Did Microsoft make a mistake in listening to fan feedback for Xbox One?

In June, Microsoft famously reversed its previously announced plans to restrict used disc game sales, along with its Internet DRM policies, for the Xbox One console. The changes followed a massive, and loud, backlash from potential Xbox One buyers, who wanted to keep the current used game policies and DRM setup that Xbox 360 owners enjoy.

But did Microsoft make the right move, both as a company and for its customers, to cave in to user demand in this case? Gamesindustry International interviewed Jesse Schell, the founder of casual game developer Schell Games, claims that Microsoft did in fact make the wrong move. In fact, he states that in terms of all large companies, "There's one mistake that they all make, and that mistake is listening to their customers."

Schell claims that ultimately, the changes that Microsoft originally wanted to put into the Xbox One were for features that their customers would have embraced in the long run. However, he adds:

The reality is that they can't do what the customers want. Basically, Microsoft said, 'We're going to be Steam. You like Steam, don't you?' And we all said, 'No, we hate that. We hate you. You're an idiot to do that.' They came out and said, 'We're gonna do this new thing.' And the customers said, 'No, we don't want that, we hate that' - even though it's what they really want and what they will ultimately buy. So now Microsoft has had to say they won't do all that stuff, but someone will.


Schell's comments were somewhat echoed last week by id Software's John Carmack, who said that the "witch hunt" against Microsoft this summer was "a little bit unjustified". He also said that an all-digital future for games "... will be good for us in general."

However, Microsoft has faced this kind of backlash before--and very recently--with the launch of Windows 8. Many users complained about the lack of a Start menu on the desktop and that they could no longer boot straight to the desktop. For Windows 8.1, Microsoft has added in the option to boot directly to the desktop UI, along with a Start button, if not a full Start menu.

Neowin readers certainly have had much to say on the matter, both in our news comments and on our forums. A forum thread about the Xbox One's DRM policies and other matters was started by njbrodeur87, before Microsoft changed its mind on requiring an Internet connection every 24 hours. He stated, " ... when technology advances sometimes requirements need to be made to make things better. This I think is a good choice. It will leave people behind like Xbox Live did when it was broadband only, but in the end will provide some great experiences on Xbox."

The debates about the Xbox One, and the changes Microsoft made to the system in response to customers, will likely continue in the weeks and months leading to the launch of the console. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and which side will be proven right.

Source: Gamesindustry.biz | Images via Microsoft

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You can't play your games if your net goes out, if Xbox Live goes down temporarily, if MS permanently pulls the activation servers, and if someone hacks your account that all your games are tied to.

"Always online" means mandatory patches to play games. What if a mandatory OS update causes issues with your system? What if a mandatory game patch is released and you preferred to play the older version? You're screwed again. Used game sales would be heavily restricted to "participating select retailers". No more private right of sale.

All of those things would be avoided with a traditional disc based system. It's not worth the tradeoff for "not needing the disc in the tray" for the vast majority of consumers. That's just a few examples. People have written novels worth of negative things about always online DRM.

iOS/iPhone recieved pretty positive consumer sentiment, Apple detractors excepted. They don't have always online DRM built in, either. For MS to push ahead with its DRM plans would basically be ceding the market to PS4.

startscreennope said,
You can't play your games if your net goes out, if Xbox Live goes down temporarily, if MS permanently pulls the activation servers, and if someone hacks your account that all your games are tied to.

Yes, XBOX Live does go down sometimes, just as Google's services, Apple's, Playstation Network or any other Service provider. Is that a reasonable risk to include into your calculation? Surely this is a inherent risk with using the internet. Do you also save all your webpages in case you internet might go out and you need to go back to it? It sound like a non-problem.

Microsoft wouldn't pull the activation servers without setting up an system update for removing the need for them. Thats a no-brainer.

If someone hacks your account, you've been sloppy and you deserve all the **** you get. If someone hacks your steam account, you'd be in just as much trouble.

startscreennope said,
"Always online" means mandatory patches to play games. What if a mandatory OS update causes issues with your system?

