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Microsoft says it's sorry employee told users to "deal with" always on Xbox, but won't promise change

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) next generation console hasn't even been officially announced yet, but things already took a very ugly turn, with an engineer blasting critical fans.  Now one of the top Xbox executives has backpedaled, apologizing for those remarks, although he would not say whether Microsoft was renouncing the anti-consumer digital rights management (DRM) that started the spat.

I. Next Generation Xbox Suffers PR Trainwreck

While it's still too early to say who will win the eight generation of console wars, Microsoft certainly appears the biggest loser in terms of publicity.

Things started off uneventfully in January with the leak of hardware specs, which reportedly is similar to the hardware driving Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758officially-announced PlayStation 4.  But Microsoft's PR troubles began soon after when top gaming blogs in February cited complaints from anonymous developers that's Microsoft's early SDKs/dev. kits were clunkier and harder to develop for than Sony's PS4 dev. kits.

Microsoft also dealt with a tell-all exposé by former Windows Sales VP and 20-year veteran, Joachim Kempin.  Mr. Kempin claimed to IGN that the Xbox has made almost no money for his former employer.  His comments were followed up by critical remarks from another former employee -- this time from the man who named the Xbox, Nat Brown.  In a blog entitled "Stupid, Stupid Xbox" the former Xbox team member lambasted the company's console as "creaky, slow, and full-of-s***."

Xbox 720
The Xbox 720 has been a PR mess for Microsoft.  [Image Source: Explosion]

But the company's biggest headache has been controversy over its rumored DRM scheme for the Xbox 720.  In February, various gaming blogs reported that the Xbox 720 would ban all used games via always-on DRM -- similar to the much loathed DRM scheme used by Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). A Sony executive added fuel to the fire, saying his company had no plans for used game bans with the PS4.  

While the company has refused to confirm or deny the existence of the next-generation console, much less the always-on DRM rumor, a firestorm of criticism has been mounting over the rumor.  

II. Microsoft Studios Director to Customers: Deal With It

What about users with slow rural internet connections?  Or what if you temporarily had an internet service outage?  

Customers have taken to Twitter and other social media outlets to voice their frustration and encourage Microsoft to rethink the rumored decision.  That's where things became even uglier when late last week Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orthy took to Twitter blasting Xbox fans that were criticizing the always on DRM.

Channeling his inner Charlie Sheen he told the fans to "deal with it" via a Twitter hashtag and said he didn't understand why they were upset.  He then implied that Microsoft doesn't care about rural users, suggesting that he "[wouldn't] want to live there":

Adam Orth comments
Those remarks led to more hatred and backlash in the social media sphere.  NeoWin user Siah1214 wrote, "This guy should be fired. I hope he's fired. He's an idiot."

III. Major Nelson: We're Sorry we Derailed And Said Wrong Things

Now Microsoft has gone on the defensive.  Microsoft's Xbox Live Director, Larry Hryb (who goes by "Major Nelson" online) posted an awkward apology to his Major Nelson website commenting:

We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers.  We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.

That response did little placate the growing crowd of angry cusomters and retailers, who have issued strongly worded statements about the potential ban on used games.

Xbox always-on DRM
Major Nelson would not deny that the next-gen Xbox will have always-on DRM and ban used games. [Image Source: Xbox 720 Guide]

On Major Nelson's blog, Xbox Live user "Peter Bauer" writes, "XBOX720 online the whole time= no buy for me, never" and "GoingPostal13" chides Major Nelson, "What you should have done is said: we are not implementing an always online console."

IV. Retails Also Jump Onboard the Microsoft Hate Train

The comments from retailers weren't much friendlier.

An interview roundup by UK gaming blog MCV carried such several criticisms.  Dixons Retail Plc (LON:DXNS) gaming category manager Christopher Rogers complained, "I do not think the UK broadband infrastructure is robust/fast enough for this to be a prerequisite.  Surely last month’s teething troubles with SimCity are a warning for this?"

Games Centre managing director Robert Lindsay complains:

If Microsoft incorporates the tech to lock out pre-owned games and Sony doesn’t then there is going to be only one winner in the next generation of consoles – and it won’t be Microsoft.

The publishers are completely out of touch with their consumers if they don’t understand how important pre-owned is in helping them fund new releases. It’s not rocket science to see that a £39.99 new release with no sell-on value will put a massive hole in consumers’ spending budgets.

And Games Dojo Manager Stephen Doyle warned that a ban on used games would "kill the Xbox."

