In this serial Karim previously looked back on communication flatters such as the PlayStation 3 and the Wii U, but Microsoft has also gone horribly wrong with a console that nevertheless still runs. What happened to the Xbox One? Karim finds out!

I still remember May 22, 2013 as yesterday. The Xbox 360 was by far my favorite console at the time, especially since the PlayStation 3 has failed for years and the Wii was a console with some extremely good games, but especially a lot of shovelware. On the Xbox 360 everything worked fine, the interface was slick and online multiplayer worked like a .

Unfortunately, back in the days of the Xbox 360, we could already see that Microsoft was beginning to become obsessed with entertainment and casual games. For example, later in its life, the Xbox 360 received tons of entertainment apps and Kinect had to ensure that Microsoft’s console didn’t just get stuck in the attic rooms of Halo and Gears of War fans. In principle not such a problem, but towards the unveiling of the Xbox One it became an obsession. So serious, it almost spelled the end of the entire Xbox business.

The date I mention earlier in this feature is the date on which Microsoft briefly forgot about the gamer. A few weeks before E3 2013, the multi-billion dollar company in Redmond decided to unveil the new Xbox on that day, but did so almost alone with all the bullshit about entertainment apps and watching television. In addition, I do not understand how you as a company realize that millions of people need the option to use Skype while watching a movie. Especially for people who always talk through movies?

This is about much more than just a communication failure. While Sony still had some nice products with the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo with the Wii U, here we saw the entire corporate philosophy of Microsoft from 2013 put in one box. After that terrible press conference, I even wondered if you got a controller or just Kinect. Hardly any games were revealed and in the case of Crackdown 3, we are even now waiting for that game.

The real communication failure, however, is in something else. Soon after this press conference it became clear that the Xbox One would impose quite a few restrictions on games. For example, you would have to check in once every 24 hours on Xbox Live, you have to keep Kinect connected so that the Xbox One can work, and exchanging or lending games was made very difficult for you. This was only allowed to a friend who had been in your Xbox Live friends list for 30 days and only once per copy. While I’m curious about how they would have enforced this, it’s clear Microsoft was completely lost.

At E3 a few weeks later, Microsoft did nothing to reverse these decisions, but instead went full throttle with games. We also needed to see a sign of life from franchises like Halo, Forza and Titanfall, as we had seen more television than games for the Xbox One up to that point. However, the strategic decisions in the field of DRM lingered like a dark cloud over the company and afterwards it was painful to see in interviews how Xbox icons such as Major Nelson were not able to hold their own. They did not seem to fully support it, something which is later also admitted by current Head of Xbox Phil Spencer. This caused a complete 180 degree turn on DRM a week after E3 and ultimately the inevitable departure of Don Mattrick, the one who pulled the cart when it came to decisions like this.

In retrospect, we may be lucky in the Netherlands that the Xbox One came out with us a year later. Microsoft had to reinvent itself and was much further in 2014 than at the end of 2013. There were also some more games available for the console. However, many things continued to go wrong even after this incredibly bad period, such as the major release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on the Xbox One, a game that recently received a patch of no less than 75 GB to fix all problems. Major exclusives such as Titanfall also flopped when it comes to sales figures and Xbox did not have many of their own games, a problem that continues to this day.

The damage from the Xbox One announcement is still felt by Microsoft. Phil Spencer, for example, had to pull out all the stops to save the brand and convinced Microsoft boss Satya Nadella to continue with Xbox. Judging by E3 2018, that decision seems to have gone in the right direction, because studios have been bought and we were assured that Xbox is an indispensable part of the game industry for the time being. However, the Xbox One is still miles behind the PlayStation 4 and they must be careful not to be outdone very quickly by the sales of the Nintendo Switch, which has only been on the market since 2017.

Microsoft itself is the one that has maintained this uncertainty for quite some time. For a long time, far too few games were made and the decision to release all first-party exclusives directly on Windows 10 also raised some eyebrows. Also, the decision to buy Mojang, but keep updating Minecraft on all platforms, seemed more like a charity than a wise business choice, although you will never hear a Minecraft fan complain about it.

By buying and assembling several new studios, the path up that Microsoft has taken with Xbox One S and Xbox One X, a rock-solid Xbox Game Pass service that I still don’t understand how it can cost just ten euros a month and The prospect of new Halo and Gears games on the way, and even an all-new Xbox, finally help me regain a little bit of confidence in Microsoft. The question is whether they will pay this back, or whether we will be able to write another black page in the history books on the announcement date of the next Xbox …

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