Microsoft made a gaming box that didn’t game well, banked on controlling the content gateway with an expensive peripheral that customers despised and resented paying for, and wondered why it didn’t sell.
Charlie Demerjian, on Microsoft unbundling the Kinect from the Xbox One. The whole post is well worth the read for his take on how Microsoft has grown “irrelevant to computing”.

Chris Kohler on the news that Microsoft will soon begin selling a $399 version of the Xbox One without the Kinect:

Price is the problem, as others have learned recently. Getting Xbox One’s price in line with PlayStation 4′s was paramount, and matching Sony in terms of online video streaming features was as well since that is also an extra cost associated with Xbox ownership. Microsoft having to suck it up again and roll back a feature to get the price down illustrates that this was really its only feasible move. (Getting rid of an unpopular peripheral has got to hurt a lot less than Sony having to ditch backward compatibility to get PlayStation 3′s price to a palatable level.)

I’m not sold that price is the only problem here. As I’ve said from the outset, this latest generation of consoles sound like mediocre upgrades at best. They’re not Wii U-level disasters, but they’re just too “meh" to compete in a world that is increasingly mobile.

Further, I think Microsoft just created a quagmire for developers who were told time and time again that all Xbox One’s would ship with the Kinect. With the change, who in their right mind would create a game that takes full advantage of the device? And that, in turn, will ensure the device itself is not a success.

Dawn Chmielewski:

Interviews with several entertainment industry executives who have attempted to do business with Xbox Entertainment Studios describe an operation with big ambitions to dominate the living room, but one that has gotten off to a rough start.

Sources paint a picture of a disorganized studio that struggles to close deals and lacks a fully fleshed-out business model. This inability to execute has turned off potential studio partners, they say, complicating the process of securing premium content.

Welcome to the land war in Asia, Microsoft.

tendoboy1984 asked:

Your article about Windows Phone being late to the market was an interesting read. Microsoft still has a chance to be successful though. Consider the Xbox for example... They were very late coming to the video game industry compared to Nintendo (Xbox came out in 2001, the NES came out in 1985). Despite this very late start, the Xbox brand is now as successful as Sony's PlayStation, and both consoles get all the big 3rd-party games.

While that’s true about Microsoft with the Xbox (and even Sony with the Playstation — a company that originally wanted to partner with Nintendo), the smartphone business is very different.

Thanks to apps, content, and things like iMessage, there is decidedly more lock-in in mobile. Yes, the video game consoles have some lock-in with their games, but because the business changed so much generation to generation (with mixed backward compatibility results), there were obvious “switch points”. That’s not quite the same with mobile.

More importantly, Microsoft (and Sony) could get into the gaming business because they could buy their way in with the large publishers of games. So far, that hasn’t worked for Microsoft with smaller app developers. While money is money, time is often more valuable to these small teams. And they’re not going to waste time on a platform with relatively few users.

While everyone else was scrambling to get stories written as quickly as possible following the Xbox One unveiling, Wired’s Peter Rubin got the “exclusive” early look. And Wired’s presentation is quite nice.

I’m still not sure what to think of the new Xbox. Certainly, Microsoft did a better job presenting it to the world than Sony did a few weeks back with the Playstation 4. But even Rubin’s thoughtful walk-through makes the whole thing sound fairly complicated. I’m still just not sure that tablets and smartphones haven’t changed the gaming and living room space more than any of the old guard in the console arena cares to admit. (Though it’s looking like Nintendo will have to sooner rather than later.)

I had both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. Overall, I found them to be solid systems with a number of UI/UX frustrations that I simply don’t think I have the patience for anymore. And then, of course, the red ring of death. Maybe Microsoft has greatly improved the experience here. We’ll see.

Certainly some of the new Kinect stuff sounds interesting. But the “wow” factor of the first Kinect seemed to subside faster than anyone thought it would. Just like the Wii before it. I’ll take simplicity and great user experience over something that gives good demo any day. 

With that in mind, I’m still more optimistic about whatever Apple brings to the table here whether it’s later this year or early next year. Surprise, surprise, I know. But there is zero chance I’m going to deal with IR-blasters to have a “seamless” experience.

Tom Warren for The Verge:

The functionality will work by taking a cable box signal and passing it through to the Xbox via HDMI, allowing Microsoft’s console to overlay a UI and features on top of an existing TV channel or set-top box. We’re told that this is a key part of the next-generation Xbox and that it will go a step further than Google’s TV implementation thanks to Microsoft’s partnerships with content providers. Extended support for various cable services will be rolled out gradually, but the basic functionality will be available at launch.

While Google TV obviously went nowhere, I view this as a smart play by Microsoft. The content partnerships are key. Let’s hope they can get all of them in place.

