There are times in history when companies have made decisions that everyone, except for the powers that be in said companies, knows are going to fail miserably. New Coke, the Netflix company split, $599 US Dollars, etc… Right now, I feel we can add Microsoft to this list for their policies regarding the soon to be released Xbox One.
There is always a caveat for products that are yet to be released, but I feel it’s safe enough to make some calls on the next generation behemoth from Microsoft. After an unveiling that focused on seemingly everything except actual video games, MS, to their credit, used E3 to focus solely on games. No TV, no streaming, no instant chat, it was about the games. I’ll also give them some praise for scoring a few exclusives such as Dead Rising 3 and Sunset Overdrive (oddly, both seem to be about zombies of sorts).
While credit is due for keeping it about the games, criticism is due as well for what wasn’t spoken of. MS declined to even remotely address the two largest criticism of their next console: the online check-in requirement and the still foggy used game policy. Part of me believed that they would surprise everyone by announcing a change to one or both of these policies after the outcry following the unveiling. Had they done this, I feel they would have generated massive goodwill by showing that they had listened and adapted. No such luck.
Actually, it was made worse when MS’s Don Mattrick was asked about gamers without an internet connection:
“”Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360,” said Mattrick. “If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device.”
Believe it or not, I do understand the sentiment here, but it came off as dismissive of that segment. It had a rather elite quality to it, which doesn’t sit well with me. It’s worth mentioning here that if the Xbox One can’t connect once every 24 hours, you will be unable to play you’re games on it, even if it is an offline, single player game. There are many, many places all over the world, including in the US, that lack internet access or stable internet access. This policy only serves to shrink your consumer base while offering no positive to offset the shrinkage. Where is the logic in this move.
But it gets better. In very generic terms, it seems, as of right now, that when you buy an Xbox One game, you aren’t actually fully buying it. You are committing to a lifetime rental. My current understanding of this policy, and it seems to change weekly, is that once a game is registered on a system, it cannot be played on another system without a fee being paid. Worry not, though, as that fee is only equal to the MSRP of the game. Those times you’ve taken a game to a friend or sibling to try out for a few minutes? Not happening. Again, I can’t understand the business sense behind this. The positive of a small bump in new game sales can’t possibly outweigh the negatives of this policy.
All I can figure is that MS made a massive assumption that Sony would be adopting a similar strategy, and found out far too late that they were completely wrong. Hysterically wrong, based on the reactions Sony received when announcing their stance on these issues at their E3 conference (but that’s another blog entry). They also may have made a mistake in pricing, announcing a price point of $499 versus the $399 price tag of the PS4.
Look, MS is an established company and they Xbox 360 is a strong system that has sold extremely well. They can still pull themselves out of the negative press cycle they now find themselves in, but it will not be even slightly easy, and is going to take a long time. My gut feeling is that the Xbox One is going to sell more slowly than the WiiU is currently selling until they find something to make consumers look past the negatives for a larger positive. At this point in time, I can’t even imagine what that might be.