Microsoft has been struggling as of late, after having received a verbal walloping from customers and critics alike. The negative publicity surrounding some of the console giant’s key policy decisions sees no signs of abating, and the company is undoubtedly facing one of its toughest periods, as they flounder in a sea of bad press.
Bad Press Relations
Alas, the situation was self-inflicted; this is not simply because Microsoft was planning to implement a number of features and policies that potential buyers took objection to, but because Microsoft had a public relations team with all the grace of an intoxicated pensioner skating on ice. Don’t get me wrong, the controversial issues would certainly have impacted the console’s performance. For those who are unaware, the following is a list of the policies customers took objection to:
- An always-online Internet connection, monitored periodically
- Attempts to prevent distribution of used games
- The mandatory connection of the Kinect camera
- Their lack of support for independent game developers
- The suggestion that games were regionally restricted
However, the Xbox One reveal was seriously marred by confusion over precisely what the console’s capabilities were, and how ambiguous Microsoft policies would work from a logistical standpoint. Communication was dire, to say the least.
Microsoft employees, including Microsoft Executive Adam Orth, were highly dismissive and patronizing when it came to defending the console’s departure from the norm. On his Twitter account, in responding to fans’ criticism of the always-on connection, Orth told his loyal subjects to “Deal with it.” Naturally, this inflammatory remark spawned considerable controversy, costing him his position.
During the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) things didn’t get any better. The executive responsible for overseeing the Xbox One launch, Don Mattrick, was interviewed prior to the launch event. In an incredulous moment of candor, Mattrick claimed that those who didn’t have a decent Internet connection had another option:
“Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity: it’s called the Xbox 360.”
Essentially, Mattrick inferred to loyal customers, who did not have the Internet, that they should not procure an Xbox One; not a wise business strategy.
Xbox One’s Policy Reversals
Microsoft started off on a bad foot and now they are facing a tide of bad press, the momentum of which is completely unstoppable, irrespective of their latest capitulations.
In a desperate attempt to claw back its consumers, the company reversed a ridiculous number of its maligned policies. During a press statement released back in June, Marc Whitten (who has actually done an admiral job, in the face of considerable adversity) issued a statement to reveal Microsoft’s decision to remove the always-on connection and reinstate the normal used games policy.
Despite Microsoft’s previous assertions that the entire system was geared towards being always-online, the change was made. Further down the line, the mandatory requirement to have the Kinect device installed was also abandoned. In light of the recent NSA scandals, and enormous concerns over user privacy, many customers feared the Kinect device could be wielded by the government for nefarious purposes.
Some regard these changes as a sign of a company listening to their fans, whilst the more skeptical see this as a company reacting to disastrous pre-order sales. When going head to head, against Sony’s Playstation 4, Microsoft were absolutely trounced. Playstation 4 units quickly sold out on Amazon, outselling the Xbox One by two to one.
Sony capitalized on Microsoft’s series of PR blunders, mocking their ill-considered policies, and left the company floundering in a sea of bad press. The team even produced this video, depicting their stance on sharing used video games:
Now, a negative energy seems to be associated with the Xbox One. Despite Microsoft’s many changes, fans and critics continue to hit out at the console’s capabilities. Just as the Microsoft 360 had to compete with the Playstation 3, the Xbox One was always going to have to square up against the Playstation 4. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the PS4’s power has been contrasted against that of the Xbox One.
The PS4 has faster RAM and a mightier graphics processing unit (GPU). In terms of gaming power, the processor has typically been seen as secondary to a system’s graphical prowess, as the GPU is usually the component that makes the greatest difference towards a video game’s framerate (generally speaking).
The PS4 GPU is capable of 1.8 TFLOPS and uses GDDR5 memory, which operates at a speed of 5500MHz, whilst the Xbox One sports a GPU capable of a lower 1.23 TFLOPS and uses slower DDR3 memory (2133MHz).
Logically, however, how the two systems perform in terms of real-world performance is an entirely separate issue altogether. This seems to be the stance the Microsoft team are touting, according to The Examiner, with Microsoft’s Director of Product Planning Albert Penello recently stating:
“There are things about our system architecture not fully understood, and there are things about theirs as well, that bring the two systems into balance.”
He then went on to argue that Microsoft were industry innovators, having created DirectX, and stressed that they were completely unwilling to concede a 30% performance advantage to Sony.
Aside from this, there has also been criticism directed towards Microsoft’s subversive attempts to hide a number of its much lauded, and highly promoted, features behind a subscription-based “pay wall.” Many fundamental functions will require an annual Xbox Live subscription, including Skype video calling, SmartMatch, OneGuide programming and some of the PVR capabilities.
A Console Not Ready
In the run-up to the console’s anticipated release, a number of additional qualms are starting to emerge. According to IGN, Microsoft’s Major Nelson indicated the console will not support external storage immediately at launch, due to the team “… working on some other things.” However, he later went on to add that compatibility would be added eventually, at an unspecified date.
Aside from this, the console will be facing a delay in a number of its target countries, raising questions over whether the company is truly 100% ready to release its console unto the gaming public.
The Xbox One console is due to retail in a number of major territories on Nov. 22, including North America and the United Kingdom. After floundering in a sea of negative press, however, we wait to see whether this will have any long-term consequences for Microsoft’s next generation device.
By: James Fenner
Watch Culture Link