Phil Spencer: We Shouldn't Have "Sugar-Coated" Xbox One Controversy

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Phil Spencer: We Shouldn't Have "Sugar-Coated" Xbox One Controversy

Microsoft Studios chief Phil Spencer believes the initial Xbox One messaging was "confused," and states the core of why MS is in the video game industry was not "an evil reason."

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Microsoft hasn't had the smoothest of console reveals when it unveiled the Xbox One to the general public last year. Part of this was due to how the company relayed its message to gamers regarding the Xbox One's key "features" -- a notion shared by Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer. Speaking during the SXSW gaming expo, Spencer admits that Microsoft's Xbox One messaging during its key reveals last year could have been handled better and even deems it as "confused."

I look at last summer and that wasn't a highpoint for me, coming out of the announcement of Xbox One and E3, where I thought our messaging around what we believed in was confused.

While Spencer doesn't specify which messaging Microsoft got wrong, chances are, it references the Xbox One's former DRM and always-online stance, which thankfully, got reversed. Continuing, the Microsoft exec states one of the reasons why he wanted to be more active socially was because he knew the core of why Microsoft was in the video game business was "not an evil reason," but to build a great product that "millions of people would love."

One of the reasons I wanted to be a little more active socially was because I knew the core of why we were in this industry was not an evil reason. It was to really delight consumers and build a great product that millions and millions of people would love.

Spencer states that he believes when when you're going to say something to a consumer, it's better to be direct and honest about it, rather than try and "sugar-coat something that might be controversial." He also adds that he thinks the members of the Xbox brand "leadership team" are building on what they learned during the console's reveal.

I learned a ton last summer as leader of our groups about being true to your core vision about what a product is, not being confusing, and frankly, when you're going to say something to a consumer that might put them off, it's better to just be direct and honest, rather than trying to sugar-coat something that might be controversial...I'd rather deal with the controversy of what we're doing, and have an above-table conversation about that topic, rather than trying to sugar-coat it with some other news. And again, my interactions over the last six months, and I really think the interactions of [Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi] and [Xbox corporate vice president Marc Whitten] and other members of the leadership team - we're meaning to build on what we learned last summer, and just build on who we are as people.

You can catch Spencer talking about the Xbox One's messaging at the 11-minute mark in the video.

In the same event, Spencer also addressed the difference between PlayStation Plus and Xbox's Games With Gold program and says it will be "more true" to what he thinks it should be in the future.

I don't know about you, but I like Spencer's honesty and candid reaction to the questions that most executives might avoid or even gloss over with standard PR fluff. Do you think Microsoft is doing a better job with the Xbox One's messaging now? What other areas should they improve regarding the company's public image and how it communicates to gamers?

Source: YouTube via TotalXbox

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hindsight is 20/20. i'll wait n see if they learn from those mistakes

The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

What I take away, from these soundbites at least, is that Microsoft isn't done trying to get these features into their console or future consoles.

They just need to find a better way to "package" it.

A lot of the controversy was because of the worries built up by the Xbox 360's track record and the Xbox One sort of confirmed it.

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

Good point. I do like Spencer and how he's more transparent, though. He answers people on Twitter, and seems like a genuine guy who had to deal with bad stuff (ie: Xbox One reveal).

Even if Microsoft drops the price, it's still an uphill climb seeing as more and more people are being schooled on how most third-party titles look and perform better on PS4. Maybe take out Kinect, drop the price to $350? I dunno. Might work, but it's too early for the console to do that. Doing so might give signs that they're in panic mode or something.

Alex..... don't summarize the quote.... AND then place the full quote you summarized into the article. It makes it annoying to read and makes you look like a lazy writer.

OT: Of course it's PR fluff. They, like EA, are a giant corporation run by stockholders which means their ONLY goal is to make money at all cost. For every person that is there to make a good system that people will enjoy, there's 30 there who will sabotage it in the name of profit and those are the ones that get the promotions.

Confused?

image

Mr. Spencer, your customers knew damn well that your company was trying to screw them solely for it's own benefit and none of theirs, and the attempts to B.S. the way out of it only made it even worse. The customers called Microsoft out on the fact that you were trying to screw them over, there was nothing confused about it. The "core vision" was the death of ownership and secondhand game sales, nothing more, and we all realized it.

