Tag Archives: Xbox Game Pass

A sucker is born every minute

It is a nice expression; it is one that those who live by the rules of ‘opportunity knocks‘ rely on. In slow times you need the occasional sucker to infuse the grounded capital with lose change and they are all for it. Then there is the expression of ‘there is a hustle Smurf nearby’, where the experienced player creates a new account to amass gear from inexperienced players and newbies.

It comes down to the status on how something is seen. Some Investopedia page passed in front of me this morning and woke me up instantly. It linked to Barron’s (at https://www.barrons.com/articles/microsoft-stock-videogame-streaming-cloud-xbox-xcloud-51560373000) where we see: ‘Buy Microsoft Stock Because of Its Videogame Opportunity, Analyst Says‘, the entire setting is like a rewrite of the Divine Comedy, as Inferno is all that Microsoft seemingly delivers on a whole (as I personally see it). They went from an innovative system (Xbox 360) to a flawed concept and in the three iterations we see basic shortcomings that have never been fixed over the space of 6 years.

The beginning is already fun to work with: “Microsoft stock will rally because of its strong position in the videogame industry, according to Evercore ISI” No! It does not have a strong position, Microsoft degraded from 2nd to third position, and they could end up fighting over 4th position. The strongest console of the world got surpassed by the weakest one; the Nintendo Switch system surpassed them as they truly comprehend gaming and gamers. They got there in 2 years; it took Microsoft almost 7 years to get to this stage and ending up decently below 50% of the share that Sony has with its PlayStation. Microsoft games survives through marketing and bad decisions, with the optional good decision every once in a while.

The Microsoft stage of pushing for online, whilst basic shortcomings are frustrating gamers more and more, so when we see: “Ultimately, we believe gaming can become the next major narrative as it relates to Microsoft’s long-term growth opportunity” my response is: ‘Not Really, whilst the exclusive range of games is not impressive, the shared stream (Xbox and PS4) are often shown to be PS4 gems, whilst Microsoft is merely nice (with Assassins Creed Origins being a clear exception). The PS exclusive range is still growing and whilst the larger part of Microsoft IP is done through buying software houses, it has been in history the first step towards a more complete level of failing. There are examples all over the world for over 20 years.

Then the final part: “Materne is also optimistic over Microsoft’s cloud gaming offerings, where gamers can stream gameplay over the internet. Its XCloud service is slated for release this fall“, this is not a given. Microsoft decided to stay very quiet on the entire xCloud during its E3 and in addition, it is a soon a more direct competitor to Google Stadia. With the basic failings that Microsoft has shown to have, the audience is willing to take a look at Google Stadia, new brands have that effect, and it will gnaw directly on the Microsoft slice of the gaming cake. Apple is another contender, but there are still questions on that front for now. In short Microsoft got surpassed by Nintendo Switch, it is at less than 50% of the Sony PlayStation stage and it has disappointed gamers too often in their need for online dependency, a side that gamers do not like to relate to at all. There are enough indication that the next project (Project Scarlett) is more likely than not to hold onto the flaws of Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Its mixed media on mentions given in E3 2018, whilst giving less or no clarity on E3 2019, loaded with one liners that are implied to be connected but are regarded to be seen as separate statements show the flaw of Microsoft to a much larger extent. So as we see that ‘Microsoft is the Netflix of gaming‘, whilst not realising that there is more to that, we might go with the quote: “Xbox Game Pass is described as the ‘“Netflix of video games” and lets Xbox and PC users play a range of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $9.99 per month. xCloud will essentially be an upgraded version of this pass, and will work on more platforms, so it will likely cost more than $10” (Source: Inverse)

This entire setting only works well if there is enough bandwidth, in this stage the chance of congestion grows close to exponential as there will be no solid large 5G in many places until 2022, This means that it will be select in the US, Europe and outside these two. So as such the market slice will collapse overnight, Google Stadia will have a similar issue. Yet whilst Microsoft is about the marketing Hype and WOW factor, Google has been playing a more cautious long term game; it will pay off for them. All whilst the solid information that is essential was not given at E3 merely hinted at. It implies that Microsoft has not figured out how to best maximise on the revenue (read: an implied stage to exploit gamers). That in itself is the recipe for disaster. It is like the silent ‘always online‘ push that was tried in 2012 and pushed an angry mob straight towards the Sony solution. I personally believe that Microsoft has not learned its lesson yet and will give more disappointment soon enough. that whilst the bulk of the frustration could have been avoided in more than one place and never was, that alone convinces me that Microsoft might be an option, but it will be a risky one, one that is flawed and dangerous to boot, but then some investors like the rough stuff.

