Xbox One U-Turn

Mark Botwright

Distinguished Member
In what has to be the biggest about face in gaming history, Microsoft have caved in, mirrored Sony's stance and announced the Xbox One will have no mandatory daily check-in and disc trading/ownership will be exactly as it is now. Further to this, they're even in such a benevolent mood as to remove region locks too. Hands up, who saw that coming?

Ever since the One reveal, and the news of their altered vision of how we'd game in the future, all the talk had been big on hubris and sorely lacking in self reflection. It goes with the territory that a company whose fortune rests on how it can gauge the technological winds may sometimes steer off course, but so few gamers foresaw them discovering a new continent of happy consumers.

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The problems were many, and I can have sympathy for them trying to pre-empt the next big thing. Microsoft have been woeful at trend setting, finding their way in recent years by following what sells in hardware terms with their own perceived incremental improvements. Zune and Surface will never be synonymous with the technology they house. By trying to please everyone, rather than heading for the all digital future they so patently see on the horizon, the blueprint for the One became confused. Without downloads as the sole - or even primary - means of delivering content any thoughts of significantly reduced prices receded, and all that was left for many was a muddle of ideas, trampling over what is currently working to implement something that has yet to be proven. Trust us.

We'll likely never know the full extent to which publishers played a role in this new intended direction, but in an E3 interview the indications were clear that someone may blink. Peter Moore of EA, a company widely caricatured as ranging from vaguely malevolent to outright demonic in gaming circles, took pains to make it clear that they were not behind this push to restrict your consumer rights, stating final publisher agreements had yet to be signed. When EA start to think this is bad PR, you're in trouble.

If indeed the publishers were playing a major part in the planned kneecapping of the second hand games market, a game of brinksmanship with the two console manufacturers was well under way. Each needs the other, but to what extent? Sony's continuance of the status quo presented a major turning point; with spiralling budgets for AAA games prevalent amid the biggest and most powerful publishers, how could the likes of EA and Activision recoup their losses if they only backed one console? If however they back both, the planned cut of each trade-in game on the One needs to be of such low value as to not skew the price difference significantly. If it does misalign them, they effectively undermine the whole Microsoft model. In short, if you believe this was a “who'll blink first” scenario, Sony held their nerve.

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I maintain however, that the biggest stumbling block for Microsoft was not the draconian measures they were intending to introduce; those were harsh, but could conceivably come with benefits should they be slightly amended and implemented correctly. No, Microsoft fell down in the most basic of ways, they simply hadn't planned. They not only underestimated the extent to which consumers value the gaming model currently in situ, but they spectacularly failed to have anything concrete in place for after their reveal. It smacked of desperation, a company eager to capitalise on releasing hardware first into the market - gaining the spoils of an early user base that so benefited them in this current generation of consoles.

Sony was the first to show off game footage from their PS4 some months prior to the May One event, and a 2013 release was likely, but everyone always thought the Microsoft console would hit this calendar year too. However the avalanche of evasive interviews - containing vague projections of how the new system would work that even senior executives couldn't seemingly grasp - undermined everything. And it only got worse. Never before has a company so spectacularly failed to own its own story. They weren't leading the consumer - unveiling small titbits of information about key features, keeping consumers eager to know more in the run up to release - no, they were being led by the interviews themselves, having to find more and more ways to creatively say “that's not finalised” or “we're still looking into that”.

When pre-orders are there for the taking, and your main competitor offers an easy to understand alternative, it doesn't matter whether you have the doorway to gaming nirvana lined up; if you can't explain it then you've failed. The best product doesn't always win, the perceived best product usually does. Enticement with such offers like the family sharing plan or upgraded benefits for Live subscribers may have won some around, but the lack of clarification on the former to any degree of absolute detail was damning. There are some firms people are happy to put their trust in; Microsoft may have thought the mountain of good will they've built up with the Xbox and 360 made them one of those firms, they were wrong. People quickly pointed to the fact that this was not the motley crew of likeable faces such as J Allard or Robbie Bach anymore, and the games division that had managed to shrug off the negative connotations of its parent company's image in the eyes of gamers for so long, once again became distinctly Microsoft flavoured; unpalatable to the core gaming crowd, but worse to the tech heads noting their dissatisfaction with Windows 8 and the one-good-one-bad cycle of MS releases.

