Microsoft entered the console market in 2001 with the release of the original Xbox. Remember when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said it was the most amazing gaming system ever made? Well, the validity of that statement at the time is constantly up for debate, but regardless of the end result, Microsoft has made some mistakes along the way. Below are the five biggest mistakes Microsoft has made in the gaming industry since the release of the first Xbox.
Five Biggest Mistakes:
1 – Not buying SEGA.
In 2001, there were talks of a merger between SEGA and Microsoft’s Xbox division. The discussions arose as a result of the SEGA Dreamcast’s decline in both Japan and North America between 2000 and 2001 (after its initial success in 1999). Having considered for some time to get out of the console market, SEGA’s president at the time—Isao Okawa—entered negotiations with Microsoft. However, due to the overall lackluster sales of the SEGA Dreamcast, Microsoft opted not to proceed with a merger between their Xbox division and SEGA.
Fast forward to almost two decades later and SEGA is a publishing powerhouse in the gaming market, with its buzzing Sonic the Hedgehog series and companies such as Creative Assembly (developer of both the Total War and Halo Wars titles). If Microsoft had moved forward with the SEGA merger, they would have one of the most powerful partnerships in the console market, giving them an edge over other systems.
2 – Not saving BioWare
When Mass Effect (ME) hit the market one month after EA’s acquisition of BioWare, it was praised as one of the most fun and aesthetically pleasing titles on the Xbox 360 console. From there, the ME trilogy would go on to be one of the most saluted franchises in video game history. However, that would prove to be one of the last widely celebrated three games in BioWare repertoire, for their time under EA’s umbrella has been disappointing at best. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem were some of the biggest letdowns in video game history.
Microsoft’s publishing deal with BioWare before the EA acquisition (and before the creation of the Mass Effect series) brought about some of the Xbox’s most renowned titles, namely Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. If Microsoft had offered to bring BioWare under its umbrella and beat EA to the punch, the Xbox brand could have had a powerful developer and storytelling studio in its wheelhouse and BioWare could have avoided the catastrophic EA tyranny that has sullied the company’s reputation as a quality studio.
3 – The Red Ring of Death
It’s impossible to think about Microsoft and their mistakes within the Xbox realm and not remember the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death. This plague on that generation bricked thousands of consoles, making players’ favorite titles of that time unplayable due to defective hardware. Microsoft never released any official information that explained what the exact cause of the Red Ring of Death was within the original 360, but a wide range of theories emerged from third party analysts.
Of course, the official way of fixing the Red Ring of Death was to send it in to Microsoft and have it repaired or replaced. However, there were also unofficial means to resolving the issues, such as wrapping the console in a towel and forcing it to overheat and power itself off. Regardless of the reasoning behind the problem and the methods used to correct it, the issue seemed to only plague the first version of the 360 Microsoft released (the big white console).
The 360 Slim and Elite did not seem to suffer from the same problem. Couple the original 360’s Red Ring of Death problems with its other software issues, such as its aversion to remaining consistently connected to the Internet and pitiful update efficiency, and it’s a wonder why Microsoft didn’t just delay its release or consider releasing the 360 S as the pilot for its second generation.
Granted, the company has always been in a rivalry with Sony when it comes to competing in the console market, but perhaps waiting to ensure their system was in good working order would have been better for its financial gains than releasing an overly buggy console.
4 – Xbox Exclusivity issues
Other than the Halo and Gears of War, and Fable franchises, Xbox hasn’t had a great deal of exclusives. The aforementioned Star Wars: KOTOR and Jade Empire only occurred due to a fortuitous publishing deal with BioWare and were one-offs that are still considered classics to this day, both of which are now available on PC.
Moreover, there was a time when the Call of Duty series released its DLC for Xbox users first, primarily during the 360/PS3 generation. Beyond DLC, Call of Duty 2 was exclusively available on Microsoft’s platforms (Xbox 360 and Windows).
With the new generation (Xbox One/PlayStation 4), Activision switched their DLC deals for Call of Duty from Microsoft to Sony. Thus, Microsoft lost one of the primary reasons for gamers to acquire the latest title in the Call of Duty franchise on Xbox One as opposed to PlayStation 4.
Fortunately, as of E3 2018, Microsoft announced steps to remedy this shortcoming with the acquisition of, or partnership with, several companies to develop titles exclusively for the Xbox One and Project Scarlett. Only time will tell if that solution will be effective, but hopefully it’s the right call for the future of Microsoft’s console push.
5 – Xbox Kinect
Even though the Kinect was a coveted feature on the 360, its popularity died with that generation. When Microsoft forced the Kinect upon the Xbox One (their means of justifying the console’s launch price), the company soon found that it wasn’t as useful or popular as its predecessor. Users found they needed a lot more space to perform simple actions, and the Xbox One’s reliance on the Kinect to utilize many of its UI features left a bad taste in consumers’ mouths.
Mostly, however, it was the lack of choice fans loathed when making their decision to buy the Xbox One. After the backlash Microsoft received for trying to capitalize on one of the Xbox 360’s most popular aftermarket features too late, the company backtracked and removed Kinect functionality with the release of the Xbox One S. Anyone who wished to use the Kinect with the One S or One X needed to purchase an adapter, which Microsoft no longer manufactures.
6 – Xbox One’s non-gaming focus
Microsoft’s marketing campaign for the original Xbox One in 2013, particularly at E3 2013, focused a lot on users’ ability to watch movies and TV. The company was so proud of developing a console that someone could plug a set-top-box into to watch cable and other channels or services that they lost sight of why consumers acquire a gaming console in the first place: To play games.
Combine this marketing disaster with forcing the Kinect upon consumers and there’s a recipe for hurting sales at launch. Arguably, the company’s Xbox division still hasn’t recovered from this combination of colossal misjudgments, but the release of the Xbox One S and X have probably helped a little. At least the marketing campaigns for both of those follow-up consoles were better.
If Microsoft continues the trend for the One S and One X, Project Scarlett should be a gaming powerhouse, and the TV and apps aspects of the consoles should remain as extras rather than primary features. Learning from the past is important. Hopefully, Microsoft does that with the next generation.
7 – Shutting down Lionhead Studios
Microsoft acquired Lionhead Studios in 2006. Lionhead Studios was the developer behind Fable: The Lost Chapters, Fable Anniversary, Fable II, and Fable III. In addition, the company also developed Black & White (2001), Black & White 2 (2005), and The Movie (2005)—which won a BAFTA award for simulation in 2006. The Movie and its BAFTA award were part of Microsoft’s decision to acquire the studio. However, the primary reason for Microsoft’s interest was wanting to continue possessing the Fable series as an Xbox exclusive.
Unfortunately, while Lionhead Studios was working on Fable Legends, Microsoft announced the cancellation of the latest Fable addition and the closure of Lionhead in 2016. This decision was met with backlash from fans, who had been waiting on an update regarding Fable Legends or a Fable IV announcement for quite some time.
Although Fable IV has officially been announced, it’s not being developed by the original team behind the popular predecessors. This development might be concerning for fans, as changing teams in the midst of a series often produces disappointing results.