Microsoft just announced their new Xbox that will take us into the next generation of home entertainment. Notice the wording there because let’s get one thing clear from the start – the Xbox One is not a games console. Microsoft have positioned their new device as the one entertainment device to have under your television that also happens to play games. In the hour long show, the Redmond giant focused almost entirely upon how this new device will interact with your television in a flagrant disregard for anyone living outside North America or with little interest in the NFL.
Spouting out useless buzzwords that treated the global audience like imbeciles, Microsoft made plenty of promises about how this functionality will revolutionize the living room while failing to effectively show how or even why. The new Xbox couples with an existing cable box and allows you to control your television through the new, now mandatory, Kinect controller. Demonstrations included bringing up Internet Explorer in a Windows 8 style snapped window, answering a Skype call in the middle of a movie and checking your fantasy team whilst watching Football. All of it zipped along in a display of multitasking that would make a schizophrenic proud, however, again Microsoft failed to demonstrate compelling reasons as to why you would want to use this over say a smartphone or tablet.
The team behind the Xbox One must not be paying attention to the cable market in the US either. Cable subscriptions are being cancelled, the value of advertising is plummeting and Netflix is now, by hours watched, the most popular and successful TV network in North America. People are no longer tied down to the television. Device agnostic consumers want instant access to content on their phones or tablets while for Microsoft, they are still tied to the antiquated notion of a family sitting in a big living room with the television at the center. One has to wonder whether Microsoft have completely missed the point.
On the subject of missing the point, did Microsoft even have an inkling of who would be watching the event. Gamers worldwide were tuning in to see what Microsoft had in store for the future of gaming. Their answer? Diddly squat. Rewind only a few short years and the Xbox 360 had a record high games to console attach rate. Early adopters of consoles are always core gamers who buy lots of games and really push the new system into the public consciousness Core gamers flocked to the Xbox 360 when it became clear that Sony were more interested in their Blu-ray box than appeasing the millions of PlayStation fans worldwide. Microsoft seem to have forgotten who got them to where they are today. Instead of making the new Xbox all about gaming with additional features they went in the opposite direction. Showing off multiplatform games that are exactly the same as previous iterations is not a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Microsoft did announce that they will have 15 exclusives with 8 new IP’s this year, however, given how completely ignorant they were of their audience for this conference, one dreads to think how their exclusive line up will pan out.
Even more bad news was to follow for gamers after the event as Microsoft stumbled into a PR nightmare with their team of representatives unable to give clear-cut responses to the assembled press over several key issues. Firstly always online. This was confirmed not to be the case by Don Mattrick only for Phil Harrison to state that the Xbox needs to connect to the internet at least once everyday in order to function. If that isn’t restrictive always online DRM, I don’t know what is. The confusion didn’t stop there. Microsoft support claimed that the Xbox One would allow used games with no extra fee. A hasty recall of the press revealed that gone are the days of lending a game to a friend, they would have to pay FULL PRICE to play that pre-owned game you just lent to them.
Most people are left wondering what Microsoft can do to turn around this colossal failure of a conference. Some say it could swing around at E3, however, how likely are Microsoft to reverse the anti-consumer policies that they actually think are a good idea? Even great new exclusive titles are unlikely to win back some who refuse to accept Microsoft’s vision of an always on, always connected, always watching console which penalizes game sharing and the pre-owned market. It is a vision that consumers should not subscribe to.
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