With the recent release of Office 365 Microsoft is painting themselves as a company that has perhaps forgotten more than they have remembered over their years in the software industry. Taking a page straight out of their own book while ignoring some quite revered pages from heavy hitter Adobe, Microsoft originally locked down purchases of the new Office iteration to a single computer. This not only required users to buy multiple licenses at once (no more 2 license standard basic package) but also forced them to prove to MS they were still in warranty for the Office software should an unforeseen event like hard drive failure or virus infection occur. Microsoft is now re-evaluating their entire game plan for the product and how its licenses will work, marking this as a major false move in their efforts to shift towards an inviting and digitally distributed / cloud infrastructure to run their software platforms on.
Let me just cut it right there though. This is RealGamerNewz, and I know you are wondering when the part comes that I draw the video game industry, and more specifically the entertainment division of Microsoft, into this picture. Sony’s PlayStation 4 was recently revealed (and full specs released) and although digital cloud services such as streaming game demos and playing full titles before they are even downloaded will be included in the PlayStation 4’s online arsenal of features there is still disc-based content being released. A dual approach of physical and digital will be taken up for Sony’s next-generation console.
Never ending rumors and speculation coupled with Microsoft’s exec and PR talk for the past few years has led to the belief that it is likely we will see Xbox 720 to support Xbox 360 discs for backwards-compatibility, but that Xbox 720 games will be digitally distributed through an enhanced version of Xbox Live. While we should be open arms to all new ideologies for the next generation of gaming, this is quite clearly a dangerous route for any company to pursue. Many are hopeful that Microsoft will not go this direction with the Xbox 720 and instead will introduce a Blu-Ray drive into their next system. The most up-to-date leaked Xbox 720 specs don’t cast any evidence in that direction, however.
If Microsoft truly does plan to go all-digital, they will have to do it right. Especially pressing is the matter of Steam entering the console wars to compete with the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 on the living room digital distribution front, and from a cushioned position. Steam already has all the kinks figured out on how gamers want their games digitally sold to them, and how they want their library maintained and accessed.
Companies like Apple, Google, and Valve have taught us that great things can come from digital distribution. Microsoft has voiced many times they believe it’s the future of media, and most companies agree somewhat. But Microsoft also needs to learn from their mistakes with these early attempts at making Windows and Office digital services rather than physical products. If the abysmal reception of Games for Windows Live to this day teaches us nothing, it should teach us that the customer comes first with digital distribution (or they won’t come at all).