On the other hand:

Coupled with this TV functionality, Microsoft’s next-generation Kinect sensor will also play a role in the company’s TV focus. The Verge has learned that the next Kinect will detect multiple people simultaneously, including the ability to detect eye movement to pause content when a viewer turns their head away from a TV. 

I really don’t understand this functionality. It sounds like a stupid novelty in the new Samsung Galaxy phone, and I think it’s worse here. Given how many people now “watch” TV with a second screen, is it going to pause every three seconds?

Anonymous asked:

You give Apple to much credit. Apple TV will never be able to kill consoles, because it won't be powerful enough to play Call of Duty. These CoD kids are the ones driving the market. Gamers want Skyrim and Assassins Creed, epic "real games" and nothing being made for Apple TV can replace those. I'm sure you love Angry Birds but the kids don't want that crapp

A couple things here:

1) I have no doubt that those hardcore games will remain a big deal and a good business. But I think more casual games, with the right hardware mixed in, could eventually be a bigger business.

2) You look at the Apple TV right now and you see a piece of hardware that can’t match the Xbox. But how far away is it really? I can now play the same Grand Theft Auto III that I used to play on my Xbox on my iPad/iPhone. The Apple TV runs on the same stack (even if you can’t see it yet). And, like those devices, the hardware is on a yearly refresh cycle — not the 5-to-10 year refresh cycle of gaming consoles (which is ridiculous and not tenable going forward).

So let’s revisit this comment in a couple years, shall we?

Nat Brown, one of the founding members of the Xbox team within Microsoft, absolutely eviscerates the current direction of the product:

My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.


Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world. I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and tv-uses was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of.


Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox by introducing an open 30%-cut app/game ecosystem for Apple-TV. I already make a lot of money on iOS – I will be the first to write apps for Apple-TV when I can, and I know I’ll make money.

Read the whole thing. My sense is that Brown is dead-on. Microsoft “won” that last round of the console wars, but that may actually hurt and not help them. Because what they think most users will want is actually just an illusion — a reflection of the past.

The next Xbox sounds like a great power gamer machine, but what if the real competition is not the Playstation or the Wii-U, but the as-yet-untapped Apple TV running iOS games?

I was an Xbox fan for a long time — I owned three different models until I finally got fed up with all the quirks of the software (some of which Brown addresses in his post) and threw the thing out the window. The new Xbox should have been released at least two years ago. Microsoft rested on their laurels for too long. Now they have to hope Apple doesn’t release an SDK for the Apple TV before they unveil the new Xbox.

A fascinating, in-depth look by Wesley Yin-Poole for Eurogamer.net. One humorous bit at the beginning from 2001 when Bill Gates was about to give the keynote at the Tokyo Game Show:

Backstage, Gates turned to Kevin Bachus, at the time Xbox director of third party relations and the man charged with getting all those Japanese executives out there in the audience to make games for Microsoft’s new console. “Here, hold this,” Gates said, pulling out his wallet. “I don’t like having anything in my pocket when I’m talking.”

Suddenly, Bachus was holding the wallet of the richest man in the world. It felt thin, as if only a credit card and a driver’s license were inside. “I was terrified to even open it,” he remembers over a decade later. “But of course that’s all you need when you’re a billionaire right?”

unbearablehamster asked:

2005: "When Microsoft got into the console game in 2001, much was made of the fact that it lost an estimated $125 per console on each Xbox. Four years later, that per-console-hit has tallied to $4 billion of red ink for the Redmond, Washington-based software colossus, whose current-fiscal-year forecast calls for $44.5 billion in revenue." Microsoft is a past master at taking huge losses on consumer devices to gain market share.

True, but again, Xbox was a new product in a new division that did not cannibalize other divisions. Surface will cannibalize the Windows division. 

That’s a division that brought in $2.4 billion in profit last quarter and $11.5 billion for the year. BTW, the Entertainment and Devices Division (which is essentially all Xbox being offset by Windows Phone)? It still *lost* $263 million last quarter. 

dos3age-deactivated20110822 asked:

You said Xbox 4 is nearing.. what happened to Xbox 3?

Oh, right. Fucking “360” name threw me off :) 

I do wonder what they’ll call this one. I assume the last time it was “Xbox 360” because they didn’t want to be “Xbox 2” going against “Playstation 3”.

This time I wouldn’t be surprised if they scrap numbers altogether and go with something to convey more Kinect-like stuff. That, or something esoteric that no one will get besides six people in Redmond.

Or, Xbox Live Windows SkyDrive 7 Media Series Box. Home Edition.

So if I’m reading this correctly, Xbox will now be a cable box?

That’s cool, I guess — the interface is much better than any cable box out there (which isn’t really saying anything as cable boxes are huge pieces of shit across the board). But it will still require a full-on cable contract, where you pay for tons of crap you don’t want. 

I’d prefer a bit more thinking outside of the box, as it were.