Why is Microsoft getting the ire of the gaming media right now?
Well, all the big stuff is obvious. Microsoft overplayed its hand this console generation, with features players didn’t ask for, DRM they didn’t want, and a price point that’s a little hard to swallow.
Funny enough, there’s actually plenty more room for disappointment in Microsoft’s next-gen strategy so far. It’s not all as obviously rage-inducing as the big bullet points everyone’s hitting, but these are still big gaps in Redmond’s strategy that should’ve been addressed before or at E3 this year.
1. Xbox One didn’t actually push TV enough
The initial Xbox One reveal got a lot of grief for focusing heavily on television. Gamers want to hear about videogames, not The Real Housewives of Redmond, right?
But the real mistake Microsoft made was that they didn’t go far enough with television and other video. In an age where more and more consumers are giving up their cable and satellite TV subscriptions in favor of streaming or piracy, the Xbox One’s extremely basic routes-through-your-cable-box technology simply isn’t impressive.
Microsoft should have worked with TV studios and other content producers to create an alternative to television, not just another box to watch it through. Turn Xbox Live into its own channel, with either original content or more reasonably priced cable TV access, and the general population would’ve eaten that shit up.
Imagine if Microsoft announced that HBO would be available for an extra $5 a month through Xbox Live. Or that the next seasons of AMC’s hit shows (Walking Dead, Mad Men) would premiere a week early on Xbox One’s video channel. It would’ve been a huge interactive media coup. Instead, we got a high-tech remote control.
2. XBLA got left in the dust
Tons of gamers were outraged when they learned the Xbox One wouldn’t be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 discs. It was a fairly large omission by Microsoft, but admittedly a predictable one (Playstation 4 is in the same camp). This has been a common sticking point for new consoles, but it’s usually forgotten a few months after launch.
What surprises me more is the same policy holds true for Xbox Live Arcade games, which are significantly simpler than standard, DVD-based titles. They’re virtual purchases that are tied to your Xbox Live account, so it didn’t seem insane to expect they could’ve been carried over to Xbox One. And offering a dual-platform for these games could’ve greatly expanded the initial online user base for Microsoft’s new console.
Maybe the technological gap is wider than I would’ve imagined. And yet, Microsoft has had no issue porting XBLA games to other platforms before, which brings me to my last complaint…
3. No ties into Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8
Whether you like Windows 8’s desktop/mobile platforms or not, Microsoft has a vested interest in assuring they succeed over those of Apple and Google. Windows Phone 8 in particular has seen a large rise in user adoption since its launch last fall, but there’s still a long way to go. Consumers need to be convinced they want or need these devices.
Likewise, Microsoft is trying to peddle its new console to an audience that will naturally compare it to the PS4, which is practically identical in terms of hardware specs. If only MS had a way to set its ecosystem apart.
Exclusive. Cross-platform. Synergy. These are buzz-words executives love, but they were nowhere to be heard in regards to Microsoft’s systems. Imagine playing Forza on Xbox, then continuing your game on PC, then tuning your favorite cars on Windows Phone. What about facing down your Windows 8-owning friends on Xbox One in a match of Castle Crashers 2 (one can dream)? Microsoft has control over three systems that need help, and they didn’t even try to tie them together.
Now, none of these errors (or the more common ones cited in the intro) mean Microsoft is out of the game; the Xbox One could still recover. But it’s gonna be an uphill battle. Redmond knows what’s at stake, and they know how far behind they stand. Can the company recover from its mistakes, minor and major alike?