Opinion: Just clear up the confusion about Xbox One, Microsoft

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xbox-oneWii U had a launch that consumers are still unaware of. Sony had a PS4 reveal that didn’t show the console. All this left Microsoft with a low bar to get over for its May 21 presentation. Somehow they still failed, because of a stubborn refusal to clear up the most persistent questions surrounding the console.

Microsoft’s first, unofficial and ultimately disastrous words came during Adam Orth’s now infamous Twitter rant. The tweet is deleted and Orth is no longer with the company, but we’re not going to forget what we read. The “always online” requirement is something gamers are rightfully concerned about. By now we have probably all had at least one online pass experience that made us want to chuck controllers. UFC Undisputed *ahem.* The Sim City debacle is still fresh in all our minds. I love Xbox Live and PSN. I love social media. It’s great that they will work together so well. Sometimes, I just want to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown by myself and not talk to anybody. Not my friends, not online acquaintances, and certainly not the console’s resident artificial intelligence.

Just a simple, straightforward answer on this point alone would sell the Xbox One to millions of gamers. Instead, marketing and PR reps are spinning a web of confusing non-denial denials. The best we’ve been able to glean is that the console won’t always have to be online. It apparently will need to check in online regularly. That could be as often as once a day. We don’t have specifics, because Microsoft isn’t giving them. Until you can tell me specifically how the system works, I can’t specify whether I want one or not.

Swimming in circles through even murkier waters is the Xbox One’s used games policy. Microsoft has confirmed a fee for second hand games, but won’t say how much it is. That leads us to believe the cost is high enough to be an issue with consumers. We all know how PR spin works. If you were to ask whether the Xbox One will have exclusive games first year, they will cheerfully explain there are 15 of them. That’s a question they want to answer, because it makes them look good. Now ask about used games. You’ll get a non-answer, which can only lead us to believe the answer makes them look bad. Microsoft ensures us there is a plan in place, but won’t tell us what it is.

You would think companies that have been in the tech business this long know how rumors get out of hand. A simple statement such as “Second hand games will require a fee to play,” quickly turns into “Microsoft is going to send robots to your house to break your Xbox 360 discs.” The way to prevent that is to give people the real answers while you have their attention. Like perhaps during a live reveal of your new console.

It is interesting that during a console generation supposedly all about sharing, we may lose the time-honored ability to share our games with friends. Both PS4 and Xbox One’s debut talked up sharing to the point of boredom for viewers. Share your achievements, share your thoughts on this game, share how much fun you’re having through Skype conferences.  Sure, I want to share my achievements, but I also want to share my copy of Red Dead Redemption with a friend who hasn’t played it. That’s how gaming truly becomes social. It doesn’t make any sense to cater to a casual gamer with Kinect and then push them away with policies that make gaming more expensive.

The last time we saw this level of smoke and mirrors was Sony not so artfully dodging questions about the PS3’s price. We all know how that crippled the launch. Get out in front of this, Microsoft. Then blow us away at E3 with some console-selling games. We want to get excited about your machine. Despite the cries of “we’re done with you” rising up on forums, most of us will eventually buy the Xbox One. We would just like enough facts to make an informed decision.


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