Microsoft: Xbox One policy reversals not a shift away from digital

Marc Whitten says "shame on us" for not communicating, engaging with community better

Microsoft's original online policies for Xbox One were so unpopular the company backtracked on them after a solid month of criticism from the gaming press and public. But even that decision produced some blowback, as last week an online petition calling on Microsoft to return to its original Xbox One policies caused a stir. Speaking to IGN, Xbox One chief product officer Marc Whitten said the outcry ultimately points to shortcomings on Microsoft's part.

"I think it's pretty simple. We've got to just talk more, get people understanding what our system is," Whitten said. "The thing that's really gratifying is that people are excited about the types of features that are possible, and it's sort of shame on us that we haven't done as good of a job as we can to make people feel like that's where we're headed."

And while Microsoft cancelled plans to launch with some online features like family sharing (in which a game can be shared with other family members digitally), Whitten stressed that the reversal in policy didn't mean Microsoft was backing down from its vision of Xbox One as an online-focused system.

"I see people feeling like we've moved away from digital, when certainly I don't believe that's the case. I believe we've added on choice for people. It was an addition of a feature onto Xbox One, not a removal of a feature... Frankly, I think we need to just do more to let people see how the console works, what they're going to be able to do for it. I think a lot of the things they're wishing for are frankly there."

Whitten said Microsoft's Xbox One reveal and E3 events went well, but suggested the company could have done better with the community outreach surrounding those shows.

"One of the things I think we learned was that we didn't talk enough, and we were incomplete in a lot of how using the system would work," Whitten said. "Because we weren't participating in the conversation in a deep enough way, it got us sort of off cycle about how we talk about our program. I think we've learned a lot of lessons. And I think it's something that you're going to see a lot more from us, frankly, is engaging more with the community. I think it's the number one thing I'd want to do if I went back, was have the conversation more open and more complete."

Related stories

Microsoft: 'We're growing our gaming business beyond the console'

The company lays out its vision to attract two billion gamers by 2020

By Christopher Dring

Smite esports leagues will be exclusive to Microsoft's Mixer

Xbox streaming service to showcase both the Pro and Console series for Hi-Rez's fantasy MOBA

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (9)

Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY4 years ago
Stop talking in business-speak. Lots of your customers are not Harvard business majors and mostly anyone can smell BS from a mile away. If asked a question give an straight answer if you want to sell a product. All testament right there. Nothing new. By the way I understood MS policies and what they wanted to achieve. I just hated the way they did it. Oh and lay off the other media types. You got to a prominent place in the industry off the backs of gamers, not Netflix and ESPN.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Philipp Nassau Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.) 4 years ago
I think it's good that they're identifying that their communication was (way) off. It's still symptomatic of their approach though. I honestly believe that they were aware that some of their decisions would not be perceived positively if discussed openly and with compete information. If you can't advertise with what you go on to call a feature because it's perceived negatively it should certainly be subject to scrutiny rather than hiding it behind ambiguous statements and pushing it through.

Gamers (and MS themselves for that matter) can only hope that they will learn to give people clear answers to their questions. There has never been a system as complex as their original plans for the One yet they didn't take the time to explain it properly. I know this was a decision between explaining your system or showing more portfolio on stage but off stage communication didn't clear up anything in time. If you can't communicate a complex system then you just have to simplify it or people will be confused and feel that the investment of learning about it is simply not worth it when there are simpler alternatives.

All that being said, it still seems odd to devote that much time to TV features compared to the digital games aspect of their plans when revealing information about the system at a gaming exhibition.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Diego Santos Lećo Creative Director, GameBlox Interactive4 years ago
No amount of PR can communicate "we're going to force strict 24h-on-DRM" in a good way. The fact that he is blaming communication as the problem with those policies is a bad sign for Xbox.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (9)
Paul Shirley Programmers 4 years ago
@Phillipp: there's nothing odd about the focus on TV/Media features, corporate MS have always planned on having an MS box in every living room and they've made multiple attempts at it including XBox, set top and embedded TV software. So far only XBox has had any success. XBox is being squeezed to deliver more living rooms and that means moving outside gaming.

The many mistakes MS seem to be making stem from the recent realisation that Apple and Android aren't just taking the mobile and tablet markets, they're moving on that TV/media player/living room market. For XBox Sony is no longer the only competition and stupid decisions are being made across the company as MS enters panic mode.

What should worry people more than anything is the closer alignment of the entertainment division with other MS operations. The loss of freedom that creates can only lead to more gamer alienating idiocy. We aren't the consumer any longer, we weren't important enough to the decision makers to have their plans explained to us. It nearly worked out for MS though, with so many assuming the best from what little was said.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 4 years ago
"One of the things I think we learned was that we didn't talk enough, and we were incomplete in a lot of how using the system would work," Whitten said.
Yup. Instead of putting the new DRM policies on your website and expecting the general public to find it there they should have elected one of their top execs to have a sit-down with media and honestly and straight forwardly answer all the DRM and used game questions that way.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Philipp Nassau Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.) 4 years ago
@Paul Shirley
I don't think this was necessarily the best place to discuss all the TV features though. E3 is first and foremost a gaming expo, the audience consists of mostly industry people and those paying attention to it when it happens (before it's gone the long way to the daily newspaper reports) are gamers. I see why they want to include those features, I just think it's not the best place to do a presentation that's so heavily focused on it when you have so many policies concerning the core audience at the event that require explanation. It could have just as easily been done at a consumers electronics convention (say IFA, CES). Yes the dates aren't convenient but I question whether the audience for the media features would have cared to learn about it three months later. Nobody apart from Google and Apple has the brand power to hype this kind of appliance right now and MS seem to have been overconfident.

Diego is still right though, even well communicated this would have been a disaster. The question is, if you don't even want to communicate what you're doing, should you really be doing it? Somebody must have noticed along the way and I'm puzzled as to how their market research wouldn't show this...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Philipp Nassau on 16th July 2013 1:24am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Prendergast Research Chemist 4 years ago
I think their problem was with communication, only in the sense that they still hadn't (and seemingly haven't) finalised the product with its restrictions and features... How can you talk about something to promote it honestly and openly if you don't even know what you have?

It's become increasingly apparent that XBO wasn't ready for prime time at E3 but MS seemed to be locked in to reveal it at that point in time for some reason.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Shirley Programmers 4 years ago
@James: The premature E3 reveal is another sign that Microsoft as a whole are in panic mode, every asset being sweated hard for the new unified mission revealed last week. It's just the next stage of the plan that brought us Win8 everywhere, compromised everywhere, DRMed to the hilt everywhere.

Their long standing desire to get into the media delivery business suddenly became more urgent with the rise of Google/Android and Apple squeezing every part of their existing business. For HQ games are secondary now, the trojan horse is now expected to deliver. I believe management are so blinded by what the overall business needs that they're blind to these mistakes. Someone in power really believed the TV support was what the word needed to hear about before the gaming news. Someone needed DRM to be sold to the media producers more than they needed to worry about what gamers thought.

We weren't the audience and they didn't consider where they were presenting and who was really listening. It's the current face of MS, a company that listens to everyone but hears no-one.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Leigh Pankhurst Studying Animator, Train2Game4 years ago
Yet more wishy-washy gutless claptrap from inhuman corporate faceless nobodies who can't tell the truth or express themselves properly. Microsoft HAVE backed down, always on HAS been rescinded as a policy after being announced by people who have since been sacked for being destructively awful at their jobs.

I am grievously fed up with the continued misrepresentation of the truth in a frankly embarrassing episode corporate face saving.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.