Why I'm still Skeptical of Microsoft and the Xbox One

Posted by SoulHarvester45 (18 posts) -

With the next generation of console gaming already on the way, there seem to be two top contenders vying for the top spot: Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Over the course of the announcements of these two consoles, many things have changed, backlash was given, reversals were made, and conferences were won and lost. This is especially the case with the Xbox One. While the main features of the Xbox One are currently more accessible and user-friendly, I feel as though Microsoft has become afraid of innovating and instead are trying desperately to tame their angry, unfed customers instead of offering the benefits their policies were to have, if any were to be had at all.

There are two things I want to get out right now, so as not to draw any confusion. One: this is not going to be bashing on the Xbox One itself and its features, old and new. This is merely me taking about Microsoft’s policies regarding the console. And two: this will not be a console comparison with the PlayStation 4. Sony’s console will have to sit this one out. Now that that’s out of the way, let me get started.

Let’s rewind a bit first. It’s May 21, 2013. The gaming world eagerly anticipates the announcement of Microsoft’s brand new gaming console. During the event, the device is revealed. Named the Xbox One for features that would make this device the main entertainment center of your living room, it quickly drew confused and angry looks from the crowd, both at the event and those watching the live stream online. Restrictive policies regarding used games, needing the Kinect 2.0 in order to simply function, region-locking, and an always-online connection no matter what would become synonymous with the Xbox One. It seemed almost too difficult to believe, considering how consumer-friendly the Xbox 360 was and has been throughout its lifespan.

Yet hope remained for these policies to maybe change with the passing of E3 2013, when games would be shown off and the new features, such as the Cloud and brand new Kinect 2.0 functions, would be given the spotlight. Well, not only were those policies still being implemented (all after showing off interesting game after interesting game), but the price point seemed a bit too much as well. At five-hundred US dollars, it seemed like a steep investment for something so restricting and consumer-unfriendly. Gaming journalists and economists stepped in to say that the Xbox One was going to fail in the face of its competition if these policies stayed, resulting in Microsoft losing its strength in the gaming industry.

Fortunately, people didn’t have to wait long for Microsoft to finally “get it,” as it were. June 19 came around, and what did Microsoft do? Drop everything. No always-online requirement, no used game restrictions, and no region-locking. Months later, the need to always have the Kinect 2.0 on would also be dropped. The internet leaped for joy. The Xbox One was a pure gaming console once again, much like the Xbox 360 was and is.

So why did I remain so…untrusting ever since? Why did these policy reversals do nothing to change my mind about the Xbox One for the longest time? Granted, I’m still going to get an Xbox One down the road, but I will always question Microsoft’s decision making in this whole ordeal. It will always seem to me that they care more about owing something to their customers rather than introducing a product that people should at least give a chance.

I’ve figured out at least two reasons why these policy changes made me skeptical of Microsoft and its new console. One: when Microsoft announced the Xbox One, it was intended to be some sort of gaming evolution. Digital trades through a family sharing plan, Cloud-based computer AI resulting in more intelligent and challenging games, and an upgrade to a subpar motion sensor that proves it can be responsive and add to the gameplay experience rather than hinder it. These things would not function as well without the original policies being implemented in the first place. While I feel the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits, it would’ve been great on Microsoft’s part to keep these features and still maintain that accessibility that gamers were going to lose. Instead, they opted for the safe-route, which was keeping the traditional format of having only those with online capabilities experience these wonderful new features.

This alienates a key demographic for any console and game developer: the non-online, single-player only gamer. Contrary to popular belief, gamers like this still exist. I would know, since I’m one of them. And they, too, yearn for the chance to experience the evolution of gaming that includes more intelligent AI and game sharing. They just do it in a different manner than the rest of the community. In some cases, they opt to share the experience through video of them going through a game while explaining how each section is done. Having to hold these features back from them through the paywall of the Xbox Live system seems like a lost opportunity in my eyes, especially for those who cannot consistently pay for Xbox Live Gold, yearly or otherwise.

The second thing that bothers me about this whole ordeal is Microsoft basically bending to the will of people who could or could not be their customers. As a business, Microsoft has to decide what the future holds for them and their customers while at the same time making sure their product sounds appealing. In other words, sell your product instead of telling people that this product is great and you should try it no matter what.

