Microsoft has been having a rough time of it this week at the E3 video-game convention over its policies for the Xbox One, including its restrictions on sharing games and requirements for Internet connectivity.

Don Mattrick, the president of the company’s Interactive Entertainment Business, addressed the online issue during a backstage interview (above) with Geoff Keighley of G4TV, defending the choice to require the Box One to connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Here’s an excerpt.

Mattrick: “I think people are going to love it, and then they’re going to understand what we’re trying to create, and how it links games and entertainment, the functionality of the box. Some of the advantages that you get of having a box that is designed to use an online state, so that to me is the future-proof choice, and I think people could’ve arguably gone the other way if we didn’t do it and fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.”

Q: “Stick with 360, that’s your message if people don’t like it?”

Mattrick: “Well, if you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device. I mean, seriously, when I read the blogs, and thought about who’s really the most impacted, there was a person who said ‘Hey, I’m on a nuclear sub,’ and I don’t even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub but I’ve gotta imagine it’s not easy to get an Internet connection.”

Advantages of Microsoft’s new approach include the ability to play games via the cloud, for example when into your Xbox Live account at a friend’s house. But given the backlash, the company will need to keep demonstrating the value of the approach if it wants to win over hard-core gamers for Xbox One.

The company this week launched a refreshed Xbox 360 and plans to continue supporting the console.

PreviouslySony sticks it to Microsoft with $399 PlayStation 4, and some wickedly funny jabs

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  • guest

    Yeah, they definitely lost round one of the PR battle and Sony’s PS franchise got a much needed shot in the arm. OTOH, including Kinect and designing around a connected internet state seem like the right long term choices, particularly for something that’s meant to span the next decade of use.

    • Christopher Budd

      Regarding choices made for the long-term (a very interesting perspective by the way):

      with Kinect I can maybe see that, though I don’t want it (I don’t want to talk to my TV and I’ve got concerns about the camera….less with Microsoft and more about the NSA using it). So I don’t really want to pay for that.

      with designing for a connected Internet state, I can see your point though I think it’s assuming a degree of connectivity as normative that not everyone has. So I think it’s just too much ahead of its time. Beyond that though, it’s just not smart to cripple a device entirely if it can’t get connectivity after 24 hours. That’s just not smart from a redundancy, planning for failure point of view. It’ makes the system not very resilient.

  • Christopher Budd

    I don’t know which is worse, the blinkered attitude behind the decision that would make the XBox One unusable after 24 hours of no Internet or today’s response that’s basically telling customers for whom that is a problem (i.e. military, those of us who have had our Internet down more than 24 hours, those who don’t have good internet service) to pound sand.

    The decisions Microsoft made and their handling of the situation is so poor and Sony’s decisions and handling have been so adroit that it’s like watching two terribly mismatched teams playing each other. It’s painful and makes you wish someone would just call the game so we don’t have to watch this anymore and the players can regroup and try to do better.

    • Jason Farris

      I don’t think the decisions are bad, I think they are actually great for gamers. But the messaging is so bad, no one wants to take the time to understand the benefits, which are substantial over Sony’s offering.

      • Christopher Budd

        As background have an XBox360 and have loved it for years….I use it for games and TV so I use it more than any other entertainment unit (save the TV it’s connected to). As a customer I think the decisions are bad because I have no plans to get an XBox One because of the 24 hour connection requirement. If my Internet is down longer than that, I have no TV and would want to be able to at least play games.

        I don’t care myself about sharing games, but it’s clear that hard core gamers are passionate about that so I think that decision is bad too.

        To your point about messaging being bad, I agree. I would say they’ve failed to make any case is to benefits around these decisions. Those come off looking like decisions that were made to benefit the content providers and not the end-user.

        Interestingly, that was argued to be a reason that Zune never took off: that the decisions favored the content providers over the end-user. Throughout this I’ve been wondering if they might not be repeating that.

        I also wonder if they’re repeating Windows XP here. I can see a scenario where a lot of people just stay on the XBox 360 because it’s good enough, just like we see with Windows XP.

        • guest

          When was the last time your ISP was down for an hour, far less 24? I can understand people having legitimate concerns about requiring a connection every 24 hours, game sharing restrictions, etc., particular at this early stage when the restrictions are clearer than the potential benefits. But the argument that ISP outages of 24 hours are somehow routine or that military personnel stationed on subs or remotely are the core market and that all of that should have negated MS’s design choice, strike me as absurd.

