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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?


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User Comments (7)



Generik said:

I was never in the camp that wanted them to change from the original ideas. I understand where a lot of the furor came from and that can be blamed mostly on MS and how poorly they communicated everything. But we also need to point to Sony who jumped to attack and added some misinformation into the mix and helped really stir the pot. I wonder if one day we won't look back to early this summer and realize that MS was well ahead of the curve and thanks to a knee-jerk reaction of the gaming community as well as some artful manipulation by Sony PR we lost out on a great thing.



Anthinator said:

I would love to see this console generation truly embrace a digital future. My disappointment so far with next gen is that — despite prettier graphics and beefed up specs — the X1 and PS4 aren't different from consoles now. I'm hoping MS brings a few things back but to not sacrifice physical media for those who still want it



Gamer83 said:

Well, I prefer physical but I'll admit I download a lot of games and if that's the way of the future, I could probably "deal with it." However, there is one thing I will absolutely not tolerate and that's the check-in nonsense and need to be 'always online.' If that crap is ever brought back and required, might as well just get a PC. For years I've bought consoles specifically because they aren't PCs and I've always had the ability to play when I want, where I want, and I've always had the option whether I want to be online or not. That shouldn't change and if it does I hope the console industry crashes harder than it did in the 80s.



Ma_Chao92 said:

@Gamer83 i have always supported the next gen xbox, except the name. It sounds dumb but to me the name of the new face of microsoft in the gaming industry is a little to plain to me compared to the 360. But anyways, i proudly support xbox and all the improvements to it. That check in is going to be a setting instead of a requirement i heard and it didnt mess with your "online status". Plus you can turn it off. The whole this is to make sure your console was up to date and so you didnt have to wait like with the 360 when you turn it on and download the update. And honestly most games require you to be online to play or access the whole game no anyways. So it was only for your benefit



Gamer83 said:


Some of what MS wanted to do was good, some was not beneficial at all. The inital plan with the check-in was to have you do so once every 24 hours. Fail to do that and the system is useless and that just doesn't work me. If I don't want to bring the machine online I shouldn't have to. Now it's true a lot of games do force you to have some kind of connectivity to get the most out of games these days but there are still enough that have strong offline playable campaigns which is mostly what I care about. Good multiplayer and other online-based content is just a bonus. If all I want to do is play offline though, I shouldn't have to be required to 'check-in.'



Xbox One WAS anti consumer...

It was an attempt to price fix and control the market.

Well the market spoke and Microsoft bottled it.

The removal of the family sharing is just sour grapes.

Im still suspicious of Microsoft after this.

Personally I think Microsoft are on their way out.

Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One have all been handled REALLY badly.



armoredghor said:

@Generik I think you're right on the money. I also think that this guy is wrong in thinking that discs are going away; I still buy disks and copy them when I need them for the sake portability. In a home, I don't need to remove disks because I have plenty of space too put in a shelf.

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