Hubris, more than the actions of competitors, has historically been the biggest reason why a console holder slips from the top spot when generations change over. So it was with Microsoft, who blew all the goodwill it had established with the Xbox 360 in spectacularly embarrassing fashion when it announced a convoluted and anti-consumer plan to limit the resale of used Xbox One games back in 2013.
Now, a member of Xbox’s top brass at Microsoft has finally admitted that the approach was a mistake. Writing on LinkedIn last week, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Windows and Devices Group Yusuf Mehdi owned up to Microsoft’s foolhardiness in announcing the plan. In recommending that companies “do right” by their consumers, Mehdi stated that while it’s not always easy to follow that mantra, an organization’s ability to deliver on it is “the truest test” of its value and customer service commitment.
“We’ve experienced these challenges ourselves with Xbox,” continued Mehdi. “With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn’t land well with fans. While the intent was good – we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games, we didn’t deliver what our fans wanted. We heard their feedback, and while it required great technical work, we changed Xbox One to work the same way as Xbox 360 for how our customers could play, share, lend, and resell games. This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we’ve made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we’ve never looked back.”
While Mehdi has framed Microsoft’s doomed DRM plan as having come from a good place, fans didn’t see it that way. The backlash was immediate and feverish when the plan was announced. It was so bad, in fact, that Microsoft pulled the plug on the whole thing just a few weeks after announcing it.
While this move likely saved the Xbox One from being a complete sales disaster, plenty of damage had already been done. Sony lambasted Microsoft on stage at E3 that year by snarkily showing how easy it was to share games with friends on PlayStation 4. Don Mattrick, who was the head of the Xbox team when the DRM plan was hatched and announced, announced his departure from Microsoft the following month. Since then, millions of gamers have jumped ship from Microsoft to Sony, with the PlayStation 4 continuing to pummel the Xbox One in hardware sales results almost every month.