The Xbox One announcement last summer sent a confused message, admits Spencer; one that Microsoft have learned from.
“Frankly, when you’re gonna say something to a consumer that might put them off it’s better to be direct and honest rather than try to sugarcoat something that might be controversial,” claimed Microsoft Game Studios’ corporate vice president Phil Spencer.
“Coming out of the announce of Xbox One and E3 where I thought our messaging around what we believed in was confused, mainly by us,” he said, ostensibly referring to layers of DRM that had consumers conflicted, with even more layers of confusing legal exceptions in their terms of service, such as the complicated family sharing system.
“I’d rather deal with the controversy of what we’re doing and then have an above table conversation about that topic rather than sugarcoat it with some other news. My interactions over the last 6 months, and I really think the interactions of Yusuf [Mehdi, Xbox chief marketing & strategy officer] and Marc [Whitten, Xbox corporate vice president] and other people on the leadership team, we’ve had our little meeting to build on what we learned out of last summer and just trying to be real core to who we are as people.”
Spencer says he’d rather “deal with the controversy,” but one has to wonder, given the confused PR messages from the Xbox events, if Microsoft PR will allow such hands-on involvement from their brand spokespeople.
Microsoft’s original Xbox One plans had a plethora of controversial ideas that couldn’t be seen as positive for the consumer. Things like always-on DRM can’t be made to look like a positive thing for the end-user, and that made it impossible for people like Spencer to come in and deflate the situation. Many of their core principles in the original inauguration of the new brand were inherently nasty, and in these situations you can’t do anything but sugar-coat the nastiness.
Does this then mean that Microsoft will start focusing on the right things, and stop their inherently anti-consumer business policies from now on? The original safety-nets for the Xbox One made consumers feel as though they were only renting the console, let alone the games, and for consumers, that’s a worrisome prospect.
‘Always on DRM’ for the Xbox One backlash apparently surprised the company, despite alienating the US military abroad. Other higher-ups at Microsoft also came out in defense of always online DRM, at one point slagging off towns that didn’t have the correct internet capabilities. The [un]official message was that everyone had the internet, so it wasn’t a problem.