So you’re a gamer. You might own an Xbox or a PlayStation, or both. You might even be part of that PC elitist race, or maybe you just play Bejewelled on your phone sometimes. Whatever type of gamer you are, you've probably heard about the Xbox One by now, Microsoft’s next gen console that was set to take over your living room until the gaming community took it to trial.
As Microsoft tries to catch its breath, explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Xbox One with Rachel Barnes' primer on the reveal, the backlash, and the one-eighty.
It all started out with the reveal. After Sony’s rather redundant PS4 teaser
, Microsoft had the best footing it could have going second into the next gen console reveal. (Except for that name, 'Xbox One'. That name never had a chance.)
But where Sony’s teaser left fans wanting more, Microsoft’s reveal left fans wanting less of one thing in particular — television. Microsoft made it clear that the Xbox One was about television integration; watching movies on your television, using voice and movement controls to control your television, listening to music on your television, making your own fantasy sports team on your television.
While the Xbox One might make it more fun for you to turn on your TV, the hardcore Xbox fans who were watching the reveal only wanted one thing, and that was the one thing Microsoft did not deliver on — gaming. Despite this reveal failing to meet the company’s core demographics needs, there was still hope at this stage for the console.
The next gen console war was set to explode at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo with Sony and Microsoft both expected to show off their biggest guns, and Microsoft was up first. Before the conference kicked off, Director of Programming for the Microsoft gaming network Xbox Live, Larry Hryb, confirmed that they were going to deliver just what their fans were waiting for, gaming. “I can confirm that we will have TVs (or similar) on stage to show the games. That should be the extent of TV talk in your #E3,” Hryb tweeted.
Although they came through on their promise not to mention the console's home entertainment capabilities during the press conference, they made several announcements that angered fans. The biggest upset came from hearing Microsoft’s announcement regarding their Digital Rights Management. Gamers were told that the console would have to connect online at least once every 24 hours, would not be region free, would not be backwards compatible, games would have to be uploaded to your console (no longer requiring the disc after this was done) and would be registered to your account with limited sharing abilities, and there would be little support for the indie community.
Despite some of their killer exclusive games and producing an amazing all-in-one home entertainment box, Microsoft seemed to underestimate one thing — the consumer.
After that, Sony simply had to do just one thing — tell everyone the PS4 was not the Xbox One. In fact, the biggest marketing tool for Sony was Microsoft’s failure. They announced that the PS4 supported used games and released mocking videos about how to share games on the PS4 — by simply handing your game to your friend. The console was not always on, was region free, supported indie developers, and games were played from the disc. When all was said and done, the PS4s announcement of a cheaper price point was just rubbing salt into Microsoft’s gaping wounds.
As soon as the two giants had presented their cases the gaming community immediately responded. The Xbox’s main audience was outraged, and they had social media at their fingertips. From memes, reaction videos, forum posts, complaints, Facebook statuses, twitter updates, the consumers were relentless. They wanted Microsoft to know just how they felt, and they didn’t hold back. At first Microsoft went into a defensive mode and told customers that the DRM could not be turned off and if they wanted an offline region free console they had another product available for them — the Xbox 360. Obviously that didn’t go down too well either.
But then the figures came in, and with the PS4 drastically outselling the Xbox One, Microsoft had been backed into a corner. On June 19, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattrick, released an update on the Xbox One entitled Your Feedback Matters
“You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc,” he wrote. “The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world. An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games — after a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc-based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
“Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc-based games just like you do today – there will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”
The consumers had done it. Microsoft simply could not compete with the voice of the people and decided to give them what they wanted. But despite many people praising Microsoft for listening to their fans, some thought it was too little, too late, or that they should have stuck to their guns and kept on going with their original plan. If Microsoft hadn’t backed down from their original plan, there may have been a chance to share your digital games library with up to 10 friends online and gift games to your friends once free of charge. Was everyone getting upset over nothing? And has this caused some of the best features of the console to be lost? We'll never know.
Although Microsoft and Sony are now on almost equal planes, it seems that the damage that was done may still impact sales come November. Gamers have long memories and won’t be forgetting Microsoft’s 'betrayal' anytime soon, and with the Xbox One’s higher price point and gamers wanting a “gaming” console as opposed to a “home entertainment” console, it is likely Microsoft has lost a significant chunk of their core demographic.
If you want to find out more about Microsoft and the XBOX One, you can see the console for yourself at Melboure's PAX AUS from July 19-21. Microsoft has joined forces with PAX AUS and will be showing the console for the first time in Australia at the event. Microsoft is set to hold three presentations over the course of the expo where they will “share their vision for the XBOX One and the future of gaming.” For more info, check out aus.paxsite.com