How Could Microsoft Have Set Expectations Better for the Xbox One?

I work with a lot of students. And they love video games. Most of them are Xbox owners, or play Xbox at friends’ houses.

Not one is excited for the Xbox One.

Via gametrailers.com. I personally dig the chunky retro styling, but I get why it’s not for everybody.

It’s taken some digging to figure out why. They’re pretty savvy. They’ve either watched the reveal or talked with friends who have, and they’re pissed that there wasn’t much time devoted to games.

I have an explanation for that — they wanted to get the platform and TV and services stuff out of the way so that they didn’t spend another E3 keynote babbling about SmartGlass and Netflix all over again. That stuff is boring when it happens at a game expo. (It wasn’t particularly thrilling at a separate event, but I’m more interested in it taken in isolation.) But that doesn’t fly with gamers, who want a game experience first and a media experience second (or not at all). With that in mind, I was okay with the platform and services speeches. In fact, I was kind of excited by the “other stuff” that would be peripheral to my gaming experience.

But not everybody was. There was especially some ire displayed when it came out through various outlets that the Xbox team were pretty thrilled by the presentation they gave, and were practically high-fiving each other backstage. Nobody else seemed that excited. Everybody else was still waiting to hear whether the console would have an always-on internet connection, what the used game market would look like, etc. And that’s when Microsoft should have struck — if not with answers, then with a savvy recalibration of the audience’s expectations.

Here’s what I would have put up on the Microsoft Facebook page the second I started getting the sense that what we’d done didn’t go over as well as we’d hoped. (Note, this is just something I whipped up in Photoshop.)

Seriously.

Repeat, NOT an official Microsoft thing, much as it may look it.

That would have acknowledged that they doubled down on platform and services, acknowledge that it was intentional, that it was something cool — and also indicate what I’m pretty sure is going to happen, which is that E3 will be the big push for games.

It’s funny to me that Microsoft’s messaging has been so bad on this. It’s like the Windows Phone thing all over again — something totally miscommunicated to the buying public.

I think that it’s a product of having essentially won the last console generation. Xbox was the standard to which cross-platform games were designed and made. Could this be Microsoft’s PS3 moment? The overconfident reach, the cell-processor hand-wavey futurism that totally misses the mark with the audience?

No doubt, Sony’s mea culpa to developers has gone over great with fans. I wonder if that goodwill will dry up when they start talking PSN and media during the E3 presser, though. We’ll have to wait another few days to find out exactly which way this will go, but one thing is for sure — after E3, we’ll know where both Microsoft and Sony really stand.

What about you? Were you alienated by the Xbox One’s reveal? What do you think is in store for the Xbox and PS4 at E3 this coming week?

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