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  (Source: Paramount Pictures)
Many of the media center features are only unlocked once you purchase a $60 USD yearly membership

Remember that slick DVR system to allow the recording of gametime videos, the voice-controlled channel guide (OneGuide TV), and the SmartMatch game match pairing service for the upcoming Xbox One?  Well in turns out Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is not intending those features for everyone.

I. Pay or Get Out

In order to "unlock" them, you have to pay an extra $60 USD a year for an Xbox Live "Gold" membership.  Xbox Live currently comes in two flavors -- "Free", which has no charges, and "Gold" which has an annual fee, but offers some unique perks (e.g. the free download of "Crackdown" currently available for Xbox 360 "Gold" level subscribers).  The Xbox 360 did set a somewhat similar precedent; it only offers access to the Internet Explorer (IE) browser to "Gold" customers and only allows "Gold" level customers to have access to their Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) account via their console [source].

Microsoft currently has 48 million Xbox Live users.  Of those an estimated 50 percent are "Gold" subscribers (Microsoft doesn't release statistics on the number of "Gold" subscriptions).  For them this won't be an impedement.

Xbox Live
Here's a list of some of the features Microsoft is placing behind a "Gold" subscription paywall.

But for the "Free" members or those who don't use the Xbox Live network at all -- which account for an estimated 24 million + Xbox Live "Free" users, plus the estimated 30 million some Xbox users [source] who don't subscribe to either service, your console will lose some of its key selling points.

Microsoft's console, which launches in November, is already priced at $100 USD more than Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) PlayStation 4.  
Xbox One
The Xbox One

II. Xbox -- Controversy in a Black Box

Other controversies are also still surround the console.  Its "always on" 1080p camera, along with Microsoft's allegedly voluntary data sharing agreements with the U.S. federal government have some fearing the new console will act as a "Big Brother" device, watching citizens' living rooms at all hours.  Microsoft has countered these claims saying it will include "robust" privacy protections with the Xbox One, however it stopped short of saying it wouldn't share video of you with the government.

Kinect 1080p
Microsoft's always-on camera feeds may be shared with the U.S. gov't.

Another controversy is over the cloud gaming features of the Xbox One.  The console has the ability to offload computations to the cloud, which Microsoft claims will make the console five times as fast, allowing for much better games.  Experts like John Carmack of id Software have called shenanigans on that claim, saying the Xbox One was on par with the PS4, even with cloud computing considered.  But what cloud offloading will certainly do is offer gamemakers an easy route to make their games unplayable offline.  One Microsoft executive was quoted as saying that he "hoped" gamemakers would use cloud computing to make their games unplayable offline.

PS4 devs in theory could also use cloud computing, and even potentially make their games unplayable offline.  However, it would be much harder to do so as Sony does not provide them with pre-packaged APIs for this purpose, meaning they'd have to write their whole offloading backend themselves.

Originally Microsoft also wanted to institute daily digital rights management (DRM) checks, which would effectively brick your console if it wasn't connected to the internet.  Former Xbox chief Don Mattrick (now CEO of Zynga Inc. (ZNGA)) fed the flames when he said that users with less than 100-percent reliable internet didn't deserve an Xbox One and should settle for an Xbox 360.  Facing a firestorm of criticism, Microsoft begrudgingly backed down, but still is standing firm on the controversial cloud computing drive.

In the good news column Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One's latest hardware build received a GPU speed bump, which put it virtually neck-and-neck with the PS4's GPU.  That would explain where John Carmack's commentary that the consoles were pretty much identical in computing power came from.

Source: Microsoft



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RE: It figures...
By thefrozentin on 8/8/2013 1:48:41 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what happened to Netflix on the PS4 when the PSN got hacked and was down for a while.


RE: It figures...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 1:55:23 PM , Rating: 2
You're holding, er, looking at it wrong. It seems that paying for a guarantee of service and up time is not worth the nominal costs to most people, they would rather deal with donw time and complete unavailability of a service, as well as breaches and all the other fun, than pay for quality.


RE: It figures...
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 2:17:37 PM , Rating: 1
If to you, XBlive = quality then you probably need to re calibrate your view of quality.

I see XBlive as a waste of another $300 over the 5 years (if not longer) until the next console. It doesn't get rid of the insane amount of ads you look at. Looking at Xbox, it looks like a huge freeware ad machine with a few games and features mixed in.


RE: It figures...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 2:46:47 PM , Rating: 3
"If to you, XBlive = quality then you probably need to re calibrate your view of quality."

I consider up time, the quality and consistency of the service, and the security of the platform as all part of the quality equation, hence I am happy with the Xbox as is. Being down for two weeks at a time, losing user info, shitty through put for content delivery does not sound like quality to me, hence I am not a big fan of the Playstation.

