actually made the games. Wagner likened the system to the Steam marketplace for PC gamers, which despite years of growing pains while working out the kinks, actually ended up becoming the beloved, affordable gaming darling it is today.
At Ars Technica, Kyle Orland saw Microsoft's vision as something resembling Netflix, one where gamers could pay a flat rate to rent games, like a digital GameFly. The problem is that Microsoft did not do a very good job at selling these "imagined" features, instead leaving gamers to dwell on obvious limitations of owning an Xbox that needed a daily Internet connection.
Many have pointed out that the dedication to physical games is akin to advocates of physical music putting down digital songs, which, of course, have become increasingly popular. In a perfect world they envision that the gaming market would go the way of music: an emphasis on digital, but still with a option to buy physical games -- or CDs or vinyls if you're a music fan.
While Microsoft may have quelled an ongoing PR disaster with many gamers beating their chests in victory, it's clear there's still a debate on what was lost in the midst of temporary gain.