Imagine. An alternate history where Microsoft leads with the benefits of the Xbox One's 'DRM' policy instead of cowering behind 'explain at a later date' or, worse, drip-feeding confusing, conflicting morsels as scare mongering headlines waiting to happen.
Imagine. An alternate dimension in which Don Mattrick slides across the stage in the manner we've grown accustomed to.
"'Imagine a world where you are always online," he says. "Imagine a world where you can share the video games you buy with ten of your friends. A world where you can share experiences across the globe, a world where you have instant access to your games no matter where you are. Imagine that.
"Imagine a world where your games don't clog up space on your shelves and drawers. A world where you have instant access to a grand catalogue of the games you bought at the click of a button. One click. Imagine that."
"Ladies and gentlemen... introducing the Xbox One."
Today Microsoft announced a complete about turn on many of its policies regarding used games and DRM. Gone is the need to connect your Xbox One every 24 hours, gone are the limitations on trading games.
"It will work just as it does today on Xbox 360," read Don Mattrick's post.
Just as it does today. Today. Right now. In the present we can understand. The present we're comfortable with.
What have we lost? What impact will today's decision have on the video games we play tomorrow? On the prices we'll pay for those video games? On the ease of accessibility to those games.
The first and perhaps biggest loss is the ability for consumers to share games with up to 10 pre-selected people on our friends list. It's a massive loss. When I call my brother in Scotland we talk about games. It's all we talk about. That ability for us to share those experiences, using the benefits of a forward thinking system is gone. Incredibly, we'll have to leave the game disc in the tray if we want to play it.
It works. Just as it does today on Xbox 360.
What have we lost? The potential for a cheaper, Steam like eco-system on the Xbox One? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure if always on would have resulted in a better deal for the consumer but now we'll never know. Microsoft didn't make mention of cheaper games as a result of its DRM, but it was a possibility. That possibility has now evaporated. Now we know nothing will change.
Nothing will change. It will work. Just as it does today.
At E3, behind closed doors, talking to people involved with the Xbox One, the pieces began falling into place. Always on. Cloud backed processing. Sharing games with friends. The vision that Microsoft was so terrified of sharing began to make sense. This was a console built for a different kind of future, a console that would have teething problems, undoubtedly, but would give the consumer power in the end. I'm now in mourning for what has been lost: the ability to easily share my games with my brother who lives thousands of miles away in Scotland. Easy access to my games installed on a hard drive I can easily access from the comfort of my couch. There was a vision behind the Xbox One, but that vision has been compromised.
Something something Henry Ford. Something something faster horse.
The undoubted positive from the whole situation has been the overwhelming, monstrous power of the consumer. Watching that show of force humble a major corporation like Microsoft has been beautiful, regardless of whether that force has been misapplied. It's not our fault. We were working with what we'd been given.
No, the fault here lies with Microsoft. Have we ever, ever in the history of the video games industry, seen such a tremendous, catastrophic mismanagement of public relations? It is my humble opinion that the Xbox One is worse off today than it was yesterday. You may disagree with that assessment but the one thing we can agree on is this: Microsoft colossally screwed up its messaging with regards to the Xbox One. It cowered in fear when it should have led with the benefits. When it should have been beaming with pride, it acted like it had something to hide. Now we're all going to suffer.
In an alternate dimension Don Mattrick slides across the stage. He beams with pride at the future proof device he has just unveiled.
In our reality Microsoft has been humbled and broken and the Xbox One works. Just as it does today, just as it did when the Xbox 360 was released almost eight years ago. We won. But what have we lost?