Recently, rather infamously, a Microsoft employee took to twitter to vent his frustration at fans who did not like the idea of an ‘always-online’ Xbox 720 console. It was a pretty embarrassing tirade from someone at Microsoft, especially when directed at fans and gamers that are obviously tech-savvy. Gamers nowadays are at the forefront when it comes to technology, so Microsoft can’t really afford the bad publicity from comments such as these.
This is because the people wanting information the most are the most hardcore of gaming fans. To show contempt and to disregard their voice will only turn them away. Gamers have always had to defend themselves in the tech industry. From various ban calls by politicians to game-breaking DRM control, gamers have never been shy to raise their voices. This will have further repercussions as casual gamers are more easily convinced by people in the know too. Negativity is definitely contagious.
The problem though comes from whether the Xbox 720 will force gamers to be ‘always-online’ to play games. If true, Microsoft and the Xbox 720 will be consistently panned by critics and gamers in every medium. Microsoft’s recent response to the twitter outburst has been that they won’t speculate on rumours, which doesn’t help their image. More and more people are coming to believe that the Xbox 720 will actually require an ‘always-online’ connection. With some time remaining until the likely launch of the console, that’s a lot of time for the negativity to spread.
It doesn’t help that Sony’s recent PS4 press conference was met with a lot of positivity, even if the actual console wasn’t shown off and only a handful of games were announced. Many are assuming that Sony is holding certain information and games back in order to keep PS4 momentum rolling through the year until the launch of the PS4 later in 2013. Many see that as a positive thing, and as I mentioned earlier, that positivity has spread through most entertainment mediums.
We’ve already seen two games this year that suffered from massive negativity. The first was DmC: Devil May Cry. The sheer amount of negativity behind the game made many people stay away from the final product. The final product however, was a pretty good game. Was it different from the originals? Yes. Was it a decent game? Yes. That early build up of negativity surrounding the game however dealt a massive blow to the game’s marketability. The game ended up selling a lot less at retailers compared to previous titles. Regardless of whether the game is bad compared to earlier titles, on its own, it is a decent game. That didn’t help beat the negativity though.
The other game that has been met with a lot of negativity has been SimCity. This one strikes an even stronger chord, as the problem behind SimCity stemmed from it requiring gamers to be ‘always-online’, but not being able to cope with demand. While the game may be recovering from the negativity of its launch, will future titles be safe from criticism if it still requires gamers to be ‘always-online’? I guess only time will tell. Microsoft’s blunder does come at an incredibly bad moment for those supporting the ‘always-online’ policy though.
Microsoft needs to quickly deny the presence of ‘always-online’ on the Xbox 720 if these rumours are indeed false. If true, Microsoft’s PR needs to do an outstanding job of convincing gamers that it is for the better. The ball is in their court, and the rumours of a Microsoft conference coming in May might just be in time to quell the negativity that is building up quickly.