Microsoft’s Xbox One Launch is a Giant Mess

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Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox One, is a powerful machine with some interesting and innovative features. Microsoft spent most of the last console generation well ahead of its main competitor, Sony. The Xbox 360 greatly expanded a brand that Microsoft had started with the original Xbox, and gained a loyal fan base – especially among online console gamers.  Microsoft has invested a cubic crap ton in marketing its new machine and in exclusive partnerships.

So, the question remains, How did Microsoft screw this up so badly?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not predicting the Xbox One’s demise. A lot could happen in the coming years and Microsoft could turn this around. Microsoft seems to already be getting back on course, and had a lot of good to show off recently at Gamescom. I don’t think the PS4‘s dominance of this console generation is a foregone conclusion by any means. But I do think Microsoft handed Sony an opportunity on a silver platter.

[Disclaimer:] I’m choosing not to mention the Nintendo Wii or Wii U in this discussion because I think the market for those consoles is/was largely different and outside of the market for Microsoft and Sony’s products. I don’t at all mean to discount Nintendo‘s contributions to the current and previous console generations, I just don’t feel it’s pertinent to this topic.

Whose Idea Was It to Unveil the Non-Gaming Features First?

Microsoft first unveiled its Xbox One console at an event on the company’s campus this past May. To say that the reveal failed to excite gamers is hardly an overstatement. The focus was on all the things the Xbox One could do besides play games.

Microsoft execs and spokespeople showed off the Xbox One as an entertainment hub which, yes, did play a game or two but also was a DVR, a stream box, a health monitor and an always on presence in your living room. The internets were displeased and calls of “where are the games?” echoed through the blogosphere.

To its credit, Microsoft promised and certainly delivered some excellent gaming content for its E3 showcase a month later. But why the company chose to unveil a gaming console with its focus elsewhere still dumbfounds me.

The Kinect Problem

Microsoft’s Kinect is an incredible device that allows for never before seen gameplay styles as well as voice and gestural controls. But its mandatory inclusion with the Xbox One was a terrible idea. Core gamers don’t care about the Kinect, and the folks who might buy an Xbox One for the Kinect functions aren’t about to pay $500 for one. Add to this the somewhat spooky always-on feature of the Kinect (Microsoft has since backtracked on this) which rankled security advocates and consumers alike.

Lastly, the inclusion of the Kinect is generally thought to be the reason for the $499 price point (as opposed to the PS4′s $399), prompting calls for a Kinect free model of the console that, so far, have fallen on deaf ears from Microsoft.

The DRM and Used Games Fiasco

Microsoft originally announced the Xbox One would have an always online requirement, to check the licenses of games and media -be they on disc or downloaded. It was an effort to make the console operate more like Steam, a model based on digital downloads where the ownership is in the license for content as opposed to a physical disc. A consequence of this policy was a potential inability to share or play used games on disc -as the content’s license would already be owned.

Suffice it to say, this was extremely unpopular with console gamers. Don Mattrick’s flippant comments only made matters worse.

Flip Flops, Midseason Replacements, and Delays

Microsoft reversed its stance on its always-online license checking, DRM, and policies around used or shared games after a barrage of attacks from all sides. The internet backlash was huge and message boards were filled with scathing nerd rage screeds. Microsoft’s main rival, Sony, got in on the bloodbath too, releasing a tongue-in-cheek video about used games on the PS4.

While Microsoft’s 180 was a good thing for consumers, it put the company in an unenviable position. Also, it was only the first of many flip flops, with Microsoft switching its script again and again after features of the Xbox One were publicly bashed. Microsoft totally changed its stance on Indy development (for the better, I might add), and made it possible to disable the Kinect. Each of these moves were in response to negative press. While the changes are all good, Microsoft came out of it looking like it was indecisive and lacking leadership.

And that’s probably because it was! Don Mattrick left Microsoft for Zynga halfway through the Xbox One’s hype cycle. Mattrick ran his mouth too much, and arguably was responsible for a lot of the Xbox One’s bad press. Still, whether he jumped ship or was pushed overboard a leadership shuffle this late in the game just looks bad.

Do you know what looks even worse? Promising something without delivering. First Microsoft delayed Kinect Sports Rivals, one of its most hyped launch titles. Just last week the company announced it would be delaying the release of the Xbox One in 8 of the 21 markets it had previously announced would get the console on day one.

Xbox One Controllers Need Batteries Out of the Box – Seriously

It’s 2013, and buying batteries is ridiculous. That the Xbox One costs $499 and doesn’t come with rechargeable wireless controllers as a standard feature is nonsensical. It’s like the Xbox team said “We already included that Kinect you didn’t want, we can’t really add rechargeable controllers, now can we?”

