Mid-week, Microsoft launched the “Metro” dashboard for the Xbox 360, a redesigned look to bring the console into sync with its mobile and PC partners. There's more than just a look though, as this business-oriented shift has shown where the company's allegiances lie.
The Xbox 360 is becoming that “all in one” box Microsoft has always sought to create, a device that every living room in the country needs to have for entertainment purposes. It started with Kinect, a dual-lensed motion camera that allows for voice recognition, and the beginning of TV sponsorships.
What's being left behind are the games. While it's doubtful Micosoft ever saw themselves this entrenched in the mainstream entertainment realm this soon, one wonders if the ubiquitous name “Xbox” was entirely for this purpose. The “X” could mean anything, and now, it's definitely not a “game box.”
Given where the console's digital offerings are buried, shoved behind movies and social apps on the Metro layout, it must be considered that after all the work done to bring people in with games if they're pulling a bait-and-switch. Marketing muscle has been flaunted, the casual dream Just Dance 3 ending up a bonanza of marketing on the Ellen show, something that ten years ago would have been fantasy for gaming.
When that Ellen audience takes home that little black box, they're not handing it off to their kids anymore; they're keeping them in droves. They're watching Netflix with it, putting in a DVD, playing with voice controls, or other functions. They're surely not playing games anymore, at least not some of the best to come out of this industry this generation. Xbox Live Arcade titles might as well be signified by a gravestone as new releases are crunched under the weight of six or seven menu options.
Woe be the indie developer too, those efforts smashed just as heartily as the arcade games. World of Warcraft advertisements plaster the dashboard, and that can't even be played by the Xbox 360. How does it make any logical sense to banish actual software to some nether realm and promote an unplayable (on 360) massively multiplayer online title? Microsoft is taking money for something totally irrelevant, and shunning those who put hours of labor into something specifically for the Xbox 360.
Part of it is this transformation of an industry, slowly unfolding as years pass and the soccer mom moves in. But what message is this offering? Is it any wonder why an older generation is still befuddled by the sight of a video game that doesn't use some wonky, fad-oriented camera? The industry has convinced them they need hardware, but not for its original purpose. Microsoft seems embarrassed by the term “video game,” so much so that they've metaphorically already dug its mainstream grave , and they made the hardware.
How far we've come and how low we've sunk.