Now we get to the part that Investopedia has (at https://www.investopedia.com/microsoft-s-strategy-to-become-the-netflix-for-games-4691138): “One of the things Microsoft has going for them, unlike say Amazon, Verizon and Google, is a popular gaming console and a host of already super popular games, such as the entire series of “Halo” games. At the recent E3 video-game conference in Los Angeles, the company unveiled 60 new blockbuster games for both its console and PC, including “Gears 5,” “Batman: Arkham Knight,” “Cyberpunk 2077,” and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.”” Now consider that this list of 4 only has one exclusive and for the most 50% of that list has nearly everyone desiring it on PS4 and optionally PS5 as well. The fact that ‘Batman: Arkham Knight‘ is a 2015 game giving rise to some people not doing their homework #JustSaying.

It is true Gears and Halo are Microsoft exclusives and they do have a large following, no one denies this, yet two titles don’t make for a victory (they also have the Excellent Forza IP which was oddly missing in that list).

Yet overall the entire matter of being surpassed by the weakest console is a much larger issue. The matter of change is upon them and their play is to not do this implies that there is a larger online need and the people a shivering back from that stage. They feel a little more powerless. Even as xCloud is all online, the push to completely be there will backfire, if only to be able to game when the internet congests, a part that too many have not considered to the degree it needs to be considered.

Until 5G and 5G speeds are commonplace, the gamer will be confronted with ISP’s that will react towards congestion through bandwidth throttling, when that happens, you do not want to be in a multiplayer game like Fortnite losing your connection, any promise that this will not happen is bogus from the very start. It is still a tool used, even within the last 24 hours we see throttling in combination with ISP’s all over the world, because it is a tool they need to minimise congestion. The moment throttling hits, the game is quite literally over for these players. So how often does this need to happen for people to trade in their xCloud (and optional Google Stadia) solution?

When that crystalizes in front of you, what will the losses be? I believe that there is a clear future for this kind of gaming, no one denies that, yet until there is a much stronger 5G presence, I am not sure how it will actually properly work (outside of a staged test phase). And for now that stage is for the larger global gaming population 2-3 years away.

 

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The BS of Software and hardware

 

We all have that moment where we wonder where ethical boundaries are. Where is the boundary of deceptive conduct, where is the boundary of profiteering and who knows what a moral centre is?

From my point of view Microsoft skates on every boundary not really giving a damn, especially giving a damn and regards towards their consumers.

The consumer has been deceived for a long time, Microsoft will never call it that, but Computerworld (at https://www.computerworld.com/article/3342416/new-non-security-win10-patches-fix-numerous-bugs-but-wheres-version-1809.html) gives us: “you’ll only get them if you manually download and install them or if, in Windows Update, you click Check for Updates. That’s a deception I’ve railed against for months, but apparently somebody at Microsoft thinks that being a seeker – clicking Check for Updates – gives the updater permission to install these lurking patches, without notification or consent.

In addition Variety gives us in part more with “New hardware sales dropped 6.1%. That drop, GameStop says, was because of 2017’s strong Xbox One X sales, but was also offset by strong growth in Nintendo Switch sales. New video game sales dropped 8.3%“, with an added “Microsoft has seen the following growth as a result of Xbox Game Pass“, which is in all honesty an awesome deal for any gamer, especially as the price would be great at twice the amount, there is no denying that. Yet every indication I have seen gives me the clear indication that the 8.3% drop might be including the Game Pass offer as that is also new video game sales. You see all those new mighty titles that were added with the launch day premise is part of new software sales making the hardship of Microsoft a lot harder than we thought it was. Tech Central adds to this with ‘Microsoft’s Surface sales edge $2bn despite chip shortage‘, you might think it is good, Yet as a surface is set to $1350, the math gives us less than 1.5 million surface pro systems sold, which on a global scale is really bad news. When I expect my own IP to do at least twice that amount, the entire stage of Microsoft is just faltering on too many levels.

Their approach to gamer exploitation (too much advertisement on the console home page, leaving much less space for game icons to start, the never ending pushed Microsoft advertisement on our consoles without the option to switch it off, the news giving us Nintendo Switch Sales Pass 32 Million in under two years, whilst the estimated lifetime sales of the Xbox One is now around 41 million (in 6+ years), that so called ‘strongest console in the world‘ equaled now by the weakest console, exact numbers are unknown as Microsoft is no longer giving us exact console sales numbers.

We saw only two weeks ago on how all surface laptops and tablets are getting massive discounts, sales are not good. From my point of view, Microsoft played a very dangerous game and comes up short. The short selling of hardware, below essential needs to push for accessories, consoles that are too shallow, with a mere 1 TB whilst the going need for basic use passed the 2 TB point two years ago, no corrections were ever made. When we take a critical look at the Financial Express article (at https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/satya-nadella-bullish-on-microsoft-surface-sales/1472634/), and consider “Revenue in personal computing was $13 billion and Surface is now almost a $2 billion business for Microsoft” most will ignore the hidden parts of too few Surface systems sold, the increased discounts making revenue interesting, yet profits would decrease to almost zero. It is the stage of badly expecting the needs of the consumers. It goes from bad to worse when we see VentureBeat giving us: ‘Microsoft really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019‘, with the added “Microsoft today launched a marketing campaign pitting Office 2019 and Office 365 against each other. The goal? To prove Office 2019 isn’t worth buying — you and your company should go with Office 365 instead.” It is product versus SaaS, and they want Software as a Service to win (likely for tax reasons which is purely speculative from my side). There is also the need of more and more commitment, subscription versus one off sales. So when we see: “Office 365 includes fully-installed Office applications — the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But those apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month“, it would initially make sense to get the subscription. Yet I do not want to be online all the time, having to connect is just too much of an inconvenience when I travel and all the excuses that Microsoft hands us are not getting accepted by yours truly. As for the bugs, we need to be fair here, MS Office is so huge, a bug free version is pretty much out of the question, the issue is, does it actually impact you? The few bugs that bug me only happen in extreme situations and I have for the most used Office 2012 without any hitches. If there are ugly bugs, I never really stumbled on them, another reality we need to accept, but it is not about acceptance.

