Can Microsoft Redeem Itself at E3? Game Front Weighs In

What a bizarre Tuesday it was for the gaming press. During the big reveal of the new Xbox One — livestreamed from Microsoft’s pleasuredome in Redmond, Wash. — the console maker presented a very specific narrative for its next-gen Xbox, a narrative intentionally focused on hardware and dashboard functionality. We saw very little about games, but we sort of knew that going in. All the game stuff will be revealed at Microsoft’s June 10 press conference, right before E3 kicks off.

So it was a hardware/features conference, no games yet. Got it. But why didn’t we get answers to basic, critical questions about the device’s DRM, always-on internet requirement, used games policy, or app store?

What we did get was a bunch of hot air about how Xbox One enables “Intelligent TV.” You “surf” the Xbox dashboard’s apps via Kinect’s voice commands, search the Internet via Bing, make video calls via Skype. Neat. And Stephen Spielberg is making a Halo TV show exclusively for Xbox One. Nice! (Read our full rundown of the conference here.)

This all seemed fine, but, frankly, no one bought the controlled narrative. The story of the day wasn’t Microsoft’s explanation of a kick-ass living room with a gaming-console-turned-media-center; it was about those very basic, critical, and unanswered questions mentioned above. Game Front staff spent all day yesterday chasing down answers to those questions, which was (frankly) exhausting, and kind of frustrating.

TL;DR: The Xbox One reveal was a mess of a conference, and not because of the conference itself (which was sort of “Cool, guess it’s neat…”). It was because the reveal’s aftermath, during which Microsoft failed to clearly explain core functionality and meet rumors with tangible facts.

So, how can Microsoft turn things around at E3? Let’s go around the Game Front staff and talk about it. And of course, dearest readers, chime in below in the comments.

The Need for Clarity

Ron Whitaker

Microsoft has dug a pretty big hole for itself by simply being really bad at messaging. To turn it around, it has to absolutely nail E3. Not only does Microsoft need to show a big focus on games, but it needs to demonstrate that it understands how much confusion the reveal of the Xbox One created. It needs to plainly address the big outstanding issues: Used games, shared games and always-on internet. If there’s any ambiguity after the show, then Microsoft has failed.

Ian Miles Cheong

To redeem itself, Microsoft needs to come clean and clear up the confusion with all of the issues surrounding used games, and online connectivity requirements. Not just that—the answers need to satisfy us, as well. There’s little point in having Microsoft admit that they’re screwing over anyone who can’t connect to the internet once a day, nor is there any point in them admitting that the console doesn’t offer support for used games. The one thing they need to do is not double down on their marketing speech. Stating that the system supports used games if the second user pays the full price for the game is just a roundabout way of saying “No, we don’t support used games.”

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21 Comments on Can Microsoft Redeem Itself at E3? Game Front Weighs In

Ted

On May 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

As much details that we got from both camps, I am betting that we will be shocked by both of them at E3. I wish they had concrete details over what both Sony and Microsoft showed us.

As of right now, it is just whetting our interest for better or worse. Right now, Microsoft looks like it has a mountain to climb to get back gamers’ graces. And Sony looks like it can’t lose. But they could totally surprise us with tangible details over their systems. Like how much will buyers of used games will actually have to pay to buy used for the x box one, or how much both consoles will cost, or what the ps4 looks like, etc.

Mr Flibble

On May 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

For Microsoft to redeem itself in my eyes at E3 they would basically have to say that everything they revealed was a practical joke, including the 80s-inspired-cable-box-looking system itself, and then present a list of features that don’t seem to all go exactly against what gamers have (quite vocally and clearly) shown themselves to want in a gaming system.

Fil

On May 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Microsoft has failed to deliver a next gen and it’s blatantly obvious. The reason why they failed is simple. They reached where the point where they care more about the profit than the gamer. They deliver us a Ugly 80′s vhs looking “entertainment box” with plenty to love for netflix and hulu fans, and oh by the way it plays games if anyone still cares, with some unclear restrictions.

The only support it has now is the ignorant gaming consumer community. The people who will buy this is “that guy” who only plays 2k13, black ops 2, and watches netflix.

This is a no brainer, ps4 all the way.

R.J.

On May 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm

E3 is going to be crucial for them, now.

This is basically how it went yesterday:

MS: “Here is a presentation that doesn’t really address gaming very much for what is supposedly a gaming console.”

