Xbox One: Your Drug of Choice?

The effects of methamphetamines on the human body are well documented. The drug provides users a euphoric experience by overloading the brain’s dopamine receptors to the point where they burn out and are no longer available to function. Short term users of the drug report an inability to feel “as happy” as they used to; long term users report an inability to feel happy about anything, ever. Behavioral changes (often permanent) for users include paranoia, delusions, aggression, hallucinations, and more. Physically, meth constricts blood vessels and restricts blood flow, causing damage to the addict’s skin and specifically his or her gums, causing rapid tooth decay and loss. The sensation of having “bugs under the skin” often causes those on the drug to pick and scratch their own skin off. There is a notoriously high infection rate of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS among users of the drug due to the sharing of needles. Those the drug doesn’t kill quickly often find themselves homeless, in prison, or worse.

Based on that description one might be led to think that no sane person would ever try meth, much less use it on a regular basis. But the fact is, people do. Anyone with access to cable television knows that methamphetamines will unequivocally ruin their health and wreck their lives. Meth contains lye, the primary ingredient in drain cleaner. It contains ammonia, which can permanently affect your lungs by breathing it in a single time. It also contains lighter fluid, hydrochloric acid, brake fluid, Drano, ether, red phosphorus from matchstick heads, and of course, ephedrine. And the best part is, drug manufacturers have no incentive to change their product because people keep coming back for it. Like moths to a bug zapper, it gets ’em every time.

The first documented case of meth mouth.

This brings us to Microsoft’s newest console, the Xbox One.

Let’s face it: the original Xbox was weed. We all sat around the television, playing it late into the night while laughing and having a good time. Nobody cared that the thing weighed twenty-two pounds and came with controllers bigger than Christina Ricci’s head. All we cared about was four-player Halo, baby. And things were good when we moved to the hard shit (the 360) at first, until the upstream started squeezing in on the profits. And still it was so good that we put up with a lot of bullshit. I mean, a lot. Sure, those of us who drank beer in grade school have stories of blinky NES consoles and having to turn our original PlayStations upside down when the lasers got weak, but none of those problems had songs dedicated to them like Microsoft’s Red Ring of Death. I found a kid on Craigslist who was willing to fix my first one out behind Taco Bell on his dinner break. When it died a second time, I bought a new 360. When that one died, I bought a third one. I currently have more Xbox 360s than I have testicles. I also have an HD-DVD player — remember those? I have it to my kid as a chew toy and in return he threw it back at me. I still have the drive and the scar to prove it.

Never forget.

Before long we were all strung out, digging the change out from beneath our couch cushions to pay for downloadable content and getting advance loans against our paychecks to pay to play UNO online with our friends. (Note: Anyone who will play UNO online with you is not your friend. They are lonely old cat ladies, regardless of what their avatars may lead you to think.)

I want to say “and that’s when they got cocky,” but let’s face it, “they” have been cocky for a long time. “They” have been charging us $60 for the same football and first person shooters for over a decade now. The man behind the curtain figured out long ago that there’s a lot more money to be made in selling EA Sports games to frat houses than there is in investing in innovation.

A few years later, here we are again; only this time, everything fun has been pulled out of the mix. Gone are the marshmallows, the rainbows and the dancing unicorns. They’ve been replaced with lye, ammonia, brake fluid and liquid Drano.

Gamers in general have several concerns about the next generation of video game consoles. One concern is that Microsoft (and to be fair, Sony) will squash the used game market by preventing games from being played on more that one console. In their press conference this week, Larry Hryb (head of Xbox Live) confirmed that (a) all games will have to be installed from disc to the console’s hard drive to run, and (b) additional fees will be charged to install a game to a second console. Initially Hryb stated that the fee would be the same as the new cost of the game, but later recanted and said “that’s only one possible scenario.” Hryb also said that the game will be tied to your Xbox Live account, so if you wanted to play it at a friend’s house you could do so for free and it would just download it. Hryb failed to mention that the games will be of Blu-ray discs and could be up to 50gb in size. I hope your friend has a fast internet connection!

Speaking of which, another concern gamers have is that the new Xbox One will require a constant connection to the internet. “Not so!” says Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. It doesn’t have to be connected all the time… but it does have to be connected a lot. Microsoft’s plan is to offload much of the One’s processing and storage to the Microsoft’s new cloud processing system (Azure), features that require internet connectivity. When asked about the internet requirements of the One by Kotaku, Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison said that the One needs to connect to the Internet “once per day.” (Harrison did not state what would happen if this does not occur.) And while that might not technically be classified as a constant internet connection, developers have the option of building constant connectivity as a requirement into their games. When asked by Wired Magazine if he foresees many developers adding this to their titles, Xbox Live corporate vice president Marc Whitten replied, “I hope they do.”

