Why the Xbox One Needs to be Online

At this point, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft’s PR team for the Xbox One is doing damage control.  With nearly two months of overwhelmingly negative customer feedback at their front door, spokespeople doing nothing but confusing everyone about the Xbox One’s confusing DRM and used games policies, and competitors lapping up praise for not really doing much of anything, Microsoft is feeling the pressure to change.  Unfortunately, it seems unrealistic to think they can change much about the Xbox One.

The major point of contention for the Xbox One is it’s 24-hour check in cycle.  Don’t have internet to make that daily check in with?  No Xbone for you!

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The reason Microsoft can’t remove the check in requirement is simple, it’s the only way to guarantee every Xbox One will be online.  An online Xbox One can download ads, enable netflix playback, and get customers shopping on the XBL Marketplace.  All these things are massive cash crops for Microsoft and when you throw in games requiring cloud computing to run, you have a company that has backed themselves into a corner with no way out.

The Xbox 360 Kinect wasn’t the popular device Microsoft had hoped it would be for one simple reason: Install base.  Kinect sales stagnated very quickly and this led to developers dropping support for it almost immediately.  There were no really amazing games for the Kinect and the homebrew community made better use of it than Microsoft did.  So with the Xbox One, Microsoft, in requiring both a Kinect and internet connection for every console sold, is guaranteeing to developers that any and all features possible with the Xbox One system will be available to every user.  This leads to more digital transactions which means more money per-sale which means more income for Microsoft.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way.  Microsoft is as much a capitalist company as Sony or Nintendo and there’s nothing wrong with that.  While yes, it might mean that they prioritize profits over customers, Sony at least has proven that they understand making products all their customers can use and enjoy is the best way to make a profit.

In the end, Microsoft has misjudged their customers or, at the very least, isn’t thinking of all their customers.  There are millions of Xbox 360 owners without internet that have lost their upgrade path thanks to the very company making that upgrade a reality.  While some might argue that Microsoft is doing this because it’s eventually going to become the norm, I believe they’re doing this because it’s the most profitable way to do it.  If they had taken just a little more care, I think they could have avoided this disaster of a PR campaign, but then again, removing the online requirements would make most of the Xbox One’s new features totally useless to developers.

What do you think?  Is Microsoft doing something smart by embracing the future, or is their pursuit of profit driving them to create products that millions of customers can’t use?

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