Press: “We have questions regarding games.”

MS: “Answers that either are confusing or say something that sounds bad.”

Any gamer that bothers to actually think about the answers: “Hey, that sounds bad.”

MS: “Wait, we may or may not have actually meant what we said!”

Seriously, not impressive. It’s not too hard to get your stories straight when you have a planned event like this.

Axetwin

On May 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Unless Microsoft does some pretty major back-peddleing in the next 18 days concerning their policies with the XBone, it doesn’t matter what games they show off at E3. For some reason, a LOT of people seem to think that showing off the games there will make us forget everything we’ve seen here. A gold plated turd is still a turd and thats exactly what the XBone is and will most likely end up being.

Quim

On May 23, 2013 at 3:37 am

Microsoft aren’t interested in redemption, they’re only interested in survival. The real question is whether they can survive in the console market without serious backpedaling. The answer should be no, but unfortunately it’s probably yes as there will always be an obedient sector of pseudo-gamers who’ll just pick up whatever flashy bit of new kit is released because they think it makes them legit (see: ‘lol’).

Tom

On May 23, 2013 at 6:37 am

I think the thing people are forgetting in all of this is that the market has evolved. Making a console that appeals ONLY to gamers isn’t a sound business practice anymore. But a console that you can run your cable box through, watch Netflix/Hulu on, watch ESPN (and check your fantasy scores), etc, all with a voice command? That’s gonna get a lot of non-gamers/casual gamers interested. And those people might start getting into gaming more, which drives the industry.

As far as all the confusing answers, I think that journalists have got to stop asking senior officials for answers. Those officials, in all likelihood, haven’t had hands-on time with the system. They probably didn’t help design it. They’re where they are in the company because of their business sense. They probably sat through a presentation just like the one on Tuesday and were most likely provided talking points that related to what Microsoft presented on Tuesday. That’s a sound PR strategy. It only got derailed by officials moving away from the talking points. Point is, if journalists want a specific answer, it’s much better to go to someone on the development team.

Daretoask

On May 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

Disclaimer: I live in Germany, and as you may or may not know, many germans (me included) are very concerned with online privacy and the loss of our control over said privacy that many devices such as the new XBox entail.

“Microsoft might start to fix things by backing down the arrogance in assuming that everyone will flock to its console regardless of whether it lets you borrow games or points a camera into your house that links directly to Microsoft servers.”

Thank you Phil for bringing this up! I was wondering if I’m the only one who is more than slightly concerned about this. When I heard that the Kinect would be mandatory this time around, my alarmbells started ringing. During the presentation they kept talking about how my XBox would recognize me the minute I walk into my room, instantly load may favorite game where I left off, and even make suggestions for a new TV show I should watch. The more of the presentation I watched, the more uncomfortable I felt. I mean, I am basically paying money to have a voice and facial recognition machine (which is hooked to the Microsoft servers no less) sit in my room and monitor me and everyone else who is moving in front of it. It will then use and store said data in “the cloud” to generate profiles and personalised commercial suggestions based on our behavior. And if I don’t wish to be monitored while I play a game or watch a movie in my own home, the machine won’t work at all. Couple this with disturbing statements like “you and your XBox will have a relationship” and I can’t help but think of this decive as a potentially orwellian spybox.

I have always been baffled by how easy we as a society today accept such colossal intrusions into our privacy in the name of entertainment.

Phil Hornshaw

On May 23, 2013 at 8:39 am

@Daretoask

You bring up a lot of good points, and something we intend to try to get to the bottom of is just what Microsoft intends to do with all that data it’s generating on users. Okay, if MS wants to generate user profiles for game saves and whatnot, there’s a degree to which I feel I would be willing to allow it to gather *some* data on me to enable cool functions. But what data is it gathering, where is it saving it, how much is it saving, and most of all, what will Microsoft do with it all? We live in an age of 1 billion Facebook users, who are basically a commodity traded by Mark Zuckerberg: The *product* of Facebook is its users and their information sold to ad companies. I see Xbox One potentially as doing the same, gathering information on you ostensibly to recommend movies you might like, but really to allow Microsoft unfettered access into the homes of its players to sell the data it gathers to advertisers.

