Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Breaking news: unpopular console is unpopular

I didn't consider owning a video game console to be an important part of setting up my home, but a few years ago my younger brother was very excited about the Xbox, especially because of their Halo games. From playing games with him, I gradually wore down my resistance to owning a console; it helped that he knew where I could buy an Xbox 360 second-hand and about a sale for copies of Halo 3 at just $20.

My first 360 died in short order, but by then I was hooked; after playing Halo 3 through I was impressed by the storyline and I wanted to keep playing; I bought a brand-new 360, went back to the older games in the series and bought the new entries as they arrived; I've dabbled in a few other Xbox titles, but really I'm in it for Halo; anything else is a distant second.

Xbox recently released this trailer for Halo 5, debuting on the new Xbox One console:

And my first thought was, "why would Master Chief wear a cloak when surely his armour provides all the environmental protection he needs?" The rule of drama, I suppose.

My second thought was of the nature of Halo sequel trailers; Halo 2 revealed the story was escalating - now the Covenant were assaulting Earth; Halo 3 noted the war with the Covenant was about to end; Halo Wars was selling a strategy game based on the franchise - something completely new; similarly, Halo 3: ODST introduced a protagonist who was much more vulnerable than the Chief; Halo: Reach promised to involve players in a notorious battle of the Covenant war, the place where humanity suffered its worst defeat.

Then, the game developer Bungie parted ways with Halo and the difference in 343 Industries' trailers is striking; Halo 4 promised more of Master Chief & Cortana. Well, very good, many fans were eager to see them again. But Halo 5? More of the same. Hey, it's Master Chief again. Hey, there's something Forerunner-like lying under a desert. There's nothing about this trailer which fires me up as a fan - it seems like "more of the same."

Which, the thing is, I may be a fan, but I'm not in the tank. I still consider myself a casual gamer. Virtually everything about the Xbox One has suggested hostility towards the consumer, a platform so restrictive they didn't trust them to lend their discs to friends! They've quickly begun dialing up some damage control and reversals of policy, but again, I'm a casual player; I don't want another console, I'm pleased with my 360.

This is where the Halo 5 trailer missteps, I think. Considering how unpopular the console's policies are, consumers' general reluctance to upgrade and Halo's status as the premiere Xbox franchise, I think this trailer needed to be more than "usual business." It needed to either show the fans something tantalizingly new or raise the stakes. It does neither.

But I'm not about to dance on Xbox's grave; I'll skip the One and stay with 360 the same way I skipped Microsoft's Windows Vista and stuck with XP; eventually, Microsoft came along with a new operating system designed with consumers in mind rather than CEOs & CFOs; if the One tanks, I expect something similar. Regardless, Xbox will still be collecting money from me on Xbox Live, right? For them, it's the no-lose scenario.

No comments: