After brutal week for Xbox, Microsoft strikes back against ‘incremental improvement’ in video-game industry

Microsoft’s focus at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles this week was ostensibly on video games, as the company showcased a series of titles for its upcoming Xbox One console — aiming to appeal to avid console gamers at the core of its traditional audience.

xboxBut much of the attention was instead on price ($499 for the Xbox One vs. $399 for the Playstation 4), the Xbox One’s restrictions on video game sharing, and its requirement for regular Internet connectivity. Microsoft on these issues was like a boxer with his guard down, and Sony landed a series of sharp jabs.

So this is Microsoft’s challenge now: Attempting to prove that what it’s doing will actually result in a better experience for Xbox One users. In a blog post post this afternoon, Microsoft’s corporate communications chief Frank Shaw started to make the case, positioning Microsoft as a misunderstood innovator whose approach will ultimately be proven correct.

“There are times when what is really needed is incremental improvement of a product,” he wrote. “There are companies who play that role in gaming right now. And there are times when a vision for the future demands a leap. That’s what we’re doing with Xbox One.”

In an open letter to Xbox Live members this week, Microsoft’s Marc Whitten laid out the benefits of cloud integration, including the ability to store and save games on Xbox Live, allowing them to be accessed from any Xbox One where the gamer is logged in; no waiting for system or app updates; and the ability for developers to create immersive, persistent worlds using Microsoft’s Windows Azure powered system.

Microsoft’s big challenge right now is that very few people have actually experienced Xbox One games, let alone the benefits of cloud connectivity.

In the meantime, Sony’s 22-second “Used Game Instructional Video” has racked up nearly 12 million views on YouTube.

  • P

    Just like with Windows 8, they would not admit to a mistake… Give it a few months, they will launch a new feature resolving these issues. They’ll cave…

    • Jason Farris

      I hope not. The sharing plan is pretty sweet, I would hate to be stuck with a PS4-ish distribution model.

      • Pedrogamer

        I agree with you. Discs break, get lost, scratch etc. on top of that, it enables piracy, it’s an environmental concern, the packaging, the shipping and the manufacturing of the discs as well as the game. It’s smells just as bad as the VCR. It’s old, it’s useless and it needs to die!

        • Jason Farris

          Lordy if I had every dollar for Xbox360 discs that walked out the door (teenagers), got lost, scratched it would pay for the Xbox One all by itself. Nevermind all those nights where the game was in the house but no one could find it.

      • Daryl Victoriano

        You mean using blu-rays? Because the PS4 will have day one digital downloads on all new games, just like the PS3. It’s just with the PS4, you have a choice. Buy a new retail copy, buy a used retail copy for cheap, or buy online.

    • Pedrogamer

      There’s no mistake buddy. It’s called “Get with the times!” Needing Internet is such a small deal, and I myself have no problem with it.

      • Daryl Victoriano

        The PS4 uses internet to, but it’s a CHOICE. You can play MMO’s and MP games on the PS4 just as well on the Xbox One, except with the PS4 you have the choice NOT TO. That is the difference between both consoles, choice

    • Daryl Victoriano

      I think Windows 8 is actually great…. on their tablets. Doesn’t belong on a desktop. It’s like if Apple decided to put iOS 6 on their Macs, doesn’t make sense

  • GuestAsWell

    24 hour check in is a policy decision, not a technical requirement.

    How they handle used games is a policy decision, not a technical requirement.

    Why isn’t there a separate SKU for XBox One without Kinect?

    The console price is a policy decision, what would it cost without Kinect?

    Look at the Amazon facebook poll ( https://www.facebook.com/AmazonVideoGames?v=app_153839431317646&rest=1 )
    XBox lost before it even shipped and not because of the technology, but because of management decisions that are deemed anti-consumer.

    Heck, head up to reddit.com/r/gaming/ and check out the armed services folks discussing how this will impact their free time. They can’t even connect multiple XBox ones like they could with 360s for non internet, local LAN based gaming.

    • Pedrogamer

      Boo hoo. The 0.000001% of people who actually do that will live. If you ask me, it’s kinda gay to do that anyway.

    • Jason Farris

      Solution is simple. Issue codes which allow extended offline play, but restrict some of the game loaning features so it can’t propagate into a pirate network.

      Call I-877-XBOX-MIL, provide your information, your Xbox serial #, get a code. Easy to weed out the abusers.

      Going on vacation? No problem, call in and get Vacation pass code. Take it to the cabin. Certain sharing options will be disabled until your console checks in. Easy to weed out the abusers.

