If at first you don’t succeed…just say F#@K IT and cheat!
As any good boxer or MMA contender knows, you need more than one strategy going into a fight. Sometimes striking at your opponent’s greatest weakness, while other times you might do better to just shoot in with the ground n’ pound. Most memorably, I think back to Ali vs. Foreman in ‘74, when Ali hung back until Foreman tuckered himself out, and then delivered a few one-two blows to seize up the win. He knew his patented long-arm tactics which served him in the past would be ineffective, and that playing possum was his only real path to victory.
And that’s very much the state of mind Microsoft now finds themselves in heading into 2015.
I think it’s fair to say the path of the Xbox One is uncertain. Mind you, I’m not suggesting it’s going to drop off the face of the Earth in six months, as it’s very likely Microsoft will ride this pony until it collapses (at which time it will be drug out behind the barn and shot). Having said that, a future where Microsoft exists as a next-gen powerhouse is starting to look bleak. Even the most die-hard breed of Xbox fanboy has to be sweating just a little (scroll down to the comments section bellow to view them in their natural habitat). I mean, remove yourself from the gaming bubble we all live in for just a moment and let’s look at this objectively. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and being too close to an issue will never allow us to be truly introspective. Here we sit, just a few months before the end of the 2014 (and just a few weeks away from the one year anniversary of the next-gen launch). At this point, many expected the titans of the Xbox and PlayStation to be firmly locked in death-grip, with neither holding the upper hand quite yet. Instead, the PS4 is SO far ahead of the One, Sony is nothing more than a tiny blue dot to the folks at the Microsoft front-office.
So if we refer back to our earlier analogy, exactly what is Microsoft’s PLAN-B now that the opening round has resulted in a decisive TKO?
Money. A metric shit-ton of money is your answer. $2 Billion to be exact, as this is what many see as Microsoft simply buying their way back into the next-gen war (after being unable to stand toe-to-toe with their rival on hardware). We’ve recently learned Microsoft has set their sights on Minecraft publisher Mojang. If the rumors are true (and all signs point to yes in that regard), everyone’s favorite 8-bit, block-building sandbox will soon sport the Microsoft logo from here on out. I don’t know about you, but this kind of tactic both scares and irks me. The free market dictates consumers can cast their votes for which brands succeed and which do not (via the election of spending our gaming dollars at the register). When a company can come along and drop a huge bag of money on the table (ala Scrooge McDuck) and just change the course of the tide in any direction it chooses, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The exclusive nature of the product remains vague moving forward (meaning they may not cut off the PlayStation arm of the fanbase immediately). However, it’s clear Microsoft sees the best way to funnel support down to its platform is to create a one-way street with no u-turns, off-ramps or outlets. If that works, will their deep pockets stop with just Minecraft? What other franchises are now ripe for the plucking?
I grew up in an age where 3rd party exclusives often made the lives of one side of the gaming fence miserable, while the other horded all the fun. If you happened to find yourself on the wrong side (don’t forget series like GTA and WWE Smackdown were both Sony exclusives for a long while), you just had to sit idly by while others laughed manically. Now that practice has gone away for the most part, providing a more level playing field in which consumers can make decisions (rather than the top-down approach seen in the past). It would appear Microsoft is no longer comfortable losing such an advantage, and seeks to once again build up walls between our consoles. Couple that with the One’s abysmal debut in Japan’s “fresh new market,” and I’m wondering if Microsoft is just desperately trying to generate an artificial sense of relevance around its hardware (where none actually exists). We’ll just have to wait and see how this huge acquisition plays out, and the changing landscape gamers are left with as a result.
Essentially, this equates to telling all current and future Minecraft users “DO NOT PASS GO! DO NOT COLLECT $200! GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL…or in this case…Xbox.”