In Changing Their Strategy, Microsoft has Deprived Gamers of a Villain

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After a backlash that will rank as one of the most powerful ever seen in the world of video games, Microsoft recently made the surprising decision to back down on some of their more controversial Xbox One policies.

Specifically the Xbox One will now no longer restrict the sale and use of used games, and game buying and sharing will work largely as it has this previous generation, including maintaining the classic game use archetype of just sticking a disc in the console. They’ve also dropped the unpopular measure that would ask you to “check in” online once every 24 hours, regardless of if you’re actually playing online or not.

Considering the set the world on fire kind of hatred these and other Xbox One policies drew, you’d think this announcement would be met with a shower of rose petals and a loud and proud declaration from the Microsoft faithful, and gamers everywhere, that the console war is on once more.

Instead the reaction is more…interesting.

See it turns out that very vocal gaming group who spoke so adamantly against the Xbox One’s features, are now many of the same gamers who are taking to message boards on sites around the web, and are complaining about Microsoft’s lack of conviction, or how this still changes nothing for the more expensive console. The most interesting argument though, best vocalized by Gizmodo, comes from the once silent minority that now loudly argue that some of the same policies Microsoft was villainized for, were actually potentially great ideas.

To understand this sudden turnaround of emotion, you have to take into account the pride gamers have.

See, people don’t brag about what brand of microwave they own, nor does the maker of your Blu-Ray player incite many flame wars. But who makes your video game console? That does matter to people. People attach themselves to a system and react personally to any successes, or failures, endured along the way. The most vocal of which are described as fanboys, but really every gamer takes some sort of stance on the console they chose.

It’s a timeless tradition that may be occasionally entertaining, but is also very tiring. The fact is that if the average consumer could afford to buy all video game consoles, they would. That they can’t is a big reason that pride exists in the way it does.

The Xbox One changed things though. It gave people a villain. A black hated system that the average gamer could point to and say “That’s the bad guy!” Gaming has not really had something like that on the level of the Xbox One, and there was a certain comfort people took in decreeing the PS4 the champion of the people.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Microsoft listened to the complaints and gave people what they seemingly wanted, because all they did was test people’s pride, and force them to react in ways that don’t make them back down from the once so clear views of the console battlefield that existed not long ago. A large number of people not only invested their money in backing the PS4 early, but that pride as well.

The thing is this though. Sometimes, determining the villain is a matter of perspective. If Microsoft had truly believed that their policies would win people over in the end, no amount of heat would have forced them to abandon their beliefs, and they would have (albeit slowly) reaped the rewards of putting out a system they could stand behind and fully support. They would have ceased to be the villain, and would have become the battle tested hero…the only thing people love more than a golden boy.

If  that wasn’t the case though, then make no mistake that Microsoft made the smart business decision to change their policies. However, if they hoped that they would be carried on the shoulders of the populace all the way to the throne in doing so, they have underestimated the pride of gamers. What’s worse is that very pride now forces those same gamers to question if a company that can make such major changes to their system based on knee jerk impressions, has any pride of their own.

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