Thursday, June 20, 2013

Microsoft Bungles XBox One Promotion, In Need of PR Advice

Over at Ogden On Politics, Paul Ogden often analyzes politicians and campaigns and offers them advice from a standpoint of how to communicate with voters. I thought of Paul after reading one of many articles that is now flooding the tech/geek websites panning the new console from Microsoft, XBox One.

In the tech/geek world, an event known as E3 recently happened where the gaming industry shows off all the new, cool stuff they'll be doing. Microsoft and their primary competitor, Sony, showed off their new consoles which are slated to be released later this year. However, Microsoft was already responding to criticism of various features that have proven to be unpopular among the gaming community. Those features are summed up in this nifty little picture:

Microsoft then canceled their post-E3 discussions with the media.

In a twist of irony, Sony's presentation at E3 almost consisted exclusively of how the Playstation 4 was the exact opposite of the XBox One.

One particular point of contention that has caught on is that the XBox One will require a check-in with the Microsoft Mothership once every 24 hours via an Internet connection, even if you are using the system to play a single player, offline game or do other offline activities. If it doesn't make the connection, your console will no longer be able to play any games (it isn't clear if it'll function for other activities or not).

This led a member of the United States Navy, Jay Johnson, to pen a blog post expressing his reluctance to buy an XBox One. He notes that even active service military members can have their personal game consoles with them, but they rarely have reliable Internet connections. He writes that "Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military, and not just the U.S. military, the militaries of the entire world." He also pleads with game developers not to implement online authentication for PS4 games.

Microsoft responded to this by condescendingly saying that customers who can't get an Internet connection should buy an Xbox 360, Microsoft's current console.

Realizing how condescending that sounds, Microsoft hired a PR flack to point out that Playstation 4 won't be allowed to connect to the Department of Defense's network, and that's true! But they'll still be able to play offline games, unlike with the new Xbox.

Ultimately, Microsoft solved the problem themselves. Even if you are able to connect to the Internet, anyone stationed abroad or traveling on business will only be able to play an Xbox One in 21 countries.

Finally, PR flack Major Nelson is alleged to say that Microsoft will be "educating" gamers about these various types of piracy protections and how they are a good thing.

Typically, when you have to educate your audience about something, it usually doesn't go over well.

Oh, I almost forgot. There is also the "We Are Watching You" Act being introduced in Congress, which specifically targets the XBox's Kinect device.

The reason I bring all this up on a blog that sticks to politics is this. As political observers, we often view politicians and campaigns that do something dumb or commit an act that makes absolutely no sense, or maybe something that seemingly could be good but is going to be hard to explain to voters and constituents. They need someone by their side to advice them and say "This is dumb, it won't go over well."

The same could be said about private industry as well.

I'm sure the tech guys and legal guys were thinking of all the ways to screw over gamers and showing power point presentations about how it'll increase revenues and make it harder to pirate games. But someone from outside tech and legal should've also had a spot at the table within Microsoft and say "Yes, but how will this affect people who buy and play games on consoles legally, and is it worth the trade off?"

If the XBox One's reception at E3 is anything to judge by, the answer is no.

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