There's a very good argument that Microsoft's biggest failure this week was not its Xbox One policies, but its messaging. The way gamers were lumped with obligation, instead of opportunity.
Take the console's mandatory online check-in. For nearly every single one of you, that will never be a problem, at least on your end (should Microsoft's servers go down is another story). Practically, at least. But on principle, it's come across very badly, because all Microsoft said was that you needed to check in, not why.
You can sell almost anything to almost anyone if you package it right, and I wonder how differently Microsoft's week would have been had it let Xbox One engineering manager Jeff Henshaw talk about the online requirement like he did earlier today.
At a "closed-door meeting", reported by GamesIndustry, Henshaw gives what Microsoft has been lacking all week: a real enticement for being always-online, instead of just an order.
Sure, some developers had already tried this; Turn 10's Dan Greenwalt gave us some early, "first step" ideas for the use of cloud computing earlier in the week. But they were hardly as broad or ambitious a sell as this.
Saying that Microsoft has cloud servers spread all across the world to help run Xbox One games, Henshaw says "Game developers are building games that have bigger levels than ever before. In fact, game developers can now create persistent worlds that encompass tens or hundreds of thousands of players without taxing any individual console, and those worlds that they built can be lusher and more vibrant than ever before because the cloud persists and is always there, always computing."
"Those worlds can live on in between game sessions", he adds, drawing a line under games that would make this an extra and those where it's part of the game itself, the world updating every day. "If one player drops out, that world will continue on and can experience the effects of time, like wear from weather damage, so that when a player comes back into the universe it's actually a slightly evolved place in the same way that our real world evolves a little bit from the time we go to sleep to the time we wake up. Game developers have given us incredibly positive feedback on the crazy different ways that they can use this incredible new cloud power resource."
Vague promises of games to come at the time of a console's launch are hardly something you can take to the bank.
Is that enough to sway people's opinions? Without actual examples, it's hard to say. Vague promises of games to come at the time of a console's launch are hardly something you can take to the bank. And it's only half the coin; the other side of course being Microsoft is still wanting to exert some form of control over the console, which will never sit well with people.
But as bad as things seem now, if Microsoft and developers can actually take advantage of this network of servers and truly provide "living" game worlds, as nebulous as that sounds now, they may bring people around to the idea of having a console tethered to the internet. Slowly and reluctantly, maybe, but as we've already explored earlier this week, gamers will let a company do almost anything to them if they're convinced the experience is worth it.