Now, their initial representation of the Xbox One was by no means great. They did nothing to make their product sound the least bit appealing. The problem here is that instead of finding a better way to market the new, “innovative” features of their console, they decide to reverse their policies and thus become exactly like their competition. Whereas Sony and Nintendo played it safe from the beginning, Microsoft decided to take that huge risk in the hope of gaining some sort of reward in the long run. But what did they do? They reversed their position and decided to play it safe for the sake of not angering anybody.

While a noble act, there were several features that not only sounded appealing, but could’ve helped Microsoft gain a slight edge against the competition, such as digital game sharing and their Cloud AI support. By taking the online features and hiding all of them behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall instead of making it mandatory that the console always remain online, they have limited those with low incomes from experiencing all these new innovations. It’s taking away from that demographic I mentioned earlier, and ignoring some of your customers doesn’t always turn out to be a good thing in the long run.

All the decisions Microsoft has made continue to make me skeptical. Instead of finding a new way of marketing these features and fixing the major issues with them, Microsoft decided to completely remove them and essentially sell a prettier, more stable Xbox 360. Since people already have one of those, what incentive are we given to try out their new console in the first place, if all we’re essentially getting is better graphics and a newer controller? That’s the only thing I ask. Again, I do not hate the new console, as I do plan to get it eventually. I just want people to keep this in mind before making it a purchase priority this holiday season.

#1 Edited by Syed117 (387 posts) -

I definitely think you have some valid points, but I think people are trying to analyze and dissect all the changes and decisions that have been made somewhat unfairly.

Microsoft did a terrible job explaining what their true policies and intentions were. There is no question. I was perfectly happy with the direction they were headed and was in the minority of people disappointed when those policies were changed. That's just me. I'm an adult male. I don't share my console with anyone. I don't trade in games. I don't buy used. Everything I own is always online and has been for years. There wasn't a single thing I had an issue with. There are a lot of people who are in similar situations, but by nature people don't want change. They fear it.

How can you blame Microsoft? They faced the worst mob reaction in the history of games. Internet mobs have become the norm. Everything is an outrage if it isn't exactly what we are used to. Very few people want change. Within hours of the initial reveal a million memes were created. Everyone on the internet thinks they are much more clever than they really are. Hypocrisy reigns supreme.

The problem I have with all this analysis is that no one seems to be pointing any fingers at Sony. They played on peoples fears and acted like a champion for gamers and consumers because they are a company that has never pushed the way we play. The only way Sony has ever pushed hardware is with the physical medium. CDs and Blu rays. The advantage of CDs at the time were clear, but blu-ray was something not needed for gaming. We spent an entire generation with DVDs and it was fine. Yes blu-rays are more convenient and better in the long run, but they were not necessary at all for the first HD generation. It makes more sense now. Blu-ray movies have not taken off the way DVDs did and with streaming becoming the norm, it's obvious what the future will be.

Just about every major innovation we have seen in the hardware that comes in these consoles and the way we play has come from Microsoft since the original xbox. The created the original xbox based on PC architecture and were mocked for making a PC and not a console. Sony didn't learn. They insisted on developing extremely hard to develop for platforms and were as developer unfriendly as possible. All of Microsofts boxes were based on PCs and were very easy to develop for. Sony has finally learned but no one wants to call them out on it. Instead people want to praise Sony for something Microsoft did more than 10 years ago. The original xbox shipped with a hard drive, ethernet port a slot for individual user headsets. Every single one of those decisions was laughed at by people at the time. I was there and even I was skeptical, but over time I learned that it was the way forward. I loved my PS2 like most people do and the original xbox had very few great games in comparison. But games are made by developers and there was no reason why all those games couldn't technically exist on the xbox. What made the difference were the experiences I couldn't have on the PS2. I couldn't play online with friends, I couldn't rip CDs to the hard drive to listen to in games. Those things were special.

When we went to the xbox 360, it was another platform that was easy to develop for and we spent an entire generation with better ports because Sony wasted billions of dollars on the cell architecture. Another nightmare for developers. Xbox Live became the standard and little things like achievements, party chat, all the different media apps became part of the experience. Sony launched a year later. You can't show up a year later with a horrendous online system with functionality that doesn't match the other platform that is a year old. People don't think back to these things, but the way the PS3 worked out of the box was a joke. You can argue all you want about the way the console was built and that it couldn't allow party chat, it doesn't matter. What matters is that they weren't forward thinking enough to realize where we were headed.

