Rebuttal to a Greedy MS Employee

In the next episode of the ongoing Xbox One DRM saga, a crazed Microsoft employee posts a letter to Pastebin upset about consumers regaining their freedom. And I challenge it point by point. The battle may be won, but the war against intrusive DRM schemes isn’t over. I don’t really feel as though this guy is a threat, but I’m bored and want to pick his thinly-veiled love letter to the publishers (disguised as being “beneficial to gamers”) apart piece by piece. It’ll be mostly in the style of the TPB legal letters and their responses. Seems like a good way to address any arm of a corporate entity.

I’ve felt like this for the last few days now

It’s 4am and I’m still up, some hours ago, we at Microsoft had to basically redact on our Always Online infrastructure and dream.  Being part of the team that created the entire infrastructure to include the POS (point of sale) mechanisms I must say that I am extremely sad to see it removed.  But the consumer knows what is best, I can place the blame on no one but us here at Microsoft.  We didn’t do a good enough job explaining all the benefits that came with this new model.  We spent too much of our time fighting against the negative impressions that many people in the media formed.  I feel that if we spent less time on them and more time explaining the great features we had lined up and the ones in the pipes gamers and media alike would have aligned to our vision.  That stated, we felt the people we would have loss would have been made up by the people we would have gained.  We have 48 million Xbox 360 users connected online nearly 24 hours a day.  That is much more than any of our closet competitors and vastly more than Steam.  The people that we would have left behind I feel would have eventually come around as they saw what advantages the platform had to offer.  But as I previously stated we at Microsoft have no one to blame other than ourselves for failing to convince those hesitant to believe in our new system.  Microsoft might be a big company, but we at the Xbox division have always been for the gamer.  Everything we’ve done has always been for them, we have butt heads with the executives many times on what we’ve wanted to, some times we lost (removing the onboard processor from Kinect 1.0) and other times we’ve won (keeping Gears of War as an exclusive).

4AM? That’s early!

Anyway, thank you for acknowledging that the consumer knows best I guess, although I sense a patronizing tone there. I don’t know why. Yes, the consumer knows that they don’t like bending over for publishers. Also, nice try with the “always been for the gamer” line. You’re about to go on to explain how the whole thing is intended to throw the gamer under the bus in favor of the publishers.

While publishers have never come right out to us at MS and say “We want you to do something about used gaming” we could hear it in their voices and read it in their numerous public statements.  The used gaming industry is slowly killing them and every attempt to slow down the bleeding was met with much resistance from the gaming community.  I will admit that online passes were not well received nor were they well implemented, but I felt given time to mature it could have turned into something worth having as a gamer much like DLC (we went from pointless horse armor to amazing season passes like Borderlands 2!).  Videogame development is a loss leader by definition and unlike other forms of media videogames only have one revenue stream and that is selling to you the gamer.  So when you buy a game used you’re hurting developers much more than say a movie studio.  Many gamers fail to realize this when they purchase these preowned games.  It is impossible to continue to deliver movie like experiences at the current costs without giving up something in return.  It’s what gamers want and expect, the best selling games are blockbusters, the highest rated are blockbusters, the most loved are blockbusters.  How can developers continue to create these experiences if consumers refuse to support them?  Many will argue the development system is broken, and I disagree.  The development system is near broken, it’s used gaming that is broken, but regardless I think more emphasis on this from both us at Microsoft and publishers would have gone a long way in helping educate the gamer, but again it is us who dropped the ball in this regard for that we’re sorry.

The used gaming industry is killing the publishers. Okay. Why should I care? The automobile industry killed blacksmithing, and you don’t hear anyone mourning that profession. It means the consumer has spoken, and we like buying used games (maybe the resistance you speak of is your clue that you’re meddling in things you have no business in…). In the words of your own Adam Orth, deal with it. And wait… didn’t you just say the Xbox division has always been for the gamer? Here you’re clearly saying this whole thing is a money grab for the publishers. You’re either with the gamers, or with the publishers. They are, in fact, opposite sides, engaged in eternal war. They try to squeeze ever more money out of us, and we resist, trying to hold on to our hard-earned dollars. So yeah… don’t try to frame it as whatever is good for the publishers is good for us. The publishers are trying to rob us, and you’re acting as a pawn in their scheme. Also, with regards to used gaming, I am perfectly content with the status quo. You’ve made it clear that the publishers aren’t. That isn’t my problem. You’ve got people with fancy MBA’s that are paid a ton of money to figure this stuff out. Tell them to do so in a way that doesn’t piss off your customers. 

Either that, or fire ’em. That’s what’s funny about those business types. They only exist to financially justify their own placement in a company, hiding the fact that you’d be best off cutting them off. If you’re bleeding for money, that would be a good place to start.

Going back to Xbox One’s feature set, one of the features I was most proud of was Family Sharing.  I’ve browsed many gaming forums and saw that many people were excited about it as well!  That made my day the first time I saw gamers start to think of amazing experiences that could come from game sharing.  It showed that my work resonated with the group for which I helped create it for.  I will admit that I was not happy with how some of my fellow colleagues handled explaining the systems and many times pulled my hair out as I felt I could have done a better job explaining and selling the ideas to the press and public at large.  I’m writing this for that reason, to explain to gamers how many of the features would have worked and how many of them will still work.

Amazing experiences that can come from one person at a time being able to play a game? Just like with disc sharing? Fire your marketing people too if that’s the best they can come up with.

If I haven’t made it clear in my last post and this one, family sharing is the dumbest piece of  marketing spiel ever. It enables nothing that couldn’t be done with disc sharing, with the exact same limitations. Plus MS is using it to justify a noxious DRM scheme. For the “privilege” of being able to do what you were always able to before, you’d have to ask MS for permission to play your own games every 24 hours! Because that’s somehow a better deal for us or something.

