Microsoft announced the reversal on another feature on the Xbox One. The Kinect no longer needs to be connected. It feels they are one step away from completely leveling the playing field between the Xbox One and Sony’s PS4, which are priced at $499 and $399 respectively.
Ever since the unveiling of the Xbox One, Microsoft has faced an unbelievable backlash from fanboys, critics and the media. Their vision of the future was under attack. Their policies were labeled as anti-consumer. Most people were trying to wrap their heads around the big question. Why? Why after so many backlashes before on DRM limitations was Microsoft employing these policies? Why after the disasters of Blizzard with Diablo 3’s infamous “error 37” and EA with Sim City, were they bringing in 24 hour check-ins? It seemed like all the main features they were introducing were features for companies to get more money from people. True they introduced an all in one platform with television, which is under constant pressure to compete with streaming services, but it was clear that if they had a vision that was for the player, it was not seen by the masses.
Most people in the industry can agree that this next generation of consoles is about services. One service which may very well be the way of the future is cloud gaming. With the success of Steam, Microsoft had a unique opportunity to introduce a vision of the future before even unveiling the Xbox One.
Perhaps a hypothetical approach to what Microsoft could have done.
While introducing the Kinect to the world, Microsoft could have introduced a cloud-based service to the world. This service operates like steam and ultraviolet for the film industry. This service would have the option to purchase games online in your account. It also allows the player to insert a disk and to register the disk. This would not be mandatory in order to play the game. Plus, since it would be part of the Xbox Live Subscription, they would still be able to keep some profits for the game. The service would come with obstacles for used games but the point of the service was to give the players the choice. If they preferred physical copies, then they can continue using physical copies. If they prefer the cloud, they can use the cloud. It would be up to Microsoft to prove to the players that cloud gaming was superior. They would then have a couple of years to build up this service before introducing the Xbox One.
2013 comes and they unveil the Xbox One. They discuss the TV features as well as the power of this beast. They come back to this cloud based service. By this point, if they did their job right, they would have proved to their customers how much this service works for them. The customers see where they are going with this. Microsoft then delivers a crippling blow to Sony. “All those games on the Xbox 360 that you had stored on the cloud. Guess what? Since they’re on the cloud, you can go ahead and play them, uninterrupted, on the Xbox One.” This would have been a major hit to the PS4 whose Gaikai service wouldn’t be up until the spring of 2014. With all the options available, Xbox One would have been the ultimate option for any gamer.
We didn’t go from floppy disks to CDs because we were forced to accept CDs. We went to CDs because they proved to be superior and the former just became obsolete. In the next couple of years, Microsoft will have to build from scratch their vision. While this is a hypothetical scenario that didn’t happen, the lesson that any company should learn is that if you want to introduce a vision of the future, you can’t go alone. You need your customers with you on the journey to sustain the vision.