The Top 5 Biggest Gaming Mistakes Microsoft Has Made

The popular theory that no press is bad press was put to the test for Microsoft when their unveiling of the Xbox One was met with a series of very humorous memes, and a stunningly low approval rating, that many would have a hard time calling good press.

As bad as it was though, it’s not exactly the worst tragedy in the history of mankind, the video game industry or, for that matter, even Microsoft’s gaming division.

So while the controversial Xbox One may prove to be their biggest bust of all, for now let’s all keep things in perspective by revisiting the top five biggest mistakes Microsoft has ever made.

5. The Duke

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A controller is one of the most important parts of launching a video game system, and when that system is your first one ever, may even come to define part of your image for all time.

If that is true, then unfortunately part of Microsoft’s image will always be that of a big fat failure.

“The Duke” as it would commonly be referred to, was a gargantuan gaming controller recognized by Guiness as one of the largest of all time, and by everyone else as one of the worst. Awkward for most, and impossible for some, “The Duke” would later be phased out in favor of the Japanese model “Controller S.”

Though it would lead to one of best controller designs of all time in the “360 Wireless,” few will ever forget the pain and hand aches associated with “The Duke.”

4. HD-DVD

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Though Blu-Ray hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the way that DVD’s did, Toshiba’s similar “HD-DVD” format didn’t even make a spark.

Yet when it came time to support a next-gen disc format, which one do you think Microsoft chose?

In a way it’s difficult to fault them for doing so, since at that time the format wars were far fom resolved, and Sony was a big backer of Blu-Ray, but try telling that to everyone that jumped the gun and bought a 360 HD-DVD player, only to have it collecting dust along with a small stack of HD-DVD titles less than a year later.

3. Acquiring Rare

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When Microsoft acquired developer Rare for a cool $375 million, it looked like they had pulled off one of the great gaming coups of all time. After all, Rare was only one of the most storied developers ever, and had produced the greatest N64 games this side of Nintendo.

Much like a brilliant assistant coach leaving Bill Belichick though, once Rare was free from the umbrella of Nintendo’s influence, they would flounder in the spotlight.

While the re-make of “Conker” for Xbox was fun, and the 360 launch game “Kameo: Elements of Power” was decent enough, it was that other 360 launch title “Perfect Dark Zero” that would define their future with Microsoft.

It’s a future that includes titles ranging from boring to broken, with hardly a commercial or critical hit to be found. While some gamers hold out hope for the glorious return of one of gaming’s most famed developers, or maybe just a new “Killer Instinct,” it’s looking less and less likely the 11 year old mega deal will ever pan out.

2. Lack of Support for the Japanese Market

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As one of the first U.S. grown gaming systems to make it, Microsoft has always had a strained relationship with gamers from the land of the rising sun.

You could argue that they are up against a cultural barrier that isn’t entirely their fault, but from soft system launches in Japan to serious issues in successively seeking out major Japanese developer’s support, Microsoft has done no favors for themselves when trying to gain the support of the creatively, and financially, lucrative Japanese market.

In many ways it feels like they’ve completely written off the idea of ever really selling in Japan and, as a result, guarantee they will never be able to make a serious impact on their biggest rivals until they do.

1. The Red Rings of Death

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Really, what else could it be?

The Xbox 360 did a lot of great things for gaming, but instead of being remembered for the brilliance of Xbox Live, or an assortment of classic titles, the lasting image of the 360 will always be blinking red lights indicating a massive system failure that almost every 360 owner has had to experience at some point, or at the least fear forever.

Though a return and re-furbish option became available, once you got the red rings, you never really escaped them, just as Microsoft would never be able to escape the issue, even late into the system’s life span when the lights would become far less prevalent.

Instead the red lights of death are Microsoft’s version of herpes, in that they dealt with it once, and it’s now with them forever.

  

The Xbox One’s Underwhelming Debut Leaves Far too Many Questions

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The last several years of gaming have taught us that there are quite a few ways to make a gaming announcement.

For instance, you can bring out a bunch of awkward presenters who sound like they’ve only seen a video game as a word atop an earnings report, you can hire a bunch of celebrities to shamefully shill your product, you can insert enough cheap jokes and crowd pop attempts to make pro wrestling blush, and of course you can overspend on the presentation to compensate for your drastic under planning on the actual execution.

In unveiling their new console today, Microsoft pulled out all of these, and more. Of course, we should have anticipated this as soon as we heard the name of that console, the Xbox One, which displays as much creativity as any of those mentioned techniques.

Putting aside the fact that Microsoft is comfortable naming their console of the future after a term used when people are specifying the original Xbox in conversation, the actual hour long unveiling that would follow was a jumble of ideas that probably didn’t leave the punch in the gut impression that Microsoft had intended.

Now granted, there were a few moments of inspiration during the presentation, but most of them were centered around the initial demonstration of the Xbox One’s voice operated multimedia capabilities which, even though it was more of an extended demo of the new Kinect, was exactly the kind of thing that you expect  from the next generation of gaming system.

From there though, things moved downhill. While aspects like the console’s bland looks, terrible, terrible name, and dull presentation style are ultimately trivial, what isn’t is the general impression that Microsoft is more interested in creating a multi-media device than they are a gaming system. This is evident in the lack of sufficient game announcements, dearth of in-game footage, choice to treat EA annual games like a big deal, and larger emphasis on getting RGIII and Steven Spielberg to cut promos over providing gamers with details like a price point (on Live and the console) or a solid release date.