Alex Co:

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

Good point. I do like Spencer and how he's more transparent, though. He answers people on Twitter, and seems like a genuine guy who had to deal with bad stuff (ie: Xbox One reveal).

Even if Microsoft drops the price, it's still an uphill climb seeing as more and more people are being schooled on how most third-party titles look and perform better on PS4. Maybe take out Kinect, drop the price to $350? I dunno. Might work, but it's too early for the console to do that. Doing so might give signs that they're in panic mode or something.

I'd say he's trying to do the right thing in a less then ideal situation. These days I usually wait on some kind of company action than worry too much about the upper management and PR comments, though. Implementation has been the bane of the AAA gaming software industry for the last half a decade, let alone the hardware industry.

snekadid:
Alex..... don't summarize the quote.... AND then place the full quote you summarized into the article. It makes it annoying to read and makes you look like a lazy writer.

OT: Of course it's PR fluff. They, like EA, are a giant corporation run by stockholders which means their ONLY goal is to make money at all cost. For every person that is there to make a good system that people will enjoy, there's 30 there who will sabotage it in the name of profit and those are the ones that get the promotions.

Contemplated writing it the "usual way" but since it's kinda long, some people might just read the headline and not the actual meat of the post (yes, that happens a TON). Did it this way so it's easier to digest. :)

I believe a corporation can make money and not be a douchey McDouche douche at the same time. Case in point right? Sony. Hitting all the right notes and their stance of being "pro-gamer" is paying off.

Colt47:

Alex Co:

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

Good point. I do like Spencer and how he's more transparent, though. He answers people on Twitter, and seems like a genuine guy who had to deal with bad stuff (ie: Xbox One reveal).

Even if Microsoft drops the price, it's still an uphill climb seeing as more and more people are being schooled on how most third-party titles look and perform better on PS4. Maybe take out Kinect, drop the price to $350? I dunno. Might work, but it's too early for the console to do that. Doing so might give signs that they're in panic mode or something.

I'd say he's trying to do the right thing in a less then ideal situation. These days I usually wait on some kind of company action than worry too much about the upper management and PR comments, though. Implementation has been the bane of the AAA gaming software industry for the last half a decade, let alone the hardware industry.

Indeed he is. Most likely trying to do the best he can under the current situation -- though it is getting better for MS and the Xbox One in a way.

And by sugar-coat, you mean covered in bullshit? The messaging around the Xbox One relied on the complacency or stupidity of the target audience. As it turned out, gamers are neither as complacent nor stupid as Microsoft thought. They'll get no love from me for admitting they were trying to con me. If they want my patronage, they need to do more than just repackage their shitty vision, they'll have to actually revise that vision to give a proper value to the customer. Acting like your taking your lumps and becoming a reformed citizen because of it means jack if you don't demonstrate the change with some action.

It's pretty simple really. A company creates a vision for their product and the consumer decides if they like that vision or not. MS was so damned arrogant it really did think that it could straight up impose that vision on us whether we liked it or not. The messaging was more than just confused; it was also condescending, arrogant, self-serving, inept and in some cases blatant lies. We can move past all that though MS. Just offer a better value proposition and I'll consider your product again.

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

In the UK they put the price of the XB1 down so its equal to the PS4. Not sure if this is happening in rest of the world. The Titanfall bundle is 400 which is like the cost of a PS4 + Game. That game is being rated well, though i have zero interest in it. Its why those on the fence are waiting till E3 to see what all the new games are in the future. There was a lot of bullshit with the release but over time it wont matter. Same as PS3 when they removed BC and other bits from the console over time, people moaned but the PS3 sold really well.

Alex Co:

snekadid:
Alex..... don't summarize the quote.... AND then place the full quote you summarized into the article. It makes it annoying to read and makes you look like a lazy writer.

OT: Of course it's PR fluff. They, like EA, are a giant corporation run by stockholders which means their ONLY goal is to make money at all cost. For every person that is there to make a good system that people will enjoy, there's 30 there who will sabotage it in the name of profit and those are the ones that get the promotions.

