In two weeks' time, we may look on this as one of the smartest PR moves of all time. But for now? It's been a bad day for Microsoft.
Seeking perhaps to head off criticisms that it had been vague (at best) and incompetent (at worst) in its messaging of core Xbox One services at the console's reveal last month, Microsoft today unleashed a flood of news, detailing the specifics of how the machine handles things like internet connectivity and used game sales.
The news was almost all bad.
Here's a recap:
- The console must connect to the internet once every 24 hours in order for you to play games. For many people, from military personnel to students, that's an inconvenience, maybe even an impossibility. Never mind what happens to everybody's console if Microsoft's servers ever come down.
- The Xbox One will allow the sale of used games, at "participating retailers", but only if the publisher allows it. Publishers being the very people opposed most fiercely to used video game sales.
- There are restrictions on how you can "give" and "loan" your games away. What's more, lending won't be available at launch, with Microsoft still "exploring the possibilities with our partners".
Even some of the "good" news is really just "not as bad news". Or "an avoidance of bad news".
- Responding to fears over privacy issues surrounding the "always plugged-in" Kinect, Microsoft says you can turn the Kinect off.
Leaving the sole piece of "oh, OK, that's pretty cool news" to be:
- You can have up to ten people in your Xbox One "family", and can share all your content among them, regardless of which console they're using.
If Microsoft can't answer now, it creates the impression it doesn't know now.
Response to the bulk of the news, which challenges a lot of long-held norms like the lending of game discs and the ability to play a games console whenever you want, has been predictably damning, the Xbox One being labelled everything from anti-consumer to dead on arrival across gaming forums and Twitter.
Making matters worse is that while some of the information provided is vague and confusing, the company is refusing to clarify, saying the news details "everything we can share today", and that "We look forward to sharing more details in the months ahead". If Microsoft can't answer now, it creates the impression it doesn't know now.
While it's hard to fathom why Microsoft would walk into the fire like this, only a few days out from the biggest video game trade show of the year (E3), the timing and nature of the info dump may actually be the very reason.
Could Microsoft be taking its lumps now, among the video gaming hardcore and away from the international spotlight of E3? Leaving their presentations next week to be about the things that might actually sell the console, like games? Let those have the last marketing laugh?
You'd have to hope so. Otherwise the Xbox One is going to have a very steep hill to climb to win over a market growing increasingly dismayed at its core services and "features".
Note: It's important to remember that, while Microsoft is catching all the heat today, Sony has likewise been vague about many of these same issues, and it remains to be seen whether the PlayStation 4 will share any similar restrictions or policies.