      • haha

        Jason, have you every bought any piece electronics aside from Msft. You troll these forums, talk about how Zune is great and how you love anything msft comes up with… I don’t want to have to call a company and ask for a permission to use goods I bought(!), while I travel…

        Msft alienated gamers, now it’s spreading through the army: http://www.armytimes.com/article/20130614/OFFDUTY02/306140030/New-Xbox-sin-against-all-service-members-

        • Heehehahaha three year old

          Let me get this straight…you, a troll who comes here to puke all over MS with every comment, are accusing Jason of trolling because he happens to like MS?

          • haha

            Nope. Unlike Jason, I managed to use a variety of electronics and platforms. All Jason can talk about is how great Zune is, or how great XBOX One is… I just pointed out above that Msft has now alienated the army as well. Jason is welcome to his Zune, Msft Watch, Kin Phone and Xbox One. By trolling on his comment, I merely pointed out that all he does is publicly defend Msft in all his posts, no matter what…. The truth is, that even if Msft meant well, they screwed up royally with XBOX One launch and they know it.

    • guest

      “Why isn’t there a separate SKU for XBox One without Kinect?”

      Pretty obviously because they believe in the technology and want to make sure developers support it. The latter be more willing to do so if they know it’s core to the platform.

      “The console price is a policy decision, what would it cost without Kinect?”

      Presumably $60-100 less but it’s kinds irrelevant given my answer above.

      “XBox lost before it even shipped and not because of the technology, but because of management decisions that are deemed anti-consumer.”

      The first part of your statement is ignorant. The battle has barely begun and will go on for a decade. Yes, MS did a poor job of explaining the advantages upfront, leaving consumers to focus on the disadvantages. And yes, Sony did an excellent job taking advantage of that and now has the early momentum. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      “check out the armed services folks discussing how this will impact their free time”
      Hopefully MS will figure out a way to relax the heartbeat requirement in some cases. But it’s beyond ridiculous to argue that the next gen of home entertainment systems shouldn’t assume a connected state. And yes, that means some are going to be left out. Product design is always about tradeoffs.

  • Pedrogamer

    Im not sure what the big fuss about this Internet thing is. Almost everyone has their Xbox or ps connected to the Internet already and if you don’t then you’re a minority and unfortunately don’t matter. So now Microsoft puts a requirement and its a problem? Who uses discs anyways? Why are people stubborn to change? Because they are LAZY! It’s easier to deal with the same thing than learn something new that might be better. Why are people stuck using old technology like discs? God only knows how many games I have purchased on disc where the disc broke and I lost the game. Screw physical media. It’s an environmental concern that needs to die.

    Bottom line, the product hasn’t even been tried and people aren’t even giving it a chance and are saying negative things. Microsofts approach will also curb piracy which hurts hard working people who try to make a living off of it. Sony is just enabling piracy. Whether your purchase is on a disc or on a server, it doesn’t change the fact that you still own it.

    Just my opinion. I’m open minded enough to at least give it a try before I knock it. It’s the same as windows 8. Oh my fucking god there’s no start menu!!! Change my fucking diaper cuz I just wet myself. How the hell am I going to use a computer without a start menu??? Are you saying I have to learn something?? Omg my life is over. Please give me the same shit year after year. Please! I’m too incompetent to learn a rather easy way of controlling my computer found in windows 8.

    • mrstacy

      For having a username of “Pedrogamer” you must not play many games.

      500gb hard drive would fill up pretty fast if you weren’t able to use discs. Blu Ray hold 50gb-ish of data. That’s 10 games. Unlike video services where you can just stream a movie.. you can’t really just stream a game. Discs aren’t going away until bandwidth and/or storage space is way better then today.

      Does Xbox 360 even have piracy problem? Xbone isn’t trying to solve piracy.. it’s trying to kill the used game market.

      • Pedrogamer

        What does my name have anything to do with anything other than a pathetic attempt to cheap shot me. I offered my opinion. Nothing more. And you should talk Mrs. Tacy. You obviously don’t game cuz yes there is a piracy issue with Xbox 360. There’s piracy issues with ps3. Have you ever heard of “modding” you’re system? Have you searched the Internet (and I don’t mean google) for pirated games? Cuz it’s out there and more available than you think. And 500gb is plenty unless you want hundreds of games installed at once, but why would you? And I don’t know anyone who does. Blu-ray holds 50gb yes, you really think these games take 50gb? Nope. And the used game market hurts developers a lot. One person can buy a game at regular price, play it, then sell if for $5 bucks less than he got it for and the next guy plays it. And so on and so forth. With none of that money going to the developer who actually invested money to create it. The used game market is no different than piracy except that it makes it appear “legit” because you’re actually paying for it instead of stealing it. No wonder prices for new games are so expensive. They have to to ensure they’ll get back the millions they invested to create a blockbuster game. Used game market is making profit off of someone else sweat. Used game market has done nothing to help the gaming industry other than try to make money of games people no longer want.