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The inability to unveil concrete details was an absurdity, particularly in light of the fact that the actual box was shown. Naysayers and potential consumers chose to hit the company with the stick they'd been handed; if the physical form of a product - i.e. the games - matters so little, and we're moving towards paying for services and licenses, then you can't show one without entirely detailing the other. You've shown us the wrong thing. Every interview became about the hidden subtext of answers; no longer questioning for something to be said but to read between the lines for loopholes and vague language. And with each fudged executive utterance, whatever restrained consumer confidence - that perhaps this bright future had indeed been planned meticulously - rapidly evaporated.

You can't blame Microsoft for trying something new, the lure of a portal to content in your living must have been appetising, and for once getting in the pre-emptive strike to Apple or Google capitalising wholly on that market and building a monopoly must have seemed too great to miss. Timing however plays a major part, and in the looming shadow of a world economy wrecked by men in suits playing fast and loose with their own unacknowledged civic responsibility, the correct corporate image has never been so important. Moving to a licence based future is probably inevitable, but consumers need to be drawn there of their own free will, enticed by the myriad benefits, not shooed there with derisive remarks and the threat of its inevitability. Few companies could ever get away with curtailing consumer rights definitely, and attempting to offset this by dangling the imaginary carrot of a mere potential benefit that is as yet unfinalised.

The irony is that for once the ire was slightly dissipating, thanks to the proposed family sharing plan, but even with that golden opportunity, the obfuscation and general lack of a coherent and meticulously detailed message proved fatally undermining. Once people assume it's too good to be true, they stop hearing your words and you've lost them.

Had Microsoft - on the day of the reveal - locked down the plans for trade-in, named the participating retailers, outlined the maximum cost for retail games, clarified who'd be paying a fee and when to reactivate a licence, detailed the price structure this may all have been different. People would still have (rightly) moaned, the downfall of an empire would have been predicted, but at least the message would be clear and a more informed choice could therefore be made. No one fancied having to double check a powerpoint presentation in order to work out how you can play your own games or where, but at least it would have been a choice based wholly on what the final product would have been. As it is, we'll never know.

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The u turn may win back the wavering Microsoft faithful - generally those more allied with the pad design than the company's ethos - but there's still the small matter of a bundled peripheral that no one seems to want and a fairly big price difference. And without the perceived ideal of being constantly online, the much vaunted power of the cloud looks more and more like marketing speak that's set to fall by the wayside.

But credit where credit's due, eating humble pie in such a public and humiliating manner is never easy, and Microsoft have certainly chowed down.
 

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Dubliner1

Well-known Member
Pathetic turnaround from Microsoft...last week they were trying to shaft gamers...this week they want to be your friend. NO THANKS. The price difference is still a big issue and their lack of support for indie developers. And early reports indicate sRAM yield problems and I wouldn't be surprised if the hardware itself is defective and cheaply built.
Anyone supporting Microsoft after what they tried to pull recently needs their head examined. I'll be supporting Sony and Nintendo.
The only thing Microsoft has brought to gaming is crap hardware, contempt for their own customers and GREED.
:thumbsdow :thumbsdow :thumbsdow :thumbsdow :thumbsdow
 

Nostromo71

Well-known Member
That's a great read, Mark. You nailed it perfectly.
 

JasonH76

Member
Good article as always.

I have always been a Xbox Fan and Windows 8 fan (rare breed!) and I personally prefer playing on my Xbox 360 as it ties in well with Windows 8, but after hearing about the DRM issue, my allegiance has swayed to Sony.

The U-Turn has not changed my mind. For that, Microsoft need to give people the option to purchase the xBox One with the Kinect 2.0 or without. Can't the original Kinect be used on the xBox One instead before upgrading later?

The price always starts high and no doubt, over time it will come down as the console no doubt goes through a re-design (i.e. get smaller).

C'mon Microsoft - get it right. I love Windows 8 (my wife hates it mind you!), but the new xBox One is starting to look like a Vista/Windows 8 moment.
 
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Dubliner1

Well-known Member
I highly doubt Microsoft would be doing such a 180 turnaround if Sony were not releasing the PS4 this year too...regardless of the huge backlash to their DRM/online check-in policies.
:nono:
 

golden phoenix

Distinguished Member
because it is easy to see that the ps4 would have wiped the floor with the xbox1 with all the caveats that microsoft were going to impose, so this is damage limitation, i personally believed the xbox1 would still have sold, but in not as many numbers...

good to see the power of the internet, twitter, gaming forums can make the mighty microsft listen for a change and more importantly...ACT...
 

Tidy_Sammy

Well-known Member
Anyone supporting Microsoft after what they tried to pull recently needs their head examined. I'll be supporting Sony and Nintendo.