Contemplated writing it the "usual way" but since it's kinda long, some people might just read the headline and not the actual meat of the post (yes, that happens a TON). Did it this way so it's easier to digest. :)

I believe a corporation can make money and not be a douchey McDouche douche at the same time. Case in point right? Sony. Hitting all the right notes and their stance of being "pro-gamer" is paying off.

Colt47:

Alex Co:

Good point. I do like Spencer and how he's more transparent, though. He answers people on Twitter, and seems like a genuine guy who had to deal with bad stuff (ie: Xbox One reveal).

Even if Microsoft drops the price, it's still an uphill climb seeing as more and more people are being schooled on how most third-party titles look and perform better on PS4. Maybe take out Kinect, drop the price to $350? I dunno. Might work, but it's too early for the console to do that. Doing so might give signs that they're in panic mode or something.

I'd say he's trying to do the right thing in a less then ideal situation. These days I usually wait on some kind of company action than worry too much about the upper management and PR comments, though. Implementation has been the bane of the AAA gaming software industry for the last half a decade, let alone the hardware industry.

Indeed he is. Most likely trying to do the best he can under the current situation -- though it is getting better for MS and the Xbox One in a way.

To be honest I think Sony hides quite a lot, if I remember correctly there were a lot of things that we still didnt know about the console right before its release (things that Microsoft already talked about, even if what they said was bad).

The mentality to get a PS4 wasnt exactly that it was the amazing console that was promised but that it simply wasnt the Xbox One. Microsoft at least comes clean more often even if they do the most shit.

Just very recently it was that Killzone MP thing of it not running 1080p like we were told so much. Microsoft just straight out says that their games barely run 1080p (Forza is the only one, right?).

I still do think the PS4 is the better product but Sony really needs to bullshit so much about their products and just say what they are (since even then they usually still hold the advantage over the competitor like in the case of the resolution).

SonOfVoorhees:

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

In the UK they put the price of the XB1 down so its equal to the PS4. Not sure if this is happening in rest of the world. The Titanfall bundle is 400 which is like the cost of a PS4 + Game. That game is being rated well, though i have zero interest in it. Its why those on the fence are waiting till E3 to see what all the new games are in the future. There was a lot of bullshit with the release but over time it wont matter. Same as PS3 when they removed BC and other bits from the console over time, people moaned but the PS3 sold really well.

The price drop hasn't hit my retail location yet. Right now it still feels like there aren't enough interesting games on either system to really push people into purchasing. The Playstation Vita is finally getting the love it deserves after being out for nearly two years, and I'd imagine that the Xbox one and the PS4 are going to be in a similar boat. On the plus side, at least most of the late coming games to the PS3 are also getting released on the Vita. That was a major issue moving out of the PS2 era when people transitioned to the PS3: A lot of those swan song titles such as the Persona series were glossed over because they weren't released before the PS3 launch.

I don't care about the intention, much more about what the end result is, and the end result was people getting fucked over more than being benefitted. However, the DRM is gone so I hold no ill will towards Microsoft. I don't love them, but I don't harbor any bad feelings about them.

Looks like Microsoft got a visit from...

klaynexas3:
I don't care about the intention, much more about what the end result is, and the end result was people getting fucked over more than being benefitted. However, the DRM is gone so I hold no ill will towards Microsoft. I don't love them, but I don't harbor any bad feelings about them.

I do. To me, that's like having someone trying to punch you in the head, repeatedly, and then after enough people tell them to stop they eventually quit... until the time is right to punch you in the head again. I'm not about to be grateful they had the common sense to STOP trying to punch my head.

... I'm more concerned by the fact they've continued to make statements that their "original vision" is still in the cards. They're just trying to figure out a better way to implement it that's less obvious and direct.

SonOfVoorhees:

Colt47:
The damage has been done already and there is very little they can say or do to change public opinion of the Xbox One. However, the public opinion of the console isn't even the primary issue for them at the moment. The PS4 is both cheaper and provides a better over all package than the Xbox One.