Oh, you mean like the broken system update that Sony brought out recently and took about a week to get fixed? So people couldn't play any games on their PS3 in the meantime, and that was WITHOUT any DRM?

startscreennope said,
What if a mandatory game patch is released and you preferred to play the older version? You're screwed again.

When was the last time that you wanted to play an older version of a game? Also, the mandatory part of your sentence is pretty explanatory. If the Publisher decides that you need to have the patch, you should download it.

startscreennope said,
Used game sales would be heavily restricted to "participating select retailers". No more private right of sale.

Used game sales are (in my humble opinion) a cancer, and should die out as quick as possible. The concept of being able to transfer the license to one friend was a good idea.

startscreennope said,
All of those things would be avoided with a traditional disc based system. It's not worth the tradeoff for "not needing the disc in the tray" for the vast majority of consumers. That's just a few examples. People have written novels worth of negative things about always online DRM.

All the innovation would be killed if we stayed with the traditional disc based system. That is why I wont be buying any discs for my XBOX One.

"Yes, XBOX Live does go down sometimes"

Yes it does, and if 24 hour DRM checks were implemented, nobody could play their games during that time. Thanks for making my point for me again.

"Microsoft wouldn't pull the activation servers without setting up an system update for removing the need for them. Thats a no-brainer."

I think they would. At some point down the line, Live for 360 will be cut, just like it was cut for the original Xbox. Same for Xbox One eventually.

"If someone hacks your account, you've been sloppy and you deserve all the **** you get."

Thanks for proving my point for me again. Once again, you'd still have access to your offline games if they're not tied to your account that got hacked.

"Oh, you mean like the broken system update that Sony brought out recently and took about a week to get fixed?"

That was an optional update, but it would have been much worse if it were mandatory a-la Always Online DRM. Thanks for making my point for me again.

"When was the last time that you wanted to play an older version of a game?"

Rights are slavery! You didn't deserve to play the version of the game you wanted anyway! People don't want Always Online DRM "innovation". End of story.

I wasn't making your point again. I was responding to every concern you brought up. You just stripped away my added value and then thank me for making your point again. Thats not a discussion.

Also, bonus points for you for downplaying the PS3 OS update issue, you should work for them.

I will not waste my time on Sony fanboys anymore.

This article is so stupid.

A developer saying that MS did the wrong thing by taking out DRM? What would you expect them to say, "no we love used games and want to see this practice continue?"

I don't think the author or most the people commenting even understand the business reason of why this DRM was added in the first case.

Also, the reason Steam is loved is because they have tremendous sales. If MS had those, then we wouldn't complain about the DRM but sadly, that isn't going to happen. They will be $60 on the PS4 and they will be $60 on the Xbox DRM or not.

Customers are so gullible. Witht eh DRM imposed, anyone with half a brain would have figured out that the cost of owning an Xbox vs PS4 would be much much higher because the used games would be worthless. With the changes imposed, the cost of an Xbox over a PS4 is only slightly more.

Now for the reason that MS did a 180, because any logical non fanboy who does not care about the Xbox exclusives would buy a PS4 over an Xbox.

How do you know they wouldn't have sales like Steam? They just had a major sell of a lot of games a month or so back. No one gave them a chance.

They didn't "take out DRM". All games have DRM. It's either locked to hardware, locked to media, or locked to an online account. The third option is far more flexible and pretty much how everything works these days except the old consoles.

I was surprised when MS pulled back the 24 hour and family sharing. I was hoping with few month until console's release should be enough time for the idea to mature and accepted by gamers. The fact is Microsoft can't win because there's always 2 sided coin.

I always felt that, had the original Xbox One business model instead been started by some start-up with a Kickstarter campaign, it would've been treated like the second coming of Christ.

Microsoft often makes the grave mistake of...being Microsoft. In the eyes of the consumer.

startscreennope said,
Right, the Ouya should have had 24 hour online DRM checks to play your games.