BTW, if anyone is actually paying that much for their gold service they simply are not even trying to find any deals, maybe they simply enjoy paying full retail on stuff.


RE: It figures...
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 4:18:40 PM , Rating: 1
"Being down for two weeks at a time, losing user info, shitty through put for content delivery does not sound like quality to me,"

It was down for a couple days once. I have never seen, nor heard of anyone complain about throughput but whatever.


RE: It figures...
By Nekrik on 8/8/2013 4:32:25 PM , Rating: 3
It was down a long longer than that:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSN_outage


RE: It figures...
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 5:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oy, that is a long outage. Oh well, it happened and now its fixed. It was years ago.


RE: It figures...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/8/2013 5:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah but it was due to a criminal hack.

That's like blaming the power company for your losing electricity when terrorist fly a plane into the nuclear plant.


RE: It figures...
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 6:22:49 PM , Rating: 1
I just dont get the blindly defending MS with the ridiculous crap they have been pulling with the XBO.

I get it if someone doesn't care about those things and wants to buy it, but to act like we are all stupid, cheap or paranoid for not liking the the huge laundry list of limitations, requirements and intrusions is just nutz... wtf?


RE: It figures...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/8/2013 8:10:04 PM , Rating: 2
I don't get it either. Here is a company, straight up, saying they want to screw you and - possibly - compromise your privacy. And people are lining up with money in hand lol.

I just don't get what's going on at Microsoft over the last 5 years or so. But someone needs to hit the eject button on this movie, it's painful to watch.


RE: It figures...
By retrospooty on 8/8/2013 8:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
If it were just pointless requirements, and limitations, it would be ok... But pointless requirements, limitations,AND intrusions? That is where I draw the line. LOL


RE: It figures...
By ianweck on 8/12/2013 3:35:57 PM , Rating: 3
I just don't get what's going on in Washington D.C. over the last 5 years or so. But someone needs to hit the eject button on this movie, it's painful to watch.


RE: It figures...
By Mint on 8/9/2013 12:24:09 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear plants aren't expected to be online 100% of the time.

Sony, however, is expected to have sufficient security about personal info. ALL tech companies have that expectation.

That said, I agree he's beating a dead horse with little relevance for future action. If we're going to forgive MS for RROD, then we should forgive Sony for their moment of weakness.


RE: It figures...
By Reclaimer77 on 8/9/2013 9:05:16 AM , Rating: 3
Oh man I'm sorry for not using a perfect Mint-approved analogy. Please don't hit me!

All I'm saying is the network didn't "go down". It was TAKEN down, via a criminal act. And I believe we should blame the criminals first, I'm just that kind of guy.

If you don't think the lock on my door is good enough, that doesn't give you the right to kick my door in and steal my belongings.

(ps, that was probably another imperfect analogy, sorry!)


RE: It figures...
By nikon133 on 8/8/2013 9:46:45 PM , Rating: 2
Even with those 24 days of outage... XBox Live Gold is NZ$80 a year.

In 5 years of having this generation console, I saved NZ$400 on on-line gaming. Outside of those 24 days, I never had a problem with on-line games, and I played quite a few of them.

Have I gone XBox, I would have extra 24 days of on-line gaming, for NZ$400 more. Now that is expensive 24 days of on-line access. I'm happy I haven't done that, because now I basically have NZ$400 in my PS4 budget, which is already 2/3 of PS4 NZ price.

That being said, PS4 will require subscription for on-line gaming... but as it is, other services will be available with free account. Owners of PSN Plus account (Sony's equivalent of Live Gold) get instant game library included, and additional quality game (70% or above metacritics score, I think?) for free every month. Last month it was Battlefield 3, this month it is NFS: Most Wanted.

I like this deal, in fact I have just jumped on Plus. I was planning to get NFS: MW anyway, and instant library includes some of the games I was planning to get as well - Spec Ops: The Line, X-Com: Enemy Unknown, some others. If I get PS4, there will be Drive Club free for Plus members... so there's already well over NZ$100 vale for me.

I'm not saying that Live is not attractive for some people, but for me, PSN / PSN Plus work better.


RE: It figures...
By BZDTemp on 8/9/2013 12:55:42 PM , Rating: 2
Also considering the compensation Sony provided it wasn't all bad. In fact I think they handled it pretty well.

Besides it is not like Microsoft has been perfect plus the Live Gold thing is like 50% extra here on this side of the pond, still I guess we should be happy since minimum wages here are around $25 so Live is actually sort of cheap.


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein














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