Last week’s reveal of the Xbox One led to some very mixed reactions from gamers and critics alike, and seemed to generate a lot more questions than it answered. Some of the concerns that we raised in the immediate wake of the reveal included the focus on an American mainstream audience, too much focus on television and entertainment in general, and a lack of exposition about the potential of the console for gaming.
One of the more prominent critics of the Xbox One this week has been Jonathan Blow, designer of the award-winning independently-produced game Braid, which is currently available on the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam. Blow invested $200,000 in the game’s development, and it has been praised as one of the most influential indie games of the 21st century, so you’d think that the game developer would be taking issue with Microsoft’s decision to drop the Xbox Live Indie Games channel and their decision to not allow independent developers to self-publish on the new console. In fact, Blow was mainly riled up about server issues.
Citing a claim by Microsoft that the Xbox One launch would be supported by 300,000 servers, Blow called this number a “lie” and in a series of tweets expressed his lack of faith on the reliability of cloud processing:
“Someone please ask if these fabled 300,000 servers are real hardware, or just the total size of Windows Azure (which then implies XBL would only ever get a portion of that)… I can spin up 10000 virtual servers per host. They would just all suck. Saying 300k when they are virtual is a lie… I do not like when large corporations contemptuously lie to the public.”
“The 360 was a good gaming machine. But it’s clear that the people responsible for it being good are no longer in charge. Most of them are long gone from the company. So just because the new console is from Microsoft, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be anything like the old one. You might even think of them as from different companies.”
It’s notable that Blow’s upcoming game, The Witness, will be a time-limited exclusive on the PlayStation 4 and will eventually be released on Windows and iOS, but has not yet been announced for the Xbox One. Based on these latest comments, it sounds like Blow isn’t in a hurry to make The Witness available on Microsoft’s new entertainment system, especially since he would need to strike a third-party publishing deal before doing so.
Blow does make a point about the lack of attention being paid to the 300,000 server number, which hasn’t been questioned much amidst all the other confusion surrounding the Xbox One, such as whether or not the Kinect will spy on you and the issue of whether customers will need to pay an additional fee in order to play used games. Of course, 300k virtual servers are not the same as 300k dedicated servers, and with a questioning spotlight now put upon that number there will hopefully be some clarification at E3 as to exactly what kind of power the Xbox One has behind it.
Though his lengthy Twitter rant has attracted quite a lot of attention, Blow isn’t the only prominent figure in gaming who has spoken critically about the launch of next-generation video game consoles. Epic Games’ vice president Mark Rein also took to Twitter in response to EA’s claims that the PS4 and Xbox one will be ahead of high-end PCs, dismissing the claim and saying, “No they’re not. I call bulls**t on this one.” Rein’s words are slightly less contentious than Blow’s, since he was only one of the more prominent voices that outright mocked EA’s claim.
Since so far it’s been difficult to really get a grip on Microsoft’s policies and intentions for the Xbox One, and accusations of deliberate obfuscation and PR spin (including boasts of fish AI and high-resolution dogs as the pinnacles of next-generation gaming) have been among the most prominent criticisms of the new console.
Do you agree with Blow and Rein’s assessment of the claims being made, or do you feel there’s an unfair amount of negativity being directed at the Xbox One?
The Xbox One will launch in fall 2013.