I wish Microsoft hadn't gone back on what they were trying to do, but I'm hopeful that most of that functionality will return in some form. I don't think we can go back to the system that checks connectivity and only requires a disc for installation, but at least I have the option to go all digital this time around.

The problem I have with Sony is that they played people in the crudest way possible. I don't understand how you or anyone else can try to argue that Microsoft is just giving us a better 360, while defending Sony for doing exactly that for the PS4. It's obvious at this point that the PS4 is really nothing more than a more powerful PS3. Yeah, that's reducing it to almost nothing, but that is what Sony has done for three generations now. They aren't the company that pushes. They play it safe in terms of what their vision is. The PS4 is proof. All their talk is about the past. They want things to stay exactly how they are and everything they are doing is exactly how it was the last time, but prettier. The reason why Sony is so loved is because of their games. That's fine and I will always have a playstation for those games. Again, games are made by developers who could technically make them for any platform. They don't and that is a reason to own all the consoles.

Right now, feature for feature, the xbox one can still do more. It simply does more things. It doesn't matter if you or I don't think those features are worthwhile, it still does more. I have no doubt the PS4 will have some advantage in terms of raw power. We don't know what that is yet.

I don't believe in Sony when it comes to platforms, i believe in their first party developers. The opposite to some extent can be said about Microsoft. I don't think their first party is as strong. It never has been, but their platforms have been leagues ahead in scope and I don't think the Xbox One will be any different. We don't know how all the kinect, cloud, tv and OS level features will pan out. They might fail gloriously, but if they do, we will have exactly what you said, a better 360. But if they succeed, it's going to be something special and based on their previous history, they are the ones who can do it.

#2 Edited by Krakn3Dfx (2485 posts) -

Microsoft's constant policy changes show the lack of a consistent vision within the company when it comes to their gaming division. Alongside their Windows 8 and Surface tablet publicity issues, it makes it clear the company is seriously in a state of flux when it comes to the relationship between the decision makers and the people who actually do the work.

Having been in the IT industry for almost 20 years, dealing with Novell, then with MS, alongside various other tech companies, I can tell you Microsoft has always been a company that works against itself from the inside based on the various people I've dealt with that work for them. Departments often go head-to-head in silent grudge matches that result in things like the Metro UI in Windows 8 for PCs that was clearly designed for a touch screen interface shoehorned into a market without large touch screen adoption.

The current leadership shake-up at Microsoft is just the latest in an effort to put the ship right after years of taking on water. Microsoft is still a mega corporation based entirely on how deeply entrenched they are in the desktop and server space, their games division makes up for less than 10% of their overall profits. Considering how much grief I've dealt with over the years in dealing with them at a business level, where most of their money comes from, I can't even contemplate believing their game division will turn into some sort of white knight for console gaming. I'd like to be surprised though.

#3 Posted by Syed117 (387 posts) -

Microsoft's constant policy changes show the lack of a consistent vision within the company when it comes to their gaming division. Alongside their Windows 8 and Surface tablet publicity issues, it makes it clear the company is seriously in a state of flux when it comes to the relationship between the decision makers and the people who actually do the work.

Having been in the IT industry for almost 20 years, dealing with Novell, then with MS, alongside various other tech companies, I can tell you Microsoft has always been a company that works against itself from the inside based on the various people I've dealt with that work for them. Departments often go head-to-head in silent grudge matches that result in things like the Metro UI in Windows 8 for PCs that was clearly designed for a touch screen interface shoehorned into a market without large touch screen adoption.

The current leadership shake-up at Microsoft is just the latest in an effort to put the ship right after years of taking on water. Microsoft is still a mega corporation based entirely on how deeply entrenched they are in the desktop and server space, their games division makes up for less than 10% of their overall profits. Considering how much grief I've dealt with over the years in dealing with them at a business level, where most of their money comes from, I can't even contemplate believing their game division will turn into some sort of white knight for console gaming.

That is all fine, but Surface and Windows 8 shouldn't reflect directly on the Xbox division. Microsoft is massive organization and these things are the norm for most companies of that size. Not everything is a home run. The surface was never going to succeed, but as long as the company is making billions in profits, they are doing something right. The point is that they have the money to take risks.

