Marc Whitten admits that Microsoft needs to ‘do a better job engaging with core gamers’ with the Xbox One
An online petition has surfaced that calls for Microsoft to change their recent reversal on the Xbox One’s online policies, including such hotly debated concepts as the always online requirement and 24-hour check-ins.
The petition has been hosted on change.org, and has since amassed over twenty thousand signatures from the gaming community who are clamoring for Microsoft to give them “back the Xbox One they were promised at E3″. The petition reads as follows:
“This was to be the future of entertainment. A new wave of gaming where you could buy games digitally, then trade, share or sell those digital licenses. Essentially, it was Steam for Xbox. But consumers were uninformed, and railed against it, and it was taken away because Sony took advantage of consumers uncertainty.be a compromise.”
The petitioners also cite the Xbox One’s family sharing program as one of the main features they’d like to see re-implemented, as the concept was scrapped along with the daunting online-only policies. It’s interesting to see so many gamers clamor for these restrictions to return–but there would undoubtedly be some possible benefits including increased online security, but Microsoft buckled under pressure as Sony’s PS4 was seen as the winner of this year’s E3 expo.
Xbox One’s chief product officer Marc Whitten has sat down with IGN to respond to the petition, and to talk about Microsoft’s failed attempts at communicating with the gaming community as a whole.
“I think it’s pretty simple. We’ve got to just talk more, get people understanding what our system is,” Whitten began, explaining how Microsoft’s current Xbox One PR fell short.
“The thing that’s really gratifying is that people are excited about the types of features that are possible, and it’s sort of shame on us that we haven’t done as good of a job as we can to make people feel like that’s where we’re headed.”
“The number one thing I want to do is I want to get the product out, because people are going to use it and obviously a lot of this is more evident, but certainly what I want to do right is now is talk more about how we thought about these features,” Whitten continued.
“How we thought about how Xbox Live works, how digital works.I see people feeling like we’ve moved away from digital, when certainly I don’t believe that’s the case.
I believe we’ve added on choice for people. It was an addition of a feature onto Xbox One, not a removal of a feature. And I understand people see things like Family Sharing and they’re like, ‘Wow, I was really looking forward to that,’ which is more of an engineering reality time frame type-thing.”
Whitten also directly responded specifically to the petition, citing Microsoft’s lack of communication with their core constituency as one of the reasons leading to the petition itself:
“What it tells me is we need to do more work to talk about what we’re doing because I think that we did something different than maybe how people are perceiving it,” he said.
“When I read some of the things like that petition, from my perspective we took a lot of the feedback and, while Xbox One is built to be digital native, to have this amazing online experience, we realized people wanted some choice.
“They wanted what I like to call a bridge, sort of how they think about the world today using more digital stuff. What we did, we added to what the console can do by providing physical and offline modes in the console. It isn’t about moving away from what that digital vision is for the platform. It’s about adding that choice.
“Frankly, I think we need to just do more to let people see how the console works, what they’re going to be able to do for it. I think a lot of the things they’re wishing for are frankly there.”
IGN also inquired about the possibility of Microsoft restoring the removed Family Sharing Feature to the Xbox One, which allows gamers to share their games with family and friends:
“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,” Whitten said.
“A ‘road map’ sort of implies more like ‘on date X it’s back’ than I think exists, but we believe really strongly in how you build a great experience on Xbox One for me as an individual, but also for my family. Family Sharing is a great example of how you do that with content.
“I think you’re going to see us, both with examples like that and with other things, keep pushing on how that’s something great. An example is some of the stuff we’re doing with what we announced around Gold, where other people in the house get the advantages of Gold when I’m a Gold member. You’re going to see us continue to push in those areas.”
Whitten also loves to hear criticism of the Xbox One: whether it’s positive or negative feedback, he uses it to get an idea of what gamers want with Microsoft’s next-gen console:
“I’ll just say what I’ve said before: this is why I love this space,” he said. “Because there’s nothing like being able to get so much feedback from the things people like and the things people don’t like. It’s, to me, what makes this special.
“I just don’t even there’s a type of product or anything out there that’s like video games that generates this, and I love it.
“I think the key for us is, we love core gamers. They’re the people that have built Xbox and Xbox Live. That’s the place where we need to do a better job showing up, and we need to engage more.
“In fact, that’s what I love about things like the petition. It makes me want to put stuff like that up on our website and just engage much more directly in how do we have these more direct kinds of conversations with people. I think it makes us build better products. I think that’s the key in the end.”
While Marc Whitten is certainly excited about the Xbox One, it seems the gaming community has their eyes on Sony’s next-gen contender instead. It will be interesting to see how (and if) Microsoft shift’s the focus onto the Xbox One, and what new features or approaches they will use in order to even out the playing field.
As it stands, Sony’s PlayStation 4 has dominated the pre-order charts–selling out various retailers like GameStop, but Microsoft may have have something planned for Gamescom or this year’s Tokyo Game Show.
In order to stand against Sony, Microsoft may have to shift its focus even more–they’ve already had to backpedal on their strict online policies as well as incorporate a headset in their $499 retail bundle. Whitten has also said that we will see the company focus more on advantageous offers for their Xbox LIVE subscribers–but if they don’t shift gears on their basic PR methods and showcase the console’s capabilities in a better light, then all of these changes may be for naught.