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Revisiting Ben Kuchera's "Xbox One Backlash Doesn't Matter"

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Bigkrev

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,013
Now that we are in December, we are past the final Fall release season where the PS4/XB1 are the main consoles, as we will likely be playing on new hardware by this time next year. I wanted to revisit an infamous piece by Ben Kuchera, that was originally published on Penny Arcade about a week after the infamous reveal of the Xbox One. Penny Arcade ended their article section years ago and the content is no longer available, but you can still read the article on the Wayback Machine.

Lets get the easy joke out of the way first, before we actually dig in to some of the more interesting elements...
Let’s get a few things out in the open before we start. Sony is sure to offer a similar system to whatever Microsoft will ultimately announce. Sony executives danced around this issue during their own reveal, and their strategy of letting Microsoft take the heat on this issue has proved effective. Microsoft is taking a massive PR hit right now, and Sony is comfortable sitting back and letting that happen. Right now, they look like the good guys.

...

The PlayStation 4 could be over before it begins if Sony loses the support of the mega-publishers, and right now those publishers have Sony over a barrel. Whatever Microsoft is doing with used games, expect at least an analogous solution from Sony.
In hindsight, this is all hilarious with the concept of the western-developed third party exclusive game dying this generation, and with the fact that Sony would just say "hey, used games are fine" a month later at E3, but it's interesting to see how much of a focus there was by publishers on combating used games back in 2013, especially as in 2019, Gamestop has evolved into a Toy Store that is struggling to survive. Instead, this generation, we saw things like Live-service games/extended support for games, subscription services, and digital distribution murder the used game market without any of the "blowback" that would come from a heavy-handed approach that Microsoft tried to pitch at the time.

While there is a ton to discuss about this, I think the most interesting thing to see in 2019 is the next section of the article

This isn’t a backlash
The second thing we have to remember is that a hashtag and a few blog posts isn’t a backlash. No one at Microsoft or Sony cares about what you post on the forums of your favorite gaming website. I hate to be the bearer of bad news in this regard, but right now the reaction to the possible used game restrictions amounts to a fart in the wind.

What matters is consumer behavior, and we don’t have any data points to show us how things have changed. Well, we know that outlets are reporting Blockbuster pre-orders of the Xbox One are “record-breaking,” but we don’t have a good idea of what that means, nor if that behavior will translate to other regions and other retailers.

Companies don’t care about what you say, they care about what you do, and right now no one has had the chance to do anything. From Sony and Microsoft’s point of view, you haven’t reacted to this news at all. Twitter is noise, they care about what you do with your wallet.
"Twitter is Noise" reads hilariously in 2019. We live in an era where President Shitbag is just blasting out thoughts unfiltered on the platform, and where companies will bend over backwards to fix "mistakes" they make on it. The idea that a company would walk back a decision because people on Twitter are angry was laughable in 2013, but now it's expected on a daily basis! Traditional forms of marketing- TV ads, banners, etc- are falling by the wayside for various types of social media advertisement, mainly centering around "influencers" being paid to promote your products on the platform, or by running accounts that make people think about your brand more on a regular basis (Arbys, Sonic the Hedgehog, etc). High-level decisions at companies are being made based on social media metrics (which don't actually account for any $$$) than they are on traditional statistics like sales.

There are various aspects around the launches of these systems that the article doesn't cover- the at-the-time rise of Facebook gaming, the failure of the WiiU making people think the Wii audience was lost forever and that the industry was going to contract in population, the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of smartphone gaming, the fact that these consoles were launching a little too late but also were launching a weird inflection point for media (ie, the fact that Xbox focused so much on TV)- that were all factors in what happened this generation, and that the rise of game streaming and e-sports would change the industry as well, but it's fascinating to see just how... wrong a lot of people were about a lot of things back in 2013.

Obviously, Microsoft would walk a lot of the stuff back- No more manditory online/Kinect/no used games, but they clearly suffered this generation for the sins they made at the reveal, and that Gaming is stronger now than it has ever been. When both new systems are revealed in the next 6 months, we are probably going to have more articles about why some of the changes they are making won't matter. I just hope that writers take the lessons of 2013 Xbox into account when they write their next piece.
 

