Xbox One: The Damage Is Done

Yesterday, to the delight of gamers around the world, Microsoft performed a pretty dramatic U-turn, ditching a swathe of policies surrounding its next-generation console, the Xbox One.

In short, users will be free to play retail or downloadable games anywhere offline, the unpopular daily login system scrapped for a one-time activation. Perhaps even a bigger relief to gamers is that Microsoft has done away with its draconian used-game restrictions. Before the 180-flip, Xbox One users would only be allowed to play borrowed or second-hand games if they purchased a “license”.

Now, as with the Xbox 360, you are free to swap and trade-in freely: it’s business as usual.

Needless to say, this is great news for gamers. Sure, there are a few unpopular features that remain (namely Kinect 2 and Microsoft’s drive to promote the console as a multimedia platform) but the most egregious policies have been now been remedied. Good on Microsoft, eh?

Well, no, not really. If there’s one thing we should all take away from this it is that we literally had to force them to make these changes.

Ever since the Xbox One was revealed to the world last month, it has been the butt of every industry-related joke.

However, beneath all the “TV, TV, TV, sports, sports, sports” wisecracks and “where the games at?” jibes, there was a serious message being put across. Having gone from underdog to being a top player, Microsoft was now throwing its weight around at the expense of its dedicated customers, touting the new Xbox as one box to rule the living room and not the next innovation in gaming.

On top of that, Microsoft had the audacity to impose a string of totalitarian restrictions, instructing users exactly where, when, and how to play the products they purchased with their hard earned money. It was a complete joke -from top to bottom- a big middle finger to those Xbox supporters who made the brand what it is today; and it only got worse.

At E3, Microsoft made an excellent delivery, showcasing a string of solid first party titles and exclusive, yet a shadow still loomed. Though games such as Quantum Break, Halo 5, and Project Spark piqued the interest of many, this excitement was dampened by a slew of unanswered yet extremely-important questions about the console.

Even when PR reps and guys in-the-know, including Don Mattrick himself, responded to the press, it was hard to determine who really had their facts right. Instead of coming clean, Microsoft was still floundering behind the scenes, fumbling around for answers that would appease gamers and justify their unpopular Xbox One policies.

Meanwhile, stock prices fell (if only marginally) and the internet’s distaste for the company and its console only grew. Reddit was aflame with “conversion” threads, memes, and Xbox support trolling. Even Sony was in on the joke when it released an “instructional video”, showing PlayStation gamers how to trade and swap their games.

Finally we had the Facebook poll conducted by Amazon, asking gamers which platform they would side with. The result was almost unanimous with a staggering 30,000 favouring the PlayStation 4 and not even 2,000 rallying behind the Xbox One. It seemed that, wherever you searched on the internet, not one person had a good word to say about Microsoft’s next-generation platform.

So, back to our main point, will the recent U-turn change people’s perspective of the Xbox One? Put simply, nobody really knows.

For many the damage has already been done. Microsoft, quite clumsily, revealed itself as a money-hungry corporation willing to set aside the core needs of gamers to get its console in every household. Even after this latest newsbreak, there’s a good chance many left chagrined by Microsoft’s rhetoric of ownership and licenses will still opt in the opposite direction.

With that said, there’s always a good portion of the market who don’t stay on top of gaming news and may not know that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One even exist. It’s these gamers who are left unaffected by Microsoft’s previous floundering yet they are ones set to gain the most from the announcement.

Them, and of course, brick and mortar outlets such as GAME and Gamestop. Pre-owned is a huge part of their business and the news that Xbox One games will be tradeable has no doubt prompted managers to already set aside vast stretches of shelf space in anticipation.

Whichever way you look at it, the playing field has been somewhat levelled and, in the words of many an onlooker, the console war can now truly begin…



  1. Completely agree that the damage has already been done. They need a PR miracle to win back the trust of gamers. I’ve already made my decision for next gen and it will be PS4. It’s good that they have backed down from this but I can’t trust them not to implement this again down the line.

