July 18, 2014, 6:13 AM —
It was kind of an ugly day in the land of game consoles yesterday.
First came the news that Microsoft is shutting down Xbox Entertainment Studios. You probably heard that the company is cutting 18,000 jobs over the next year and killing XES seems to be part of that restructuring.
Xbox Entertainment Studios was the division set up to create Xbox Originals, original TV programming for the Xbox platform. Their first show, Every Street Unlimited debuted a few weeks ago during the World Cup (it's a show about street soccer players). It turns out their first show will be one of their last, too. The Halo series Halo: Nightfall is still coming and work continues on Signal to Noise, the series of documentaries that got some attention when they dug up that landfill to find a bunch of old Atari ET cartridges. Everything else is apparently canceled.
Back in April we talked about the struggles "Xbox Originals" were facing and with Phil Spencer taking over the Xbox division and really pushing his "Xbox is about games" agenda, killing the division is probably the right move, but it's a tough sell from a PR point of view. Spending two years on an initiative and getting one show on the air before the plug is pulled doesn't look so good.
Re/Code broke this story and they've reprinted Phil Spencer's memo to the team, if you're interested in what he had to say.
In potentially better news for the Xbox, Microsoft announced that June sales of the Xbox One were double that of May. Of course they didn't include any numbers, nor did they mention the fact that they announced a new $400 SKU in early May. This new, lower price Xbox One (which doesn't include Kinect) didn't arrive until June. Making the announcement so early certainly had a negative impact on sales for May, though only Microsoft knows how big that impact was. If you were considering an Xbox One in May and knew you could save $100 by waiting for the new SKU in early June, you probably would have done so, right?
The point is if sales dropped by 50% in May then doubled in June well, so what? Without hard numbers you can read this news in many ways. Not to rain on Microsoft's parade even harder, but Playstation responded about a day later by tweeting that the PS4 was the best selling console in June:
Breaking news: PS4 is #1 top-selling US next-gen console in June, 6th month in a row. Thanks for your support! <3 pic.twitter.com/r5bTKg4wYf
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) July 17, 2014
Now if you Playstation owners are feeling rather smug right now, just stop. Yesterday Sony proved that it can't handle success. Yesterday was when the much-promoted beta for Bungie's new game Destiny began. Sony has been beating on this drum for months because the beta started on Playstation first. (And big deal, Playstation owners get to play Thursday-Sunday, then the beta shuts down for two days, and then Xbox owners can play.)
For reasons I cannot fathom, Bungie didn't hand out 'codes' for the beta ahead of time. So at 1 ET when the beta was supposed to begin, Bungie's site crashed due to all the Playstation owners trying to get their keys. Bungie changed gears and opted to email the keys, plus their site recovered fairly quickly.
But that wasn't the end of problems for Playstation gamers. Sony's Playstation Network then crashed. So now gamers had Destiny beta keys but couldn't enter them, let alone start the large download of the beta.
It was a complete debacle, to be honest. I'm fortunate enough to work from a home office so I kept hammering at the sites until I got lucky and got my key entered. That was around 4 PM ET. Then finally I could start downloading the 10+ GB demo. Normally losing a few hours at the launch of a new game isn't a big deal, but when the "exclusive window" is only four days, and the entire beta is only nine, and access to the beta was used as a marketing tool to get gamers to pre-order, every hour counts. Sony needs to do better in future.
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.