In Defense Of Microsoft’s Non-Gaming Approach

I can understand why Microsoft’s current approach to the Xbox 360 seems peculiar to people, and I get why this seeming shift in priorities seems strange. I mean it’s meant to be a box that plays games right? Surely that’s the primary purpose of a games console, anything else should just be a bolted on extra.

It’s lovely that we can watch movies on Netflix or baseball (the latter of which I think Peter may be overly excited about) on your game playing machine, but at the end of the day what it’s really meant to do is play games.

This is all well and good except for one minor thing: I’m not sure Microsoft see it that way. From day one Microsoft have talked about the 360 as a multimedia hub, as their presence in your living room. They’ve tried this approach with things like the Media Center edition of Windows, but in my experience these have never been great.

[drop]There’s generally been a flaw, normally it’s either too technical to set up, the UI is awful, or you need something bonkers like a second machine running Windows Home Server to get the best out of the service (and people complain about Microsoft ripping you off with the 360).

They don’t have this issue with the 360. By their very nature consoles have to be simple to set up, that’s basically the point; if they were technical then people would be buying PCs.

You can complain about the ads on the new Metro UI on the 360 dashboard, but putting those aside I actually think it’s a well implemented interface.

Yes, the way they’ve organised content within it needs work, but as a general look I like it. To top it off there’s no Windows Home Server in sight, someone on the 360 team probably realised that people want to stream media to their box without anything extra.

So remembering that Microsoft have always talked about the 360 as their multimedia presence in the living room, I was surprised that people were so shocked that it looks like they’ll be focussing on media at E3 (or at least they will if you listen to Pachter). I’ll admit that E3 might not be the best venue to focus on their other media options, but the show gets enough mainstream coverage these days that it’s probably worthwhile doing all of their announcements there.

The important thing to remember with this shift though is they’re giving their users what they want.

We might not like it, but Microsoft announced back in March that just over half of the activity on Xbox Live is streaming media; games are no longer taking up the majority of the service. With those figures in mind why not switch the focus to their media offerings, that area’s already growing and a gentle push could drive it forwards even more.

[drop2]The other thing to consider is their recent subscription announcement, put down $99.99 and then pay $14.99 a month for two years, getting Xbox Live Gold in the deal. Whilst that approach is certainly more expensive than just buying a 360 straight out, it has its merits for people who can’t afford to buy a 360 in one go (or don’t want to).

Now this just might be me, but announcing that deal in what many are calling the tail of this console’s lifespan seems like they might not be appealing to people who play games on their consoles.

What if their plan is to appeal to people who want just the media offerings, or the media offerings with a bit of light Kinect gaming thrown into the bargain? I mean I can’t see the offer being of any significant appeal to the core gaming market, but I can see it attracting people who want to watch Netflix.

I mean those people aren’t going to want whatever Microsoft’s shiny new console will be. Sure, it’ll play newer games, but if their main time spent with the console is media streaming then the 360 will be fine for them. In much the same way the Sony kept the PS2 selling by dropping its price ridiculously in their traditional markets, and then launching the console into emerging markets like Brazil, Microsoft could keep the 360 going by selling it as a media box.

I know this approach probably holds no appeal to anyone reading this article, but the console market is much bigger than just us now. And who knows, maybe if Microsoft can hook people with the media offerings they might slide into gaming gently. Wouldn’t that be nice?



  1. I’m in the minority that getting a PS3 had a lot to do with media capabilities. Blu-ray, HDMI control, optical out, Flash player, all contributed to getting it plus the gaming side. While streaming wise the PS3 was behind 360 it has now caught up and now leaves the 360 trailing in media.

    Media capabilities are now huge but it seems the battle is already lost and they are just punishing 360 only gamers.

    • Really? With Microsoft’s specific apps for things like ESPN, Sky, and the like I’d say the 360 is pulling ahead again. They’re partnering with people in a way that Sony don’t seem to be doing, and it looks like they’re going to go further at E3.

      • they maybe partnering with people, but it has to be targeted for different countries. Some of the stuff they add is specific to the US, which is useless over here in UK. Personally, I buy a console for gaming, then blu-ray/HD, everything else is a bonus. If I want a media hub etc, I’ll buy something thats worthy of the money, both PS3 and Xbox just don’t seem to do any of that right yet.

      • The Sony benefits are global, the Microsoft ones are US-only.

      • Going by the page on Wikipedia (admittedly may be out of date).

        Available in US

        • Netflix
        • MSN
        • ESPN
        • Hulu Plus
        • iHeartRadio
        • AT&T U-Verse TV
        • Verizon FiOS TV
        • Xfinity

        Available in Canada

        • Netflix
        • MSN
        • ESPN
        • Hulu Plus
        • TELUS Optik TV

        Available in UK

        • Netflix
        • 4oD
        • BBC iPlayer
        • Demand 5
        • Sky Go

        Available in Portugal

        • Vodafone Casa TV

        Available in Australia

        • ABC iView
        • Foxtel on Xbox Live
        • SBS On Demand

        Available in France

        • Canal+

        Available in Spain

        • Movistar

        Available in Germany

        • ZDF

        Available Globally (to according to that chart)

        • YouTube
        • UFC
        • Vevo
        • Miss Universe

        Whilst Microsoft do have many country specific things, and the US is their focus, they are partnering with services globally by the look of it.