The hardware on the 360 was sorted a long time ago, and supporting Nintendo when complaining about 'crap hardware' on other competitors is pretty funny, considering how behind they are (if you're talking about performance, otherwise, see first sentence). You act like Microsoft is the big evil, which they are, but hey, so is Sony and Nintendo, you really think they're ethical in comparison? What about Nintendo recently stopping all footage of their gameplay, just to give you one simple example?

Microsoft have made some stupendous errors with their new console, they've done a complete 180, which whilst embarrassing, due to the terrible systems they were going to implement, is surely a good thing for the end gamer? You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, they made stupid mistakes = complain, they listen to consumer feedback to rectify them = complains.

If it's of any use, I'm a long term 360+gaming PC owner, and will most likely just stick to my gaming PC for the next generation, so I'd like to think as myself as pretty neutral.
 

Dubliner1

Well-known Member
The hardware on the 360 was sorted a long time ago, and supporting Nintendo when complaining about 'crap hardware' on other competitors is pretty funny, considering how behind they are (if you're talking about performance, otherwise, see first sentence). You act like Microsoft is the big evil, which they are, but hey, so is Sony and Nintendo, you really think they're ethical in comparison? What about Nintendo recently stopping all footage of their gameplay, just to give you one simple example?

Microsoft have made some stupendous errors with their new console, they've done a complete 180, which whilst embarrassing, due to the terrible systems they were going to implement, is surely a good thing for the end gamer? You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, they made stupid mistakes = complain, they listen to consumer feedback to rectify them = complains.

If it's of any use, I'm a long term 360+gaming PC owner, and will most likely just stick to my gaming PC for the next generation, so I'd like to think as myself as pretty neutral.

As far as "dodgy" hardware I was referring to the original 360 (not the fixed 'slim' version) and the XBoxOne which has all sorts of manufacturing problems at the moment.
I'm glad there are several consoles to choose from- no one wants 1 company monopolizing/controlling the gaming industry- that's Microsofts dream...
In their twisted vision of the future all games have to be downloaded, that way they can control the pricing (less choice for customers), you can't share your games, DRM, endless advertising etc... everything is about control, control, control...
You are a long term 360 gamer? I would never have guessed. me too...but I also have a PS3, PS2 and Gamecube...guess that makes me more 'neutral' than you?....;)
 

Bogside

Well-known Member
A great, well reasoned article that made a good read. It may well be that we look back in the next generation of consoles (by that I mean the Xbox2 or PS5) and think that MS were ahead of their time with these ideas. But for now the consumer wasn't ready and we're in a point in society where consumer trust is more fragile and protected than at any time for decades.
 

Dubliner1

Well-known Member
A great, well reasoned article that made a good read. It may well be that we look back in the next generation of consoles (by that I mean the Xbox2 or PS5) and think that MS were ahead of their time with these ideas. But for now the consumer wasn't ready and we're in a point in society where consumer trust is more fragile and protected than at any time for decades.

I sure hope not!
 

Tidy_Sammy

Well-known Member
You are a long term 360 gamer? I would never have guessed. me too...but I also have a PS3, PS2 and Gamecube...guess that makes me more 'neutral' than you?....

I forgot to add I also had (and loved) SNES/GC/NDS/N64/Sega Saturn (spent a lot of time playing PS1-3+Dreamcast at friend's places), so my dad is bigger than your dad! :D
 

J.C

Active Member
I sure hope not!

You better believe it. A lot of the Xbox "always on" policy was to encourage the studios to offload certain actions into the cloud, reducing the stress on the hardware. Whether anyone likes it or not the cloud is the way its going and Microsoft know (and are invested in) this.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the article, its hardly a shock U-Turn but at least it shows the they do occasionally listen to their customers (any sysadmins lurking about will share my grief with this)
 

Navvie

Active Member
I don't buy it.

Sure Microsoft have done a U-turn on their 24 hour online check in, no-reselling your games... but I can still see publishers being free to implement these sorts of restrictions.

They haven't addressed the Kinect issue, and the thing is still primarily TV! TV! TV!

What Microsoft have done is start off with some terms and conditions that were truly, truly horrendous. They've now got rid some of these measures and everyone thinks they're suddenly the good guys and the power of the internet blah blah blah... no. Microsoft changed their plans because there was a more-open, consumer friendly alternative coming to market at the same time and they realised they would struggle to compete with it. All the whining on the internet didn't do squat... although it pays Microsoft to say it did, so they can make some sort of connection with their customer base.