WrenchNinja

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,493
Canada
I will forever associate Kuchera with "fart in the wind". This article was so bad then and it's even worse reading it now.
 
Oct 27, 2017
3,527
Ben Kuchera doesn't matter, tbh. That said, I'm impressed by the work Microsoft has done to turn things around. Hopefully we'll the fruits of their labor next gen.
 

SteveWinwood

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,508
USA USA USA
why is that a "feature" and not some sort of oped

it reads like a bad forum thread

with the person desperately wanting to seem like they know what they're talking about and everything
 

thebishop

Member
Nov 10, 2017
1,942
There's a few clownish journos who got discredited in this period. I never thought about it before but I mostly stopped listening to gaming podcasts around that time when I used to subscribe to like 10.
 

Deeke777

Member
Oct 25, 2017
352
United States
The backlash was probably the best thing that happened to Microsoft. Just like the Wii U's failure was incredibly instrumental to the Switch's success.
 

Derachi

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,292
Ben Kuchera is always one of my favourite writers to read, because he almost always approaches any topic with a know-it-all gusto, an unwavering belief in what he's saying, and what he says is almost always comically wrong/uninformed. It's an endless source of comedy to me.
 

qatak

Member
Oct 27, 2017
78
Ben Kuchera is maybe the most consistently wrong games media writer I can think of lol. What makes it even funnier is how confident he continues to be about literally everything he says.
 

Sixfortyfive

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,216
This is fun to revisit, yes. Kuchera reads like so many know-nothing know-it-all corporate bootlickers on this forum. Not naming names.

I'll say this, though. As much as I genuinely appreciated Sony's rejection of and Microsoft's eventual walk-back of that insane DRM plan, the industry at large has largely done as much as it could to kill used games and physical media regardless. I still have a huge preference for physical media in general, but it's kind of hard to argue real-life benefits of going that route for a lot of games when they're dependent on installing to the HDD, huge patches, and yearly season passes anyway. It's why I've largely shifted to a combination of Nintendo / PC / retro.
 

Aaron

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
12,549
Admittedly I bought into the idea that Sony would do something similar with the PS4 in terms of a used game lockout, but I knew immediately Kuchera was full of shit and his article was nothing more than pitiful corporate ass-kissing.
 

Syril

Member
Oct 26, 2017
4,846
At that time there were a lot of cases of hostility from the media towards backlashes in general. There were people trying to turn DmC Devil May Cry into a fucking culture war and also that one guy at Polygon who kept getting into arguments with people over whether Sim City could function offline.
 

Border

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,663
You do realize this guy doesn't care about being right or predicting trends? All he cares about are views, clicks, and attention. You can read over this again and say "Ha ha, look how wrong this guy was," but then you'd just be falling into the same trap people did 6-7 years ago.

I see no need to dignify this archaic and contrarian hot take with further examination. It's already long since served its purpose and been shuffled into the trash heap.
 

Orb

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,836
USA
I'll be honest and say it mattered more than I thought it would. I figured Microsoft was just the first to make a step that was inevitable and people would just kind of accept it. But it became obvious how much it mattered when they did a complete 180 on it.
 

Jonnax

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,132
Remember Ars Technica saying that selling a million day one didn't mean anything?

The press seemed intent on branding consoles dead in favour of mobile.

I remember Arthur Gies was a name back then, but I can't remember what he was saying.
 

Sixfortyfive

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,216
At that time there were a lot of cases of hostility from the media towards backlashes in general. There were people trying to turn DmC Devil May Cry into a fucking culture war and also that one guy at Polygon who kept getting into arguments with people over whether Sim City could function offline.
How much has changed, honestly?

You could draw a lot of parallels to the general media reaction to things like the Epic Game Store. Epic's transgressions aren't as egregious as Microsoft's, but there's certainly a "who cares about the consumer or the indies" attitude that colors such a huge percentage of words that people ever bothered printing about it.