      • And of those, the majority that also are not on the PlayStation 3 are in the US/Canada.

        There’s plenty to counter the Xbox 360 on the PS3 in Europe with likes of VidZone (most PAL regions) and MUBI, in addition to Netflix, etc.

      • I don’t have ESPN or Sky so I can’t comment on that but I can see your point. But for a straight out the box package Sony have better media options without a premium.

        Maybe if Microsoft went into E3 armed with your above list but said they’ll do it free, cheap for 12 months, or get Sky without a home subscription package, then it will be something to think about. As it is, my 360 will stay being used for Kinect games and Rayman.

      • Mubi is so bad, they have barely updated their catalogue since it launched, well here in Ireland they haven’t.

  2. Spot on Kris. Unfortunately Microsoft were always going to go down this route.
    Personally I would love to buy an old 360 with the original Dashboard still on it. It was just so simple and clean. Every dashboard update since has just brought more and more crap with it.

    • I’m not sure it’s unfortunate, it just depends how they go about it going forward.

  3. That’s definitely an interesting idea and probably true.

    Just as an aside, do any of you regularly watch movies on the PS3, be it Netflix, Lovefilm or a film from the PS Store?

    I’m just interested to know how many people actually use that side of the PS3. Sometimes i use iPlayer or 4oD but nothing else really.

    • I watch Netflix pretty regularly on PS3 and 360 (as well as my laptop and phone).

      • PS3 i use for blu ray and lovefilm every now and then but most the stuff is poop. I would never buy a film through the PS Store as I like to have a physical copy

    • I don’t watch any netflix/lovefilm or iplayer etc, because I use my tv smart hub for it, its easier and it saves putting on the ps3.

      I have a console for playing blu-rays and playing games, everything else I don’t touch.

    • I’ve rented a film from the PS3 store before – more as a trial. Use Lovefilm all the time but the main use for my playstation is to store my music/films/pictures. I stuck a 640G laptop drive in there (cost me £35) and store everything there. Videos/pictures look so much better on a huge LCD tv than on a laptop or photo.

      • “the main use for my playstation is to store my music/films/pictures.” 100% concur mate.

        My Ps3 really is my central media station for exactly the same reason. It’s central to my living space and has the best available display and audio setup in the house, so it just makes sense.

        By contrast I never use my 360 for this stuff, it’s audio,video players and cd ripping are annoyingly rigid, so don’t see use.

      • Yeah, i store pics and music on my PS3, mainly for backup reasons, along with Vita games. Wow, £35 for a 640GB HDD is amazing! I think my 500GB one was around £40, still have over half the space left after just over 6 months.

        On the PS Film Store side of things, do you not think it’d be interesting to have films rentals as part of PS+? I think so.

      • Problem with tieing + and movies is that most countries don’t have the movie store.

  4. There is no defense for it

    Microsoft has lost the last 3 E3’s, and the worldwide sales of the 360 are not as high as sony and nintendo platforms

    E3 is the Electronic GAMING expo

    If your not showing games than you failed

    • Electronic Entertainment Expo. 3 Es… see? E3?
      Now, let’s talk about failing ;)

    • Likud you not showing games u have failed! Ha’

      • Two Es and a G just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    • Yeah its entertainment and thats what Microsoft have been showing.

    • I like the idea that someone is crowned a winner at the end though. Did not know that! :P

    • Well they do give out awards..

  5. other then its gaming capabilities i fail to see why you’d buy a games console over a laptop.

  6. Can’t Smart TV’s do all these non-gaming things now? They seem to be getting better & better to so i can’t see the point in Game consoles having all these features when Smart TV’s are the future(i think anyway) for all this on-demand stuff + i would rather have a Smart TV & then a pure games console(with loads of exclusive games each year(bit like the PS3, well it does other stuff like this to) to) under my TV:P

    + “it looks like they’ll be focussing on media at E3” WOW if SONY said that the internet would go into MELTDOWN LoL:D

  7. If I want to buy something for streaming or media as a primary use, then there are internet TV’s, Apple TV and a whole host of ways of getting content on the biig-ish screen. Games have to be the primary selling point & use, with media as a nice aside that is very useful, but not he main draw. Sorry, but yet another E3 full of Kinect, Forza, COD & Halo won’t cut it.

  8. we can understand why they’re doing it, we’re just not happy about it.

    we know they’re doing it because that’s where they see all the money coming from.

    i can’t speak for everybody, but i’m betting many of us who own a 360, own it because of the games.

    that’s the way ms operates.
    when something’s popular, that’s the big thing, they they hop on the next bandwagon and the last big thing, that’s not important any more.

    look at how dedicated they were to the xbox, they they abandoned it for the 360.
    then motion controls were worthless, feedback was king, then they saw how well the wii was doing then they created kinect, that’s all motion and no physical feedback.

    we’re just worried we’re being abandoned because we don’t fit into the new demographic they’re after this month.

    • As I pointed out, creating a media hub has been their aim all along. Couple that with the fact that users are now using Xbox Live for streaming media more than playing games and of course they’re going to shift focus a bit, it’s in response to their customers and fits in line with their long term goals.

      Will they abandon gaming? No of course not, that would be ridiculous. Shifting focus does not equate to abandonment.

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