Thursday, 20 June 2013

Microsoft retreats on its vision (or lack of)

One of my previous articles covered the Xbox One console that Microsoft recently announced.  I was highly critical of a few aspects of the Xbox, namely its focus on delivering Microsoft's vision instead of delivering a great consumer product for its customers.  

Microsoft made such a big deal of features like watching TV (is the Price is Right still that popular anyway?) and cloud control that they forgot the reason people bought the Xbox was to play games.  Not only did they ignore the gaming features, they actively hindered it with their new features such as DRM (digital rights management) control, centralized used game control, mandatory online connections, and etc.

With any product, especially consumer products for a very vocal audience you have to make sure that the negatives of your product is outweighed by the positives, especially when you have a competitor that took a different route.  I would argue that Microsoft doesn't really understand how this game is played because they operate off the Windows monopoly model where they're so entrenched.

After weeks of uproar, signs of poor acceptance, and low preorders, MS finally did a 180 and reversed its position, reverting back to the previous model.  I just can't understand how MS thought this was a good idea.  Arstechnica had a short description which I think highlights part of the problem:

When I got back from E3 last week, I called my mom for a regular check-in. Obviously, I brought up the show and the battle between Sony and Microsoft. When I described Microsoft's game licensing policies to her, she said they were "the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard."

When she asked incredulously why Microsoft did what it did, I found myself fumbling for an answer. Despite recently having a long sit down with Microsoft's marketing chief where he was tasked with answering this very question, I found myself struggling. I couldn't easily explain to my own mother why in the world she should see Microsoft's "digital future" as anything but stupid.

This was, in effect, the problem. Microsoft's moves to slowly strangle the life out of the disc-based game failed the "mom test" because there was nothing strong enough to counterbalance the obvious hassles and annoyances that it imposed. And that's a shame, because it's not that hard to envision the world that Microsoft apparently did, where purely digital game libraries actually let console makers and publishers offer new and interesting ways to get access to their games, in exchange for those disc-based and online-connected annoyances. But Microsoft utterly and completely failed to sell that vision, and so here we are.

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