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The Xbox One from a service member’s perspective: Conversations I’ve had and heard on my last deployment.

With the decision to require a persistent online authentication, Microsoft has managed to alienate the entire United States military.

Edited: 1950, 15 JUN 2013 for my questionable grammar

Additional Edit: 2210, 16 JUN 2013: My blog is in no way shape or form associated with the United States military or any stances they may or may not have.  This is an opinion piece that reflects only my own personal take on a situation and how it affects me. 

It has been quite some time since I have posted a blog, and for that I apologize.  The reasons for that will become clear below.

For almost eight years I have served my country in the United States Navy.  Initially, I enlisted as an Operations Specialist, but after two years I was picked up for a commissioning program and the Naval Aviation training pipeline to become a Naval Flight Officer (NFO – think Goose from TOPGUN, but a different aircraft).  In that time I’ve served on three Nimitz class Aircraft Carriers, been on two combat deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, and been on countless other detachments away from home for training and exercises.  In the last two and a half years I have either been deployed or detached for a total of 18 months.  From these experiences I would like to impart to you conversations that I have either been a part of or witnessed during my time away from home. 

“Hey, Jay, do you want to come over tonight?  We are going to have a Halo tournament.”

“Hey man, you got the new Gears of War game sent to you right?  Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

“Bro, I picked up the new Forza when we were in Bahrain, let’s get started.”

The Xbox 360 launched when I was in Navy Boot Camp in 2005.  I reserved it before I left, so that upon my return I would be able to experience the latest generation console that Microsoft was offering without delay.  Since that time my Xbox 360 has accompanied around the world, its steady (okay loud) hum and green ring offering a temporary lull in my otherwise chaotic day-to-day.  In fact, I have been a dedicated Microsoft fan before the 360 launch.  I abandoned the PS2 and traded it in after I experienced Halo CE on the Xbox.  The point I am trying to make is that I genuinely preferred almost everything Microsoft did with the Xbox and the Xbox 360, and fully anticipated doing the same with this latest generation of consoles.  I was an Xbox 360 fan, not to the level of fanatic, but I long sang the praises of what I thought to be a superior system.  Microsoft seemed to listen to gamer’s concerns and support them more than Sony did, and the products, in my opinion, were simply better and more conducive to my situation.  For example, on my last deployment a squadron-mate was unable to enjoy Skyrim on the PS3 because of the well documented issues the system had running the game.  Meanwhile, I clocked over 250 hours in Skyrim because, for an entire deployment, it was my sanctuary.  It is where I went to calm down after a long day of flying.  Although there were patches eventually made available to repair the unfortunate situation, he was never able to download the fixes because while deployed we simply do not have the ability to connect our systems to the internet. 

Which brings me to the single greatest sin Microsoft has committed against all service members.  Their surprising decision to require the Xbox One to receive a message from the “mother ship” every 24 hours has already been lighting up the internet for a myriad of reasons.  But, the reason that I am so infuriated about it is that I, and my brothers and sisters in arms, will not ever be able to play Xbox One when deployed or on detachment.  No longer will the sounds of Master Chief saving the human race echo through the hallowed halls of the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, or any other USS SHIP, when we have a few hours respite.  No longer will you see Marcus and Dom sawing through the Locust Horde at the bases in Afghanistan after the Marines have returned from patrol and want to escape their reality for a bit.  Those days are now firmly behind us.  Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military, and not just the U.S. military, the militaries of the entire world.

Despite my preference for the previous generations of Microsoft systems, and my dedication to their versions of multi-platform properties, I will not be buying an Xbox One at launch.  In fact, the Xbox One might as well be called the Halo-Box, because I simply will not purchase it until the next Halo game drops.  With developers focusing, more and more, on the multi-platform model, how much will I really be missing out on?  None of the exclusives from either Sony or Microsoft excited me, except for the Halo tease.  Simply put, outside of Halo and Forza, Sony has better exclusives.  With developers like Quantic Dream, Naughty Dog, and titles like The Last Guardian looming on the horizon, all exclusive to PS4, I feel like I will be in much better hands with Sony.  So, how much will I really be missing out on?  While I think Forza is superior (so far) to Gran Turismo, the GT series is still very good, and I can play it when embarked on the ship.  While I am a diehard Halo fan, the wait for the next iteration and my eventual purchase of my Halo-Box will give me ample opportunity to explore the Killzone series.  Everything else, from Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty, I can experience on the PS4, offline and tucked away in my little room on the ship, and without the concern of the programming complications that faced developers with the PS3 (which was my primary concern with PS3 multi-platform games).

I have searched the internet, hoping to find some data on the amount of video games sales that the U.S. military signifies.  Although we represent less than one percent of the nation’s populace, I venture to say that we represent a drastically disproportionate amount of video game sales when compared to our numbers.  Financially, I think the alienation of service members by Microsoft will have more of an impact than they realize. 

This next point is for the developers.  Although the PS4 will not have an online requirement to run, developers will still be able to make games that require persistent online authentication.  Do not do this to us.  The video game industry has made a fortune breaking not just video game records, but entertainment records as a whole, with properties that simulate what my brothers, sisters, and I do on a daily basis.  Don’t alienate us with online requirements for games.  It will cost you money and respect.  This is a lesson that Microsoft is, tragically, about to learn.

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