Microsoft Xbox and the revolving door of public opinion

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Source: Xbox.com

It seems like Microsoft can't catch a break with gamers these days, every time we hear some good news it's quickly followed by bad. We got past (more or less) the Xbox One used game/Internet requirement debacle finally, but now there's more give and take.

Let's start with the good news. According to Eurogamer, Microsoft has dropped the policy of charging developers big money in order to patch a game (Eurogamer cites "multiple development sources" without mentioning names). Prior to this policy change we've heard (from developers like Tim Schafer and Phil Fish) that Microsoft would charge up to $40,000 to roll out a patch, (other sources say $10,000) and in some cases a developer just can't afford to patch a game. Microsoft has confirmed that they changed their policy back in April (according to Polygon) but I guess they didn't bother to tell all their partners. Let's hope the new policy extends to the Xbox One when it is launched.

So hooray for Microsoft!

But then we heard some bad news. At E3 we learned that the Xbox One won't come with a headset, but Microsoft has now also confirmed that your existing Xbox 360 headset, driving wheel, fighting stick or {insert your favorite accessory here} won't work on the Xbox One. In some cases (high end Turtle Beach headsets have been mentioned) the manufacturer may release an adapter which will presumably be cheaper than buying a new headset but for the most part you're going to have to purchase new peripherals to use with your Xbox One. [Update: Microsoft now says it is also working on an adapter for Xbox 360-compatible headsets.]

This is not completely unexpected, but if you're a 3rd party accessory maker what might be unexpected is learning that the license you have for producing Xbox peripherals doesn't extend to the Xbox One product line. You'll have to apply for (and pay for) a new license if you want to support the Xbox One. GigaOm has more details on this situation.

So boo to Microsoft!

But then we heard some cool news! At the Build Conference, Microsoft announced a new collaboration with Unity across all its platforms. Why is this cool? Unity is a really popular (and affordable) game development system. Unity already has partnerships with Sony and Nintendo and Unity runs on PCs and mobile as well. Adding Microsoft to the mix kind of makes Unity a universal gaming engine, which means small developers can easily (well, these things are relative I guess) port their titles across platforms.

So hooray for Microsoft!!

But then we heard some annoying news! Engadget uncovered a Microsoft patent (filed when Halo: Combat Evolved was remade for the Xbox 360 — so Fall of 2011 — but just published yesterday) for game titles "having a plurality of game engines." So what does that mean? It means, in layman's terms at least, that if you re-release an older game and let the player choose between 'classic graphics' running on the original engine and newer updated graphics running on a new engine, you'll be violating this patent. Or to quote the patent filing it targets games that "attempt to captivate their audiences by leveraging emotions associated with the initial game." Obviously game remakes are nothing new, nor is the concept of including the original game experience in a new iteration of a title. Microsoft is just the first company devious enough to try to patent the concept.

So boo to Microsoft the Patent Troll!

Now clearly my tongue is pretty firmly in my cheek for this post, but it is strange that Microsoft seems to be having such a hard time managing its Xbox public image these days. Every time it does something 'right' it seems to be followed up by something 'wrong' (or at least wrong in the court of public opinion).

Are other people seeing this too, or is this just 'observational bias' on my part?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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