What a difference a day makes; or sometimes just a few hours. Yesterday our analysis of E3’s marketing by the Big Three noted that “While right now Microsoft’s policies are not as popular as Sony’s, it’s perfectly possible to change policies with a single press release. Microsoft can do that at any time…” Only a few hours later, Microsoft did just that, completely reversing its previously stated policies on connectivity and used games for the Xbox One.
In a blog post, Microsoft’s president of Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick acknowledged the strong responses of fans to Microsoft’s Xbox One announcements, and particularly how much fans liked the freedom to play offline and the ability to lend, share and resell games. Mattrick then revealed that Microsoft has changed its approach to the Xbox One, stating:
“So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games — After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today — There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.”
So, the Xbox One will handle used games just like current consoles, and aside from an initial connection for setup, no connection is required. Problem solved, right Not completely. While the Xbox One is now on an even footing, policy-wise, with Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft cannot ignore the damage that has already been done to the Xbox One’s image. There’s a lot of work left to be done. First of all, Microsoft has to make sure that this message is spread far and wide, and as much as possible reaches all of the gamers who had reacted badly to the initial policies. Hopefully Microsoft execs will be available for interviews (unlike the situation at E3, where executive interviews were almost non-existent) to drive home the points Mattrick just made.
An extensive PR effort right now is just the beginning. Whatever marketing plans Microsoft had made for the Xbox One, they need to be revised and enhanced. Microsoft should probably add a significant amount of the marketing spend, and get the campaign started earlier. Reports indicate that the PS4 is off to a strong lead in pre-orders, and Microsoft should aim to reverse that. The Xbox One already is at a disadvantage because of its higher price. Marketing is needed to convince customers that extra $100 is more than justified by the benefits of the hardware.
There are many different approaches Microsoft could take in its marketing campaign, but overcoming this early PR misstep is going to require substantial effort. Microsoft’s made a good start at correcting the problem; let’s hope for a thorough follow-through.