Since I've owned video game consoles, every other generation for me has been a skip generation [1]. So it comes again, and it is once again a skip generation and the consoles have a lot to prove to me if they want me to buy one. Given how long the 360 lasted, I'm a bit concerned that this possibly may be effectively my retirement generation from consoles, but there's always the PC. (And maybe it'll only be a half-skip, depending on course corrections, or maybe the Wii U will finally drill directly into the nostalgia center of my heart.)

The Xbox 360 won me over with two key pieces, both expressable as acronyms: XBLA and XNA. Subsequently there were two big things I was waiting to hear about with the Xbox One announcements: backwards compatibility and developer support. Sadly it seems that we get neither, and I am left disappointed with how the Xbox One might have been almost the console for me.

The DRM Issue

Of course, I first have to provide my opinion about the elephant in the room and that is the strange, "new" DRM of the Xbox One. I'm not against the Xbox One DRM on principle. I've been a digital download proponent for some time, and it is very easy to admit that the Xbox One DRM isn't the worst digital download DRM scheme out there. Sure, it's a tiny bit strange that it also applies to physical discs, but I can give that the benefit of the doubt. (Again given that digital download is pretty much my default at this point, and I've never been much of one to trade back games or to buy used ones. Admittedly I've been rather privileged in those departments.)

But, I needed just one thing to sell me on the new DRM, and that was backwards compatibility. I was an early adopter of Steam and for the most part my library has survived almost a decade. I downloaded patches for my copy of Half-Life 1 over dial-up via Steam, and today I can still redownload those Half-Life 1 installs via Steam and play them.

It's a hard sell, for me at least, to accept the new DRM knowing that my large collection of XBLA games cannot come for the ride. Sure, there are some technical limitations and legal limitations that might restrict the number of games that might come across, but so far word is "none", and after my existing DRM complaints [2], I'm not particularly confident that Xbox One purchases might survive to the Xbox One + 1.

The Xbox One DRM actually makes some interesting promises. In particular, what plays to the way I want to share games, is the promise that nearly every game should be available at my fingertips when I visit a friend's place and use their machine. That's a lovely concept, and a great way to make use of the coop games that I love to buy and that play best in "couch" cooperative modes, when I can play those both on my own couch or on a friends' couch.

But it's still too bad that I can't use my existing library to kickstart that. Who amongst my friends hasn't wished that they couldn't merge everyone in the room's DLC for Rock Band night? I'd love to use Castle Crashers or Borderlands, or any of the other games I already owned but haven't played enough of yet. Even just the XNA-based games [3] like Schizoid or Bastion would wonderfully to have.

Developers, Developers, Developers

It's still possible that an announcement could be made in this general direction, but given the various sorts of response thus far about independent developers thus far I'm not holding out anymore hope.

Where's the love for managed developers? Why was XNA so cold-heartedly murdered?

Where's the love for Windows 8 apps? Sure, Kinect and Controller may not work for every Windows 8 app, but a good number of them may work out of the box. With SmartGlass there could be an interesting ability to throw Windows Store apps to/from the Xbox One and Windows 8 tablets. That would be compelling.

Microsoft is the best theoretical position to make use of developers and yet with Xbox One not only does it seem thus far that they are not capitalizing on that position, but they are actually knowingly (and sadly) back-pedaling and locking down and building walls where they weren't needed.

Honestly, support for XNA developers, even if they had to resubmit and sign new contracts, would have gone a long way to make the Xbox One much, much more interesting. Mr. Ballmer, tear down these walls.

[1]I've owned NES (late), N64, 360(/PS3).
[2]Given the Xbox Live branding, I'm rather disappointed that I can't take the Pinball FX2 tables I've bought over the years across to the Windows 8 version.
[3]There really shouldn't be that many technical hurdles to move forward with XNA and XBLIG; just shameful inside baseball and surmountable legal hurdles.