There’s also another concern in this whole privacy discussion: A HUGE portion of the Xbox user base is underage. A number of U.S. states, including California where I live, have laws against the gathering of personal data on minors, so how is Microsoft going to deal with that? Is there an opt-out possibility? Will there be parental controls? By opting out of allowing my data to be sold, will I have to give up any or all cool features that Microsoft is trying to use to sell the Xbox One in the first place?

All of this stuff is potentially troubling, although I’d say it’s still much too early to jump to any conclusions — we just have a lot of questions at this point, and the reveal presentation did nothing to try to deal with any of them. With no information, it can be kind of easy to assume the worst, but we’re trying to withhold judgment until MS has had a chance to address some of this stuff. Microsoft needs to give a lot of answers to these questions, and the sooner the better, in my mind.

Phil Hornshaw

On May 23, 2013 at 8:44 am

@Tom

Addressing your serious policy questions on the Xbox One toward the development team, rather than whoever was briefed by PR and put on the floor, does sound better in theory. The trouble is, Microsoft (and everyone else in the gaming industry almost to a company) only gives you access to whomever they choose to give you access. So given the choice, I’d rather talk to someone intimately involved in the Xbox One, but who they make available is who you’ve got.

That said, a lot of these Xbox One questions are corporate policies, and I don’t think the conflicting information was a matter of some people in the company getting it wrong so much as Microsoft realizing (perhaps belatedly) that it should hold back some of the less palatable information about the console, and it instead got out by way of people on the floor who hadn’t been told not to talk about it. The information was conflicting only because Microsoft rolling out new “clarifications” of half-explained elements, only to explain them only a quarter more. It seemed to be more an issue of message management and the mothership’s unwillingness to tell us all the things we didn’t want to hear, but with some of that information getting out anyway.

Axetwin

On May 23, 2013 at 9:13 am

@ Tom – Im sorry, but I strongly disagree. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s plan is they are charging you EXTRA for services you already have to pay for through your normal cable provider. If you already NEED your cable box as well as the normal subscription plan to watch any of those premium channels, why in the world would any intelligent consumer choose to pay extra so they can watch it on the Xbox?

The XBone will NEVER replace the PC as a multimedia tool in your common household. I can’t even fathom why Microsoft is even trying to. The PS4 is a gaming centric console, Apple is supposedly developing a gaming centric console, Valve is developing their own gaming centric console. If developing a gaming centric console is no longer a “sound business practice”, these companies wouldn’t be throwing their hats in the ring.

Microsoft is making the exact same mistake Sony made at the beginning of the last generation. They think just because they currently have the popular console that means everyone will buy whatever it is they push out. Sony doesn’t even have to do anything spectacular anymore, they just have to sit back, make sure their console caters to the gaming crowd and wait for the very rude awakening Microsoft is in store for.

jay

On May 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm

So they’re making it an entertainment hub. They have been beefing that up for a few years now on the 360, so no surprise there. Improving my tv experience? I don’t want to improve my tv experience, I want to improve my gaming experience. Fantasy league is lame, I don’t care about snaping the bull onto my screen. They didn’t tell us much about the hardware except what you can read in the articles. What kind of cpu? What kind of Ram? At the end of the day, I must say that PS4>Xbox One. Of course they have the dvr style recording capability for in game vids. Other than Quantum Break, the games did not impress me, Forza, and some sports games, and of course cod, yay…. This is all coming from a PC gamer, so I’m no console fanboy.

psycros

On May 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Microsoft, as a company, has ceded its direction to clueless hipster chicks and bean counters. All of the bright boys (and I emphasize BOYS) who built the winning brands have been forced out, demoted or neutered in some fashion. Its an all-girls team now who truly believe the best thing you can do with a media console (forget the “game part) is sit on your couch duckfacing on Skype. The hardware needs to look like a stereo component, too, because a console isn’t portable or designed to sit on your dining room table. Its not a fashion accessory like a phone or tablet, so obviously it needs to be invisible. Meanwhile, Sony has to just be watching in disbelief – and if their smart, scrapping *anything* that impedes the enjoyment of used games.

Michael

On May 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm

No its over.
All Sony has to do now is take advantage of this situation and give us backwards compatibility and its OVER for Xbox.

