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Remember back to the first Xbox One announcement. The concern about the console’s direction. The feeling of gamers being shut out in the cold in favor of a multi-media “complete living room” strategy. Of course, they did say they were waiting to talk about games till E3, but gamers still expected a little something to whet their appetite and found the announcement wanting. Fast forward a couple of weeks to Microsoft’s E3 announcement and disjointed messaging. Remember the outrage amongst the gaming community. The betrayal! DRM! Always online! Mandatory Kinect! No self-publishing! Dogs and cats living together–mass hysteria! Many Xbox users turned their back on Microsoft in those days long past and, lo, were many a PS4 preordered. And the users took to the internet confused, angry and betrayed.
Then something strange happened. Xbox reverses its DRM used game/family sharing strategy. Self-publishing is no longer verboten, in fact it seems to be very much encouraged. And now, the new Kinect, the “game changing” feature of the Xbox One, turns out to not actually be essential to operate the console. That’s right–the more reasons we find to hate the Xbox One, the more they go changing to try and please us. Which brings me to a critical question: was this a marketing strategy all along?
I call it the low bar strategy. The idea is that Xbox 360 was riding fairly high in the current console cycle, and while PS3 did make up a lot of ground on the back end of this generation, Microsoft is still in a position of strength in the market. Where is there to go from the top? Only down. We all thought that was what was happening with Microsoft’s E3 implosion. They dug too greedily and too deep and awoke a hateful beast in their core gamers.
Microsoft needed to lower the expectations of gamers when announcing their next gen console because expectations were impossibly high. This new console generation does not look to be too different from the last in all reality. Gamers were likely to be disappointed regardless of the consoles announced from Microsoft and Sony. Microsoft’s strategy began with the most draconian policies they can think of, and then, when they began easing back on these restrictions, gamers , reporters, everyone takes another look at the console.
It’s a risky strategy to be sure. Some gamers won’t return regardless of what Microsoft changes about the console just from the initial betrayal. But you have to admit, a lot of what we were mad about regarding the Xbox One is no longer the case.
The strategy makes it so we are reporting on basically nothing new about the console. Comparing the changes with the Xbox 360. Kinect is not a mandatory part of the system, but if you use it, it might be a little better. Self-publishing existed in the XBLIG marketplace on 360 and Xbox One goes one better and has plans for every console to be a development console. And the used game DRM policy/24-hour check in is gone. That last one stands out though as the only one where something was removed that some felt could make the system better. Let’s dig into that one a little further.
The DRM policy removal meant the removal of the family sharing policy that was being touted around, and also likely the switching between games quickly without a disc present in the tray. This may lead us to believe that the DRM policy switch was not actually planned for this low bar strategy. However, why didn’t Microsoft talk up the family sharing policy more? Why did they not elaborate on the benefits of a DRM policy instead of just coming out with the hindrances to the current system?
That was all handled really poorly, unless they knew that these policies would not actually exist at launch. Maybe they were just testing the waters. Maybe they were really that terrible at marketing their product at E3, the biggest gaming expo of the year. Or maybe it was all part of the plan.