--------------------------------------------------

This is still my favorite post from OldGAF btw (by faceless007):

"Well, this is the disconnect I guess. You admit you only hold this view because of the detrimental effects (you think) are impacting the industry. You are asserting that a fundamental aspect of property rights and consumer rights as it has existed since the beginning of trade should be adjusted and recodified on a per-industry basis, not because it's inherently bad or unethical, but just because you think it's a threat to the industry's health. Which means you are essentially arguing for protectionism for corporations--consumers are free to exercise their consumer rights only up to a certain point, but if that free exercise is perceived to threaten the viability of the industry, then their rights must be limited in order to save the industry.

I don't think I can put into words my disgust at this demeaning display of groveling at the feet of your game developer overlords. Even a die-hard laissez-faire capitalist would not be so subservient, because even a capitalist would accept that sometimes industries die and that's the way the world works. As much as I enjoy games, there is no inherent good in this industry. The ends do not justify the means here; there is nothing that makes the gaming industry inherently worthy of preservation, not to the point that would justify carving out a special exemption for them where used games are somehow magically not OK when they are OK for every other packaged good on the planet. Just because your favored set of content producers couldn't properly adapt does not justify rewriting the rules of what "property ownership" means and fundamentally removing the ability to preserve, inherit, pass on, lend, and share its products.

The industry does not come first; consumers do. I have no sympathy for an industry that cannot properly stumble its way around a viable secondhand market like every other mature industry in the world. Sometimes your old product just isn't good enough, and the way you solve it is by making a better product, not by forcing consumers to adapt to your archaic and myopic business model with your dying breath. If this industry can't find a way to make money off the primary market -- even with DLC and exclusive pre-order content and HD re-releases and map packs and online passes and annualized sequels and "expanding the audience" and AAA advertising and forced multiplayer -- then, if I may be so blunt, fuck it. It doesn't deserve our money in the first place. If an entire industry has its head so far up its ass, is so focused on short-term gains, and has embraced such a catastrophically stupid blockbuster business model in the pursuit of a stagnant market of hardcore 18-34 dudebros that it thinks it has no choice but to take away our first-sale rights as its last chance of maybe, finally, creating a sustainable stream of profits, then it can go to hell. It doesn't need your protection, it needs to be taken out back and beaten until it remembers who its real masters are.

I especially have a hard time having any sympathy because so many of the industry's problems are of its own making. They chose to focus on shaderific HD graphics over long-lasting appeal and gameplay; they chose to focus on linear scripted cinematic B-movie imitations that were only good for one playthrough instead of replayability and open-ended design; they chose to pour so much money and marketing into military porn and fetishized violent shootbang Press A to Awesome titles, exactly the kinds of games that hardcore gamers, the most likely gamers to trade in games quickly were prone to buying and reselling; and perhaps most galling, they chose to give Gamestop loads of exclusive pre-order bonuses while they knew exactly what Gamestop would say to those customers once in the store. They kept making insanely lavish and nonsensical displays of spectacular whizz-bang, despite that being exactly the kind of game most susceptible to trading after one week because there was nothing left to do with it. And now they're discovering that putting so many insanely expensive eggs into one fragile and easily breakable basket is maybe not the most sustainable business model ever.

So forgive me if I find myself not caring one bit when the industry complains that it's just so hard to sell six million copies of Gears of Medal of Battle of Uncharted Angry Dudes VII in the first week and that's why they need to take away used sales for the entire platform. No, the problem isn't at this end."
 

Complicated

Member
Oct 29, 2017
2,684
Change it to "Xbox One Backlash Shouldn't Matter" and you could write a decent article that was way ahead of the curve considering how things went the last several years even after Microsoft walked back a lot of stuff.

Between things like Game Pass and how digital has all but overtaken retail spending on games (Xbox One SAD selling boatloads at Black Friday this year) it's funny to look back at the stuff they were talking about like sharing digital game licenses and reselling digital games before all that stuff got cancelled.
 

B.O.O.M.

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,783
Remember Ars Technica saying that selling a million day one didn't mean anything?

The press seemed intent on branding consoles dead in favour of mobile.

I remember Arthur Gies was a name back then, but I can't remember what he was saying.
oh god the hilarious shit that happened leading up to the launch.

