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REPORT: "Heartbroken MS Employee" Laments Microsoft U-Turn

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
News
Tags:
DRM, Microsoft, Xbox 180, Xbox One

REPORT: "Heartbroken MS Employee" Laments Microsoft U-Turn

There have been reactions and emotions flying all over the place in  the last 20 hours or so since Microsoft announced an about-turn on their online policies regarding the Xbox One.

And as much as there've been those immensely supportive of the change of face, there have also been critics of the move who feel Microsoft should have stuck to their guns.

Now, an anonymous blog post from an alleged "heartbroken MS employee" has surfaced on the internet, lamenting the Redmond company's backtracking.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We criticised Microsoft for their abysmal communication in today's Game Buzz Extra and, legit or not, the piece above makes some good points, though I still can't help but query why it has to be all or nothing. Choice, above all else, is what gives consumers confidence. [via]

Add a comment14 comments
Shadowmancer88  Jun. 20, 2013 at 17:19

So they were trying to create a Steam Community lite for the Xbox One, they should have come out straight away and told gamers that at E3.

adriansaunders  Jun. 20, 2013 at 17:26

If your bosses had spent less time looking like thunderc*nts on stage jerking themselves off to the Xbox one being the next tv controller and talking about sports then yeah you might have had a point.
MS employees need to point the finger at the people who come up with the announcements and say 'why did you do that, who told you to say this' and find out what the hell happened.
Why was MS so **** poor at repsonding? Why didn't they have a clearer understanding of what it meant, why couldn't they explain it?

Antilla  Jun. 20, 2013 at 17:35

So, the MS employee is lamenting how some of his/her colleges couldn't explain the Xbox One features and then took a 1,500-word essay to explain just Family Sharing!? I'm feeling some irony here...

If the Xbox One team were behind this new way of delivering and managing game content (and it wasn't all bad) then they wouldn't have made this surprising and quite frankly embarrassing U-turn.

Now, instead of a console generation where we have 'Xbox 360 part 2' and another, new, gaming model to choose from; we have two choices that are broadly the same.

I'm hoping that the download/sharing systems that, no doubt, cost millions to develop are at least implemented for DLC. This may go some way to combating the financial ills felt by developers and show how an alternate method of delivering game content could work. In the end, MS gambled on this new strategy and then felt it couldn't stick to its guns amid all the negative press.

I wonder what the general consumer will make of the Steambox (and it's 'download-only' restrictions) when/if that gets rolling?

JoeDark64  Jun. 20, 2013 at 17:43

If MS were really bothered about online checking in they could have built a basic 3G Sim card into the machines (al la Kindle) to do this check.

The real baulking at the X1's original policys were all to do with pre-owned/ disk sharing.

The friends and family plan was dreadfully explained and even from reading the letter above it sounds like 10 people have access to a timed version of the game. How is this really different from a demo? I struggle to see how a company with the depth and capability of MS won't be able to re-implement many of these friends and family features at a later point in time should they so desire.

Following last night's U-turn I have now pre-ordered myself an X1.

Breadster  Jun. 20, 2013 at 19:14

The way I see it is this - if they were really serious about this being the evolution of gaming, a "revolution" and all those other lovely buzz words, they would have stuck with it. Keep telling us why it's supposedly so awesome, keep explaining it, let people try it, etc. The fact that they've gone back on it so soon, ages before the console is even out just proves (imo) that it was never about that, it was always about making more money.

Nevasleep  Jun. 20, 2013 at 19:58

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.

Yes, this really seems like it was designed by gamers for gamers, thanks Microsoft..... :O

Late  Jun. 20, 2013 at 20:51

I did like the idea of everyone having access to extended demos of all games (which is really what the friends and family thing was about, but with billy-no-mates being penalised) but it was never explained to us. I'm happy to have half an hour of a game to decide if I want to buy it. I've bought quite a few games that I've known within half an hour of buying I shouldn't have bought. We probably all have. Equally there's loads of games that I've been curious about but never bought as I want sure if I'd like them. This scheme would help.
(That said, I do love the used games market more than I like the above plan!)

The U-turn was absolutely the right thing to do though. It's all well and good saying your new features are great and people would've liked them when they got used to them, but that doesn't help if nobody's bought the console because they all got the ps4 instead.

Number one priority has to be to get the machine into as many homes as possible. As things stood they looked like they were going to get trounced this Christmas. Now it's looking more 50:50...