Retailers say a ban on used games would "kill the Xbox". [Image Source: Flickr]

So while Microsoft works to be less offensive on the PR front, it's done precious little to quell the underlying source of criticism.  Will Microsoft indeed lock out offline users and ban used games?  It's too early to say, but if it's not planning that, it might be wise to issue an official clarification before the Xbox unit suffers more damage to its image.

Sources: Major Nelson, MCV

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Francis needs to calm down
By DFranch on 4/8/2013 12:35:43 PM , Rating: 5
If Francis doesn't calm down he's going to have a heart attack. He should smash his x-box, and join a gym or something.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By FITCamaro on 4/8/13, Rating: -1
RE: Francis needs to calm down
By quiksilvr on 4/8/2013 12:55:33 PM , Rating: 5
Considering his 370,000 subscriber count on YouTube, I'm pretty sure his job is...well, YouTube.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By NellyFromMA on 4/8/2013 7:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
I just have one question. Does Steam allow you to buy used games?

By inperfectdarkness on 4/8/2013 9:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
No. And this is one area that really needs to change. You don't see auto-makers designing cars that explode when you try to resell them. Houses don't become instantly unlivable when they are resold. Why software is "accepted" as being exempt is beyond me.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By Samus on 4/9/2013 12:00:58 AM , Rating: 2
Steam actually does one better. It allows you to GIVE your redundant games away. Give. As in free . For example, if you have Borderlands or Portal and buy BL2 Premium or Orange Box, your previous copies are released for giveaway because you purchase a product that included them.

EA doesn't let you do this on Origin. Just ask anyone who owns Battlefield 3.

By inighthawki on 4/9/2013 12:18:26 AM , Rating: 2
That's not always the case, although is often the case. If you buy large bundles that include games you already own you often don't get giftable copies. You could spend $100 on those big summer sale publisher packs and only get one game out of it if you really owned all the others. No giftable copies.

By TakinYourPoints on 4/9/2013 12:56:07 AM , Rating: 2
It does this only in very specific and explicitly stated cases. For as many times as Steam allows you to do this, you're SOL most other times.

As for the Steam comparison, yeah, consoles are catching up to where PC was years ago with Steam, Battlenet, etc. It was inevitable. We'll see how well Microsoft does managing their server uptime. Even the best at this like Valve or Blizzard have had substantial downtime both related and unrelated to new product launches.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By jharper12 on 4/11/2013 11:48:37 AM , Rating: 2
No, because physical media has to be exchanged as the current legal requirement to sell your used IP. It also has to be the original physical media for the first sale doctrine to apply. You should be able to sell your hard drive with the game on it, but that would still be a potential legal fight. At the same time though, Steam offers so many sales with prices around $2.50 that no one cares. Here's the deal, resale = stored value. If original price = price with resale minus resale price, then there is no value lost to the consumer. I think the real concern is that publishers etc will leave prices relatively untouched, but still eliminate resale. Effectively raising the price of the games. I think the Steam calculator demonstrates that most of us are getting a discount that compensates us for the loss of resale value. Steam overall = fair to the consumer. Locking out resale for the entire console/industry though would make it easier for a single party to choose to keep the difference and effectively raise prices without sticker shock.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By MrBungle123 on 4/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: Francis needs to calm down
By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 1:03:38 PM , Rating: 5
WTF?!?!?! If he can make enough money off google by producing youtube videos then what is the big deal?
at 370k subscribers to is channel, I'm 99.999% sure he's making and paying much more taxes than you.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By kleinma on 4/8/2013 2:58:22 PM , Rating: 2
So the government taxes my tax dollars and gives them to google to run youtube?

As annoying as I find his videos, they certainly aren't the worst thing one can come across on youtube. Just try searching for some of those 10 hour looped music videos. Be amazed at how many views some of those have.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By BRB29 on 4/9/2013 8:12:15 AM , Rating: 2
what are you talking about sir?
is this another baseless conspiracy?

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By Ammohunt on 4/8/2013 2:13:27 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah! WTF FAT GUY! <jumps on the new persecution of fat people band wagon>

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By ipay on 4/9/2013 11:03:47 AM , Rating: 1
Considering your mental deficits, you might qualify as well.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By Reclaimer77 on 4/8/13, Rating: -1
RE: Francis needs to calm down
By yomamafor1 on 4/9/2013 3:39:22 PM , Rating: 1
You make horrendous analogies.

By your analogy, you're basically saying because Simcity's always on DRM sucks, so we should all abandon games altogether. This is clearly not the concept.

