PlayStation 4? Nah, the Xbox One’s worst enemy is Microsoft

microsoft xbox one controller questions

The Xbox One is a powerful and sophisticated piece of gaming hardware. It has a huge amount of promise, but it will be years before it comes close to reaching its full potential. If only Microsoft could stay out of its own way.

One of the biggest challenges facing the upcoming launch of the Xbox One isn’t anything the system will or won’t do, but is instead the messaging Microsoft continues to muddle regarding its new hardware. The turnaround regarding the constant online connection and used game policy will go down as an epic flip-flop (even if it was the right thing to do), and the hits keep on coming. Next up on the Microsoft confuse-o-tron comes the news that there will be a headset included in the bundle. Or not. But maybe. But probably not.

Initial reports were that the Xbox One box would not contain a headset. Microsoft justified the decision with an explanation that the second-gen Kinect would function just as well when it came to game chat. Soon after that though, Gem, the official distributor of the Xbox One in the U.K., sent out a magazine to its customers in which the contents of the Xbox One’s primary bundle were listed, and a headset appeared among the bullet points.

The confusion began the day that the Xbox One was officially announced.

This alone might have been written off as a mistake on Gem’s part, but the nature of Microsoft’s previous messaging errors gave way to the assumption that this could just be another example of Microsoft changing its mind in the light of unfavorable press. Within minutes of this typo being spotted (assuming it was a typo and not Gem acting on confusing information it received), the story was that Microsoft had changed its mind yet again.

Gem soon stepped up and admitted that the error was on its end, but it highlights the bigger issue facing the Xbox One: Microsoft itself.

The decision to change course on its previous plans requiring an Internet connection once every 24 hours and locking games to individual accounts – thus killing used gaming as we know it along with the act of borrowing games – was a good one. It was also the latest in a line of confused messaging that is projecting an image of uncertainty around the new console, enough so that Microsoft no longer gets the benefit of the doubt when contradictory news emerges.

The confusion began the day that the Xbox One was officially announced on May 21, 2013. The press conference itself was meant to highlight the console’s all-in-one approach to living room entertainment, but instead spawned Internet memes mocking the number of times the word “TV” and other non-gaming related words were said. The only game that really received any love was Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Xbox One Unveiling

Following the official unveiling, different people received different information from different members of Microsoft. The question of whether the Xbox One would need to be always connected was skated over. Many reps said that the console would not need to be always online, which was true, but they neglected to mention that the system would need to connect to the Internet once every 24 hours. At least most of them did.

Microsoft’s Phil Harrison attempted to explain the particulars of the online connection requirements, as well as the license transfer policies affecting used games. It took multiple attempts, and his revelations stood in contrast to the majority of Microsoft reps that simply claimed the company was planning big things for used gaming and would be announcing them at a later date. Even after Harrison explained everything at length, it still wasn’t completely clear.

Sony has even admitted that part of its strategy has simply been to wait for Microsoft to announce its specifics first, and then react accordingly.

Then, in the days leading up to E3, a time when the Xbox One should have been foremost on gamers’ minds, Microsoft was forced to issue several points of clarification. Those points have mostly been rendered obsolete by the later changes to the console policy, with the exception of the revelation that the Kinect can be turned off … although not unplugged for some reason.

Even after the big change immediately following E3, there are still plenty of questions to be answered. For example, going back to headphones, we still don’t know what happens to current after-market headsets. It’s one thing if the standard Xbox 360 headset won’t work on the Xbox One, it’s another if gamers’ expensive headsets are rendered obsolete.

The new Xbox One controller will have a different port for a wired headset to plug in to, so hopefully this is as simple as the manufacturers of the headset providing new cables. It may not be. Or it may be, it’s unclear. Microsoft has stated that it is working on a solution, but it has yet to give any details. 

xbox one don mattrickThe recent departure of Don Mattrick, the former President of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, further casts a shadow over the release of the Xbox One. His departure may be a devastating blow, or it could be the best thing that happened to the system, it’s too early to tell. But his abrupt move to Zynga projects an air of instability and uncertainty in a time when Microsoft needs to have a laser-guided focus. 

The Xbox One is an impressive piece of hardware, and the recent changes to the system are all for the better. Microsoft’s biggest issue is just its messaging. Sony has even admitted that part of its strategy with the PlayStation 4 has simply been to wait for Microsoft to announce its specifics first, and then react accordingly. Part of that is purely down to showmanship. E3 is an event built around creating a positive image for a product. Microsoft did a good job of that with its focus on games. Sony did a better job with its focus on doing everything that the Xbox One would not.  

We are months away from the release of the next-gen consoles, so there is still a lot of time for Microsoft to get a coherent and consistent messaging strategy in place. The games look good, the hardware seems strong, and the entertainment options offer a lot of non-gaming functionality. Microsoft just needs to get out of its own way and let the Xbox One shine.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From DirectX Box to 720, it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PlayStation 4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Gaming

Get the most life out of your Xbox One controller with these tips

The Xbox One controller has fantastic battery life, but eventually your batteries will still die. To make it even better and ensure you never have to stop gaming, follow these tips.
Gaming

Get jiggy with it and find the jigsaw pieces with our Fortnite challenge guide

For this Fortnite weekly challenge, players must search for jigsaw puzzle pieces under bridges and in caves. We've got the best locations for finding these pieces so you can complete this challenge fast.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Gaming

Streaming data reveals Ninja isn’t Twitch king, Fortnite still reigns supreme

Stream Elements and Stream Hatchet teamed up to produce the State of the Stream Q1 2019, a report that reveals a multitude of data. A few takeaways include Ninja not producing the best month of views, and Apex Legends' performance diving.
Gaming

The best zombie games of all time, from Resident Evil to The Last of Us

Zombies are a longtime media staple, from movies to literature to TV to video games. Plenty of zombie games are bland and boring, but a good number offer tangible reasons to care about the undead. These are the best zombie games.
Deals

Ditch the discs: The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is available for pre-order

Like it or not, discs seem to be going the way of the VHS tape. Digital gaming is quickly becoming the new norm even for consoles, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is now available for pre-order with three free games…
Gaming

The Last of Us Part 2 finishes capturing its main characters’ performances

Calling it the most "ambitious cinematic shoot" the team has ever done, Naughty Dog revealed that the motion-capture performances for the main characters in The Last of Us Part II are finished.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

World of Warcraft's allied races will make you want to start a new character

The Horde and Alliance are seeking new allies in their struggle for control of Azeroth. Whether you pledge your allegiance to the Horde or Alliance, we have a guide to help you unlock every allied race in Battle for Azeroth.
Gaming

Wired headphones are so 2018. Here's how to pair a Bluetooth device to your PS4

One of the best aspects of modern consoles is how easily you can pair them with other devices. Here's our quick primer on how to connect a Bluetooth headset (or really any Bluetooth device) to your PlayStation 4.