Former Microsoft Exec Says Xbox One Launch Woes Were Preventable, Next Console Likely Digital-Only

Microsoft’s Xbox One launch didn’t go off exactly as planned in late 2013. Before the console’s release, the company was dogged over DRM restrictions with the console (which were later dropped) and concerns over its high price tag compared to its counterpart, the Sony PlayStation 4. Microsoft would attribute the higher price tag to the included Kinect camera -- a peripheral that many gamers didn’t particularly care for -- only to later capitulate by ditching the camera and lowering the entry price from $499 to $399. Microsoft would late institute an even lower entry point at $349.

However, the damage had already been done and Sony has clearly come out as the clear sales leader for this generation of consoles. In an interview with GeekWire, former Xbox Chief Robbie Bach is giving his two cents on the Xbox One — a console that launched years after he announced he retired from the company in 2010.

“I think I have two thoughts,” said Bach regarding the Xbox One’s rocky launch. “The first is, gosh, I think some of that was predictable and preventable. If I’m just honest I would say that.”

Robbie Bach
Robbie Bach (Image Source: Flickr/City of Seattle)

Although Bach doesn’t elaborate, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the persistent internet connection Microsoft initially planned for the Xbox One and the DRM were big turnoffs for gamers that are increasingly becoming aware of their privacy and how companies use their personal data in a post-Snowden world. Look no further than the PR issues that Microsoft is facing regarding its “nosey” Windows 10 operating system.

However, Bach adds that the battle between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is far from over. “These console competitions last 5, 6, 7, 8 years. I think Xbox One has put almost all of that behind itself. They’re gaining share and volume. … The amazing thing is the console market is bigger now than it’s ever been before.”

Bach then went on to praise Xbox Live, the company’s wide-ranging online gaming/media services platform. “You would have liked to have seen them done more with the momentum we had. On the other hand, look at what’s going on on Xbox Live. Incredible momentum on Xbox Live. I think it’s a balance thing.”

Xbox One

As for the future of physical game media, Bach doesn’t think that the future is so bright when it comes to its inclusion on the next generation of gaming consoles. He said that the next Xbox would “probably not” have physical media to speak of, with consoles adopting digital-only distribution. As for what form next generation consoles will take; that’s anyone’s guess. “I think there will be another generation. What the console looks like is a very interesting question,” pondered Bach.

“So how does that look? Is it just a game box or is it more? What’s the balance between what an Apple TV is and what an Xbox or a PlayStation 4 is? These are really interesting questions, and the teams going to have to wrestle with those. That next generation will be a whole new game.”

Microsoft may be lagging well behind Sony when it comes to console sales this generation, but it doesn’t mean that the Xbox One is a by many means a bad console. While Sony has held firm at $399 for its PlayStation 4 since launch, Microsoft is sitting currently at $349. And the company has been very aggressive through its retail partners with regards to special bundle offers that can save customers hundreds of dollars if not more. One recent promotion allowed gamers to score a 500GB Xbox One console and a 40-inch Samsung HDTV for just $499. For gamers looking for some serious band for their buck, pricing like that is rather hard to ignore.