Why Markus “Notch” Persson sold Minecraft to Microsoft

So what would you do? Put up with all the stress and bullshit from complaining fans of your game, or would you sell like he did and become a billionaire?

Seems like an easy choice to me. Gamers can be obsessive, and that’s certainly with a popular game like Minecraft.

Cashing in seems like the obvious end game.

  

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.

  

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s Report Cards for E3 2013

I’ve mentioned before that E3 is an archaic institution the video game industry continues to put too much stock in, and still stick to that.

However, this year it seems that every major developer and publisher was determined to re-kindle that old spark the event used to have, and across the board triumphantly accomplished just that with an E3 filled with the usual great game announcements, but bolstered by one time only events like Microsoft’s follow up to the “Xbox One” debacle, Nintendo’s rebellious direct service announcements, and of course the true reveal of the PS4.

Ultimately, like so many E3s, it would be the announcements of the “Big 3” that stole the show, and are still on the lips of gamers worldwide. Now that the presentations are done though, how did the world’s largest game companies fare at the most publicized video game event in the world? Well, let’s start with…

 

Microsoft

Microsoft had a lot of explaining to do after a reveal of the Xbox One that emphasized multimedia capabilities over gaming, as well as invoked the dreaded ideas of used game restrictions, and mandatory internet connectivity, that generally left a lot of people feeling pretty irate, and unsure of the future of the system.

While there were many ways to go about this, they made the somewhat interesting decision to go out on stage, drop a turd, hang a $499 price tag on it, and exit stage left.

It’s not that the presentation wasn’t better than the reveal, it certainly was, but even though they did things like focus on major gaming announcements over any media aspects, it seemed even the best announcements came with a catch. A good example is the return of “Killer Instinct,” in the form of a free title. While it should have been an untainted glorious moment of shock and hype, even that was watered down by the reveal that you can only play as one character on the outset, unless you paid into the game’s freemium model. As for major reveals and unique announcements, they were few and far between, and did little to excite.

More than any individual announcements though, it was the greater ideas that hindered Microsoft and the Xbox One. Try as they might they couldn’t escape the stench of bullshit that lingered well after every mention of used games restrictions, online connectivity, and even ideas which challenge the very notion of game ownership itself. As a result, there was a certain tension surrounding the proceedings that prevented even the most exciting announcements from drawing more than the odd applause here and there. It was uncomfortable to watch at its best, and embarrassing at its worst.

Yet I can’t give Microsoft failing marks. Like it or not, they have created a system that addresses issues in the industry from a business perspective, and even though they are horrible, dreadful, just plain awful ideas for consumers, they are at least original approaches to creating a system. But despite the fact no one can accuse Microsoft of playing it safe, there’s also no conceiving the argument that says they played it smart, or even intelligible.

Grade: C-

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The Top 5 Biggest Gaming Mistakes Microsoft Has Made

The popular theory that no press is bad press was put to the test for Microsoft when their unveiling of the Xbox One was met with a series of very humorous memes, and a stunningly low approval rating, that many would have a hard time calling good press.

As bad as it was though, it’s not exactly the worst tragedy in the history of mankind, the video game industry or, for that matter, even Microsoft’s gaming division.

So while the controversial Xbox One may prove to be their biggest bust of all, for now let’s all keep things in perspective by revisiting the top five biggest mistakes Microsoft has ever made.

5. The Duke

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A controller is one of the most important parts of launching a video game system, and when that system is your first one ever, may even come to define part of your image for all time.

If that is true, then unfortunately part of Microsoft’s image will always be that of a big fat failure.

“The Duke” as it would commonly be referred to, was a gargantuan gaming controller recognized by Guiness as one of the largest of all time, and by everyone else as one of the worst. Awkward for most, and impossible for some, “The Duke” would later be phased out in favor of the Japanese model “Controller S.”

Though it would lead to one of best controller designs of all time in the “360 Wireless,” few will ever forget the pain and hand aches associated with “The Duke.”

4. HD-DVD

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Though Blu-Ray hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the way that DVD’s did, Toshiba’s similar “HD-DVD” format didn’t even make a spark.

Yet when it came time to support a next-gen disc format, which one do you think Microsoft chose?

In a way it’s difficult to fault them for doing so, since at that time the format wars were far fom resolved, and Sony was a big backer of Blu-Ray, but try telling that to everyone that jumped the gun and bought a 360 HD-DVD player, only to have it collecting dust along with a small stack of HD-DVD titles less than a year later.

3. Acquiring Rare

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When Microsoft acquired developer Rare for a cool $375 million, it looked like they had pulled off one of the great gaming coups of all time. After all, Rare was only one of the most storied developers ever, and had produced the greatest N64 games this side of Nintendo.

