Monday, July 1, 2013

Don Mattrick Leaves Microsoft

Yes folks, in a move that's sure to break the hearts of so many, Don Mattrick, who succeeded Peter Moore in leading the Xbox division of Microsoft, has quit to pursue a job with Zynga.

While in past years my gripes with Mattrick would have been rather unimportant on the grand scale, based mostly around the homogenization of games development at Microsoft Studios, the fact that he was head of the division when they tried to push forth with an awful DRM platform which would have mostly fucked over the Xbox customer base, all the while displaying incredible arrogance and condescension, leads me without any hesitation to say that he shouldn't let the door hit him in the ass on his way out of Redmond.

So farewell to you Mr. Mattrick, you won't be missed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Today Microsoft shocked me and most everyone else by posting the following on 
"Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.
For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future.
Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world. 
So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means: 
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360. 
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360. 
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console -- there will be no regional restrictions. 
These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray. 
We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds. 
Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year"
 This news is awesome for everyone! The customers have made themselves heard and forced a behemoth to bend to their will. To all those who participated in the social media campaigns #PS4NoDRM and #XboxOneNoDRM, to all those who crashed the comments sections of Xbox videos so hard that MS had to shut off the comments completely, to those who responded to MS's Facebook promotions with ASCII-art middle fingers, to those who spoke with their wallets in pre-orders for non-DRM-hell consoles and spoke with their mouseclicks in online polls that embarassed Microsoft, and to those who created the educational .jpgs warning others about the awful DRM that spread like wildfire across the internet, THANK YOU!

In the face of the industry sycophants like Cliff Bleszinski and Totalbiscuit, who downplayed and/or ridiculed the efforts to fight back with social media campaigns and harsh criticisms, so many stood their ground, refused to give way to the cynicism and mockery and actually made a change. We saw it first when Sony acknowledged the NoDRM campaign and it's creator, NeoGAF's famousmortimer, in their press conference, and now after a few weeks of intense pushback Microsoft has raised the white flag and decided not to fuck it's customers over after all!

Before I close out this celebratory post, allow me to indulge in a moment of pure gloating excess:

 To all the apologists in the industry and games journalism who called the critical voices across the internet a bunch of entitled whiners, who implied that we're backwards troglodytes, that we're spoiled and that we are a loud and unimportant minority who don't amount to anything, all I can say is suck it, suck it hard motherfuckers! While you were willing to bend over and take the loss of first-sale freedoms for whatever petty reason, be it simple fanboyism, blind faith in unproven promises or licking the asses of the industry suits that give you free shit, we became an unavoidable storm that forced the corporate regime in Redmond to adapt or die. You kiss-ass shitlords lost, but the fact that you lost means you get a better and more user-friendly Xbox One than the one you would have gotten had we heeded your terrible advice to calm down and stay quiet. You can thank us later, after you've picked your egos up off the floor, but until then, YOU'RE WELCOME.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Rebuttal to Brenna Hillier

Since the earliest days of home consoles there have always been system wars and debates over the merits of which gaming platform is superior to all others. Most of the time this has revolved around simple preferences for one set of exclusive games versus another, and as advances in internet technology have evolved the debate has evolved alongside it to include service platforms and multiplayer infrastructures.

But a curious thing has happened in regards to the forthcoming generation which will see Sony's Playstation 4 engage in direct competition with Microsoft's Xbox One. The battle this time around isn't as much about exclusive vs. exclusive, or Playstation Network vs. Xbox Live or even technical specs like GDDR3 RAM vs. GDDR5 RAM. No, this time around due to completely opposing philosophies in the design of the operating systems we have a war between one company saying that we get to own the discs we pay $60 for and do with them as we please once the first sale has been made, and another saying that they control our access to the games we pay money for. 

While one of the platforms will continue on with game sales and operation in the manner we have always been accustomed to, the other will enforce a new paradigm for physical copies in that their permission is needed to play the titles, that we have limited options for trading, selling and sharing games and that essentially all discs are nothing but unlock keys for digital copies, ensuring that we don't own anything. With such a vast difference in these platforms the lines have been quickly drawn for the gaming audience and many are choosing sides based not on what games were impressive at E3 or the various reveal events, but based on where they as a consumer are willing to give and where they will put their foot down in regards to their views on ownership rights. Needless to say the conversation has been quite heated with Microsoft and their Xbone console receiving a less than warm reception as details of their DRM and online connectivity requirements surface.

