Microsoft Isn't Giving Up On An All-Digital Future With Xbox One
Posted by Anthony Bacchus
"Discs are going to go away, it's gone away in just about every medium"
Saying it hasn't been a bumpy road for the Xbox One since it's initial unveiling back in May is a huge understatement. Due to an overwhelming negative response from the gaming community, Microsoft listened to the feedback and responded accordingly by stripping away many of the console's "features."
On the other hand, Xbox Director of Product Planning, Albert Penello, felt that while Microsoft did expect some backlash following the May 20th announcement, he was ultimately taken aback by how negative the reaction really was. He goes into more detail:
"People got in their minds that what we were trying to do was evil or anti-customer when, in fact, we were looking at what Steam does, we were looking at what iOS is going, we were looking where the customers were going and saying 'I think we can actually give you a better all-digital experience."
"So was I surprised that people had a reaction to it? No. I mean, we knew it was going to be a controversial decision. Was I surprised how negative the reaction was going to be? Yes."
"We were surprised at how vocal it was, we were surprised at the reaction and the assumptions that people had about what we were trying to do. So we did the famous '180'."
If it seems that Albert Penello is blaming the community for the quick turnaround on many of the Xbox One's policies, that isn't the case. He does acknowledge that Microsoft did a poor job getting their vision across to the world. Shortly after the console reveal, many executives at Microsoft weren't exactly clear either with their answers to the general media. An executive would say something, but would be countered with what something else that was said. It caused all around confusion for the global gaming community, right before the crucial E3 conference.
"If I had to go back and wish that I could rewind time and redo one thing, that would be the one thing," he admitted in an interview with Adam Sessler for Rev3Games.
Of course, the Xbox One will still support digital downloads. Every Xbox One game will be downloadable in the new Games Store on the day of release and can even be played on another friend's Xbox One console, so long as you remember to sign in to your profile first. Initially, Microsoft was going to go one step further with digital content and allow the user to share their digital library with 10 people, family or friend.
Mr. Penello wants these features to come back and is confident that Microsoft will eventually roll some of them out, when the time is right:
"I think with time, people have understood what we were trying to do, and in fact I'm sure you've seen it with the fans. They were saying, 'God, I wish some of this stuff would come back'."
"Nobody debates there's going to be a world, whether it's this gen, or next-gen, that discs are going to go away, it's gone away in just about every medium."
"I think if anything we thought it was going to happen sooner than the customer. We took a hard stance on it."
"I hope that in some point in the future some of those cool features - some of the Family Sharing, the household sharing stuff, the games are always with you - we want to bring that stuff back.
"I get a lot of mails saying 'god, please bring back the family sharing.' We'd love to figure out how to bring that back. I still think it was a good idea. Maybe it was a little too soon for some people, but I still think there were a lot of good ideas in there. And we'll bring it back when the time is right.""
The topic of used games was one of the more controversial policies instilled in the "old" Xbox One. The act of buying used games from a local retailer or borrowing a game from a friend just wasn't possible due to the digital nature of the console at the time. Albert Penello wants to remind people that Microsoft did have a system in place for trading their digital games and that it may come back in some form too. During a Q&A with GameSpot, he commented on this:
"We were trying to implement the ability to trade [and] loan digital games with your friends, which is something that no-one else was doing. I believe, in retrospect that people have calmed down and gone back and actually looked at what we said, people are starting to understand, 'Wow, they did want actually to allow me to loan and trade', which other digital ecosystems don't want to do.
"I think we need to do that. That has to be part of the experience. Right now, we're focused on launch and we switched the program back to discs, because that's what customers wanted."
The digital ecosystem is definitely making waves and actually surpassed retail in Q2 of this year in the US market, according to a report from the NPD group. Mr. Penello does bring up some good points about an all-digital future though. Games seem to be a bit slow on the transformation compared to music and movies. What are your thoughts on his comments? Would you be alright if Microsoft restored the previous policies to your Xbox One, as long as they still supported physical media?