[NOTE] This is a continuing series of articles discussing Microsoft and the Xbox One policy reversal. You can follow the conversation here, here and here. Explore the comments as they provide deeper discussion! – O&F Desk
When I saw all the discussion on the page, I read through it all and felt compelled to throw in my analysis. The initial debate boiled down to the evaluation of the Xbone’s relationship with privacy, innovation, and abusive business practices. The subsequent issue became the future of the industry and Microsoft’s significance as the only thing preventing a stagnant Sony monopoly.
On privacy, a person’s relationship with wrongdoing isn’t directly relevant to their value of privacy. If the Xbone is going to pose the serious privacy risk that it does, it has to expect that people are going to be bothered by that. If Microsoft doesn’t want consumers to be worried, it should work on improving its record of fighting for its consumers’ privacy.
On innovation, there are only three changes that could require defense of Microsoft’s ability to innovate with the Xbone in the future: the loss of required internet connection, the ability to share games, and the loss of required Kinect.
- The required internet connection was not presented with any associated innovative use. Even if the long-term goal was to switch to digital distribution, 24 hour check-ins are unnecessary to that goal and do not directly result in innovation.
- The inability to conventionally share games did not serve any directly innovative end. It could only have indirectly promoted innovation through possibly adding money to the industry. More money is in no way a guarantee of innovation, so that isn’t an argument.
- The Kinect on the other hand is still available, and at this point is still packaged with every system. Its innovative potential is unchanged in all ways except the requirement of its use. If it was going to usher in the future, there is virtually nothing standing in its way of doing so, even if they take it out of some of the boxes. If no longer being required is enough to stymie the Kinect’s future, that just means the Kinect wasn’t a good enough product in the first place.
- As a corollary, there was nothing shown that was sufficiently promising about the new Kinect for most consumers to have realistically “seen the grand vision.”
On abusive business practices, a distinction should be made. Of course Microsoft is a business, and everything it does revolves around making money. Making money isn’t why people got angry about the Xbone. Abusive business practices are choices that a company makes to benefit themselves at the expense of the consumer’s experience. You can reasonably expect that if consumers at large perceive an abusive business practice (whether intended that way or not), it’s going to be a disaster for the company.
For lack of a coherent better reason provided by Microsoft, people widely concluded that the 24 hour check-in was an abusive business practice. It provided no obvious benefit to the user and was an arbitrary stipulation that could only make the consumer’s experience worse. It also had the easily generated company benefit of extensive advertising and DRM. Even if this was done with innovation in mind, the outrage was foreseeable and the company made insufficient concessions to help consumers feel more comfortable about it. They could have made Xbox Live free or cheaper for their newly ever-connected user base. Or they could have given everyone MSPoints. They could have offered free games. Instead of showing good faith through any of the numerous avenues they had available, they tried to sneak it by. Then, when called on it, they effectively said “deal with it.” Only at this point did the greater body of customers start oiling the spit.
The same phenomenon occurred with the used game DRM. This was clearly an arbitrarily imposed limitation, and it was put in place with no appropriate concession that showed respect for the customer’s intelligence. It doesn’t matter if it was an attempt by Microsoft at making the business model of the industry work better. The customer should never have to think of the future of the industry in order to swallow the bitter pill you’ve offered, and it is hilariously misguided to suggest anything else.
Finally, we have the future of the industry and Microsoft’s apparent function as a counterbalance to a supposedly stagnant Sony. I find this notion a bit ironic, because almost anyone seeing this console release cycle normally would say:
“Oh, I see. Microsoft is making the same mistake Sony did last time. They overbuilt their system, priced it too high to compete well, didn’t entice gamers with enough games, and pushed too hard to win the whole living room. Microsoft also spit in their customers’ face this time around. Sony on the other hand, appears to have learned all these lessons as they slowly pulled themselves out of the ruinous abyss their PS3 mistakes left them in.”
Despite the fact that I don’t really agree that the Xbone showed any likelihood of being an innovation front—it’s at least clear that the industry’s history predicted this failure. Love it or hate it, the last major successful innovator wasn’t Microsoft, it was Nintendo, with the Wii. The Wii committed entirely to their innovation plan, and made concessions like free games and unobtrusive functionality to help people get accustomed to the new ideas. Microsoft also had its day in the sun when it showed the power of a well managed online feature, but it seems silly to claim Microsoft is the innovating savior of the industry against stagnant Sony, who have always at LEAST kept pace with their competitors.
Long story short, I had previously assumed that anyone defending the new Xbox was paid. It was incomprehensible to me that someone would invite the level of customer disregard Microsoft displayed with the original Xbone. Frankly, Microsoft should thank its lucky stars that they pulled this stunt in the fully realized age of social media, so they could understand the problem and start correcting before the release crash that Sony had to endure last time around. But no, I don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything as they slam into reverse.