Pat

On May 24, 2013 at 6:14 am

I love how nobody even knows what the PS4 looks like and that its design is already better than the XBOX One. What happens if its bigger or the same size? What do all the Sony fanboys do then?? I swear XBOX vs. PS can give Christianity vs Islam a run for its money…. Whos cares if you do not like one system or the other. The best way to hurt them isn’t by talking about it, it is buy not buying it. So, just don’t buy it…. Pretty simple right?

Chip N' Dalez

On May 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

@Pat – I love how you ignored basically everything that’s been said about how the Xbox One fails and instead stuck to a pretty irrelevant detail about superficial design elements while claiming people who criticise the Xbox One are “Sony fanboys”. It would help if you actually bothered to read the article and the comments before attempting to contribute.

mcarthurdw

On May 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

At this point, I really don’t think Microsoft can dig themselves out of the hole. They have shown that they have lost base with the core consumer of the XBox, that coupled with what can only be described as obvious blatant greed with the games fees for used games, is enough to be the down fall of Xbox.

lol

On May 26, 2013 at 5:13 am

Microwave has nothing to redeem itself for. These nerds would have jumped all over the console even if it came with a lifetime supply of Cheetos and had a robot hand so they wouldn’t even need to move their flabby little arms into order to jerk off to Hello Kitty. 999% of gamers support the system. Now watch as the entitled babies spam their keyboards in denile. Want cheese with your wine? lol.

quicktooth

On May 27, 2013 at 3:59 am

Well, except for Ben Richardson, you all have the same questions I do. Ben, I’m too tired for some sort of critique, so I’ll keep this short (I care about GameFront so I feel like this is a big deal).

You’re ignoring the fact that Microsoft wants REALLY HARD to violate the rights of consumers. You’re trotting out the tired line that companies exist to make profit, when basic respect of people is what’s fundamental. Microsoft’s anti-consumer orwellian ‘effort’ must be smashed with journalistic gusto, BECAUSE it’s an attack on consumers, and made with an implicit assumption that we’re TOTAL IDIOTS who will be abused any way companies want, AND PAY THEM TO DO IT. And as for gaming being a ‘closed system’- there are ALREADY media pcs. We don’t need another from Microsoft. Remember this wasn’t a Hifi or TV-appliance unveiling- it’s a GAME CONSOLE unveiling. The only advantage a console HAS over tablets, PCs, and our existing media devices is that it is a specialist device, that can trumpet ease of use AS it’s a specialist device. Microsoft have made a glorified media PC. If they want to make a GAMES CONSOLE it better DAMN well focus on games to the exlusion of all else- or be presented at a Hifi/TV electronics show.

I really hope you’re just blind to your colleague’s insights, and not bought by Microsoft. You could be because you’re trying REALLY HARD to tell us ‘It’s Not That Bad’ (see my points above), tell us that ‘we’re whiny and entitled’ (we in fact ARE entitled to not be abused), and that ‘we’re not the audience anyway’. Yes we ARE the bl00dy audience. This is announced AS a specialist gadget- that’s the kind of conference it was. Not an electronics show. Not competing with Samsung Blue-Ray players, or Foxtel’s Set Top Boxes, or whatever, but with Nintendo and Sony for a GAMES CONSOLE. I *hope* you haven’t been bought. But it looks bl00dy like you have. Oh; and to answer your inevitable retort that you didn’t say it was ‘really good’; no one with half a brain in corporate PR would. This is a sh!tstorm, so you have to retreat to devious tactics; and your obfuscation and ground-shifting was done like a pro (at least in the eyes of this Philosophy student). You COULD be a pro. That’s a problem.

quicktooth

On May 27, 2013 at 4:12 am

I must quickly point out that I mean “pro” as in “bought corporate shill”, not as in “professional games journalist”, which you clearly work as. I’m not saying I’m going to another publication, or that you must be a shill, I’m saying “ohsh!t the obvious corporate shills are saying EXACTLY the same thing you are; with the single addition of ‘and of course we’re all buying one anyway’ “. See Rev3Games’s ‘discussion’ of the sh!tstorm on YouTube for an example of this. I’m running out of legit publications here. I want to stick with Gamefront.

Wet One

On May 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I’ve never heard of a games publisher or console developer called ‘Microwave’. Along with his earlier comment about “five year old who still live with their parents” I have to wonder if this is some sort of joke now by lol as a clever satire on thick, uneducated fantoy anti-gamers with pathological defense mechanisms. Either that, or he was lobotomised as a foetus and then dropped on his head when he was born.