    Kinect is still mandatory, it’s less powerful than a PS4, more expensive and still doesn’t allow indies to self publish.

    Steps have been taken but it’s still early days.

    • I agree. I’ve got my PS4 preorder in and the Xbox One still isn’t an option. I’ve went into their conferences with an open mind and aside from their crappy policies I wasn’t sold on their games and even if I was, the TV stuff that I couldn’t use and the Kinect that I wouldn’t want in conjunction with the higher price we’re dealbreakers from the get go. I’m glad they realized that they had to back down with their plans but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they tried to screw their customers through other means or after people have bought into the Xbox One. If Sony can remove Other OS, who knows what Microsoft is willing to add back in afterwards…

    • I appreciate that TSA is predominantly a ‘Playstation-centric’ website, but I think the comments on many of the Xbox stories (not to mention the tone of the articles themselves) are edging ever closer to flagrant fanboy-ism.

      Despite the horrendous job Microsoft have done with the launch, marketing and subsequent communication regarding the Xbox One, the strategy that they put forward is definitely more forward-thinking that Sony’s, if ineloquently put and arrogantly applied.

      Physical games will disappear. That much is certain. Maybe not this generation (almost certainly not now) but the writing’s on the wall in much the same way it has been for physical video and music distribution. I think it’s right to plan for that eventuality and, although Microsoft singularly failed to actually expand on the possibilities (and benefits) of their approach in any of it’s marketing, digital distribution certainly has something to offer console gamers. Look at Steam. Huge savings, vast libraries, access to classic games, constant access regardless of machine, automatic updates… I’m old enough to remember when PC gamers threw their hands up in despair at Valve’s model, but now Steam is the lifeblood of many gaming rigs. It incorporates all of the things that console gamers have lost the plot over with the XBO – mandatory internet connection, DRM, no trading games – and it certainly hasn’t killed PC gaming. It’s also been around for a while and has had the time to mature into a very comfortable equilibrium with developers, publishers and consumers that seems to benefit them all in different ways. Another example, which I won’t labour, is the App Store and how it’s brought affordable games (of admittedly varying quality) to a huge amount of gamers with all the same restrictions that the Xbox One was suggesting.

      I suppose all I’m asking is that TSA, and it’s loyal fanbase, don’t let the opportunity to stick the boot into an obviously floundering ‘enemy’ distract from what could have been, with a better message and without a group of nonsensical f*ckwits at the helm, the most innovative core console of this generation. There are some good ideas here, that could’ve made for a much richer (and more futureproof) console experience, but that are now compromised or abandoned.

      I think that’s a shame.

      • I disagree about physical games disappearing (I also hope it never happens). I think this highlighted a battle that is building up a lot of steam around DRM and digital rights. Trading games digitally is a massive legal issue in Europe right now. One case has already been won allowing people to sell digital games on. They current battle is whether there is a legal requirement to provide a way to do it. Let’s see if those steam prices stay as low if a second hand market becomes a legal requirement.

        Spending £30 or £40 on a digital version of something isn’t something a large number do or want to do.

        CD’s haven’t exactly died out have they, we might not see so much available on the high street but it’s still big business online. Same with films. Spending 69p on a song or a few quid to rent a film is fine for most but when you start talking about larger amounts of money and people are less willing.

        People want choice, and Microsoft have been hit hard by not realising it. We still don’t know what the digital landscape will end up looking like and what the legal side of it will be. What we do know is that if consumers really don’t like it they’ll look elsewhere where they can get the options they want.

      • Agreed. I think the one thing that was missing from the previous articles were the reasons why these policies were in place. If the benefits were highlighted more I don’t think we’d have seen quite so much Xbox bashing

      • I had an X360 this gen after being PS1 and PS2. I don’t regret my purchase one bit but after what MS have been doing and the arrogance they have shown it’s all come to a head. I think you underestimate the amount the Xbox owners that will move to the PS4 next gen, me included.