A more accurate analogy in automobile term would be, "The SAAB joystick car sucks, so don't touch joystick steering". Simcity's always on DRM sucks, so don't touch always on DRMs.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By Reclaimer77 on 4/9/2013 5:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
By your analogy, you're basically saying because Simcity's always on DRM sucks, so we should all abandon games altogether. This is clearly not the concept.

Huh? No that's the exactly opposite of what I said. What I'm saying is the concept of always-on isn't horrible in itself, just because you can find individual examples of when it was implemented poorly.

RE: Francis needs to calm down
By maugrimtr on 4/11/2013 4:54:27 AM , Rating: 2
And the whole SimCity thing, seriously, enough. There was nothing fundamentally flawed about what EA did, the problem was the horrible server-side implementation of it.

Fundamentally, EA tried to force an offline game into being an always online game, and claimed it was not DRM but necessary for the game to function. Hackers have long since proven this is incorrect - the game can indeed function offline. This implies that EA are fundamentally liars.

By mcnabney on 4/8/2013 12:42:00 PM , Rating: 5
The idea that a connectivity issue will temporarily brick an Xbox720 is weapons grade stupid. It isn't just having an always-on requirement. It is actually an 'always be able to connect to a specific server requirement'. That makes them vulnerable to SimCity-like issues as well as become uniquely at risk from DDOS or other hack / redirect attempts. And then think on the back end. Will those servers be up and running forever? Or will they be turned off and brick every Xbox720 when the next generation comes out.

Pile the inability to play used games (which Sony WILL be able to play) and the fact that Sony will be able to play 4K movies (and Xbox720 won't) - all amounts to an Epic Fail in Microsoft's future.

By kleinma on 4/8/2013 3:07:28 PM , Rating: 1
Except a lot of what you say is speculation and even some fud.

1) Sony didn't say "you can play any used game on our console". Sony said "We will let the publishers decide how to handle that". That isn't sony on your side, that is sony being neutral to not piss off publishers or gamers. Is it a better stance than Microsoft right now? Maybe, but the used game market largely revolves around the top selling games. My guess is most, if not all, will have some sort of limitation on the used market. Both Sony and MS could end up with the same option of having one time use codes to activate, and having to purchase a use code again on the resale. This was already seen with the current gen consoles.

2) You have no idea what kind of authentication and server connections are going to be needed, as it may very well all be authenticated with a connection to xbox live. How many times as xbox live been actually down in the past several years? I can't recall a time, although I suppose maybe there was one at some point. The day xbox live shuts down for good, is the day xbox doesn't exist anymore anyway.

Yes 4k movies, we all want that to play on our.. oh wait, no one has a 4k TV. Sweet. I am sure it will be awesome to download a 50GB movie to your PS4. that should stream really well. Don't buy too many though, or you will run out of space.

In my experience, this is MS being honest about what they are going to deliver. Sony piles on the hype, and then just disappoints with the delivery. If you trust the company that gave you the PS3 with its once upon a time ability to play PS2 games, or run OtherOS, only to take it away, not to mention lose all your personal information due to lazy server practices, then have fun with that.

By nikon133 on 4/8/2013 5:31:56 PM , Rating: 2
You have some good points, but also too much bias in your post.

I'm not saying that Sony did perfect job with PS3, but I don't think they did any worst than MS with current gen. In fact, I prefer what they did.

I don't have "wisdom" to presume my opinion transfers to whole world, so I don't know how many customers were really screwed with cancellation of Linux. My priority for console always was cheaters/hackers free gaming and low price . I got my PS3 once they released slim, which came by default with no Linux. I could get either at the time - slim was just released - but I choose to get simplified one without Linux. Of few dozen PS3 gamers I know among my friends, colleagues and PSN contacts, no one ever complained about losing Linux. Most vocal complains came from people like that Geo... kid and others from hacking community, and while I don't care what anyone does with his console, I do care when what some do has potential to damage my experience, so personally I greeted that move.

Sony was making - for a while, at least - both PS2 compatible and non-compatible consoles, and buyers decided they want their PS3 cheaper. If there was more interest for compatibility, I'd expect it to stay around, for a price. Those Ps3 consoles that were compatible never lost compatibility, to my knowledge.

But Sony also provided decent BD player, while MS was trying to convince their customers that their might will make HD-DVD successful, leaving number of them with useless paper weight called HD-DVD player. I'm wondering if number of customers with useless (and not cheap at all) HD-DVD is higher than number of customers who really cared for Linux on PS3. I wouldn't be surprised if it is.