Much like a brilliant assistant coach leaving Bill Belichick though, once Rare was free from the umbrella of Nintendo’s influence, they would flounder in the spotlight.

While the re-make of “Conker” for Xbox was fun, and the 360 launch game “Kameo: Elements of Power” was decent enough, it was that other 360 launch title “Perfect Dark Zero” that would define their future with Microsoft.

It’s a future that includes titles ranging from boring to broken, with hardly a commercial or critical hit to be found. While some gamers hold out hope for the glorious return of one of gaming’s most famed developers, or maybe just a new “Killer Instinct,” it’s looking less and less likely the 11 year old mega deal will ever pan out.

2. Lack of Support for the Japanese Market

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As one of the first U.S. grown gaming systems to make it, Microsoft has always had a strained relationship with gamers from the land of the rising sun.

You could argue that they are up against a cultural barrier that isn’t entirely their fault, but from soft system launches in Japan to serious issues in successively seeking out major Japanese developer’s support, Microsoft has done no favors for themselves when trying to gain the support of the creatively, and financially, lucrative Japanese market.

In many ways it feels like they’ve completely written off the idea of ever really selling in Japan and, as a result, guarantee they will never be able to make a serious impact on their biggest rivals until they do.

1. The Red Rings of Death

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Really, what else could it be?

The Xbox 360 did a lot of great things for gaming, but instead of being remembered for the brilliance of Xbox Live, or an assortment of classic titles, the lasting image of the 360 will always be blinking red lights indicating a massive system failure that almost every 360 owner has had to experience at some point, or at the least fear forever.

Though a return and re-furbish option became available, once you got the red rings, you never really escaped them, just as Microsoft would never be able to escape the issue, even late into the system’s life span when the lights would become far less prevalent.

Instead the red lights of death are Microsoft’s version of herpes, in that they dealt with it once, and it’s now with them forever.

  

Much Like the Kinect, Microsoft’s Latest Decision to Take the Control of Games out of the Gamer’s Hands, Will be a Failure

 

I may never get a chance to do so elsewhere, so let me pay tribute to one of my favorite critics, the late, great Roger Ebert, by paraphrasing his famous review of the film “North” to convey my feelings on the news that the next Xbox will likely require you to always be online.

I hate that idea. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate it. I hate every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting implication of it. It hate the sensibility that thinks anyone will like it. I hate the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

While still not the official Microsoft statement, the recent, and soon to be infamous, tweets of Microsoft creative director Adam Orth on the subject seem to imply that if Microsoft isn’t already committed to the idea of making a console that requires an internet connection, they’ve certainly considered it.

Specifically he summed up the notion of a console that requires an internet connection with three simple words.

“Deal with it.”

Used as a rebuttal to every befuddled complaint thrown his way, Adam Orth would like it very much if we never dare question the motivations or intentions of Microsoft again. Because of these outlandish and insulting comments, Microsoft is now the ones who have to “deal with it,” as they scramble to make sure everyone knows that the views of Adam Orth “Do not reflect the customer centric views we take to our products.”

If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to laugh at that statement. You can either laugh at the implication that the creative director of Microsoft’s views somehow do not reflect the company he works for, or have a chuckle at the fact that the problem isn’t his viewpoints necessarily, but rather that he couldn’t say them in a more PR friendly manner.

Whatever you do though, don’t take this situation seriously. I do not mean to expect these rumors to turn out to be false (they most likely aren’t), but rather do not join the legions who will suddenly give credence to the notion of an online required console as a possible evolution of the medium, or attempt to play the devil’s advocate on the subject by attempting to analyze the notion as an inevitability.

For supporting this idea, Microsoft  is simply wrong. They were wrong when they released consoles that died more frequently than a light bulb, and they are wrong again in creating a new system that once again suggests that purchasing a console and owning a game does not guarantee your ability to use either.

There is no logical argument that exists to support a DRM system in the current state the technology exists in, for anyone not on the corporate take. While there are an abundance of logical arguments against the system, none should be used to entertain this particular notion. Instead, if you are opposed to this idea, please just laugh uncontrollably at it anytime a Microsoft representative brings up the idea publically, in order to pay the same respect to them, that they do to you by supporting DRM.

If the next generation Xbox is online only, it should also come with a statement that all owners must sign, have notarized, and officially submit to a court of law. That statement will read:

“We hereby wave our right to ever complain through any available medium regarding any technical issues that may arise preventing us from using our systems. We have weighed our options to choose rationality and common sense against blind allegiance, and have chosen to deal with it.”

  

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