      • @Eldur:

        The problem is that Microsoft went a step too far and implemented anti-consumer system while they were at it. The next generation is not yet ready to be digital only and that’s what Microsoft wanted to do. Their discs were nothing but glorifyed installation mediums.
        What would have worked in my opinion would be a hybrid generation that eased consumers into a digital only next-next gen. Don’t implement these DRM things for disc based games, but offer people an option to “convert” these physical discs to digital version (single online activation that invaluates the disc if converted) in order to let people benefit from the cloud features like family game sharing or digital lending that is exclusive to digital games.
        The could also start pricing digital games more realistically next gen and if done right, people would not give a damn about restrictions anymore because by then the benefits are well known to users and outweight the downfalls of such a system.
        No, Microsoft bulldozed their idea of a digital future through the gaming sector, disregarding any concerns of customers while also forcing DRM on everyone and top it all off with the worst PR I have ever witnessed.

      • @Jimmy-Google:

        As access to faster internet speeds increases, and that’s a trend that’s well evidenced, it seems pretty clear that digital media distribution will become commonplace. Steam, Origin, iTunes, App Stores, Netflix, Sky Go etc. are all confirmations of this sort of content distribution. These models all work because, as you allude to, they offset the lack of physical ownership with heavily reduced initial outlay. There’s obviously a massive gulf between a £10 CD or DVD and a £50 game, but Steam has already proved that there is a middle ground that can be successful for both the industry and consumers (your point about the legal battles surrounding this is noted and well made). This all leads nicely into the opportunities Microsoft could have offered with a more digitally focussed Xbox One, but ones they roundly failed to capitalise on at or after the product reveal. I don’t disagree that Microsoft made a massive c*ckup of it all, but I do think that we (and by that I mean the gaming community) have forced an end to a conversation that never really got going. It’s all M$’s fault, don’t get me wrong, but I still lament the fact that we had a quick glimpse of a future for home consoles which is now gone thanks to awful marketing, bad communication and, don’t hate me, a particularly aggressive attack by the gaming community at large. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that it’s a shame.


        I absolutely agree about the arrogance Microsoft have shown, I think it’s the most contemptible thing about this whole debacle. I do think, however, that the Xbox One offered some real innovation in its attempt to embrace digital distribution, connectivity and its application to a culture that I am deeply entrenched in. I just hate to see something that could have been so interesting be squandered by bad marketing and terrible management.


        I absolutely agree, and the points you raise (all of which are interesting and worth discussing) are exactly the sort of conversation-starters I would have loved to have seen on TSA. Unfortunately, the hilariously mismanaged launch and the resultant PR fall out meant that everybody missed the opportunity to actually talk about and consider the benefits of the Xbox One and this model of distribution, and just resorted to pointing, laughing and sticking the boot in. As I’ve said above, it’s all Microsoft’s fault, but I wish we could’ve talked about it more seriously rather than just taking the p*ss.

  2. How long before the creep of these policies? I can see that M$ will try and force these policies on the user over time, it might take years to do, but M$ see it as a good thing and no one wants to give up on a good thing do they?

    • I was thinking the same. Will they slowly start implementing these policies bit by bit? They’ve obviously thought hard about the backtracking but you can’t just change your whole business plan/strategy that quickly and there’s no way this was a plan B.

    • What people forget is that the original Xbox one stance was (bar the online auth every 24hrs) better than the current policies employed by Sony and MS for _digital_ games – they already have account locks on there but no sharing and no ability to trade, I see very little wrong in MS applying the policies as they stood but only against digital versions of games, and if they’d made it more attractive to gamers to uh those games via the XBL marketplace, all of this would have been a storm in a teacup.

