You Just Bought a Brand-New Game Console–Time to Upgrade!

Image courtesy of PS4 Talk

How it started, basically, is because I can’t keep my mouth shut when something bugs the crap out of me.  I complain.  And sometimes, when the topic is gear, I complain to Your Humble Gear Diary Team.

So what’s the problem?  Maybe you’ve noticed that when you buy a new game console or device (or even game), the first thing the system does, before you even create your character or run through all the “Welcome!” windows, is . . . check for updates and then “suggest” that you update the system.

This happened to me this holiday season.  I got The Boy an XBox 360, and spent the next 45 minutes to an hour “setting up”–entering credit card verification info, creating account names, changing account names, choosing billing options (all one friggin’ character at a time via the controller), and everything else you need to do before you actually, ya know, play the game.

(“Configuring the system” is what Dads now tell their kids instead of “Sorry, kid; ‘some installation required'”.  I’m not sure if this is an advancement.)

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that this was a genuinely crappy “customer experience”.  You buy a game, and the first thing you do is upgrade it?  How does that make sense?  So I complained.  Which launched the following gear chat:

  • Doug M: Wow: the setup for the Xbox is incredibly tedious. 2 updates right off the bat, a ton of configuration stuff to do–it’s *insane*. To be fair I honestly don’t know how they can streamline it, but I sure wish they would. Tedium cubed.
  • Doug M: Well, one way they could streamline it would be to make assumptions about capitalization, like iOS does. Like if you’re typing in your name, assume the first letter is a capital, the next lower-case. And give you a “Next” button when you’re doing things like filling in addresses and whatnot, so you don’t have to go back to an address “home” screen–stuff like that. Because when you’re having to do hunt-and-peck with a joystick controller one letter/number at a time, anything that will save you an additional cycle of hunt-and-peck is huge.Don’t tell me–this is a MS product, right?
  • Carly Z: If it makes you feel any better the Wii is equally annoying.
  • Michael A in reply to Carly Z: I think typing with the Wii is MORE annoying, but on the XBOX it sometimes feels like if you have gone a week without powering it on it has some update or other that simply *must* be applied … last week when my son went to play Battlefield 3, the update was so large that he never got to play that night … and we have a 10MB/sec connection!
  • Doug M in reply to Michael A: I was thinking how totally bogus it is to open a new product, hook it up, turn it on . . . and have to update it. I honestly don’t know how to avoid it from a system seller’s perspective (not release any updates after September?), but it sure is bogus.

  • Carly Z in reply to Doug M: Yea but that goes for a ton of products not just video game systems. Short of overriding wifi passwords and updating itself in the box by magic there’s not much to do.And imagine if instead of fixing bugs they avoided updates to keep the configurations simple. That would be far worse IMO.

  • Doug M: As I said: I don’t know any way around it.
  • Francis S in reply to Doug M: Doug, console updates are 99% of the time a good thing. Unlike Windows, or other OS’s they are proprietary and usually fix security and problems, and more likely add new features and things you want. I have to say not too many device that I’ve used recently don’t have some kind of update out of the box. Depends mostly how long they have been sitting on the shelf.For example. I fired up Battlefield 3 this weekend on PS3 only to see a 1.5GB update. My internet is really fast and the download did not take that long, but I was still annoyed. In the end I was actually pretty happy cause the update added two new maps and a weapons pack. So it was 100% worth it to grab that update. Although annoying, I welcome updates, especially on consoles.
  • Doug M: Not disputing that, Dino. I’m just saying that it seems to me like bad design for you to open up your new game, plug it in, turn it on . . . and have to update it. From a customer experience perspective, that’s kinda bogus.
  • Joel M in reply to Doug M: But it’s necessary.Most game consoles are literally PC’s of some sort. They don’t run all run x86, but they DO have vulnerabilities that need patched. Even iPad, iPhone and Android devices need updates. The latter 3 don’t always get them as soon as they should.I am WAITING for there to be a big attack that comes from zombified consoles and mobile devices.There is NO such thing as a computing devices that is an appliance. The closest are our phones, but even they aren’t. Appliances that use CPU’s, airplanes and cars all have older tech in it for a reason. The code is tested, tested some more and tested more and well you get the idea. Anything that is exciting and being updated all the time is something that carries a risk. Most times it’s acceptable but one day it won’t be. That’s why it is important for these to be right the first time. Mark my words: one of these days, there will be a big attack with tons of data lost on a mobile device or a game console and then you will see the world change….again.
  • Dan C: Doug- I suspect it has everything to do with the supply-chain and how it is managed. Apple doesn’t keep much stock on hand. Therefore most of the items that you can buy from them have been produced fairly recently. and will have the most uptodate firmware. If a company builds a lot of stock at one time it may sit for quite a while on shelves or in a warehouse. As a result, in the real work updates have been released etc and the box you open is actually OLD.Personally updates are like the credit card calling and saying “I’m sorry to bother you but did you make this charge?” Me- “Bother? Thanks for the decurity, bother me all you like.”Personally, I’m happy to update something even if I just opened it if that means I get the most security.
  • Doug M: I never said it wasn’t necessary; in fact, I said explicitly that “I don’t know a way around it.” All I said was that it sucks from a customer experience perspective.And I don’t necessarily agree, honestly. When you buy a new car, you don’t have to immediately drive it over to the service bay to update it, and cars these days have plenty of CPUs in them.
  • Doug M in reply to Dan C: That’s my guess, too, Dan. I’m guessing that the software and hardware run on their own (very different) release cadences, and that there is lots of stock on hand that have the “old” software rev. The only way to avoid the problem of having to update as soon as you unbox would be to limit or manipulate the supply chain in such a way to ensure that the majority of boxes had the latest software at all times. But I’m guessing that would be *way* too expensive, and kill the profit margin.
  • Carly Z in reply to Doug M: Because they update your car when it gets serviced. So unless you literally picked the car up from a delivery truck, unwrapped the cellophane and drove away with it, they updated it at the dealership before you bought it. My dad actually had an issue with his car because they didn’t completely configure his CPU and flip all the settings correctly, and he had to go back and have them fix it.Also, if your car gets serviced by the dealership, they update the software when they do their various xyz miles updates.
  • Dan C in reply to Carly Z: I didn’t know that… and considering how many different computers must be there- between keyless entry/ignition, nav… it makes sense
  • Carly Z in reply to Dan C: Exactly. They’re like little computers on wheels now. My parents have had all sorts of weirdo issues with their Nissans and most of the issues come back to a software problem with the computers. (Also why I would never buy a Nissan again after the issues I had and they have had.)
  • Joel M in reply to Carly Z: But….how many people take their car to the dealership? I RARELY go there unless no one else can figure it out….and even then they have issues.