In the UK they put the price of the XB1 down so its equal to the PS4. Not sure if this is happening in rest of the world. The Titanfall bundle is 400 which is like the cost of a PS4 + Game. That game is being rated well, though i have zero interest in it. Its why those on the fence are waiting till E3 to see what all the new games are in the future. There was a lot of bullshit with the release but over time it wont matter. Same as PS3 when they removed BC and other bits from the console over time, people moaned but the PS3 sold really well.

where I live you cant get a PS4, they just are not in stock.

but an Xbone? take your pick, there some that have been on the shelf for so long they actually have dust collected.

hell, the Ps4 game cases typically have five or so games sold out entirely while the Xbone and the 360 game case are suspiciously mixed in together.

as for the price? nope, still the same $500 here. I actually think the second Microsoft removes the kinect is when they will start actually selling consoles.

Crazy, right? take something out that people dont want and has never worked the way you say it works and you might start selling your product.

I should get paid by Microsoft for this.

I think their message was perfectly clear to anyone with a bit of gaming savvy. They tried to screw over their customers with DRM (likely because they saw how much money Valve make) not only did it backfire because they got called on their bullshit it gave Sony plenty of opportunities to talk up the PS4.

Plus they still haven't addressed the whole Kinect thing, because of it and the language issues with non English speaking countries and even some that do but with a heavy local dialect the console is available to less people so they are going to sell less. Region locking them so you couldn't even import one was another mistake.

I only hope that now under the direction of a new CEO that they cut their bullshit and get back to making products people want. I guess we will find out soon enough at GDC with DirectX 12. I hope they make it available to all the newer OSs not just 8.1.1 or 9. It would be a step in the right direction for MS.

inb4image

What are they going to say next? That the earth orbits the sun? That balls are generally round? This is stating the obvious at its very best.

Why is MS dragging this bullshit back out again?

Titanfall not moving as many units as they hoped?

The Hungry Samurai:
What I take away, from these soundbites at least, is that Microsoft isn't done trying to get these features into their console or future consoles.

They just need to find a better way to "package" it.

Well, let's be honest "DEAL WITH IT" wasn't' the best approach in the world. Particularly when followed (after they changed course) with "People just didn't understand our vision".

TBH, I feel for M$ here. I truly believe they are trying to innovate. Unfortunately, they put themselves at the forefront of the battle between consumers and content providers over ownership of digital content.

Content owners want to strictly control digital content, but consumers expect that digital products function in the same way as "real" products.

The need for your console to check in daily was just pretty silly, considering the non-total broadband availability in their strongest market.
The removing of their customers inability to buy, trade, sell or give away copyrighted material they owned was the big problem. It was a move designed solely to strip rights from their customers to benefit themselves and there is no sugar-coating that.
The question is, knowing that Microsoft wanted these things for their console, are you willing to still purchase one from them? Because always online isn't gone, games that harness the 'power of the cloud,' whether they need to or not, will serve just fine, for MS, as an always online requirement. Though it doesn't seem likely the can find a way to pretty up the no used games idea, it should be a given that if they do find one, they will go with it.

Yeah, you can't do floor salesman techniques when you aren't one on one with the customer; it doesn't work.

Once Microsoft release the inevitable "Xbox one Slim/Elite" is when they will start shifting consoles, especially if there is a Kinect free version. That's what im hoping anyway, i refuse to get an X1 while Kinect is being sold with ut.

This sounds like a ridiculously sugar-coating wishy washy speech. It's buzzwords and no substance

'I'm sorry for not being 'true' to our 'core-vision'' etc. What the frig is your core vision?

As sugar coated as it was, I'm actually pretty pleased that he brought this up at all.

Have the issue with the Xbone for me was the total disconnect between corporation and consumer. It felt like Microsoft was trying to sell their product in a different galaxy and we were just picking up the transmissions on accident.

It isn't much, but even this minor acknowledgment is a decent sign.

"Confusion"? Yeah, that might be one way of putting it.