Does anyone remember the Polygon live videos where they were blatently hating on the PS4 lol what a time.
 

N.Domixis

The Fallen
Oct 28, 2017
7,153
Wow. Really? Is this really why you havent bought one? I means 6 years is a long time to hold a grudge for something that was abandoned like less than a year after release.....
He’s not alone, they burned all bridges for me unfortunately. What they tried to pull was insane. Once all the people that were there during the one reveal leave I’ll give them a second chance. Phil Spencer, Major Nelson, Greenberg. Mike Ybarra and Penelo have left.
 
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InsaneTiger

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
4,464
The idea that Sony would lose mega publisher support is weird. Why did he think that would happen?
 

FlintSpace

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,190
Ok I am a little out of the loop here but we are basically digging up old graves to make fun of people who acted like assholes ?

Because the debate over how MS misread their market is done to death.
 

sirap

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,776
South East Asia
At that time there were a lot of cases of hostility from the media towards backlashes in general. There were people trying to turn DmC Devil May Cry into a fucking culture war and also that one guy at Polygon who kept getting into arguments with people over whether Sim City could function offline.
Still happens today, but now they have an easy out (thanks to GG and the alt-right)
 

Berordn

Member
Oct 26, 2017
5,470
Orlando, FL
The idea that Sony would lose mega publisher support is weird. Why did he think that would happen?
At the end of the PS3/360's lifecycle we had all those online passes coming out, and there was a general assumption that online only was the natural conclusion to that. The Xbox move seemed like it existed exclusively to curry favor from publishers and that Sony would be left out in the cold.

Hindsight's everything though, and we know now that it wasn't used game sales killing the industry but fatigue from the console cycle.
 

AegonSnake

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,098
Ok I am a little out of the loop here but we are basically digging up old graves to make fun of people who acted like assholes ?

Because the debate over how MS misread their market is done to death.
there is nothing wrong with learning from history.

especially when we see the same mistakes happening all over again.
 

Cactuar

Member
Nov 30, 2018
2,654
He was right, it doesn't matter. Had they delivered on the must-have games front, it wouldn't have mattered. The PS3 started off bad but by the end of the generation had outsold the 360, a system that released a full year before it. Exclusives like MGS4, The Last of Us and the Uncharted franchise helped with that. Xbox One stumbled out of the gate with those statements, but had they delivered on the must-have exclusives - games, what really matters - they too could have turned it around, despite the used game/etc. nonsense. You think Joe-Blow on the couch with his mom cares about E3 statements? Casuals could give a shit, they care about games, not press conferences. You can overcome a bad start if you deliver the goods in the end.
 
OP
OP
Bigkrev

Bigkrev

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,013
Ok I am a little out of the loop here but we are basically digging up old graves to make fun of people who acted like assholes ?

Because the debate over how MS misread their market is done to death.
I think it’s interesting to look at what people thought were important at the start of the last generation vs what is going to be important at the start of the next one

i can already read in my mind “Sony charging $60 for Knack 3/Killzone 5 at launch is terrible when Microsoft is giving Halo Infinite and Forza 9 for free” articles!
 

sthef360

The Fallen
Oct 28, 2017
488
The backlash was probably the best thing that happened to Microsoft. Just like the Wii U's failure was incredibly instrumental to the Switch's success.
This 100%

Industry has been around long enough now that we see how these “success -> arrogance -> redemption” cycles happen.

With GamePass, backwards compatibility, their cozying up to PC gaming, and maybe even XCloud if it rolls out well, I can’t help but feel like Msoft is looking a lot like 2012 Sony right now. Where they were getting their ducks in a row to get the PS4 off on a good foot, instituting free games with PS+, and snuggling up to indies. Add that together with a population of 20-somethings primed to feel nostalgic for a Halo launch title, and who have been away from Xbox for a while (“all my 360 games are on this thing?!”)? There’s real potential they got a stew going as long as they don’t bungle anything up.
 

