July 16, 2013, 6:00 AM —
I have to confess I remain fascinated by the slow-motion spectacle that is the Xbox One launch. Microsoft made a lot of gamers unhappy when they first debuted the machine, thanks to its Internet connectivity requirements and other issues. In the face of loud consumer opposition, it then reversed its stance.
So all's well that ends well, right? Not so fast. In addition to gamers who want Microsoft to reverse (part of) it's reversal, the crowd at EVO apparently didn't get the message that Microsoft are the good guys again.
EVO is an annual fighting game tournament that took place last weekend, July 12-14th. In addition to the actual competition there are game companies at the event doing promos and demonstrating upcoming titles. One of these companies was Mad Catz, who were there with Double Helix, developer of the Xbox One exclusive remake of Killer Instinct, to show off some fighting stick accessories for the game.
About 30 seconds into their pitch, one of the presenter mentions that Killer Instinct is coming exclusively to the Xbox One. At that point the crowd starts booing and does so for almost a full 30 seconds. Apologies for the quality of this video but I think you'll get the idea:
So that was pretty harsh, I thought. But does it mean gamers are still down on Microsoft and the Xbox One? Well as they say, money talks, and retailers seem to tell a different story. The Xbox One is sold out at Gamestop. The Xbox One "Day One Edition" is sold out at Amazon, though the online retailer is still taking orders for the Standard Edition, which is listed as having an estimated delivery date of December 31st, 2013. My order for the Day One Edition lists a November 27th delivery date. Now clearly these are both 'placeholder' dates but it seems to suggest that anyone pre-ordering an Xbox One from Amazon today won't get it at launch.
Best Buy and Walmart, it must be said, still have the Day One Edition available but Best Buy, at least, started accepting pre-orders later than other retailers. Still, the fact that the Xbox One is sold out at some retailers four months before it ships seems to indicate that, in spite of all the Internet drama, the console will sell just fine.
As for that petition to bring back some of the more forward-thinking online functionality that the Xbox One would've shipped with if plans hadn't changed, chief product officer Marc Whitten did an interview with IGN last Friday and during it, he said that Family Sharing, at least, could still happen some time after launch. Referring to that feature, which would've let Xbox One owners digitally lend their game library to 10 family member, Whitten said “If it’s something that people are really excited about and want, we’re going to make sure that we find the right way to bring it back...”.
It's unfortunate that we lost that feature when they did their Xbox 180; I think it would've been something of a system seller once people understood how it worked. Whitten takes some of the blame for that, saying that Microsoft did a poor job of explaining the benefits of their original system.
It's nice that Whitten was willing to do the interview with IGN but reading it...a lot of what he says still feels like he's dancing around specifics or talking in circles, at least to me. Or maybe the conversation was just transcribed too literally. But for instance talking about the removal of Family Sharing, he says:
"We took some feedback and realized there was some stuff we needed to add to the program. To add it to the program, we had to make room, just from a pure engineering perspective, to be able to get that work done. So taking Family Sharing out of the launch window was not about ‘we’re going to take our toys and go home’ or something like that. It was just sort of the logistics of ‘how do we get this very, very clear request that people really want, that choice, and how do we make sure we can do an excellent job of that, get to launch, and then be able to build a bunch of great features?’"
I realize that when he says "make room" he means "make room in the work schedule" but I can't help myself. Suddenly I'm envisioning the inside of the Xbox One looking like a honeycomb and each cell of the honeycomb only holds one feature, so they had to take out Family Sharing in order to add 'some stuff' to the program. That stuff being, apparently, the removal of the need to 'check in' once every 24 hours.
Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it seems like Microsoft employees are simply unable to answer any Xbox One question clearly and concisely. Wouldn't it have been easier to just say "We didn't have time to remove the DRM system and then re-integrate Family Sharing before our launch date."
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.