          All of these premature and breathless condemnations of MS’s XBone approach and declarations that Sony has “won” the next generation seem to ignore the fact that console gaming has been in decline for several years and neither Sony nor MS have much to show for their past decade of multi-billion investment. Sony and MS had a big decision to make: acknowledge they’d lost the larger market opportunity to casual gaming leaders like Apple and Android, retrench, and attempt to defend a declining niche in hardcore gaming, or double down and try to create the one-box home gaming/entertainment system of the future. Sony’s decisions, while being understandably popular with hardcore gamers, strike me as being the former. MS’s, while again understandably pissing off many in that segment, strike me as an attempt at the latter. Frankly, I think MS is smart to take one last shot at either winning big or going home. Doing the same old thing just to try and “win” another round of the declining traditional console market versus Sony just isn’t very attractive.

          • Christopher Budd

            Sure I’m not saying anyone has won or lost. I am saying though that I think the decisions are annoying potential purchasers (like myself) and that the message war this week is particularly poorly handled.

            Interesting points about the overall market. But that makes more of a case to me to not do things that could alienate potential buyers.

            When we talk about the 24 hour connectivity rule, though, it’s not just my ISP being down. If Microsoft has another one of their extended outages then I think that’s going to brick the unit until it’s resolved.

            Regardless of how often it has or can happen, though, as a purchaser it’s just not a risk I particularly care to assume, especially when there’s another console that costs less and doesn’t have that risk.

          • Jason Farris

            Sony’s not only carries that risk into the future, but their track record in the past has been pretty bad. Their network went down for 100 days… yes, a hundred. I can’t remember an Xbox Live outage that lasted more than a few hours.

            But that’s the past. The future is different, and Sony is playing word games. What Sony will “allow” to happen with discs, and what publishers will all eventually require are two different things. Many games released on Sony’s platform will be rights managed from day one, and before the generation is over, digital (and DRMd) distribution will take over the channel.

            So yes, technically, they are telling the truth. But they know, just as the publishers know, just as MS clearly understands, that un-protected optical media must go away if the industry is to thrive. This is a PR play, an admittedly well played card, but no more.

            Examining their offering, it’s easy to understand why they are lighting a fire under this issue and fanning these flames, the product itself appears fairly ho-hum. The PS4 feature set is a cherry-pick of the same features that Xbox360 has had all along, packaged in a UI ripped straight from 2008 Windows Media Center, housed on a “if you can’t beat em, join em” PC architecture. Promises of a stable and feature rich network, which they have never achieved, would only put them on parity with what Xbox has had for years now. There’s a lot of “throw-ins”, like access to old PS2 and PS3 games via streaming, and some members benefits for their (now mandatory for multiplayer, where’s the outrage?) online membership. It’s what we have now, with current hardware. Nothing about their offering makes me think next-gen, and nothing about the games shown makes me think my “channel changer” won’t be every bit as good. Throw in MS’s enormous lead in cloud computing and infrastructure and it’s hard to imagine the Xbox not moving into new territory over it’s lifespan, just as the 360 did. Fire up the PS3 and it’s the exact same experience launched in 2006.

            Winning the moment: Sony. Winning the generation: Microsoft. I’m looking at the horizon so my choice was very clear, for folks who want things to be largely the same, PS4 is a nice box, but I honestly believe that anyone buying into this “outrage” isn’t looking far beyond the current state of gaming.

            That said, if they come up with some cool games, I’ll still buy a PS4 as well. Because I like cool games!!

          • Jason Farris

            BTW, it’s refreshing to have a rational conversation on the topic. Much appreciated.

        • Jason Farris

          I used Zune for years, and the decisions always favored me, so from an outsider perspective I don’t understand what you mean. I had a choice of buying an iPod, and filling it at $1 per song (about 30 grand to fill it), or a Zune, with unlimited music and a huge host of cool features for $99 a year, which covered all three of us (three individual devices) in my family. It was an easy, consumer friendly choice for me to get everyone all the music they wanted, all the time.

          Now moving to this topic. Sharing games is very important to me, we currently have three xbox360s in the house and playing together in games is one of the big reasons to own more than one. The new policy allows me to buy a game once, and share it with ten family members, even allowing them to access the library from other locations besides my house, and allowing one other person to play at the same time I am. In order to do that now, I have to buy two discs. This is a great advantage for gamers.

          Secondly, managing and maintain optical media is a hassle I am happy to be rid of. As a parent of teenagers, I’ve seen hundreds of dollars of games walk our the door. Loaned to friends, scratched, lost, stolen… hundreds of dollars. Enough to pay for an XBOX ONE. I’ll never have to worry about that again, every XBOX ONE game I have will stay in my library and will be accessible to everyone I care about. Well worth the pocket-change I would have got for “trading in” a disc at GameStop, which anyone who ventures into that strip-mall stinkshop knows, is pennies on the dollar on the way in, only a few bucks under retail on the way out. Factor in gas an I might as well just give it away.

