It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for Microsoft. They endured yet another turbulent week that consisted of service outages, shutting down of services and further updates to improve the Xbox One console.
In the long hot summer, my gaming habit often takes a back seat, so you can imagine my frustration when the one night I decided to have a marathon gaming session, I was greeted with the dreaded Xbox Live is down message, which even prevented me from playing several single player games.
The Microsoft service status site stated “You can rest assured knowing that we’re doing all that we can to correct this issue right away. Thanks for being patient while we work.”
This, of course, prompted my non-gaming wife to say “I don’t know why you bother, there is always something wrong with it” Of course, I fiercely defended my console of choice but even I have to admit this has been yet another difficult week for Microsoft.
As we look back on E3 in 2013, most of us remember Microsoft giving the perfect example of how not to plan a product launch. With an apparent focus on television, there were countless parody videos, but just when you thought everything settled down, further mocking ensued this week, when yet another humiliating U-turn was announced.
As Microsoft continued to further distance the Xbox One from the original concept as an all-in-one entertainment system, there was still time for one final U-turn as the company announced plans to shutter its Xbox Entertainment Studios less than two months after it début in June.
The original vision for the Xbox One product lies in tatters. With the console failing to become the market leader and Microsoft’s dream of becoming the all-in-one entertainment system of the living room continues to lose ground, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this latest revelation.
In the age of binge TV viewing, Microsoft had hoped to capitalise on the popularity of Netflix but with behemoth Amazon stepping into the ring, it would appear that this is not a fight that the much maligned console needs to be getting involved in. Considering Amazon’s Fire TV also threatening to encroach on both Sony and Microsoft’s territory of gaming in many ways, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to cut their losses earlier and concentrate on giving the Xbox One a firm identity of being first and foremost a games console.
A start-up and shut down in only 2 months will be seen as humiliating to many, but a gaming console that concentrates on gamers and games will equally delight Xbox One owners.
With the Xbox Live service going down on the same day they announced plans to shutter its Xbox Entertainment Studios after only 2 months, this prompted many on Twitter to call it “Black Thursday” for Microsoft and it does feel sometimes that the powers that be have one finger on the self-destruct button despite their best efforts to keep everything positive.
However, on a much more positive note, the August Xbox One update has been announced, the monthly update usually features fixes to niggles that have frustrated the gaming community and great to see a company responding to customer feedback. Major Nelson has uploaded a video that details everything you should expect from the August update.
Some critics are quick to point out the updates are adding feature the Xbox 360 already has such as the “Last seen time in Friends list” where the friends list will now show how long it’s been since a friend has been online.
The quick win for most gamers is the introduction of a notification that will pop up when your controller battery is getting low. For anyone that has suffered a random controller shut down midway through a boss battle or in the 89th minute of a FIFA game, this will be a most welcome addition.
The more brutally honest amongst you will quickly point out that being able to disable notifications during video was standard on the Xbox 360 and battery notifications aren’t anything new with Sony’s PS4 already having this covered, not to mention the on screen notifications from the 360 leaving many to ponder how they got things so wrong in the first place.
I have great sympathy with Microsoft who seem to have messed up in so many ways but despite their best efforts to listen to the customers and fix what is broken, they are coming across as increasingly desperate with a lack of direction and focus.
Whether it be U-turns, outages or promoting fixes that were taken for granted in previous consoles, you could be forgiven for having concerns on the exact intentions of Microsoft and their future strategy. Because right now, it feels like they are making it up as they go along.