Why is requiring a constant internet connection not a good idea? Ask the people who bought SimCity. Ask the people who bought Final Fight. Ask the people who bought Ubisoft games. These aren’t kids complaining that they can’t play pirated copies of their games; these are people who legitimately bought games and now cannot play them. In response to backlash about the Microsoft One requiring an internet connection, Microsoft creative director Adam Orth reponded with a picture that said “DEAL WITH IT”.

Ooh, and what about all those old digital downloads and physical games you bought for your Xbox 360? Surely the most power gaming console on the planet should be able to play those games, right? Well they probably could, but they won’t. The Xbox One has zero backwards compatibility. None. Zilch. Zippo. Because hey, if Microsoft’s not going to let you buy used One games, why would they let you buy and play used 360 ganes? (Or, you know, the 360 games you already own.) Fortunately the Xbox 360 has such a good track record for being reliable that I am sure our old 360s will be running years from now. If you missed the sarcasm in that last sentence, you skipped the earlier paragraph regarding Red Rings of Death.

Microsoft is also taking heat for Kinect 2.0, the new motion sensing technology. Kinect 2.0 is required for the Xbox One to work, so get ready for Michael Jackson Dance Party II: Elecric Boogaloo. Microsoft has stated that Kinect 2.0 is accurate enough to detect a human heart beat. It’s also always listening for your voice commands, so that you can power the One on with your voice when it is off. In other words, Microsoft wants us to put a box that can monitor every move we make and every word we speak, even when it’s “turned off”, in our living room. In a world where insiders say every phone call made and e-mail sent is recorded by the government, do we really want to drop an Orwellian wet dream in our living rooms? It’s bad enough that Amazon is still trying to sell me cases for my iPhone 3GS several years after I bought (and later sold) my iPhone 3GS. Now my goddamn TV’s going to try and sell me condoms because it can tell I get an erection every time I watch Married with Children.

Don’t judge me.

The most confusing part in regards to the Xbox One’s press conference was its focus on how it can be used as an entertainment hub. “You can watch TV on your Xbox One using LiveTV!” (If you live in the US.) Some of the other features touted by Microsoft included the ability to pop open windows and deliver content to my television screen while I’m trying to watch a program. I already have things that block what I’m trying to watch on television. They’re called children. I also have a device that gives me program information; it’s called an iPad. For those who like throwing their hands in the air and waving them like they just don’t care, the console will also allow viewers to change channels by flailing around like a pre-teen on her first roller coaster ride. Microsoft also mentioned that LiveTV will require a “supported receiver device with HDMI output, sold separately.” This seems like a pretty big investment to get my TV to pretty much do what it does today. There’s no word yet as to if the One can be used as a DVR, but you can bet if Microsoft thinks you’ll pay an extra few bucks a month to store recorded episodes of The Golden Girls in its cloud, they’ll offer it… and possibly try and sell me Depends in a pop up window while watching them.

Speaking of storing things in the cloud, let’s hope you can store your games there too because the Xbox One reportedly will ship with a non-user-replaceable 500gb hard drive. Using a worst case scenario of 50gb per game (dual-layer Blu-ray), that’ll be enough to hold 10 games (not including those Golden Girls episodes). And I still don’t understand how Microsoft thinks I’ll be able to log in at someone else house and download a game of that size. I’ve been downloading a torrent of Farrah Abraham’s Backdoor Teen Mom for two days now and I’m guessing it’s not the 1080p Blu-ray release.

In almost every way imaginable, it seems Microsoft has thumbed their noses at their current user base. It’s as if they think the Xbox One is meth and no matter of dangerous ingredients would ever dissuade you from buying one. Microsoft literally seems to have compiled a list of what gamers want in a next generation console and done the opposite when it comes to every single one of them. It’s like they’re daring you to not buy it. Microsoft thinks that gamers fiend for games so badly that they will put up with any amount of abuse to get them. It appears later this year, we’ll find out.

Ain’t I clean? Bad machine.
Super cool, super mean.
Feelin’ good, for the man.
Superfly, here I stand.
Secret stash, heavy bread.
Baddest bitches in the bed.

I’m your pusherman.
I’m your pusherman.
I’m your pusherman.

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