It's like comparing Sony's failing electronics empire that has been on a decline for a decade at this point. Their gaming division is profitable, but as a corporation they can't take risks. That's why the PS4 is what it is. It's the safest machine they have ever built. Them moving to a PC architecture is Sony admitting that their way of custom hardware was wrong. Otherwise we would be dealing with the Cell 2.

#4 Edited by MonkeyKing1969 (2597 posts) -

I think the unease or skepticism about Microsoft is well earned.

Yes, the things they are announcing lately are good steps, and helpful policy changes. But, they are making these policy changes after insisting they COULD NEVER be done just months ago. It is like walking up to the desk at the airports asking if your can change your seat on the plane only to be told it is impossible. But, then, after a few minutes of asking questions and requiring clarification about what they 'could do' they suddenly tell you you can change your seat, there will be no extra fees, the seat next to you will be empty too, and...oh, wow...it is a business class seat larger seat too...and hey here are extra sky miles.

It leaves you thinking, "Wait, I just asked for clarification - after being told NEVER - then suddenly they cave. What are you suppose to think, except that everything they said at first was just subterfuge. In such situations where one thing is said and they say it can't be changed, but then they do change it unease is the least they should expect form us.

#5 Posted by Sergio (2055 posts) -

@syed117: You do know that the Xbox 360 didn't use an x86 processor? I don't give Microsoft credit for most of the things you've listed because they had been done before on consoles in some form, much like I don't give Sony credit for using CDs on consoles.

#6 Posted by Krakn3Dfx (2485 posts) -

@syed117: The fact that you don't even understand/acknowledge what I'm saying and felt the need to drag Sony into a conversation about Microsoft kind of shows where you stand, and you have stood over and over again. Thanks for the response, please don't bother next time.

#7 Edited by Syed117 (387 posts) -

@krakn3dfx said:

@syed117: The fact that you don't even understand/acknowledge what I'm saying and felt the need to drag Sony into a conversation about Microsoft kind of shows where you stand, and you have stood over and over again. Thanks for the response, please don't bother next time.

Coming from you that means a lot. I know where I stand and I think this entire forum knows where you do as well. 40 plus and still at it. Oh well

@sergio said:

@syed117: You do know that the Xbox 360 didn't use an x86 processor? I don't give Microsoft credit for most of the things you've listed because they had been done before on consoles in some form, much like I don't give Sony credit for using CDs on consoles.

Credit doesn't always go to who did it first. It goes to who does it right.

#8 Posted by Aetheldod (3518 posts) -

Wait so you naively believe that the online features werent going to be behind a paywall? LOL. There is no innovation behind DRM whatsoever , get that into your thick skulls. Also online AI? No Microsoft never promised that , they just setted up a shit ton of servers so developers can do x/y/z. Sony can do the same (or we expect to , maybe not). Also all that tv stuff that was their vision ... not games , because they will market the hell out of that stuff (just like they do now with the 360). Sorry if I voice my concerns while I see the gaming industry goin to a hell hole.

#9 Posted by Sergio (2055 posts) -

@syed117 said:

Credit doesn't always go to who did it first. It goes to who does it right.

That's where we differ, and why I don't consider Microsoft as innovative as you do in regards to console gaming. I don't consider Sony all that innovative either. Nintendo has been more innovative than either one, even when they do fail at times.

#10 Posted by bgdiner (275 posts) -

The inane Sony bashing notwithstanding, I do think that Microsoft deserved the backlash hailed at them. There's a time for innovation and a time for improvement, and Microsoft should have gone for the latter. An improved Xbox experience would have doubtlessly been universally praised, similar to what we saw with the PS4 revelation. Then, as the install base of the XONE increased in size, Microsoft could have phased in the option to enable features like always-on Kinect and the rest of those much-maligned features.

I would argue that many people were at least intrigued by the ideas Microsoft presented in May, but that they were unwilling to go along with such consumer-unfriendly behavior, as well they should have. Microsoft acted at the behest of the market, and it was clear, even to those not in "the know" that Microsoft would have set itself up for defeat against Sony, even in terms of simple factors, like price. The removal of the features was the right move, if not the one most suited for the technological improvement in the video game industry.

I, for one, am glad that the features are gone and that Microsoft has shifted its priorities. I think Microsoft makes quality products, and I don't think this necessarily shines negatively on Microsoft as a whole, or even on their games division. The policy reversal was the right move, and should be praised.