      Physical copies have the advantage of lending and trading, extend advantages (such as regular sales and digital exclusive content) for digital versions as a balancer and its a reasonable way to look at it. But when people have a physical product in their hand, you can’t make them accept the changes you were asking without proving why the changes are more beneficial than what they already have

  3. I brought an Xbox 360 early this year and actually enjoyed using it alongside my launch day PS3. I was won over by the Xbox and strongly considered getting an Xbox One and PS4 at launch.

    But, then came Microsoft’s press conferences and I was reminded the people and company behind the console. No matter what MS do now, remove the DRM, beat the PS4 on price, remove the requirement of Kinect, I will not be getting an Xbox One. MS think they set the rules as the expense of their users and everyone will just bow down.

    Until MS can prove they actually value their customers, I won’t be touching any of their products again.

  4. I doubt there is much long term damage here. The COD / FIFA players that make up a large percentage of Xbox ownership were probably going to get an Xbox One purely because it is the next Xbox. They aren’t hardcore gamers that check sites like this everyday and probably were even unaware of what the plan for 24 hour online check ins and trade ins etc.

    Yes sensible people who aren’t that brand loyal will see Microsoft as being more interested in margins than customers and see that Sony have thought things through that bit more. I don’t think these people make up the majority of Xbox potential customers.

    • Yes, I agree.

    • I’d like to know your evidence to suggest that Xbox gamers are any less ‘hardcore’ than PS gamers. Or that they only play CoD and FIFA…

      Because I believe you are speaking out of your arse.

      • Maybe have a quick re-read of my comment as I didn’t say that Xbox owners are less ‘hardcore’ and nor did I say that they only play COD and FIFA. I said they make up a large percentage of Xbox ownership and that the people who mainly buy these games aren’t hardcore gamers, and to add to that I mean people who just buy the same games every year are not hardcore gamers in my opinion. As for these games making up a large percentage of ownership you only need to look at (I know it isn’t complete) but this shows just in the top 10 COD sold 23.7 million copies on Xbox 360 and occupies 3 of the top 10 slots on that list.

      • It’s a shame that I can’t find an analogous list from the same source that you found your s, but this list (for what it’s worth) is worth a look;

        This *ahem* evidence shows that the top THREE best selling games on PS3 are ALL CoD games, and FIFA is happily sitting there at Number 7. It’s not complete, same as yours, but I think all this sort of thing shows is that CoD and FIFA are particularly big sellers on both platforms. I wouldn’t be comfortable making assumptions on the nature of a demographic, or saying that ne platform is more ‘hardcore’ than the other, based on these sorts of numbers as both franchises have sold massively well on both systems.

        It’s interesting though that Kinect Adventures, as per the list you cite, is the best selling game and that Minecraft (definitely something you’d consider a ‘hardcore’ game I assume) is in at No.7…

      • *Edit* Minecraft’s actually No.5. A silly error.

      • I think Eldur that as this is mainly a PS centric site that you are incorrectly assuming that I am in some way saying that Xbox owners are any different to PS owners. I NEVER ONCE made a comparison between the two demographics, and nor did I ONCE did I say, imply or anything similar that Xbox owners were more or less hardcore than PS owners. So in future make sure you read comments thoroughly, don’t try to assume or fill in your own blanks and you should definitely stop accusing people of ‘speaking out of the arse’.

  5. They’ve shown their true colours in my opinion. They’ve shown what they will do when given enough power and I hope people heed that warning.
    Like you said in the article, it took a relentless beating by the gaming media, blogs and forums to force them to rescind their plans. Who knows what they’ll do a couple of years down the line, when they have a captive audience.

  6. I really don’t think us lot in the know appreciate how much of an impact this will make. Most gamers (and by gamers I mean people who read gaming news etc) will stick with their decision to not support the XB1 out of principle, broken trust, whatever. However, Joe public will see that’s it back to how it was and go crawling back, and it’s easy to forget how big that market share is. I’ve spoken to three guys at work who fit that category and they’ve all said they’re getting the XB1. No manner of conversation around Ms flip flopping, or how the cloud was all smoke and mirrors, or how the Ps4 is the better spec’d machine will make a difference.

