Stupid, Stupid xBox!!

12 Feb
Fone Bone saying 'stupid, stupid rat creatures!'

Fone Bone attempts to escape his pursuers by jumping on a small branch, thinking they wouldn’t be stupid enough to jump on. Obviously, he is wrong.

I was a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft and gave it its name. Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over), a product that consumers would want and love and demand, I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come, how many installed units it has, how it is crushing its original console competitors, how the brand has grown and endured, and especially how great the games have become.

But the past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch. Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect. Touting strategic and market success when you’re just experiencing your competitor’s stumbling failure (yes, Sony, Nintendo – you are, I’m afraid, stumbling failures). A complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room. It culminated for me in recent coverage1 of interviews with Yusef Mehdi and Nancy Tellem and reports of the goals of a new LA xBox studio to create interactive content.

My gripe, my head-smack, is not that the broader content/entertainment business isn’t where you want to go with a living-room-connected device. It absolutely is. Indeed, this was the point of xBox, that was why it was the Trojan horse for the living room, where we could land and be welcomed by millions of console customers with more hardware and better software and network connectivity than the non-console devices (webtv, cable set-tob-boxes) we had been pursuing. No, more and better content was always the point and the plan. My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.

xBox’s primary critical problem is the lack of a functional and growing platform ecosystem for small developers to sell digitally-/network-distributed (non-disc) content through to the installed base of xBox customers, period. Why can’t I write a game for xBox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home xBox or at my friends’ houses? Why can’t I then distribute it digitally in a decent online store, give up a 30% cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad? Oh, wait, I can… sort of. Read some of the fine-print at the xBox registered developer program page (that “membership” would cost you $10,000/year and a ton of paperwork, with Microsoft holding veto power over your game being published), navigate the mess through to learning about XBLA (also costly, paperwork and veto approval) and you may end up learning about a carved off little hard-to-find store with a few thousand stunted games referred to as XBLIG where Microsoft has ceded their veto power (and instead just does nothing to promote your games). This is where indie developers have found they can go in order to not make money on xBox, despite an installed base of 76M devices. Microsoft, you are idiotic to have ceded not just indie game developers but also a generation of loyal kids and teens to making games for other people’s mobile devices.

xBox’s secondary critical problem is that the device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow, and full-of-shit. From built-in update and storage features to what they have allowed through negligence to appear in games, here are just a few of my favorite confusing and exhausting screens and messages:

Daddy, what’s a Hard Drive? Why do I keep having to choose Hard Drive when I’m playing Kinectimals? Why does Kinectimals take 10m before I can start playing? Can I use the iPad while it’s updating or whatever it’s doing?

I'm too dumb to update safely. I'm to dumb to know if more updates or restarts may, may, may, may be needed.

Hi, I’m xBox. I’m too dumb to update safely. I’m to dumb to know if more updates or restarts may, may, may, may be needed.

I'm too dumb to know if it's a game or an app. Why should I choose where you put it?

xBox: I’m also too dumb to know if it’s a game or an app. Me: Why should I choose where you put it?

4MB, thanks for that info. Wait, what? What are the consequences of being signed out of Xbox Live if I update?

Me: 4MB. Gee, thanks for that info. Wait, what? What are the consequences of being signed out of Xbox Live if I update?

My all-time favorite: each game dreams up an indicator that it uses while writing your save-game data. Saving securely without needing UI sure doesn't seem like a system-level service Microsoft should provide.

My all-time favorite: each game dreams up an indicator that it uses while writing your save-game data. Saving securely (e.g. atomically) without needing UI sure doesn’t seem like a system-level service Microsoft should have provided for xBox in 2003.

Every time I leave a game, even right after saving in the game, the system presents me with this little scare. Every. Single. Time.

Every time I leave a game, even right after saving in the game, the system presents me with this little scare that I may lose progress. Every. Single. Time.

These messages and many others – impossible Xbox Live sign-in and password recovery, accounting/membership, to name just a few – are made all the worse by the huge amount of time that passes while waiting for content to load. You don’t turn on your xBox to play a game quickly — it takes multiple minutes to load, flow through its splash screens, and then get you playing. It doesn’t surprise me that most people spend more time watching videos or listening to music on xBox, because it takes too long to screw around with discs and wait for games to load.

