Steam Machines revealed, but confusion still abounds

steam_controller

If you’re confused about the new lineup of Steam Machines, which range from $500 to a whopping $6,000, you’re in good company.  As I said before in “The Amazing Valve Strategy” Part One and Two, this is a unique and long-term strategy for keeping PC gaming alive and hedging against the possible failure of the Windows platform, not a “monkey-see, monkey-do” attempt to rival the existing console market.

Here’s some reactions I’ve seen already, with my rebuttals:

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Getting hyped for the next Xbox!

So the Xbox reveal event is happening on May 21st, less than a week from today.  Here’s what I’m looking forward to in the following weeks and months.  See if you can find a common theme!

Inappropriate cross-promotional media appearances

Brace yourself for seeing the next Xbox/online service on TV shows and movies.  You can expect characters to suddenly include name-dropping the Xbox Infinity (or whatever) just like they did with the Xbox 360 and “Bing”.  Remember Bing?  If you don’t, maybe you should Bing it!

 

Walmart, McDonalds, Mountain Dew partnership deals

This is classic Xbox.  By partnering up with the biggest and sluttiest American retailers/franchises, you literally won’t be able to escape the next Xbox.  The average consumer won’t even know that the PlayStation exists, but they’ll think that Microsoft’s new console is a game-changing event.

 

Publisher orgy

Sony is trying to make the PlayStation 4 extremely developer-friendly.  But developers aren’t the real movers and shakers of the industry.  Most of them are beholden to some lumbering tyrannical asshole corporation like Activision or EA.  Instead of making the next Xbox appealing to developers (or consumers) Microsoft is simply going to get in bed with the publishers, which will ensure plenty of products for their system.

 

Insane anti-competitive development clauses

Most people don’t know about it, but with the Xbox 360 Microsoft forced developers to make every game published on their system as attractive or better than the PS3, despite the hardware and storage space gap between the two.  This is why PS3 games often looked worse than the 360 ones, against all logic, and why pretty much nothing interesting happened with the hard drive.  (I can never seem to find a link to this story anymore, it never got proper attention and seems very hard to find.  If you find a link to it, send it to me on twitter @meta_gear)

I expect even worse restrictions this time around.  How about forcing any cross-platform developer who wants to be published on Xbox Infinity to include a 10 minute Xbox propaganda video at the beginning of their PS4 game launch?  It may be underhanded as fuck and betray the whole notion of optimizing for each system, but who gives a shit?  It worked before, and that means it will work again.

 

CISPA strategy

CISPA is the depressingly real Internet censorship bill threatening to turn the Internet into a “shoot first, ask questions later”-style corporate paradise, in which your activity will be monitored and shut down by the government with the flimsiest of excuses.  Why does Microsoft want this?  Because it will allow them to aggressively spy on and undermine their opposition, shut down piracy and file-sharing services, and basically police the online world however they want.  There is no protection against abuse in the bill, because it seems to assume that corporations and government will only use their new terrifying powers for the good of mankind!

And if rumors about the upcoming Xbox being a DRM nightmare creature are true, and if they manage to seduce publishers into signing on to their schemes, you better believe that piracy and online criticism are going to be a huge thorn in their side — which is why CISPA would sure be handy.

The Xbox and The Spin

Two things caught my interest today: one is the “Pros and Cons of an Always-Online Xbox 720” article on IGN.com for its blatant spin job there, and the other is Marcus Beer’s sudden hypocritical disinterest in next-gen console speculation, which is tucked into the most recent Annoyed Gamer (around the 6:20 mark).

(Be warned, this is going to be a pretty epic rant.)

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