  7. the change in policy will help, i have no doubt about that, the X1 is now a viable option for some people, where it absolutely wasn’t before.

    but, i don’t think they’ll have the numbers they would have if they’d never had the DRM in the first place.

    this is more damage limitation than saving the console.

    they came across as arrogant, and dismissive of people’s concerns, people will remember that.

    my first choice will still be a PS4, that hasn’t changed, but now, at some point, i expect i will probably get an X1

    • I just wanted to echo this statement.

      I have always bought all the major consoles in a generation at some point. With all the restrictions MS had tied into owning their console, there was no way I was going to touch it.

      With the news of the U-turn, I am at least prepared to keep an eye on the direction they want to take the console, and I may well decide to pick one up 8-12 months after release.

      But still, Playstation have proved themselves to be far more worthy of a day one purchase. So that’s the direction I’ll be going.

    • The above is exactly my sentiments too.

  8. Its a tricky one. To many, yup, I would imagine its “too little, too late”, but I suppose it depends if people consider the bigger picture.

    I am 99% sure that, in a few years both Sony and Microsoft will be using always-online and DRM-heavy measures on their consoles. Its clearly where the industry is headed.
    I also believe that, while Xbox were essentially giving you the bad news upfront (and delivering it badly I hasten to add), Sony were going to opt for the underhanded way of initially saying “we are all about the gamers, love us, etc, etc, etc”, only to then drip-feed these measures via firmware updates over the coming years – similar to the online pass concept really.
    At the end of the day, the X1 was going to sell regardless and I seriously doubt a failing company like Sony would look at Microsoft’s way of doing things and not follow suit slightly.

    Ultimately, whilst I preferred Microsoft’s upfront “this is how its going to be” approach, it was far too early and the market simply isn’t ready for such restrictions. Plenty of people still don’t have a decent internet connection (if one at all) and there was just too much bad news for people to digest in one go.
    Give it a few years however and I’d imagine we will be in this situation all over again, only this time Sony and Microsoft will be seen as the bad guys.

    • I am 99% sure that, in a few years both Sony and Microsoft will be using always-online and DRM-heavy measures on their consoles. Its clearly where the industry is headed.

      I wouldn’t be that sure about that, especially after the gaming market has experienced what could happen if they tried to screw gamers over with harsh restrictions.
      Their plan would only make sense if we were much closer to a digital only generation, which is not yet possible due to internet restrictions (availability / data caps / speed / etc.) and they would have to sweeten the deal by allowing simple forms of game sharing like the Family sharing that Microsoft detailed.
      This has been an unprecedented reaction to next gen announcements and I don’t think Sony or Microsoft will be able to implement such restrictions that easily a few years down the line. Neither one of them wants to be at the receiving end of the backlash that Microsoft got in the last few weeks. That I’m 100% sure of.

    • “A failing company like Sony?”

      • In terms of their annual losses year-on-year

      • there not failing there back to profit there stock is double what it was.

      • The PlayStation brand perhaps, but Sony as a company are struggling and have been for years (crap phones and overpriced teles have that effect…). I’m just saying they are a business and will almost certainly want to make as much money out of customers as possible

      • Xperia Z crap don’t think so.

  9. Even as someone who probably will never buy the Xbox One (I’ve never owned an Xbox, the line-up is too similar to both Playstation and PC to own all three), I’m delighted with Microsoft’s decision.

    Because even gamers who never play Xbox are gaining from this too. Competition drives the industry to provide better products. I’m positive PS+ would never have happened had the PS3 been as dominant in the market as PS2 had been.

    A healthy rivalry between the two may mean a few inconveniences like timed exclusivity and all that jazz, but really, as a Playstation gamer I gain more from Microsoft having a healthy Xbox on sale than I do them having nothing.

    • I agree with you colmshan1990 and have said before that a healthy competition is needed to keep the market balanced.

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