Last edited by Late, Jun. 20, 2013 at 20:52
DrTrouserPlank  Jun. 20, 2013 at 21:20

The "heart-wrenching" story from someone who worked on the project. I feel so bad for them now...

They wanted complete control over every aspect of game ownership and use, by taking away your right to play offline, your ability to re-sell etc.

The "family share" idea was bunk. It was never explained and was cooked up to counter the huge amount of negative PR their vision was generating. Their assumption was that they would be able to bend the opinions of the online and printed media to not negatively report their DRM plan. Once major outlets took a stance against it, others did too and it snowballed.

Why have they "temporarily" (yes that's right.. temporarily) binned the idea?.. their pre-order figures were abysmal... in the order of 4:1 even at best estimates.

The fact is that there are almost no consumer advantages to having a system so locked down and controlled from the outside for the consumer, even when they scrambled and floated concepts that they themselves hadn't fully considered the trade-off was still poor.

Fortunately for MS, people on the whole are idiots and whilst the trust and their eventual vision is seen by the early adopters for what it is, the masses will see this as a change in their thought-process, when in fact it is merely a delaying tactic.

Last edited by DrTrouserPlank, Jun. 20, 2013 at 21:23
Eldiniii  Jun. 21, 2013 at 04:44

Why the **** don't they just make this system optional instead of forcing everyone into it?

If you wanna take part in "family sharing" then you manually allocate titles, and accept the restrictions.

If you don't wanna take part, you don't accept the restrictions... (i.e. the log-in checks, the restrictions on reselling)
Or just allow it for digital copies of games, and allow users to "convert" their physical copies into digital.


Also, I thought this was a brilliant idea when it was first announced, but I never saw any of this 15-45 minute time limit **** mentioned.

Tsung  Jun. 21, 2013 at 09:23

Whilst the eye of Sauron was watching the remaining army of Gondor & Rohan march on the black gate, the true enemy sneaked in the back door.

In this case, the Eye of Sauron is the internet/customers, the Armys are the DRM features and the true enemy is Kinect's always on listening, watching camera. :P

Crazy Jamie  Jun. 21, 2013 at 09:24

So what exactly is it about family sharing and the 'Xbox version of Steam' that requires always on internet? Lest we forget, even Steam has an offline mode, and PS Plus has offered 1 hour full game trials of games for some time now. The ideas above sound like advancements of both concepts as far as consoles go, but they are developing ideas that already exist rather than bringing something entirely new the table. Both sound interesting, but I fail to see why the U Turn now precludes them.

Stelph  Jun. 21, 2013 at 09:39

Ok, so I get the point of this post was the microsoft employee was trying to make us sad of the U turn that microsoft has made, and yet after reading throught the post I still dont see anything that was to be implemented that would have been a majot benefit to the customers. Point that stood out:

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

The issue with this statement is that it is running with the "one used game purchase = one lost sale" which is not the case, I would hazard that a significant majority of people only pick up a used game due to the costs of a new game, if there were no used games at all I would imagine these people probably wouldnt buy any new games at all, or wait till a sale comes along

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.....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.


In my mind this is no different to either a family member lending a game disk to another family member, or even the current xbox network where you can look at your friends games and if you are interested in one, just download the demo to try it out

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!


I dont see why this needs to be removed now 24 hour internet is no longer required? Essentially all you would need to do is use the current Demo setup, but ensure that all developers make it as your save game from the demo works or unlocks the same save state in the full game, with the right API that cant be that difficult

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


Again, this shouldnt need to be removed now you are not online 24/7

Late  Jun. 21, 2013 at 09:40

...I fail to see why the U Turn now precludes them.

Agreed.
There's absolutely no reason why they can't offer long trials of games. Limiting it to games your friends have was just a gimmick, that loosely linked it to the idea of games being locked to your console (but not to worry - you can share them with your friends list). Hopefully we'll see it materialise some time soon.
And removing the requirement to connect once a day does not mean they can't publish games that are partly cloud hosted. I imagine with or without the internet connection being part of your terms and conditions they'd still have to market any game that's partly cloud based with the proviso "requires internet connection to fully enjoy" or some such. After all, if you connect your xbox for a minute every morning and do all your gaming on a night you'd be fulfilling the terms and conditions but wouldn't be able to enjoy cloud based features.

The U-Turn hasn't robbed us of these features. If we don't get them it's because Microsoft don't want us to have them.

DivideByZero  Jun. 21, 2013 at 13:56

Agreed.. and I would just like to reiterate my disappointment about the way MS are dealing with this launch.

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