The Xbox Reveal was a disappointment. I'm pretty sure most of us (gamers) can get behind that. As disappointing as it was though, the reasons for the ever increasing "Xbox One hate" we're experiencing right now is not to be found in an one hour long, slightly misguided presentation. Most of us get that Microsoft wants their new console to appeal to a broader audience. We are ok with that. The reason why the last few days have been a PR disaster for Microsoft, is Microsoft's mindbogglingly bad communication.
Communication is important. It's the connection between a company that wants to sell a good and the potential buyer of that particular good. Good communication can bring a lot of new fans and satisfy the old ones (Nintendo Direct is a perfect example for good communication). Bad communication leads to confusion, which leads to frustration, which then leads to the overwhelming negativity we're now experiencing with Xbox One. We don't know every detail about Microsoft's new console, which is usually fine. There are still three major gaming events and several months ahead of launch. Usually. In reality it's everything but.
The Xbox One is an individual unfinished puzzle in our minds. Microsoft PR's task right now is to help us finish that puzzle with more information and push us towards buying that system. We don't have enough pieces to finish the puzzle yet, that's how communication at this stage of a console launch works, it's nothing out of the ordinary. Now here's Microsoft's big mistake: Thanks to confusing and directly contradicting quotes by several executives after the reveal, they've already given us enough information for us to believe that we can come up with some of the missing pieces ourselves and finish the puzzle before Microsoft intended us to do. So we take all those incoming news (quoting nebulous sources of course - don't trust them, nobody seems to know what's up) and old patents and ask ourselves: "Does this fit into my own puzzle of what I believe the Xbox One will turn out to be?". That's how consumers decide about possible purchases, PR's job is to influence the consumer in a certain way to make the puzzle look as attractive as possible. Microsoft PR is influencing consumer's perception of their product, but in the worst way possible. "We know that something's up with used games and always online, so why aren't they just open about it? It they aren't open about it, it must be something horrible, right?". That mindset makes us believe that even unbelievable patents (such as this Kinect increases the pricing of media accordingly to the people facing the TV) don't sound that unbelievable anymore. So we just add that piece to our puzzle of the Xbox One. Even if Microsoft will never ever use this patent, it has still changed our perception of the console.
The irony of it all: Microsoft created that narrative themselves. They've lost all control of the message and hence the situation. It's their own fault their new console is (without any real evidence) considered to be the worst nightmare in the history of gaming and Sony the righteous White Knight. The Xbox One could be a pretty neat machine, all those changes not as horrible as everyone is now expecting them to be. Maybe all of this will be forgotten after they finally start talking about the benefits of those changes (you know, the good puzzle pieces) and maybe Sony will one-up them with even worse restrictions. But for now, they're doing everything wrong. I don't know about you guys, but my Xbox One puzzle is looking worse and worse every single day.
Just read what Sony CEO Kazu Hirai had to say at D11:
“I fundamentally believe that the initial market that we need to make sure we appeal to with any new platform … is really the gaming audience. (…). They will be the supporters of your platform and they will help propel the installed base. (…). For us, it’s all about the gamers.” - Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony. (Source: venturebeat)
That sounds so much better than anything that Microsoft has said so far, right? The funny thing: This means next to nothing really, but it's till going to make many gamers pre-order the PS4. Maybe Sony's painting a better NextGen future than Microsoft does, but in the end they're both using pretty much the same colours. Of course there's something going on with Always Online and Used Games at Sony as well, but nobody's talking about it. Because Sony knows when it's time to just say nothing and when it's time to say some well targeted and formulated words. The power of communication.