I wonder about the management at Microsoft. The decision to implement the very very restrictive conditions must have been made a very, very high level in Microsoft... did they really think we'd all go for it? Did they do any market research? If somebody doesn't get fired for making that decision I can only assume it is pretty difficult to get the sack from Microsoft.

I don't know what percentage of XBox360 users bought Kinect, but I bet it wasn't many. Microsoft built this wonderful device, and brought it to market and the market responded by... showing very little interest... nobody I know with an X360 has a kinect. But because Microsoft think Kinect is the way of the future and can't understand why people didn't see the benefits of buying one with for a 360... it is now mandatory part of the xbox one.

I was genuinely excited about the third xbox. That is until it was launched, and intially all they could say about it was "TV!". Then the DRM stuff came out and kinect and the unforgivable "we have a solution for customers who don't have a broadband internet connection, its called xbox 360" statement.

I can laugh at them for constantly trying to get people to buy Windows 8, even though they were told repeatedly during the beta that Metro was awful. The only response was "yeah, but, Apple" and "tablets". They don't listen because Microsoft knows best - this is why I honestly don't think they've responded to the negative comments on the net, just to the Sony and PS4.

I cannot forgive, at least not yet, this complete shambles of a launch of a new product. They've really shown just how out of touch they are with their customers.

There. I feel better for that.

tl;dr

Microsoft's reputation is in tatters. Don't trust them.
 

Darkmatter21

Active Member
I had no problem in the first place and would be personally quite happy if all consoles locked your copy of the game to thou INA model similar to the PC market. Online check in? I have yet to lose my connection in 2 years.... Why would I worry about checking in every 24 hours?
 

Nostromo71

Well-known Member
I had no problem in the first place and would be personally quite happy if all consoles locked your copy of the game to thou INA model similar to the PC market. Online check in? I have yet to lose my connection in 2 years.... Why would I worry about checking in every 24 hours?

That may be fine for you, but there are still millions of gamers around the world who don't have permanent internet access, and none of us can predict the future. Who can say 100% that they will have a broadband internet connection next year, or two years down the line? No one can. In the last ten years, due to financial problems, I've had to cancel my Internet subscription three times, so there is absolutely zero chance of me ever investing in a console that may become unusable for playing games should I once again lose my Internet. If M$ were trying to move their gaming experience to a PC style one, then what's the point in shelling out over £400 for a console to do something that your PC/Laptop can already do? Is it really worth spending that amount of money just for a few exclusive Xbox titles?
 

chris.coops

Standard Member
I don't buy it.

Sure Microsoft have done a U-turn on their 24 hour online check in, no-reselling your games... but I can still see publishers being free to implement these sorts of restrictions.

They're free to implement the restrictions on the current gen, and I'd bet my life that they'll be free to do the same thing on the PS4 too. Sony just conveniently decided not to mention anything about it.
Which is pretty much the point of the article anyway, Sony's marketing was better than Microsoft's
 

Darkmatter21

Active Member
That may be fine for you, but there are still millions of gamers around the world who don't have permanent internet access, and none of us can predict the future. Who can say 100% that they will have a broadband internet connection next year, or two years down the line? No one can. In the last ten years, due to financial problems, I've had to cancel my Internet subscription three times, so there is absolutely zero chance of me ever investing in a console that may become unusable for playing games should I once again lose my Internet. If M$ were trying to move their gaming experience to a PC style one, then what's the point in shelling out over £400 for a console to do something that your PC/Laptop can already do? Is it really worth spending that amount of money just for a few exclusive Xbox titles?

If i had so little money i had to cancel my £7.50 a month internet subscription i would start to question why i had a £300+ console sitting under my TV.

The whole console vs pc debate is a long winded one. I see a console as a custom made PC that sits under my TV, its much cheaper than buying a gaming PC and due to everyone owning a console having the same hardware the games really get the most out of the hardware. Its the simplicity as well, consoles there is no compatability issues, no driver issues, limited OS issues etc etc.

I personally buy all consoles and keep a few PCs as i buy them all for the exclusives:

PC -> Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo & Tropico
Xbox -> Halo, Forza, Fable, Gears etc
Playstation -> Ni No Kuni, God of war etc
Nintendo -> Zelda, Mario, Pikmin.

To me it would be great if i didn't have to buy them all but there is no way around that without a monopoly which i can imagine none of us want.
 

