Xbox One in PR Trouble

Xbox One receives consumer backlash

Xbox One isn’t even available yet but, Microsoft has managed to anger consumers once more

It appears the hype surrounding the Xbox One launch has now turned into defensive PR efforts by Microsoft. At the heart of Microsoft’s latest PR troubles are three primary features (or to some consumers, limitations) of the Xbox One. First is the ability to sell, trade or buy used games. Second is the requirement of a network connection. Last, but not least, are privacy concerns for the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor. Let’s dissect…

All Used Up
Probably the biggest consumer frustration has been rumors about Microsoft not allowing the use of used games on the Xbox One. With GameStop alone selling some $500 million in used games in a quarter, there is indeed a large base of Xbox 360 (the current Microsoft console) consumers – if not all – that either regularly buy or have played used games. After the launch details of Xbox One (due out for the holidays of 2013), rumors instantly started that the Xbox One would not allow used games. Microsoft has now clarified its current stand on used games.

To summarize my understanding, Xbox one will allow used games on a limited basis. Basically, it is now somehow taking control from consumers who buy and own a new game and want to sell or trade it in and giving control of this to game publishers. I’m not sure how but, there’s probably some license / code to go with it so the game can only be used so many times by so many people. It seems this limit is rumored to be just one resale or use of the game after the initial purchase. I’m sure Microsoft was pressured by game publishers to do this. But, then again, Microsoft is also a game publisher and has a financial stake in this too. Regardless, consumers are not happy at all about it and are threatening to not buy the Xbox One over it.

The PR problem for Microsoft on used games largely stems from the fact Sony has not revealed its intentions. This is drawing some early favoritism by some consumers for the PS4. Sony is also launching its competing PS4 console around the same time as the Xbox One but, so far, has been unclear on how it will handle used games.  Company executives have been quoted as stating it will leave it up to game publishers to define how used games are handled. This is essentially what Microsoft has stated except that it has also limited when and how often someone can lend or give a game to a friend.

Connections Are Everything
Microsoft has also apparently made a network connection a requirement for Xbox One. The company may argue this isn’t limiting but, there really is. The company states you can play offline – for up to 24 hours or just one hour if you’re logged on to a different console. This has also angered many consumers. One consumer post pointed out how it alienates military consumers since deployed personnel are often on consoles they don’t own or that cannot always be connected. Then there is the reality that some parents don’t want kids of a certain age to have their console access the Internet. While Microsoft can provide age-restricted content for the console, this likely requires setup and more parent involvement. In addition, some consumers simply don’t play online or will never understand how a game that is being played offline will require a connection. None of this is a PR win for the Xbox One. The fact Sony still remains unclear on these things only makes the focus on the strict Xbox One requirements more magnified.

Peep Show
Finally, Microsoft is also now hard at work defending the required Kinect sensor for the Xbox One. The Kinect sensor monitors your movement and voice to perform certain actions on the Xbox One. Microsoft claims it is not recording anything or monitoring you when you’re simply by your TV having a conversation. With so much general concern at the moment about American consumer’s privacy being violated, this is just horrible timing for Microsoft.

When you combine these big three “problems” it starts to get difficult to conjure up TV images of hundreds of people waiting in line for an Xbox One like we saw for the Xbox 360. The verdict for PS4 compared to PS3 also remains unclear but, the expert analysis online seems to point the PS4 will follow suit with Xbox One on used games. If Sony does not require an Internet connection or a perceived spying on consumers, it stands to clearly win this console war – if it can stay away from the PR problems of the Xbox One…