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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."

Xbox RROD
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
quote:
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
quote:
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.


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