How Microsoft Delayed A Wildly Popular Xbox Feature To Clean Up Its Wildly Unpopular Always Online Plans
from the facepalm dept
The Xbox One has been back in the news recently as Microsoft has rolled out an update that makes the system backwards compatible with some original Xbox games. Much as with the backwards compatibility roll out for Xbox 360 games that Microsoft performed in 2015, fans of the system have been cheering this on. It’s something a no-brainer, with this functionality making the system all the more appealing and increasing brand loyalty for the console as gamers will be conditioned to expect that the investments they’ve made in gaming titles won’t go to waste once the shelf-life of a particular generation of systems runs its course.
Which raises the obvious question: why in the world did Microsoft wait until 2015 to put backwards compatibility in place? The answer, it seems, is that Microsoft suddenly became too busy cleaning up after the backlash to its always-online plans for the Xbox One to roll it out.
That nugget comes from a wide-ranging behind-the-scenes look at Microsoft’s backward compatibility efforts posted on IGN this morning. Amid quotes from an array of Microsoft employees involved in the backward-compatibility development and rollout, writer Ryan McCaffrey includes this tidbit (emphasis added):
The fan-first feature has evolved from an experiment conducted by two separate Microsoft Research teams into a service planned for Xbox One’s launch—complete with hardware hooks baked into the Durango silicon—until the well-publicized changes to the Xbox One policies (namely, stripping out the always-online requirement for the console) forced it to be pushed to the back burner.
Another way to put this would be: Microsoft had to spend so much time disabling a “feature” in its console that it should have known pretty much everyone would hate that it delayed enabling a feature it knew everyone would love. If that isn’t a lesson in why companies should put their customer desires first and foremost in their minds, I don’t what is.
If you don’t remember what the console wars of 2013 were like, they were pure pandemonium for the Xbox. The always-online requirement was the headliner for this whole fiasco, but there were also questions about whether or not the Xbox One would allow used games to be played on it at all. Sony, meanwhile, took happy delight in reminding the public that its Playstation console had none of these questions attached to it. The result was a predictable loss for Xbox from a sales perspective, even as Microsoft then had to spend time and money to remove the always-online requirement.
And earlier this year, former Xbox Chief Marketing Officer Yusuf Mehdi reflected in a LinkedIn posthow “it required great technical work” to change course and reverse “a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn’t land well with fans.”
That kind of “great technical work” isn’t free in terms of time or worker attention, and IGN’s reporting suggests that Xbox 360 backward compatibility was an initial victim of that change in focus.
Maybe next time give your customers what they want rather than telling them what they want?