So what do you all think?  Something we all have to live with–our current interation of “some assembly require”–something totally lame that needs to be fixed, or do you have another opinion?  Tell us below!


Categories: Gaming, Rants and Raves

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3 replies

  1. It’s been a while since I first set up mine but, as I recall, you can set up your XBox account on your PC. You can also go accountless for as long as you want by unplugging your XBox from the Internet.

  2. I honestly don’t understand the purpose of this article. You repeatedly say it’s “lame” and “bogus” but are open about the fact you have no idea what would work better. The situation is a positive, you buy the product and they immediately update it to the latest version. You no longer get stuck buying a product that’s out of date and has a placement available (okay, I’m aware that’s a flawed argument, but hopefully you get my drift).

    I guess the world needs people who challenge the status quo to encourage others to push things forward, but I do tire of people who will complain aboutnp things without offering an alternative.

    • DG – I think it is all a double-edged sword.  I agree with what you say, but there are some other considerations.

      I am a PC gamer and have been since before the IBM PC came out, and have long remembered getting ridiculed by console gamers (up through the PS2) who would laugh as games were released for the PC with tons of issues and get loads of huge patches, whereas console games were ‘set it and forget it’.

      On the upside, as Francis mentions, many of these patches take care of critical issues and add new content.  They also allow a faster turn-around on new games – old methods that didn’t allow post-release updates meant an even more arduous bug-chasing and testing cycle.  While that is a good thing, it slows down everything else.  It also means that developers can add stuff in and keep gamers playing.

      But there was also a reason PC gamers caught crap about patches – while there are certainly issues or balancing or other stuff that deserves post-release patching, all too often it comes from simply releasing the game too soon.  

      I remember well when the first updates patches came to the original XBOX thinking ‘this is NOT good’.  Because what you call ‘forward progress’ isn’t about consoles moving forward but instead opening the doors to lower quality releases – and that is EXACTLY what has happened.  Now I am always reading about the sorry state of new console games on a weekly basis … and the massive patches required to fix them.

      As HildyJ mentioned, there are ways around all of this.  I have had a XBOX Live account since it came available for PC gamers years ago, so we had a very easy time getting everything established – I already had the ‘master’ account, and my son set up a new Gamertag and was off and running.  As for ‘going accountless’, while an option in my opinion that is like buying a hot new cell phone and not hooking up to a carrier!

      But your bottom line is true – it is easy to complain about issues, as every product and service has then … but harder to come up with solutions.

      And this one is tough – having quality mandated to the extreme worked back for the N64 and PSOne, but in the modern era it just wouldn’t work.  The alternative now has us seeing 1.5GB patches for Battlefield 3 – wait, what?!?  There has to be a middle ground.

      It makes me think of iOS updates – I have 7 iPod Touchs and iPads in the house, meaning that in the past every time I had an iOS updated I was looking at ~5GB of downloads.  Now I have ~350MB with the iOS 5.01 update!  

      My point?  Huge patches are often as much about expediency for the developer as anything else.  When most people were on dial-up or low-speed DSL developers had to keep downloads to ~100MB – I think MS and Sony should lean on developers – both internal and external – to respect the time of the customers by minimizing time spent doing anything BUT gaming.