Sony also offered better build quality hardware. Number of hardware faults on PS3, again to my knowledge, was significantly lower than RROD issue that plagued X360 before slim.

Last but not least, while PSN was not as sophisticated as Live, it did have major advantage for many - online gaming was free. For people who purchased console primarily for gaming - me included - this was significant advantage.

Different people, different priorities; but as much as I am concerned, looking back at 4 years of owning PS3, I am really happy for choice I made.

By Etsp on 4/8/2013 5:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
This is one of VERY few issues I hope anonymous gets involved in.

"New game launch + Requires Always On DRM? DDos!"

By NellyFromMA on 4/8/2013 7:58:52 PM , Rating: 3
Seriously? This isn't even a RELEVENT issue. It's a consumer entertainment console. You really feel like THIS of all things is a cause anonymous should get involved in? LOL!

By Etsp on 4/9/2013 9:08:13 AM , Rating: 2
They can't fix anything important. This is one issue in which they MIGHT make a real-world impact, and it's an issue that probably affects a large number of the anonymous members.

If they can hurt the bottom-line of a always-on DRM product, it makes less business sense to continue to use that model. That's really the only way to get game publishers to stop with this BS, to hit them in their wallet.

By p05esto on 4/8/2013 4:41:46 PM , Rating: 2
If the Xbox requires internet OR bans used games then I will not purchase.... NO change in hell. I'll quick console gaming or stick to older platforms and PC gaming. DONE.

By p05esto on 4/8/2013 4:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
Why can't I edit my posts? Why can't I spell is the big question.

By Motoman on 4/9/2013 8:18:35 PM , Rating: 2
If it's any consolation, I'm relatively certain that there has, in fact, been no change in hell. Still really hot...still no iced tea.

By nikon133 on 4/8/2013 10:13:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well, if that move makes console games cheaper, I'll still consider. I mean, Steam games cannot be sold/purchased 2nd hand, but they are often cheaper than retail box with physical media, and Steam also gives specials on many titles quite often.

But if games keep current pricing with enforced Steam-like limitations, then...

By Manch on 4/11/2013 2:55:28 AM , Rating: 2
Check out the prices of the download games on xbox. They charge full price for them. Lots of times you can find that same game at reatail or online in physical form for much much cheaper brand new.

Always-on DRM Not acceptable
By Silma on 4/8/2013 7:04:48 PM , Rating: 2
I hope customers will boycott any Platform and game that forces you to be online for no other reason than DRM.
When I pay a sologame such as Diablo I expect to be able to play wherever I want whenever I want without being spied upon and tons of free metrics sent to the editor.

It is regrettable that Blizzard & EA & Ubisoft are going this way. They are destroying the future of a big and profitable industry It would be horrendous that platforms such as xbox or ps4 standardized the practice. I would hope a quick death for such platforms.

I sure didn't buy Diablo III, I am not buying SimCity and I won't buy any game that I can't play when I have no internet access.

RE: Always-on DRM Not acceptable
By hrah20 on 4/9/2013 3:04:38 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, if the rumors of of the nextbox are true they won't be getting my money anytime soon, I might even jump ship to the blue team

RE: Always-on DRM Not acceptable
By dxf2891 on 4/9/2013 11:24:30 AM , Rating: 2
I was a huge Diablo fan and loved the game. I do not own Diablo III. I will not own Diablo III. I wonder how many sales they missed out on due to this tactic? While I will defend to the death their right to publish platform they wish, I will also defend to the death my right to not buy it. I think there are a LOT of people out here who think like I do.

one day they will learn
By ctodd on 4/8/2013 1:50:48 PM , Rating: 5
Times are changing and I think people are slowing figuring out how they can influence decissions by just not buying their products. It is as simple as that. Look at W8, WP8, Surface, etc. You can complain until you're blue in the face. In fact, you will have people tell you to just deal with it. Well, my aswer is just don't buy their products. They may not come out and admit they were wrong, but they will regret their mistake! Most of my purchases are impulse buys, things I could otherwise live without. When I don't like a direction a company takes, I refuse to buy their products.

Just bad PR and marketing
By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 1:58:38 PM , Rating: 2
It's not that any of these things are really intolerable because we have all experienced it and most of us are fine with it. There are plenty of games that are online only.