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If you need any further proof of this dramatic shift in philosophy, look no further than the dodgy and haunting answers to the controversial issues of used game compatibility and always online features, which do nothing to quell the concerns of gamers.

Then again, the point is that the Xbox One doesn’t appear to be a gaming console as we’ve known it. While that could be a good thing in doses, and it’s obviously financially beneficial for Microsoft to focus on a multimedia device, if you’re a real gamer you’re probably still left shivering from that hour long cold shoulder.

Of course, realistically it is still too early to draw long term conclusions on the Xbox One, but the fact remains you only get one first impression, and the Xbox One’s first impression was not that of a confident  gaming system. You could argue that Microsoft is saving all of that “game stuff” for E3, but as mentioned, that is a bloated and archaic institution, whereas this was the moment that Microsoft was supposed to have all to themselves.

It’s quite possible that what we’ve just seen is the inevitable future of the business of video games. If it really is all about figures and market shares though, then Microsoft will do well to take notice of the rise in Sony’s stock shortly following the Xbox One announcement not as an apparition, but as a clear message of the dangers, and benefits, of first impressions and that this is a true make or break system for the Redmond institution that shows they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and come out with many more major whiffs, as they did today.

  

Much Like the Kinect, Microsoft’s Latest Decision to Take the Control of Games out of the Gamer’s Hands, Will be a Failure

 

I may never get a chance to do so elsewhere, so let me pay tribute to one of my favorite critics, the late, great Roger Ebert, by paraphrasing his famous review of the film “North” to convey my feelings on the news that the next Xbox will likely require you to always be online.

I hate that idea. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate it. I hate every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting implication of it. It hate the sensibility that thinks anyone will like it. I hate the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

While still not the official Microsoft statement, the recent, and soon to be infamous, tweets of Microsoft creative director Adam Orth on the subject seem to imply that if Microsoft isn’t already committed to the idea of making a console that requires an internet connection, they’ve certainly considered it.

Specifically he summed up the notion of a console that requires an internet connection with three simple words.

“Deal with it.”

Used as a rebuttal to every befuddled complaint thrown his way, Adam Orth would like it very much if we never dare question the motivations or intentions of Microsoft again. Because of these outlandish and insulting comments, Microsoft is now the ones who have to “deal with it,” as they scramble to make sure everyone knows that the views of Adam Orth “Do not reflect the customer centric views we take to our products.”

If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to laugh at that statement. You can either laugh at the implication that the creative director of Microsoft’s views somehow do not reflect the company he works for, or have a chuckle at the fact that the problem isn’t his viewpoints necessarily, but rather that he couldn’t say them in a more PR friendly manner.

Whatever you do though, don’t take this situation seriously. I do not mean to expect these rumors to turn out to be false (they most likely aren’t), but rather do not join the legions who will suddenly give credence to the notion of an online required console as a possible evolution of the medium, or attempt to play the devil’s advocate on the subject by attempting to analyze the notion as an inevitability.

For supporting this idea, Microsoft  is simply wrong. They were wrong when they released consoles that died more frequently than a light bulb, and they are wrong again in creating a new system that once again suggests that purchasing a console and owning a game does not guarantee your ability to use either.

There is no logical argument that exists to support a DRM system in the current state the technology exists in, for anyone not on the corporate take. While there are an abundance of logical arguments against the system, none should be used to entertain this particular notion. Instead, if you are opposed to this idea, please just laugh uncontrollably at it anytime a Microsoft representative brings up the idea publically, in order to pay the same respect to them, that they do to you by supporting DRM.

If the next generation Xbox is online only, it should also come with a statement that all owners must sign, have notarized, and officially submit to a court of law. That statement will read:

“We hereby wave our right to ever complain through any available medium regarding any technical issues that may arise preventing us from using our systems. We have weighed our options to choose rationality and common sense against blind allegiance, and have chosen to deal with it.”

  

Mini Xbox Is The Mother Of DIY Geekery

Mini Xbox is mini.Bandit5317 from Xbox Scene may have created the greatest DIY on the geek market to date. Over the course of six months he took an original Xbox and trimmed it down to a svelte 1″ thick package.

How did he manage such a feat? Well he removed the optical drive, for starters, and added a 320GB hard drive to turn the little console into the XBMC you’ve been praying for. He also removed the controller ports in favor of some USB and obviously a good portion of the cooling internals. In fact, that may be the one drawback. The smaller frame means the box runs a good bit hotter than you might want.

But she works, and she looks damn good in that tiny black…case. Check his forum post for a gallery of pics.

  

Facebook, Twitter To Hit Xbox Live This Fall

Facebook running on Xbox Live.For those of you thinking you might see Facebook or Twitter with the new dashboard update, you’ll have to wait. Not for long, though. Microsoft marketing man James Halton said today that Microsoft is set to release the social networks this fall on their Xbox Live service.

Halton would only get so specific as to say “”It will be before Christmas. A lot of the background work’s been done for a lot of applications that are coming.” So maybe that’s what comes with the August 11th update – background support for more up and coming applications. If you recall, that update also includes games on demand and Netflix movie parties.

Facebook/Twitter integration brings the 360 closer to the goal Microsoft so touted at the console’s release: to be the entertainment hub of the house. Now what’s there to get you off your couch? Oh, right. That would be Project Natal.

  

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