Sixfortyfive

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,216
He was right, it doesn't matter. Had they delivered on the must-have games front, it wouldn't have mattered. The PS3 started off bad but by the end of the generation had outsold the 360, a system that released a full year before it. Exclusives like MGS4, The Last of Us and the Uncharted franchise helped with that. Xbox One stumbled out of the gate with those statements, but had they delivered on the must-have exclusives - games, what really matters - they too could have turned it around, despite the used game/etc. nonsense. You think Joe-Blow on the couch with his mom cares about E3 statements? Casuals could give a shit, they care about games, not press conferences. You can overcome a bad start if you deliver the goods in the end.
I love how we live in a future where the course of history was literally altered because of this very backlash, and yet you still manage to type "it doesn't matter."

Yes, I agree. Had we lived in a completely alternate universe where what actually happened was entirely different, then yes, perhaps it would have not mattered.
 

abellwillring

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,444
Austin, TX
I will say that I genuinely agree with his twitter is noise comment -- backlash rarely affects anything. But the moment they said there would be no physical games my crew and I made the decision to switch to PS4 instead for our next gen after years of playing together on 360. At the time, I simply was not willing to give up renting games and having resale. I still prefer it, but I've definitely transitioned to digital more and more as time goes on. You can't just remove that option though -- it was incredibly anti-consumer and I showed that with my wallet.

Still don't have an Xbox One after getting all the systems for many generations in a row. The main reason I've never got on board though is there simply isn't an exclusive killer app for the Xbox. That was what really killed them -- not the original backlash. They somehow failed to ever secure a big western RPG exclusive like a KOTOR or an Oblivion. There just hasn't been a need for an Xbox this gen.
 

aeolist

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
4,043
kuchera was really ahead of the game. nowadays all the major media companies have turned their op-ed pages into hot take hate-click farms but he was putting in that work on ars technica 10 years ago.
 

PeskyToaster

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,601
All it did was lose them the two regions they dominated last gen and completely destroy the great momentum they had with the 360 so that they had to spend this entire generation recovering which they have to some degree.
 

Absolute

Member
Nov 6, 2017
947
U.S media seemed to go in hard downplaying MS issues and used plenty of Sony Too tm’s.
 

Sense

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,619
Ben Kuchera is always one of my favourite writers to read, because he almost always approaches any topic with a know-it-all gusto, an unwavering belief in what he's saying, and what he says is almost always comically wrong/uninformed. It's an endless source of comedy to me.
Lol agreed. I mean people can be wrong but I get a sense of arrogance in this article that bothered me back then and it seems I wasn’t alone
 

Spyder_Monkey

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,976
I like how his first thought is "what about the PS4?"

It doesn't take a genius to see why this was such a mess. It was poorly communicated, confusing, alienating, and god forbid Microsoft gets DDoSed or something and then your Xbox becomes unusable. Like he didn't see the problem with an always online console off the back of Diablo 3, SimCity, and the Playstation hack?
 

Sho_Nuff82

Member
Nov 14, 2017
7,099
I remember getting into heated arguments in the old place with Xbox fans (and some Nintendo and Sony fans) who insisted that MS would never course-correct and would never drop Kinect from being a mandatory inclusion with the Xbox One, despite the obvious evidence that pricing was hurting them head to head and that MS didn't actually have any AAA games planned for the device. Some refused to believe that the "integral" part was just marketing, some acknowledged that it was marketing but insisted that MS made their bed and would stubbornly lie in it for 5-9 years. Ditto on arguments re: MS' indie games initiative, which was basically "we're not doing indie games right now lol" which completely blew up in their faces after the success of some early Sony exclusives.

The first year of each generation is eye-opening in how people manage to digest and regurgitate marketing bullet points because it fits their preconceived notions. And the rough transition of console generations are a constant reminder that the visionaries that bring us consumer electronics are prone to very expensive mistakes, so take any "consumers don't matter" talk with a huge helping of salt.
 
Oct 30, 2017
1,822
He's definitely wrong about not there not being a backlash.

However, it's unlikely that the existence of such a backlash would have made a major difference.

The PS4 was just better in a lot of regards.
Smaller box, more powerful, cheaper entry price, launching in more markets.
 
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