Microsoft just have a bad way to marketing their products. Usually, it is "Buy this or buy this because you have no choice"
with xbox it's "We're going to spend so much money, it has to work"

Now it's "This is the way of the future and either you're with us or stay on the farm"

RE: Just bad PR and marketing
By M'n'M on 4/8/2013 3:35:45 PM , Rating: 2
Now it's "This is the way of the future and either you're with us or stay on the farm"

Hey, that piggie sure gotta purty mouth ! Here, piggie, piggie. Here, piggie, piggie.

By Da W on 4/8/2013 2:59:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's done before it even began, PS4 will win this bout. Nintendo is dead and a ban on used games will do it for Microsoft.

I wrote a piece in 1999 on the economics of piracy, saying that if you ban piracy people won't have anymore money than they have now to buy your software and they will just buy less, or you will have to drop your prices. Look at PC games with steam? Everybody is waiting for the big summer sale to buy games at 5.99$ cause they are stucked with them and can,t resell them. I know people who bught at least one Xbox game a week, because they resold them the next week and their total cost of usage was about 10$. They WILL NOT continue to buy new games for 59.99$ if you ban used games. Period.

I own a Surface Pro, got the first Windows phone in Canada 3 years ago, pay my 10$ a month for Xbox music and own Windows 8 on my 2 other computers. I sold my Microsoft stock last week cause with Xbox, i am now sure they just lost their touch. They behave like a Monopoly when in fact they aren't anymore.

It's a shame cause i HATE sony's controllers.

By inighthawki on 4/8/2013 4:07:47 PM , Rating: 2
I sold my Microsoft stock last week cause with Xbox, i am now sure they just lost their touch. They behave like a Monopoly when in fact they aren't anymore.

While I agree that MS seems to be losing some of their touch, I can't help but think that sounds like an over-the-top decision for something that is nothing more than pure speculation.

People get up in arms about rumor and speculation and MS has made no official statement regarding whether it's even true. For all we know this could be completely untrue, and people are whining just because some guy who worked at MS is a total d*ck.

Barely related...
By Motoman on 4/8/2013 5:46:15 PM , Rating: 2
...because I don't see anyplace better to post this at the moment, and it's a time-sensitive thing...

EA took notice last year when they won the Golden Poo. The CEO groused about it quite a lot.

If you want to give EA a kick to the noogies over, relatedly, the "always-on" requirement of SimCity for example, head on over to The Consumerist and vote for them. Or, for whatever other reason you may be displeased with EA about.

With the fury over Microsoft allegedly requiring an always-on new XBox, this kinda fits in here if you're one of the untold numbers of people who are upset with EA about the SimCity issue too.

Off with their heads!

RE: Barely related...
By Motoman on 4/10/2013 12:43:28 PM , Rating: 2
News is all over the internet that EA won again in a crushing landslide.

Etc. etc. etc. Funny how DT hasn't bothered noticing.

Backlash against the always-on DRM requirement of SimCity is frequently mentioned as a main cause for EA's, um, victory. And yes - it's DRM, no matter how EA (or Microsoft) tries to spin it.

Haven't seen any official response from EA yet - last year the CEO really b1tched and moaned about it.

Face it, EA et al - "always-on" is a capricious act and we don't like it. So knock it off.

Worth reposting
By TakinYourPoints on 4/9/2013 12:51:51 AM , Rating: 3
Don't get it
By Rage187 on 4/8/2013 1:50:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's perplexing how utterly stupid MS is being. The next thing that will get leaked is that you do not own the console and are only renting it, like DirecTV and Dish do with their cable boxes.

Who is running this ship aground?

There's Nothing To Announce
By Arsynic on 4/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: There's Nothing To Announce
By Rage187 on 4/8/2013 4:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yet, I'm a MS fanboy and find this all disturbing.

By dxf2891 on 4/9/2013 10:53:24 AM , Rating: 2
I've been a MS console supporter since the original Xbox and I currently have two Xbox 360s, but if MS moves to an always on system, me and my 334 member clan will move as well. Most likely to PS4, but if they choose to pursue this asinine route as well, this will open an opportunity for a new startup. I'm getting sick and tired of companies allowing their greed to dictate to their customers what they will get. Well guess what, we can dictate as well, with our dollars and purchasing power. Test us!

Ding-dong, the b1tch is dead!
By Motoman on 4/11/2013 1:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
Adam Orth is no longer with Microsoft.

Good riddance. Now, Microsoft et al - take notice: "always-on" is bullsh1t, and we won't stand for it. So if you release a product that capriciously requires an internet connection to be omnipresent, you can go f%ck yourselves with it.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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