First is family sharing, this feature is near and dear to me and I truly felt it would have helped the industry grow and make both gamers and developers happy.  The premise is simple and elegant, when you buy your games for Xbox One, you can set any of them to be part of your shared library.  Anyone who you deem to be family had access to these games regardless of where they are in the world.  There was never any catch to that, they didn’t have to share the same billing address or physical address it could be anyone.  When your family member accesses any of your games, they’re placed into a special demo mode. This demo mode in most cases would be the full game with a 15-45 minute timer and in some cases an hour.  This allowed the person to play the game, get familiar with it then make a purchase if they wanted to.  When the time limit was up they would automatically be prompted to the Marketplace so that they may order it if liked the game.  We were toying around with a limit on the number of times members could access the shared game (as to discourage gamers from simply beating the game by doing multiple playthroughs). but we had not settled on an appropriate way of handling it.  One thing we knew is that we wanted the experience to be seamless for both the person sharing and the family member benefiting.  There weren’t many models of this system already in the wild other than Sony’s horrendous game sharing implementation, but it was clear their approach (if one could call it that) was not the way to go.  Developers complained about the lost sales and gamers complained about overbearing DRM that punished those who didn’t share that implemented by publishers to quell gamers from taking advantage of a poorly thought out system.  We wanted our family sharing plan to be something that was talked about and genuinely enjoyed by the masses as a way of inciting gamers to try new games.

Oh wow. This is truly awful. So at first, I thought family sharing would actually allow one person at a time to play the full game. So it’d be kind of like disc sharing except with MS shackles added. But, in fact, it’s time limited to as few as 15 minutes! MS wanted us to give up the ability to share our games and buy/sell/trade them like the actual owners of property we’re supposed to be… in exchange for some awful shareware demo mode. No, thanks.

The motto around the offices for the family plan was “It’s the console gaming equivalent to spotify and pandora” it was a social network within itself!  The difference between the family sharing and the typical store demo is that your progress is saved as if it was the full game, and the data that was installed for that shared game doesn’t need to be erased when they purchase the full game!  It gave incentive to share your games among your peers, it gave games exposure, it allowed old games to still generate revenue for publishers.  At the present time we’re no longer going forward with it, but it is not completely off the table.  It is still possible to implement this with the digital downloaded versions of games, and in fact that’s the plan still as far as I’m aware.

 

Another feature that we didn’t speak out about was the fact we were building a natural social network with Xbox One in itself that didn’t require gamers to open their laptops/tablets to post to their other friends nor did they need to wrestle with keyboard add-ons.  Each Xbox Live account would have a full “home space” in which they could post their highest scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, what they’ve watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond to.  Kinect 2.0 and Xbox One work together and has robust voice to text capabilities.  The entire notion of communicating with friends you met online would have been natural and seamless.  No reliance on Facebook, or Twitter (though those are optional for those who want them).  Everything is perfectly crafted for the Xbox One controller and Kinect 2.0 and given that shine that only Microsoft can provide.

It’s the console gaming equivalent of iTunes Ping. Fixed that for you. I’ve (briefly) used both Spotify and Pandora, but I wouldn’t view either one as a social network. When I think of a social network that uses content instead of people as its basis, I think iTunes Ping. You know, possibly Apple’s biggest flop of the past half-decade? I maybe know one person that used it, and every time they did, I was left with this “WTF” feeling. People are sheep. They really are. But when you try to build a social network on a basis of commercialism, even sheep will sense something’s amiss. Don’t delude yourself into thinking your “Xbox Social” thing would go any better than Ping. It’s the exact same concept, but with games instead of music.

We at Microsoft have amazing plans for Xbox One that will make it an amazing experience for both gamers and entertainment consumers alike.  I stand by the belief that Playstation 4 is Xbox 360 part 2, while Xbox One is trying to revolutionize entertainment consumption.  For people who don’t want these amazing additions, like Don said we have a console for that and it’s called Xbox 360.

The stupid. It burns. Every time I hear this, I just… ugh. I cannot really put my frustration into words here. And the fact that it isn’t just a MS employee spouting this off (which I could believe), but actual internet commenters have said it as well. If draconian limitations on what people can do with your console are what you believe really “sets it apart” and makes it “next generation,” it sucks. It isn’t what people want. And it doesn’t deliver a new experience. It delivers a locked-down version of the old experience. Please, just please. Stop. Don’t try to shove this DRM down our throat as the “killer feature” of your new console. This paragraph, right here. It’s why I wrote this post. Do we really live in a world where the inability to share or resell our games is a featureBeyond that, what kind of drugs are we as a society on when we let a company tell us that this is the feature of their new console? That we should be positively craving this?

Also, this Don person? Is he PR? Because he’s doing a terrible job. You never try to market your old product as superior to your new one. Let’s focus on what matters here: The games. Here’s what really defines a console as next-generation. Are the games bigger? Are they better? Not some dumbassed marketing gimmick like “family sharing” that makes the Wii U’s tablet screen sound like a decent feature by comparison. There’s been a trend in consoles. Each new generation is more powerful than the last, and the games (as far as technical capability – I love the classics just as much as anyone) get better. That’s always been what’s defined “next-generation.” And from what I’ve seen, these new games look impressive. The Xbox 360 just doesn’t do that. It doesn’t have the power.

So here’s what we want from this generation: We want a better, more powerful gaming experience. And we’re perfectly content with being given that and having it labeled as “next-generation.” As it always has.

What we don’t want is a gimmick. And as you business types like numbers, look at the abysmal Wii U sales to see where those kinds of things get you. Have I finally made my point? Because I’d really like some other topic to blog about now.

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