It would have been a sales hit.


So, what you're saying is, you never actually read what the Xbox One was going to do. Get your info from, what, comments, then?

Joshie said,

So, what you're saying is, you never actually read what the Xbox One was going to do. Get your info from, what, comments, then?
So you're making a ridiculous ad hominem attack instead of admitting people just don't like always online DRM?

So many personal attacks here, it's really sad.

There is absolutely nothing in this article that gives a single valid reason why they were wrong, it seems to be a case of "<insert name here> says Microsoft were wrong to do it so they were wrong".

The DRM restriction was to do nothing more than pad their own bottom line, the 24 hour online check was an arbitrary restriction that no gamer actively needed, and the restriction on indie game publishing, again, was purely to line their own pockets and the pockets of big publishers.

So are the changes going to dent Microsoft's profit margin? Maybe a bit. Are they bad for customers? no.

The 24 hours was to allow issuing a license for any request without having to do check out type arrangement that may deny access. Otherwise you'd have to lock it to a piece of hardware until that hardware released it. If that hardware failed to release it, and you didn't have access, you'd have to call into customer service to get it released. It's only arbitrary when you don't understand the algorithms. People will game licensing systems, so you have to build your algorithms just like a security system.

Spicoli said,
The 24 hours was to allow issuing a license for any request without having to do check out type arrangement that may deny access. Otherwise you'd have to lock it to a piece of hardware until that hardware released it. If that hardware failed to release it, and you didn't have access, you'd have to call into customer service to get it released. It's only arbitrary when you don't understand the algorithms. People will game licensing systems, so you have to build your algorithms just like a security system.

The licensing systems themselves are arbitrary. There were no hardware locks in the last generation of consoles, and strangely the games industry didn't seem to struggle to make bundles of profit off of those.

Why are these kind of articles always the same nonsense, inventing a point and attacking it instead of what actually happened.

The backlash was because Microsoft's scheme was sloppy and poorly thought out, trying to force traits of one model (Digital Distribution) onto another disparate model (Physical Media). There was nothing gained from the move that would not have come naturally with time as DD replaces discs.

Instead we get this clueless apologist "I treat the entire internet as one single person with alternating opinions" tripe.

Yes, a mistake, followed by another mistake. First mistake was presenting the features in ALL the wrong way. I also liked some of the features but some not so much. The all or none approach isn't going to work for MS. I hope they keep it old school for a few months and then start shifting to the digital stuff and some of the original things they had planned.

This might be a little tinfoil hat of me, but I think Microsoft had it planned both ways.

They knew the PS4 and the XOne would be similar in design and hardware specs. They knew that ppl liked the idea of Steam and set up their first announced method and the host of various locked down requirements, region restrictions and publishing guidelines.

Game over! The PS4 and Sony triumph as champions of gamers and consumers everywhere! But Microsoft has one final trick up their sleeve ... change it all back. The conversation since has all been about them and the XOne.

Sony played their entire hand. They bet Microsoft couldnt or wouldnt do what they did. Now what's left for Sony to announce or gain the upper hand? Paltry attempts to flair up a debate on how the PS4 is "50%" more powerful or geek-fueled rants about how much the faster RAM in the PS4 will help you pown N00bs? None of that has much traction.

All that's left is the games and on two platforms that are pretty much identical neither will have the stunning game position. So that only leaves the exclusive titles and I think MS has a slight edge there.

Oh and did I mention that the XOne does TV stuff that the PS4 cannot? Nope, didnt need to. It's all about the games now, you will get that as a bonus.

See you at the water cooler!

If Microsoft wanted me to buy one, then it wasn't a mistake.
Reversing to the extent that they did was a mistake. If they'd left those features in-place for games brought digitally then that would have been fine.

the only downside i saw to the xbox 1 was the 24 hour check

i had no problem with drm or used games or family sharing

i am not online all the time so that would be stupid to me

the only thing they should have gotten rid of was the 24hr check in because i often travel to countries where the internet is either slow or expensive

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