It's within this controversy regarding the next-generation systems that I read an article posted at VG24/7 by Brenna Hillier titled "Console Wars: you're going to buy an Xbox One" (link here) which about made me want to smash my head against a wall before I decided I'd openly rebut the article here. So without further ado, I'll begin here:
 "I’m no Xbot, kids; I was a rabid Sony fangirl before I saw the light of platform agnosticism (otherwise known as tax deductible hardware purchases). It took me years to pick up an Xbox 360 and I barely use it, since I don’t like the control pad (small hands, see) or have time for many multiplayer shooters. But I know I’m going to get an Xbox One eventually, and truly I think if you are the kind of person who invests in more than one console, you probably will too."
"Platform agnosticism"  is an odd choice of words. Agnostic is a word most associated with debates over beliefs and knowledge claims in regards to Gods and Godesses, and while some may mistakenly think agnostic is halfway between the theist and the atheist, a fence-sitter shrugging their shoulders, the truth is that gnosticism and agnosticism apply to claims of knowledge and not belief. One can be a believer but still claim to not know for certain, thus being an agnostic believer. Agnosticism doesn't mean sitting perpetually in zen-like emptiness of bias and subjective opinion, forever on a fence of perfect objectivity. Agnosticism is simply claiming a lack of knowledge of the topic at hand.

So in regards to platform preferences, the agnostic wouldn't be the undecided person or the person who wants to be extra careful to hide any appearance of subjectivity and bias, it's the person who has no knowledge of the details about the differences between PS4 and the Xbone. A person with no knowledge of the differences in $60 ownership of game discs or $60 in permanent rental ecosystems is not who Hillier is addressing here, and I maintain that for any person who takes a good and hard look at the facts in regards to these platforms there really is no actual middle ground. Maybe, just maybe, if you get your systems and games for free as part of the industry you can have a perpetual position of shrugging your shoulders and ignoring the debate, but for those of us who have to pay for these things and deal with the long-term consequences I cannot fathom anyone still being completely objectively neutral. The details of both platforms' positions is crystal clear, we know exactly where Microsoft and Sony stand.
  "Sure, the Xbox One online stuff is inconvenient but just look at these games"
I seriously hope so few people are so wowed by a couple of videogames that they're willing to tell the entire games industry, which has spent years scapegoating it's own customers for it's self-inflicted financial woes and perfecting pitiful schemes to loot it's own fanbase's wallets, that we will gladly piss away our ability to use the things we purchase in a manner of our choosing over some shiny CGI promises of yet another installment in the Halo or Forza franchises. You give this industry an inch of rope and it doesn't take a mile, it takes a lap around the fucking planet, and then blames you when the rope costs too damn much.
 "But “quite annoying” could also easily be applied to PC gaming. Many of the restrictions Microsoft is introducing have been common in PC gaming for years, where the idea of trading used games is only just cropping up as a possibility again."
Oh boy, here we go with trying to compare the closed monopolistic ecosystem of Xbox with the open and competition-filled realm of the PC gaming industry. Are you fucking kidding me?

I already addressed this pitiful argument before (link here), but just for the sake of further argument let's pretend there's a valid comparison between Xbone and Steam. Who do you trust more between Valve and Microsoft to take care of customers? Last time Microsoft ran a DRM-laden download service, called MSN Music, they decided to close it and completely fucked over all the customers who had paid for content by shutting off all downloads and offering no DRM-removal options for the things people had saved. They basically rode off into the sunset with a fatter wallet and not a single fuck given about the customers whom they had done a disservice to.

Microsoft can't be trusted at all in this regard, but let's say Valve turns just as evil to compare the situations on even ground. At least on PC I can back my games up and crack the DRM, but under Big Brother Orwellian Microsoft's check-ins I'd have no way of doing that for Xbone software at all. After all, their 24 hour parole check-in is designed to prevent exactly those types of things from ever happening.
"If you were there, if you dipped into the oily vitriol that greeted Steam’s debut, did you ever expect things to turn out like this? Maybe it shouldn’t have. Maybe we should all be die-hard anti-DRM advocates. Maybe DRM really is purely anti-consumer in all its forms. I’m in two minds on that issue, and I’m not interested in debating it here. What I am interested in is whether the same thing is going to happen to the Xbox One. Will this storm blow over, as so many have before it?"
The DRM on Steam merits higher leniency of thought because it's got workarounds and they sell games oftentimes at prices comparable to consumable items, not the premium prices seen on consoles. We already know that next-gen console games are beginning once again at the $60 price point, and given Microsoft's online pricing record on XBL it;s highly suspect we'll see anything at all resembling the massive blowout sales seen on Steam, Good Old Games, Amazon or Greenman Gaming. Perhaps Microsoft can surprise us, and I'd be the first to eat crow if they did. But until I see some evidence of them taking initiatives like this before the Xbone launches I find no reason to believe they will once their new ecosystem is up and running. Microsoft hasn't showcased a reason for people to quiet their strong opinions on the subject, and what they have said and shown to us is worthy of the backlash they're suffering through.
"Apart from a few vocal outliers, nobody inside the industry really seems to want used games to go away."
If you think the people inside the industry who want used games to die out completely or be a shell of what they are now are outliers, and not just carefully hiding their opinions to avoid the hornet's nest that Microsoft has smacked wide open, then I have a bridge to sell you.
"it’s entirely possible that Microsoft is actually ahead of the trend in chasing a digital future – as it was when it focused on online multiplayer, coming into this last generation well ahead of Sony."
Microsoft is perpetually behind in anything relating to the digital future. Sure Xbox Live got a head start on making online console gaming more streamlined, but it was merely implanting features seen in PC gaming into the console space. Beating conservative Japanese companies like Nintendo and Sony to the punch in this regard is not that impressive a feat.