What I remember of the XBox One lead-up was like something blew up after the initial reveal. Then there were MS people being belligerent in their defense of those features, others who didn't know the specifics of how things would pan out but still managed to go on about their lack of information at great length with vague platitudes about how great everything was going to be, others who clearly did have some idea what was going on but were equally clearly afraid to say anything for fear of threatening their own employment or stepping on the official statement of some other talking head, and still others who wanted to be conciliatory but didn't really have the clout to actually suggest that things were getting better. Occasionally you would see different stances from the same person within the course of a week.

Ultimately, they sort of pulled a U-turn and made gestures indicating that they were listening. But Microsoft is not a young company, especially in tech-world terms, and I think there's a lingering feeling that a) they should have gotten the message that it's important to listen to your customers when the vast majority are screaming "NO...!" at the top of their lungs before now, and b) there still isn't firm evidence that the lesson will stick (hellooooo, Windows 8). And I think XBox One's continued faltering behind the PS4's sales can partly be blamed on that lingering unease. Not that the $100 price difference is doing them any favors.

So, yes, Spencer is saying some of the right things as far as honesty goes. As to whether the warm fuzzy talk about building on what they've learned and being better people translates to actual core principles that percolate through the company... Jury's still out.

I doubt that the sugar coating is going to stop anytime soon. Wake me when he admits that the kinect is anything more than a boon to their advertising division.

A suggestion I have is to start advertising the Xbox One as a gaming device first and a home entertainment center second or third. I recently looked at a Xbox One box at my work because someone had just returned it. I flipped it over, and you know how they always put those pictures on the back? Well, only one of those pictures was for a game (a racing one, I think). The other five were about T.V., the NFL, and Netflix. If you took away the one picture of the game, there wouldn't be anything on the box about how a Xbox One is a video game console. It's kind of sad.

Microsoft... Microsoft, stop talking. No! Microsoft, stahp!

At least he admits that they were basically lying and spewing BS. Unfortunately, yhat doesn't really win any points with me.

That statement told me exactly nothing. Buzzword after buzzword, and completely no substance. Hearing about "learning from mistakes" makes me think about the coach of my national football/soccer team. "Yes, we got our asses kicked again, but we will learn from it, and come on top next time", and then 2 years later, after another failed campaign to qualify to World Cup, nothing is learned. Give me proof, Microsoft. Proof.

Hold on, actually... No. There's no point in proving anything, at least not for me and other people in my country. I mean, your precious piece of technology isn't even available for purchase in my place, and according to rumors, it won't be out in here until the end of the year. Even my co-worker, who was the biggest X-Box fanboy I ever met, and zealously defended every horsecrap "feature" you tried to force on us, eventually went with PS4. And you are wondering, why you are losing so hard with PS4 in hardware sells. Ugh...

MinionJoe:
Why is MS dragging this bullshit back out again?

Titanfall not moving as many units as they hoped?

Titanfall's sales are likely going to disappoint MS, and EA. It looks like an amazing game, but the marketing on it was mediocre at best. The only good thing they did was let a bunch of YouTube gaming channels stream the game. Other than that they pretty much admitted that they didn't know how to market the game.

They were having difficulty making a trailer for it because they wanted to make a "movie-like trailer" for the game when its MP only. That could have been solved by showing clips of gameplay with the game's soundtrack playing and not feeding into the AAA publisher's want for generic movie trailers.

They also were surprised that Japan was so responsive to the game. A game about giant robots. I don't know how someone could think that the people of the country that gave us the Giant Fighting Machine trope would not like a game that's Giant Fighting Machines. This problem specifically is also relevant because its a missed opportunity for MS to finally get into the Japanese gaming market, but the Xbox One isn't released there yet and a launch date is undisclosed. This also suck for EA because having the game not be a console exclusive would have definitely made them more money due to the absence of Watch Dogs.

People who didn't buy an X1 by now aren't going to grab one in droves because of Titalfall bundles. I should know. We've got a bunch of them in out local Target and they've not been touched. Neither have the game discs themselves and there are at least a dozen on the display with another dozen in the back. I think a lot more people than expected are going to be grabbing Titanfall through Origin. Origin is now better than uPlay and that's good enough for anybody these days it seems.

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