Nostromo71

Well-known Member
If i had so little money i had to cancel my £7.50 a month internet subscription i would start to question why i had a £300+ console sitting under my TV.

You're missing the point entirely. This has nothing to do with your ability to purchase a £300+ console at some point in your life. It's about future possibilities. You're only thinking about things from a personal viewpoint. To be fair though, I maybe should have stated that by 'Losing your Internet,' I meant having to cancel your home phone line which supplies your Broadband.
 

Darkmatter21

Active Member
You're missing the point entirely. This has nothing to do with your ability to purchase a £300+ console at some point in your life. It's about future possibilities. You're only thinking about things from a personal viewpoint. To be fair though, I maybe should have stated that by 'Losing your Internet,' I meant having to cancel your home phone line which supplies your Broadband.


Future possibility of not being able to afford the internet? Or the future possibility of the internet becoming less reliable?

Its hard for me to gauge other peoples financial security, so i can't really comment on that.

Considering the internet is becoming the backbone of our modern day world i can't see people being without it for days on end, if i was, the xbox would be the least of my concerns consideirng what else i need the internet for on a day by day basis.

I can imagine in other parts of the world this is a bigger issue but for the large majority of europe and america i can't understand the issue with putting your xbox online from day one.
 

museumsteve

Distinguished Member
I had no problem in the first place and would be personally quite happy if all consoles locked your copy of the game to thou INA model similar to the PC market. Online check in? I have yet to lose my connection in 2 years.... Why would I worry about checking in every 24 hours?

PC market and console market are different animals. The online connection was less of an issue than the preowned restrictions for most people.
People demand the right to do what they want with the games they buy and initially MS looked to take that right away. It's not about legalities and software licenses, it was more because we've spent the last 15 years with a business model that worked. If it hadn't worked, the industry wouldn't have grown to the dizzy heights it is now.
 

Nostromo71

Well-known Member
PC market and console market are different animals. The online connection was less of an issue than the preowned restrictions for most people.
People demand the right to do what they want with the games they buy and initially MS looked to take that right away. It's not about legalities and software licenses, it was more because we've spent the last 15 years with a business model that worked. If it hadn't worked, the industry wouldn't have grown to the dizzy heights it is now.

That's what annoyed me so much. I've been a console gamer since the late 70's, and all of a sudden, Microsoft were changing the rules by turning Console Gaming into a PC style gaming experience. If I wanted that, I would game on my PC and not spend £400+ for a few exclusive titles.
 
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Darkmatter21

Active Member
PC market and console market are different animals. The online connection was less of an issue than the preowned restrictions for most people.
People demand the right to do what they want with the games they buy and initially MS looked to take that right away. It's not about legalities and software licenses, it was more because we've spent the last 15 years with a business model that worked. If it hadn't worked, the industry wouldn't have grown to the dizzy heights it is now.


I 100% agree the PC and console markets are different animals.

I am glad to see other people who don't have a big issue with the online connection thingy. I seem to remember the same issue coming up with Half-Life 2 and steam when that was launched....

I do understand that people want to right to do what they like. I do appreciate the freedom that the console market has enjoyed for the last 20 years.

What I don't like is piracy, I feel as someone who does pay for games that I am laughed at by people who claim free copies of everything. I feel then as a legitimate user feeling stupid for paying for it when everyone else is getting it for free. So in that sense I support DRM as long as it does not inter fear with me playing games, so to me it seemed to work quite well that your own console saves your login name and password and all you have to do is turn it on and put the game in after its registered. They said there was options to share with family members if needs be.

The games world has enjoyed a huge boom but times are changing, development costs are claiming massively and game prices have not exactly gone up that much. I am sure SNES games where £40-50 and I can't imagine they cost anywhere near as much as Final Fantasy and the such like to make.

It all is moot anyway as its not going through, which is a shame as I felt it was the way forward to have DRM. I would ideally like to see the games industry move with the times as long as it does not inter fear with me as the end user, which I did not see as making an account and adding CD keys to it would do.
 

Darkmatter21

Active Member
That's what annoyed me so much. I've been a console gamer since the late 70's, and all of a sudden, Microsoft were changing the rules by turning Console Gaming into a PC style gaming experience. If I wanted that, I would game on my PC and not spend £400+ for a few exclusive titles.

From this I get the feeling your saying that by not allowing games to be shared among multiple users the console market would get turned into a "PC style gaming experience". I find that a strange stand point, I would be interested to see if other people feel the same as you.

For me the difference between console gaming and PC gaming is the simplicity and compatibility that consoles offer.
 

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