#11 Posted by YukoAsho (2001 posts) -

Sorry, but "sticking to your guns" is not how you run a business. Look at Nintendo, whose pigheaded devotion to gimmicks over games has cost them dearly, both in making the Wii U their first loss-leader console, and in making the Wii U just not as interesting as the current consoles, let alone next-gen. Seriously, no price drop at E3? No matter what Satoru Iwata would like you to believe, Nintendo is a company paralyzed by its own business ego.

I love how you and many others seem to be one of the many people who think that "family sharing" was going to be full versions. Third parties would never have allowed it, and you know it. Just look at how Sony had to cut down sharing of PSN titles from five accounts to two a couple years back. PSN TITLES. People think these same third parties would have let MS have people "sharing" $60 retail titles at all? If there was ever an indication that the drug war has failed, this is it. We already knew that you'd only be able to trade a title once, so anti-"sharing" policies had already been baked into the digital trades plan, so what are we talking about?

Oh, and then there's the Cloud, which makes me lol just thinking about it. A magical server farm that was suddenly going to make the Xbone so much more powerful than the competition that it would be worth the restrictions! Ha! We haven't seen any evidence at all that this would be an improvement over simply having a more powerful box like the PS4. The Xbox 360's cloud save service can't even be relied upon and simple video streaming is still too laggy for twitch-based games, how am I supposed to suddenly believe that vital real-time data wasn't going to be lost in the ether at the worst possible time?

And therein lies the problem with Microsoft's original policies: The positives were all theory and speculation, while the negatives were made perfectly clear, set in stone and handed to Moses atop the fucking mountain. This after months of unflattering rumors, the reaction to which should have been the signal for MS to change course before their May 21st showing, let alone E3. I think part of it is that Microsoft believed the hype generated by digital zealots like @jeff and fell into the idea that everyone wanted to go digital only, rather than that being a niche of people, usually the richer members of super-urban centers who have no idea what the rest of the world is like. There are too many people who value ownership instead of this perpetual rental nonsense, and there are too many people whose internet, be it from bandwidth or data caps, cannot support the DRMpocalypse. And before anyone comes at me with "but teh TOS," game companies can enforce their TOSes on my disc games when they come over and rip the fuckers out of my cold, dead hands.

Put short, people didn't have enough blind ass faith in Microsoft to drink the kool-aid. Sony realized the pulse of the market and went accordingly from the beginning, and now MS looks like an abusive husband trying every promise he can think of to stop his wife from leaving his punk ass.

Maybe I'll give them a chance when the S redesign comes out. Maybe. If it doesn't have a Kinect in box and is priced accordingly. If Microsoft manages to have more than three exclusives.

#12 Edited by haffy (673 posts) -

Bitch about Microsoft because they have bad policies or polices you don't agree with. Bitch about Microsoft changing their policies to a line with customer demand. People bitch about why company's never listen to them.

I'm going to wait a couple of months before buying one of the new consoles to see how they shape up once people have more time with them. But I really don't understand the whole hate Microsoft and love Sony. Sony has done nothing to impress me at all. At least with Microsoft, it may not be exactly what I want, but with every new announcement it's making it look more likely the Xbox one is going to be my choice.

#13 Posted by Nekroskop (2786 posts) -

If you're so sceptical then buy a WiiU, a PS3 or go PC gaming entirely(PC will never let you down)

#14 Posted by pweidman (2308 posts) -

@soulharvester45:

'All the decisions Microsoft has made continue to make me skeptical. Instead of finding a new way of marketing these features and fixing the major issues with them, Microsoft decided to completely remove them and essentially sell a prettier, more stable Xbox 360. Since people already have one of those, what incentive are we given to try out their new console in the first place, if all we’re essentially getting is better graphics and a newer controller? That’s the only thing I ask. Again, I do not hate the new console, as I do plan to get it eventually. I just want people to keep this in mind before making it a purchase priority this holiday season.'

Sounds like more thinly veiled fanboy BS to me TC. The power and memory of both new systems so far outstrips their predecessors that the ceiling is geometrically higher in terms of game development possibilities. It's all up to the devs now to take all this new power to a new lvl for games. And they will. Personally, I will agree MS's marketing and PR are in a state of repair, but the new tech in the next xbox and the new kinect and more specifically, the new controller, are extremely exciting, and I can't wait to witness next-gen gaming this fall, ie. not skeptical at all.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.