NOTE: This blog post was scheduled to post today but, originally written the morning of June 19, 2013, before many stories like this one were published. There are now countless stories Microsoft changing their policies on used games and network connectivity. Tech PR Review published this post anyway, to contrast actual actions with recommended actions. Kudos must be given to Microsoft for listening to customers and their PR feedback. A bigger kudos must be given to customers for making themselves loud enough to force change.
In the last Tech PR Review post, Microsoft’s PR troubles with their new Xbox One game console were covered. Now, Microsoft’s weaknesses in the Xbox One have been taken advantage of by Sony, their chief competitor in the space. Sony seemed to spare no punches to go after the Xbox One during the recent and much-hyped E3 gaming conference.
Limitations on playing used games on the Xbox One is a big area of concern with many potential game console consumers. Microsoft is trying to shift the conversation about used games to full library access via the cloud. But, it’s not working and Sony’s E3 press conference didn’t help either. One limitation includes giving or loaning games to a friend. Here Microsoft states “there are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.”
Well, Sony Computer Entertainment of America CEO Jack Tretton stated during E3 that Sony “…won’t impose any restrictions on used games” with their next generation PS4 console. This instantly sours Microsoft’s stance on used games, probably the chief concern with game purchases.
No Late Check-Ins Allowed
Microsoft’s Xbox One apparently will also have network connection requirements. The company is trying again to shift the conversation, this time to how it enables cloud-performance enhancements. But, all that is being written about is the requirement limitations. Apparently, check-ins will be required at least every 24 hours, or one hour if you’re logged on to a separate console. It even states on the xbox.com website that “offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection.”
Well, Sony’s Tretton stated something much more pleasing to consumers during E3. Tretton said the PS4 “won’t require you to check in online” and that “it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours.” Sony has repositioned the Xbox One into a difficult hole.
What to Do?
It’s unlikely Microsoft will go back and change its ways, at least not fully. These days, the company is coming across more stubborn than ever. With Windows 8, despite all the backlash about the start screen, the company still seems eager to hold on to it no matter what. So, it’s probably going to be the case here too. The Xbox One will probably still sell very well. It may even edge out the PS4 by the end of the console’s lifecycle. But, Microsoft’s current PR problem begs one to wonder what might have been.
Microsoft has a lot of clear advantages it created with the Xbox 360 it could have leveraged against Sony’s PS4. However, instead of landing a right cross on a woozy competitor, the company put its guard down. Now, Sony appears to have landed the first significant punch in the latest round. Instead of attacking, Microsoft has been left with its wrists on its forehead to protect itself from the onslaught.
It’s difficult for most people to admit they are wrong. When you get a bunch of people with huge egos in one place to try to admit they are wrong, well, it ain’t likely to happen. Still, Microsoft should change its used game policies and simply state it will leave it alone – let the publishers decide on their own if they’ll enforce anything. When it comes to required network check-ins, it should do a big about face here too. Remove the network connection requirements. At around 4:30 of the first video posted here, Xbox’s evangelist, known as Major Nelson, points out everyone is already connected anyway. So, if everyone on the Xbox is already connected, why draw attention to making it a requirement? Why not instead make it value-added? They could have instead focused on how if you are connected your games will look better because of their cloud, a feature they have touted but has been defocused. This would have enticed people to connect it and keep it connected. The truth is requiring it – and the way Microsoft has positioned this requirement – makes it seem like it is solely for DRM purposes. They should have focused on DRM another way – if it’s so important. They should have positioned the connection just as a value-added element to entice consumers – if they are so important.
What might become of the Xbox One if they adjust to meet consumer desires? Possibly a clear leading world market share rather than close to 50/50 with Sony again. Truth is even the best of analysts can’t predict it. But, early on many consumers have already picked sides. To help your competition sway those on the fence, or not particularly loyal to one or the other, is just a bad move.