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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

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CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

Remote Patrol

Xbox One: Microsoft should have stuck to its guns

Should Microsoft have stayed firm on the Xbox One?
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

George Bernard Shaw famously said, "those that cannot change their minds cannot change anything". Microsoft seems to have taken that a little too firmly to heart.

Earlier this week, it emerged that the Xbox One won't require the Kinect sensor to be plugged in and turned on in order to operate — something that Microsoft execs had previously claimed would be mandatory.

Before that, we'd been told that the new Xbox One controller and Kinect worked together as a cooperative unit, adding extra dimensions of control.

It marks yet another apparent reversal of policy as Microsoft seemingly struggles with the swell of negative feelings that the Xbox One has generated.

Whether it's an actual change or just a case of a Microsoft executive misspeaking doesn't matter — it looks like, and was reported as, a policy shift for its upcoming next-gen console.

When Microsoft first unveiled the Xbox One, it seemed to have a very clear vision of the device in mind. This was an all-in-one entertainment solution. You want gaming? Bam! You got it. TV? It's here, too. Sport? We got you covered. Social media? You know it.

It was, according to Microsoft, an always-on master device that would utterly change your lounge room.

But now, it's looking like a different beast. The removal of the daily online check-in has also removed the Xbox One's rather excellent digital game lending. Gone, too, is the pervasive nature of your games library. Whereas the original vision was to make all of your games available from any Xbox One (including games you'd physically bought from a store), now only digital games can follow you anywhere.

It's hard to know whether the removal of these features is any real great loss. For my money, though, these were the kinds of innovations that I wanted from a next-gen console. It seemed like Microsoft was really pushing the limits of what a connected console could do.

The same went for cloud processing — the idea that, as we were told by Microsoft Australia's Jeremy Hinton, "for every Xbox One in a lounge room, you have the processing power of three more available in the cloud". Obviously, this isn't possible with an offline console.

But, more importantly, Microsoft should have just stuck to its guns about these features if the company believed they were worthwhile. It should have stood by its bold vision of what it wanted the Xbox One to be.

By stripping back features and changing aspects of the Xbox One after launch, it looks like it's bowing to gamer outrage. It displays a lack of confidence that the console could speak for itself.

It's also allowed rival Sony to look strong by comparison, without really having to do much.

As Australian gaming journalist David Rayfield put it:

For what it's worth, I think both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be fine consoles with good features and great exclusive games that will make it worth buying either or both.

But I'm not sure we're getting more than just iterative changes anymore. Next generation shouldn't just mean faster processing power and better graphics. It should mean face-melting new features that you'd barely dared to dream of. It should mean pushing the envelope of what technology can do.

Most importantly, it's shouldn't mean listening to gamers who are scared of change, and ending up looking like you're afraid to move forward.

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wilso5555 posted a comment   

Being a keen gamer, they should have stuck more to the xbox 360 style, make it nice glossy white with good quality/vibrant colour led's (not old school horrible green) kept the online store and discs, ugrade to bluray, thrown in a 3TB , supercharged the graphics and mips, keep live the way it is, made the controllers emf recharging when you sit it on it with cable charge option. They would have been a really hard choice vs. Ps4. They could even still chuck in a tv tuner, bluetooth, and media remote. Kinect could be a small add on for families. Only if MS had asked common gamers what they wished for.


RolandoT posted a comment   

Microsoft should make the Xbox One modular, meaning one can scale it up or down. That way the box can be so equipped to enable Microsoft's "innovative ideas" to the fullest. Other users might just choose to stick to the barest configuration or build up slowly to the full configuration over time. It should be flexible enough that the user can go down to barest function - just playing games - if the environment cannot support the advanced features.

It was a successful strategy for personal computers, why not with a gaming console?
Another example of this kind of flexibility is the AR-15. It is the most popular firearm not because it's an "assault" weapon and looks "intimidating", it's not - it's the ability to custom tailor it to your needs.


AlexT2 posted a comment   
United Kingdom

I feel Microsoft have simply confirmed my release day fears, there ideas were half baked. "if the company believed they were worthwhile", it would have tried to sell their ideas much harder. My only disappointment from the release presentation, was similar to my feeling against apple and the uselessness of Siri outside the US, I bet it doesn't work as well as I hope. I really believe Microsoft hit the nail on the head with their ideas for the wider xbox one, excluding kinect as it really hasn't got close to what true gamers expect. The only benefit to owning an xbox360 over a ps3, is xbox live (excluding unique titles), otherwise the ps3 is on paper, more powerful and it shows. With PS now moving towards that on-line community feel, i ask what is left of the new xbox one if it is not for these now defunct features.


JoshuaG posted a comment   

In any instance, it is imperative to be aware of the audience you're speaking to. In this one, you are speaking to a increasingly paranoid culture, concerned about NSA spying programs and violation of personal privacy and freedom. To unleash a device that screams "control" "restrictions of rights" "always watching" is simply idiotic. Many of these features could have been implemented without putting Microsoft in the Control booth to dictate usage of the console. As Timmy J already said, there were better ways to go about these "updates". The bottom line is that Microsoft was opening the door to developer control over user control, a policy change that would bring more profit. Some of us may not be the brightest star in the sky but we know the difference between good change and bad change. Between next gen features and next gen restrictions.


JoshuaG posted a reply   

And on a World scale, a global economy that has seen better days and most likely in many instances will only be able to afford one console.


ThomasS2 posted a comment   

The always online feature isn't an innovation, Microsoft wants to control the content users have access to and use. Innovation means improving the product for the customer's benefit. Why would any intelligent consumer buy a product for "innovations" that only benefit the company?

I will not purchase a product that limits MY usage of MY property that I pay MY money for. When I go to the store and pay $60 for a game, I am purchasing the RIGHT to use the product as I see fit, within the limitations of the law. Last I checked, Microsoft is not the FBI, CIA, NSA, or any other type of law enforcement. They don't have the right to restrict my use of my property.


RickU posted a comment   

bottom line was they saw the PS4 preorders dominate compared to theirs and they freaked out. fired people and couldnt stop doing 180's, turning the Xbox one into the the Xbox one80. it was all about the launch of the system, they wanted to to sell, and they figured if they do these 180's now before launch thy will be even with PS4. I bet after launch, they will be doing 180's again..back to the original Xbox one that was revealed at E3. Maybe not right away but it will happen


TimmyJ posted a comment   

They easily could have kept Family Share.

Physical games would still grant you a license to a digital copy. The digital copy would require 24-hour spot checks, as initially planned. The physical copies, however, would be the local authentication; if the disc is in the tray, no need to call home and verify with Microsoft.


ADSLNerd posted a reply   

I don't want family sharing, if you have a family just switch discs for each game, and if you have more than one XBO, then just use the disc in the appropriate machine. Family Sharing was basically an overhyped demo mode - another gimmick.

I agree with the physical / digital copy on one disc, however I would be concerned MS tried to do force the digital method over time. They have way too much control when digital is available, even to lockout physical. Never put too much control in the hands of others under the guise of "convenience".


DaveF3 posted a comment   

I agree with others. I imagine their plan is to get people hooked, and then pull the trigger. I think they were worried about initial sales. First impressions mean a lot. If initial sales were in the dump, it could really hurt them. So overall, I think they did the right thing. But I also think they need to move forward over the next couple years implementing all of the features they are holding off on.

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