If you want a glimpse of who is really setting the tends in digital futures, take a step away from consoles and look at the tech sector as a whole. Microsoft only wishes it were on the ball like Apple and Google. Microsoft's business under the reign of Steve Ballmer has displayed nothing but failure after failure in trying to compete against those two companies. Given the pitiful revenue intake and corporate status of their entertainment division which houses Xbox, I highly doubt the Xbox brand will stick around if it ends up selling at the rates the WiiU is currently selling at, or the rates the PS3 did circa spring 2007.
"No matter how strongly we rail against the Xbox One, how much we all focus on the negatives instead of embracing the positives, the Xbox One will sell and it will be successful. After all, it’s got Halo. It’s got Titanfall. It’s got all your Xbox Live friends. And it’s got your Gamerscore. Eventually, it will have you."
And here it is folks, the coup de grĂ¢ce! If you are one of the core gaming audience who Microsoft is wanting to sell a $500 gaming device to (and at $500 the core is pretty much the only audience) then you are part of a vocal minority who likes to complain and you don't matter! Don't you just love how this narrative keeps popping up in games journalism and from industry types? It's so easy to dismiss everything with the wave of a hand, claim that the views of those who are critical don't represent and important group and then go forth with proclamations that the critics are all a bunch of sheep who will piss their money away against their own self-interests because of Halo 5 or Titanfall.

Don't make any mistakes, I admit there's a good number of fools who support the absolute worst cash-grabs the AAA Gaemz Industree™ comes up with, and there will be people who buy and support this DRM-infested shitstain of a console. But to claim that those who are planning on avoiding financing the fleecing of an entire userbase will relent because of shiny mechs and Master Chief is straight out of the condescension playbook currently being used by arrogant Microsoft executives, and once employed by a Sony exec named Ken Kutaragi who found himself out of a job when the Playstation brand went from 85%+ console marketshare to sub-33% in the space of one single console transition. 

Is it possible that the Xbone will be a hit? Well yes, there's always a possibility of anything, but the probability seems to decrease day after day as each bit of news hits. As mainstream outlets like Wall Street Journal, Forbes, BBC and NBC criticize Microsoft's plans, as pre-order numbers and launch allotments skew more and more in Sony's favor and as news of Xbone needing an entire year to even hit some regions comes to light, the probability of this console succeeding like the 360 did continues to shrink. This is especially noteworthy with so much of the negativity centered in the US and UK markets, the only ones where the Xbox brand ever had any real traction to start with.

But in spite of all of that, the narrative is being built that says the gamers are just whiners; simplistic and primitive troglodytes in this new digital era who hate change. The fence-sitters who cringe at any negativity, no matter how justified, will call for people to wait and see while more and more of the entities who run the AAA Gaemz Industree™ continue to manage themselves into bankruptcy and then try to shift blame to the customers rather than shitty planning and management skills. 

Let me make this clear: If harsh criticism of Microsoft upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, place the blame on them and not the critics. It's not the critics who decided to try and ram anti-consumer initiatives down the market's throat by brute force. It's not the critics who decided that the reveal event for a games device should have almost no footage of any actual games being played, but plenty of The Price is Right. It's not the critics who decided an implied rape joke against a female player during the Killer Instinct demonstration was a funny bit of griefing. It's not the critics who are implementing systems that will screw over small businesses, smaller publishers and long-term game collectors and preservationists just to appease bloated corporate entities that can't sustain themselves through making better products at more efficient costs.

Those of us casting negativity at Microsoft right now do so because Microsoft decided that this was the device to display to the world and the means of displaying it. Now that they've played their hand the whole world is responding in the marketplace of ideas and Microsoft is deservedly getting thrashed. As Jim Sterling put it, Microsoft didn't decide to wage a war on Sony and Nintendo, they decided to wage a war on consumers. Well, the consumers are fighting back, and as far as I'm concerned the fence-sitters trying to maintain the image of perfect enlightened and detatched objectivity while criticizing the positions of those who have chosen to participate in the discussion unfiltered and uncensored have no intellectual ground to stand on. By all means defend whatever merits you think the Xbone has. Buy one come launch if you desire to. Go forth and debate with those who differ with your stance until your fingers go numb, but don't try and act like you're above the fray just because some people say something mean to a soulless profit-driven corporation. Microsoft brought all of this heat onto itself, and it's too late to call a time-out.