        • Pedrogamer

          The apple AppStore is a comparable example where piracy is relatively low yet developers are making a lot of profit for a .99 cent game. I say comparable cuz obviously a mobile game and a console game are a bit different but the idea is the same. If Microsoft offered an online only solution like Apple and Google Play, the prices should come down. Speaking of Apple and Google, what’s so funny is those are acceptable online stores with no hard copies at all yet what Microsoft is trying to do which is relatively the same is bad? Get your head out of your arse please and try to be objective and open.

        • joe

          No wonder Microsoft is losing with employees like “pedrogamer”.

          • Pedrogamer

            So original. I’m so glad we have smart people contributing to these discussions. With originality like that, you must work for Samsung or the android team for google.

            Is this it? That’s all you can say? Hahaha. If you only knew how uneducated you sound.

  • Bob

    “Frank Shaw started to make the case”
    Yeah, Frank’s always there with a bucket and mop ready to clean up the latest mess. Of course the time to make the case was before it became an issue, not after when it’s already a full blown PR disaster.
    In one of the articles Shaw links to, Mehdi admits they anticipated this reaction:
    “The reaction wasn’t a surprise to Mehdi, though. In fact, he said a lot of the way people have responded to Microsoft’s moves was “kind of as we expected.”
    So why weren’t they better prepared to address the concerns and highlight the benefits?
    MS is going to be forced to walk back some of these requirements and potentially even the price, or at least the decision not to offer a Kinect-less option. I actually think their vision in this case is superior, but their execution just sucked. They either needed to sell the vision or demonstrate it. They did neither.

    • Arch Stanton

      I`d be stumped too if I was MSFT. Suddenly everybody has a cabin in the woods, and trades games, and misses having to blow in the cartridge to make it work right.
      I officially call BS on all of this whining. There are definitely times when consumers decide to go kicking and screaming into the future, I don’t really buy this as one of those times.
      I for one smell astroturf. It is a little too convenient that Sony checked the box on literally every single supposed shortcoming of the XBox One in their E3 announcement. They are either desperate and undercut/pivoted, or they were heavily involved in playing up the FUD in the run-up knowing where their feature set was.
      I hope MS doesn’t call their bluff. The Xbox feature set is way beyond what the PS4 is offering. If they unbundled Kinect, those kind of features will never be adequately implemented by devs. If Kinect is as much a fundamental element as the hand controller, then it will actually have a chance at delivering all of its potential.

      Don’t do it MSFT, Sony is trying real hard to drag you down to their level.

  • panacheart

    I’m not sure I understand the fuss about being connected, except in the case of the armed forced people who can’t always be connected. Most of us are connected all the time anyway.

    I think the real issue is Microsoft trying to kill the used game market. You still need the DVD for these games anyway in most cases, so it’s pretty obvious that that’s the real issue. The Xbox division has been barely profitable despite its huge market share, so I think MSFT wants to finally see some real money out of it.

  • Guest

    For most of the last decade MS didn’t innovate or listen to customers. Lately, they’re somewhat more innovative but still don’t listen to customers very well . In their increasingly desperate effort to create a second act by reinventing themselves as Apple, they’ve forgotten two things. One, Apple didn’t get to where it is now by copying someone else’s business model. Two, if you’re going to show customers what they want instead of asking them, which is the only way to make huge breakthroughs, the initial product/vision has to be overwhelmingly compelling. That way customers forget the negatives (e.g. no copy and paste) because the new thing appears to be so revolutionary overall (e.g. IPhone). In this case, as with WP, the vision wasn’t sufficiently obviously to many. As a result prospective customers focused more on the negatives.
    The senior Xbox management team probably returned from a very expensive and no doubt self-indulgent week in Vegas, slapping themselves on the back and claiming “Mission Accomplished” on their year end reviews. In reality they got handed their ass and allowed Sony to seize the momentum. Shaw can try and spin this as some courageous stand MS is taking for the future of gaming. But even if that’s true, it doesn’t negate the epic PR fail, compounded by Mattrick’s comments about 360 being the offline option, which the Sony camp couldn’t have scripted better if they’d tried.

  • Nathan O

    Apple has no problem selling a 599$ device year after year that is completely reliant on the internet for 90% of its functionality. Xbox will do just fine, I can’t wait to get mine.

  • David Clark

    does the Xbox one have to be turned on once a day or does it just have to be connected to an active internet connection? when I’m away for a week what happens?