Long before sales figures and game releases dominated the headlines, the only thing any gamer wanted to talk about was Microsoft’s radical online strategy for the Xbox One. As it was originally described, the Xbox One was going to be an online-only console in the strictest sense — if you weren’t connected to the Internet, the device wouldn’t function. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach a middle ground with consumers, Microsoft threw in the towel and reverted to the standard policies of the previous generation.
In an interview at SXSW, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios, admitted that he and his team did not approach the delicate situation in an ideal manner. Total Xbox has taken the time to transcribe some of the more interesting quotes:
“I look at last summer and that wasn’t a high point for me, coming out of the announcement of Xbox One and E3, where I thought our messaging around what we believed in was confused,” said Spencer.
“I learned a ton last summer as leader of our groups about being true to your core vision about what a product is, not being confusing, and frankly, when you’re going to say something to a consumer that might put them off, it’s better to just be direct and honest, rather than trying to sugar-coat something that might be controversial. I’d rather deal with the controversy of what we’re doing, and have an above-table conversation about that topic, rather than trying to sugar-coat it with some other news.”
Had Microsoft been more forthcoming at the outset, explaining in detail how its new online strategy could affect the next generation of consoles for the better, consumers might have given the Xbox One the benefit of the doubt. Instead, confusing, drawn out reveals and a refusal to answer basic questions resulted in outrage. If there was anything to be gained by Microsoft’s bold plans, the awkward delivery assured that we’ll never know.