          Third, online always. It’s a baseline that must be established if devs are expected to leverage cloud concepts. Publishers can’t build a game for the platform that only a percentage can play, so requiring a connection is vital to maintaining ubiquity, a prerequisite to some extraordinary ideas. I won’t be able to play during a internet blackout, god forbid we ever have one, but in return, will get to try some very forward thinking concepts and I’m interested. Even in the infancy, the launch titles are doing some cool things.

          I actually talk to my TV. I didn’t think I would, but I do, and if the improvements are as substantial as they seem, I’ll be happy to have that potential in the arsenal. Again, a baseline decision which will allow devs some interesting options knowing the user base all has the same capabilities.

          PS4 seems like a fine box, that carries the features and expectations of the last seven years into the next seven years. It’s a very safe play.

          • Christopher Budd

            You’ve made better points about benefits than anyone from XBox that I’ve seen.

            Not saying you sold me but you’ve made good points. :)

          • funny

            Jason, you XBOX One quote: “I’m looking at the horizon so my choice was very clear, ” yes… were you looking at the horizon when you picked Zune as well? Not a great record if you ask me haha based on this, you lost all credibilityhahahaha

          • Grow up troll

            So you’re comparing Xbox, which has had two very successful generations, to Zune? Really? Hahaha hehee, you lost all credibility.

          • Jason Farris

            Worse, he infers that somehow I didn’t get every song ever (and still do) using Zune, as if I was stupid to want unlimted music for under hundred bucks a year. Best deal in music, always was, still is. Too bad MS couldnt break through the bias on that one, great service.

  • Hypocrisy in action

    It’s hilarious seeing critics of the “always on” policy take to the internet in droves to post comments about how their internet connection is too unreliable for such a requirement.

  • sadxboxuser

    Amongst my friends the motto is clear: “Friends don’t let friends buy an XBOX One”. We were all either on XBOX or both. Now it looks like we will be all PS4, with handful trying both. None of us needs a separate device to change channels on our cable box/DVR.

  • Jason Farris

    “In the future, you can imagine the capability to have different licensing models, different ways that people have to access games. This all gets unlocked because of digital.”

    • Guest

      Thanks for reminding me that Mehdi is in charge of marketing and strategy for Xbox these days. Now some of the tradeoffs they made and the ham-handed way they handled messaging it at E3 make more sense. This guy has been relatively senior since the 90’s. He’s floated from one gig to another, none of which I recall being successful. His previous effort was promoting Xbox music and promising it would finally deliver *the* best music service. Instead it’s been a complete cf.

      If MS anticipated the XB1 criticisms, as Mehdi indicates, why weren’t they better prepared to explain the benefits? Why did they instead let Sony blow them out of the water at E3 and now have to engage in broad-based damage control?

  • GuestAsWell

    Always-on is a business decision that has nothing what-so-ever to do
    with technical need, to claim check in keeps apps and data synced or up
    to date I strongly argue is misleading.

    It’s pseudo piracy protection built into today’s Office and now the XBox One to prevent honest people from doing perceived harm.

    you don’t understand the backlash about this issue consider this
    perspective: It’s a statement of trust by business that says honest
    consumers cannot be trusted. In a era where business time and time again
    have proven that they cannot be trusted, even if not be their own
    making (eg: Microsoft NSA cooperation).

    Those that intend to pirate, will pirate and checking in every day is just a another puzzle or protection scheme for them to crack.

    the rest of us, we now have burdens to overcome simply use what we’ve
    honestly paid for.

    If you don’t understand that perspective then you
    really don’t understand what a “consumer” perspective is and the hassle
    they now have to deal with, the phone calls to support to try and figure
    out why the product they bought doesn’t work as “they the consumer”
    expected it would. Add to that all the licensing agreement double speak simply to activate a product, (e.g. no class action lawsuits permitted, non-transferable this or that) and the consumer feels piled on by lawyers, by marketing executives leaving them feeling powerless and questioning whether or not the trade of that a business demands simply to use their product is even worth it.

    Brand is key right? With Microsoft’s XBox One imaging following the Windows 8 launch after the Surface RT launch isn’t helping to make Microsoft worthy of being a trusted brand.

    People have honest questions about Microsoft’s motives and they have done little to nothing to clarify that they are a company that can be trusted. They haven’t stated that the Kinect is unhackable and cannot be a spy tool in the living room. Consider that they discussed privacy options a user can set during the same week they we’ve learned that they were one of the first to work with the NSA on aiding their spying efforts on American citizens.

    People have every right to question Microsoft about their policy decisions, especially after they’ve been thought to make poor choices related to actual individuals.

    I can’t manage Microsoft or their decision making. As a consumer I would appreciate it if Microsoft would stop trying to manage mine.

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