This seems like a minor peeve, since you can get a “Play and Charge” kit. Of course, you’ll pay $24.99 for each kit, or $74.99 for a controller and kit combined. The standard, battery powered controllers are $59.99. Want to play 2 player and recharge with your new $500 console? That will just be $100 more!

Final Thought

As I’ve said, I’m not trying to pronounce the Xbox One dead on arrival here. Far from it! Microsoft has a loyal install base and is going into this generation with a major head start on the online side. On the hardware side, the Xbox One and Playstation 4 are comparable and development of most major titles will happen for both, aside from first party exclusives – of which Microsoft has plenty.

As embarrassing as Microsoft’s public reversals have been, they do show that the company is course-correcting and cleaning up its strategy with the Xbox One. Going forward, Microsoft has an opportunity to continue listening to its consumers and make something great.

I’m very excited to see what the coming years will bring from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo!

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  • bob

    really? you’re whining about batteries? Xbox One is going to be awesome and has way more features than ps4.

    • Doan

      Batteries is a valid complaint. Do you realize how much land mass we are wasting on landfills? Non-rechargeable batteries should be outlawed.

      • Robb

        buy eneloops, profit.

    • maan786

      go home bob your drunk.!!

  • Hackuna MyTatas

    Hey genius,
    2 AA batteries come in the box, just like they do with Xbox 360′s.
    Also, including Kinect was a good idea. The last one sold almost as much as the original Xbox. The Kinect being there is what makes the product different from the Ps4, which in essence is just an upgraded ps3

    • dogmanx23

      The Kinect is about the only thing that’s different. M$ has pretty much changed everything to be exactly like the PS4.

      At first we had to completely different systems, but M$ shows they have no faith in what they were doing or else they would have stays with the path they were taking.

      Even giving free games now because Sony not only has a bunch of free to play at launch but they have 3-4 free games for PSN + members. M$ had to answer that with Fifa 14.

    • maan786

      delusional

  • Robb

    This article would’ve made sense a few months ago.

  • maan786

    fucked a console in the whole article, then give a political statement in the end, journalism.!!.:p

  • ShowanW

    Everyone wants their 15minutes of fame at Microsoft’s expense.

    Kinect being in every box is genius. Xbox One and Kinect are one in the same in a sense. Xbox One was built into Kinect, as Kinect was built into Xbox one.
    If people keep harping on this, then they never really wanted an Xbox One.

    • Arron Clements

      Why should I pay extra for Kinect when I have no intention to ever use? Packing it in increases the cost and make the choice easy for people who don’t want it.

      • ShowanW

        If you really have that much a problem with Kinect, then you never really wanted an Xbox One. Kinect and the X1 were built around each other and into each other. They are One mind, but 2 bodies.

        People should either embrace it or not get a X1. Nobody is forcing anything. I see no Microsoft execs with guns to peoples heads.

        They are together for 10yrs.

        People wasting energy to brake up a bond that was meant for the life of a console. Nintendo nor Sony have dedicated cameras in the box of their consoles. Those are always an option.

        • Arron Clements

          Its utter nonsense to suggest that if you don’t like Kinect you never intended to buy an XBONE. But you’re right that the two are clearly inseparable (until the next 180) and that’s another reason why the PS4 is killing it in pre-orders.

    • spec

      no offence but the price and the eye isn’t the issue, the issue really is all about trying to destroy not only the second hand gaming market, the ability to share games and destroying indy games is what its all about. Not all of us can afford 1000$ a year for games and rely on the second hand market. Not all of us play multiplayer games and as such don’t want or need the internet on our games console, though an option is a good thing. I’m a Microsoft fan boy and I wouldn’t touch the xbox one unless Microsoft made a public statement guaranteeing to protect the single player offline gaming experience/Indy market for the next 20 years then id probably chose the xbox one but they haven’t so its ps4 all the way for me. I didn’t know about controllers using batteries i’m not a fan of that but its not a deal breaker either.

  • http://TheTrendaholic.com/ Charles West

    Batteries is a valid point. Every controller should come with rechargeable batteries, which would solve environmental issues as well.

    • Josh Gordon

      They shouldnt come with rechargable batterys because they shouldnt NEED batteries.
      Its a joke Microsoft speak about innovation but then they do something this stupid

  • John Luc Picard

    Halo suxxx anyways. Gimme Crash Bandicoot.

  • Wade Keye

    I appreciate the discussion, folks! Please remember this is an opinion piece, I’m not trying to speak for everyone.

  • Thor’s hammer

    Kinect= NSA= Microsoft friends with= third party hackers spying on you whenever they like. How is kinect such an important device to hardcore gamers ?. This has not been explained well enough to justify this potentially invasive device. Can you say prism ?. This is just a clusterfuck on microsofts end. I thought that when in business the customer is always right. At least Sony seems to grasp this premise.

    • Kelvin Roy Leek

      you have a camera on your phone and laptop?do you walk past cctv? enough said

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