You see, all this got started with ‘‘We won’t be war profiteers’: Microsoft workers protest $480m army contract‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/feb/22/microsoft-protest-us-army-augmented-reality-headsets ), you short change consumers, mislead people on a global scale through carefully phrased words and you have an issue with a defence contract? It is even worse when we see “Workers say augmented reality headsets provided to US army risk ‘turning warfare into a simulated video game’“, it is from my point of view that these people have no or almost no comprehension of warfare. The images are those of warfare and terrorism, if we can diminish that impact on US soldiers, why would the Microsoft employees resist? In addition, in the shown concept image, if the mini-map keeps them alive, for Zen’s sake give it to them. When I see the lack of ethics that Microsoft has shown with their concept of what is perfectly acceptable and legal, the response ““We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” reads a petition being circulated inside the company, a copy of which was published on Twitter on Friday afternoon. More than 50 employees had signed the letter as of Friday afternoon, according to an employee“.

The response fails on two levels. In the first the augmented lenses are not a weapon, it is a tool and we can go as far as calling it a tactical tool that could give an edge on military and police. Consider the chance that these glasses prevent any innocent person to get shot as they were unlucky enough to get in the middle of it all. In the second part as we accept ‘how our work is used‘, we need to also accept that these employees knowingly and willingly were involved in exploiting consumers; you cannot get it both ways. And if they accept that then they have to be willing to go out and state: “We knowingly exploited consumers as this is part of our income and optionally our bonus!” If that would be the case and whilst the architectural flaws remain in the Xbox One, the lack of connectivity in the Surface devices, I really believe they should shut up or get out. It is their choice which of the two they select.

 

Now, I will accept that for some civilians the expression: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”” is awkward and harsh. The Pentagon sat on a live grenade a little too eagerly. The tactical setting should have been: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to create increased awareness of the area, to be able to see hostile actions before they could have normally been aware of them and to decrease the chance of civilian casualties through people caught in that area without any feasible option to avoid harm.” Basically the same setting yet phrased a little different (Microsoft knows all about phrasing, do they not? In addition, the entire quote “The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game’, further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed” is open for debate. When you fire and actual firearm, the noise, the blow back of the weapon, it will not feel like a video game, not in the least. I also have an issue with ‘is designed to help people kill‘, the device does not give you skills to kill, it does give the imagery that could avoid one getting killed in the process and that is still an important factor. Add to this the need to keep civilian casualties at zero whenever possible, the part that this enables if a clear stage that a better equipped soldier gets a better chance in keeping 100% of the civilians out of harm’s way. Interesting that these so called ethically high ground Microsoft employees never gave that much thought. Although, seeing my Xbox One icon bar where 50% is used for advertisement as well as the push for more subscriptions is also an ethical debate, especially when the person who paid for a gaming console has no way of switching that part off. In that frame of mind, the Microsoft employees are actively promoting psychic assault, did they consider that part?

I wonder just how convoluted a person needs to be to walk away from half a billion dollars, a device that could save lives, it is interesting that that was a side that no one gave any attention to (media wise that is).

I am not stating that there is a negative side to this device that would be ludicrous as well. Yet if DARPA had not gone to the length it did to get us in 1970 ‘ARPANET, a pioneering network for sharing digital resources among geographically separated computers‘, we would not have the internet and we would not have e-commerce, did they consider that?

These Holo-Lenses might start in defence, yet they can go so much further. Rescue operations (finding life signs in natural or unnatural disasters), medical solutions that give surgeons direct layered information during an operation. In a large hospital not a big thing, but in small rural places, it will be a life saver. All issues that cannot come because these places do not have the billions needed to fund it, the military does and the visionary on these projects can see what else it can be used for. So when we get a couple of Microsoft sissies cry for a ‘ethics review board‘, they should consider the millions that do not want to face forced advertisement on the device they bought, or a diminished device that requires all kinds of accessories and storage to be regarded as actually functional. Their consumers have rights too, but that is apparently not in their frame of mind.

It seems to me that Microsoft has two filters, one for when things are really good and when for when that is not the case. It does fit the style of the military (making them a good match) where clothing is only available in two sizes, too large and too small. Go figure!

Have a great Friday! (60 hours until Monday morning)

 

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