Last year, Microsoft took the wraps off the Xbox One, the successor to the best-selling Xbox 360. The hardware was impressive; the usage policies were not. In fact, in the words of one onlooker, it was "a scrambled mess," with Microsoft employees offering seemingly contradictory statements on everything from the ability of the console to play used games to the requirement that the machine be always connected to the Internet.
Now a top Microsoft exec is offering an apology – of a sort. In a talk at the SXSW conference in Austin, Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer acknowledged that it would have been better to be "direct and honest" with consumers, rather than attempting to "sugar-coat" a controversial topic.
"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... mainly by us," Mr. Spencer said, according to Gamespot.
Couple things to note: First is that the Xbox One, which launched last fall, does by now have clear usage policies (the console plays used games, for instance, and does not require an Internet connection to work). Second: Spencer is speaking from a greatly improved position. Although the PlayStation 4 is still the leader among the so-called eighth-generation consoles, the Xbox One rode a sales surge in February to pull it within spitting distance of the PS4.
"PS4 led hardware sales in February 2014, but by a narrow margin with Xbox One selling over 90 percent of what the PS4 sold in terms of unit sales," NPD’s Liam Callahan said in a statement provide to Re/Code. "However, with Xbox One’s higher price point it led hardware sales on a dollar basis."
In related news, this week marks the launch of Titanfall, a highly-anticipated Microsoft exclusive (it's available for the Xbox One and Windows machines – and soon for the Xbox 360) that the company is hoping will drive up interest in the new console.
"It’s hard to understate how incredibly important Titanfall is for Xbox," Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing and strategy officer for devices and studios at Microsoft, said in an interview with the New York Times.