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- for Next-Gen?

Last month's reveal of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- was a moment of joy for the fighting game community, but very little info was forthcoming then and the game was nowhere to be seen at last week's E3 show.

Today Siliconera posted some info based on an interview with Arc System Works president Minoru Kidooka (link here) in which he stated that Guilty Gear Xrd will be making an appearance at E3 2014 and that they are considering designing the game for next-generation platforms.

It seems nothing is decided in stone yet, but in regards to next-generation platforms, I will gladly take Guilty Gear Xrd as a PS4 title, complete with true 1080p 60fps performance and a sweet-ass Guilty Gear themed arcade stick to accompany it's release.

I say go for it Arc System Works! Make Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- a landmark for fighting games in the next console cycle!

RUMOR: Valve Mailing List Data Revealed

Today some alleged screencaps taken after an exploit was opened in Valve's project management software called Jira spread across the internet. In these screens we see mentions of teams working on the oft-rumored games Half Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3 and a new iteration of Valve's game engine, Source.

Given all the false positives and faked leaks that came before in regards to a potential Half Life 3, I'm choosing to remain skeptical on this until concrete proof is shown. So far we've got the story breaking from the site (link here) with anonymous sources and claims that Valve has now closed the exploit, leading to advice that one shouldn't even bother trying to get into it.

All of this sounds suspicious to me, but I'll go ahead and post the caps here:

Monday, June 17, 2013

History Repeats Itself?

"It’s probably too cheap…"
-Former Sony executive Ken Kutaragi in regards to the announcement of the PS3 launching at $599

"…for consumers to think to themselves ‘I will work more hours to buy one’. We want people to feel that they want it, irrespective of anything else."

– Ken Kutaragi, again, attempting to justify the $599 price tag

"We do not care."

– Kaz Hirai, then President of Sony's gaming division, on the Wii and 360

In 2005 and 2006, Sony, who was riding high on the dominance they had with the Playstation 2, displayed an incredible amount of arrogance in regards to the upcoming Playstation 3. Now that seven years have passed and we've seen Playstation go from the top of the world to circling the drain and then rise up again in an epic comeback, it's interesting to note the parallels between the statements coming from 2006 era Sony executives and those coming from Microsoft execs in 2013.

But don't take my word for it, take theirs at face value:  

"I think it's fair to say there's a segment of consumers at this show in particular who really pay attention, who are very passionate about all aspects of gaming, and that we listen to closely. In a broader set of community, people don't pay attention to a lot of the details. We've seen it in the research, we've seen it in a lot of the data points."

- Xbox Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehd, downplaying the outrage over the Xbone as irrelevant since most consumers don't pay attention anyways 

“I don’t think,… I mean we’re really not going to change anything we’ve done with Xbox One. We’re very happy,… did you see the games on stage during our briefing? Did you see the exclusives? I mean we’re really really proud of the system and the games that are coming out. When you look at games like TitanFall,… have you gone through Titanfall yet? Enough said. Conversation over"

-Xbox Live Director Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson, regarding the disparity in recption at E3 between the Xbone and the PS4 

"Fortunately we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity, it's called Xbox 360"

-Don Mattrick, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, responding to concerns of gamers in the military who don't have access to first-world internet much of the time

Notice in both batches of quotes the assumption from the execs that we're all fucking stupid and will buy anything just because they hype it. Notice the levels of condescension in their words and the dismissal of all contrarian concerns.

Sony had to crash pretty hard before they straightened themselves out. The spring after the PS3 launch, when it was selling at or below 80K units a month in the US marketplace and getting trounced by the soon-to-be-retired Gameboy Advance monthly, it almost looked like the PS3 would go the way of the Virtual Boy, the Dreamcast and the Dodo bird.

Now, seven years later, it appears Microsoft is following the 2006 Sony strategy of thinking they can ignore criticism because they will steer us lowly customers to buy into their grand visions and dreams, no matter how often the marketplace trends show that we simply want a box that plays the latest game software, and plays it well, and that alternate functionality is a take it or leave it proposition which is nice to have, but not if it costs us an arm and a leg or our freedom to use the things we buy in the manner of our own choosing.

Take heed Microsoft, you're walking a path that may threaten the entire Xbox division. Many of your investors don't like the entertainment section of Microsoft as is, due to years of losses in the billions of dollars, the history of failed products like Zune and Windows Phone and the low revenue and profit of the division when compared to products like Office.

Next-Gen Console Comparison