These are the 2 fronts Microsoft is going to lose on in the living room battle with Android & iOS. It’s not going to be based on whether they have (a more expensive) Netflix, whether they have original TV/video content or interactive kids television shows which integrate with Kinect. They will lose unless these two things are sorted out well and quickly.

Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world. I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and tv-uses was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of. xBox was for years the only network-connected HD-ready device already attached to tv’s that had multi-use potential (games, DVD, Netflix) in the household to justify and amortize its high cost of purchase to the family’s bread-winners. The hardcore/soft-tv transition and any lead they feel they have is simply not defensible by licensing other industries’ generic video or music content because those industries will gladly sell and license the same content to all other players. A single custom studio of 150 employees also can not generate enough content to defensibly satisfy 76M+ customers. Only with quality primary software content from thousands of independent developers can you defend the brand and the product. Only by making the user experience simple, quick, and seamless can you defend the brand and the product. The transition they are seeing (87 hours per month of use, more TV/music use than game use) will continue to happen despite their active “strategic” efforts to encourage it and get more Xbox Live subscribers.

Which brings us to…

Apple is already a games competitor broadly, even if Apple-TV isn’t yet a game platform or a console. Mobile generally and iPad specifically have grown the total hours of game play and grown the overall game market. Only in the last 18-24mo has that overall growth turned from a segment-expanding rising tide to a tsunami swamping the console game vendor profit boats hitched to the docks. It is accelerating. Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox by introducing an open 30%-cut app/game ecosystem for Apple-TV. I already make a lot of money on iOS – I will be the first to write apps for Apple-TV when I can, and I know I’ll make money. I would for xBox if I could and I knew I would make money.  Maybe a “console-capable” Apple-TV isn’t $99, maybe it’s $199, and add another $79 for a controller. The current numbers already say a lot, even with Apple-TV not already an open console: 5.3M sold units in 2012, 90% year-over-year growth — vs. xBox 360 — about 9M units in 2012, 60% YoY decline.

So, because these two critical issues – user expereince and indie content – are not nearly in order and I see big investments in future interactive content happening, as well as idiotic moves to limit used games or put harder content protection into place than exists in mobile or tablets – i predict massive failure and losses here. And it makes me sad. Because it just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for 5 years. xBox just needs somebody with a brain and focus to get the product in order tactically before romping forward to continue the long-term strategic promise of an xBox in every living room, connected to every screen.

among many others.

267 Responses to “Stupid, Stupid xBox!!”

  1. Nathan February 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    “The current numbers already say a lot, even with Apple-TV not already an open console: 5.3M sold units in 2012, 90% year-over-year growth — vs. xBox 360 — about 9M units in 2012, 60% YoY decline.”

    Those numbers confirm that the Xbox is coming it’s end of life. Nothing more.

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Your point is well taken, yet there are still some thoughts worth noodling on in comparing the numbers. Is Microsoft’s strategy of content and non-game apps and interactive-voting-crap actually working? They have focused exclusively on it in the past few years, and yet the platform is in decline (in terms of installed units) – it’s following a traditional console end-of-life slow-down, perhaps slightly elongated. The usage hours are up, though, as are subscribers. Are they measuring the right thing? Are they building the right services? I guess I’d say NO, and the Apple numbers to me bolster that conclusion. Apple is seeing 90% YoY growth with a device that is simple and easy to use and only has traditional streaming content (and personal pictures) right now. Apple is beating them in unit growth (and selling a profitable unit, not a loss-leader unit) at the thing they have been focusing their attention on.

      • Kiefer Jackson February 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

        Yet have we forgotten the rumours that are yet even CLOSER to confirmation Valve could be releasing a console by the end o 2013? if that were the case, just replace the phrase “Apple console killer” to “Steam console killer”. Being nothing short of a paid service device (no discs) and having broaden its spectrum of games nearly each month by signing deals with top indie and mainstream gaming software companies, it may be that Valve will lead the gaming market in 2014. Yes this will include PC too because Microsoft made it almost impossible for its games to be steam native by re-inventing the Microsoft gaming store for Windows 8. Which made a LOT of people upset. (perhaps why EA and Valve signed deals with Canonical? ^-^ ) Oh, FYI, the sources say it will be Linux based.

      • Stu February 13, 2013 at 7:03 am #

        Doesn’t look like Valve is going in that direction any more.

      • richard February 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

        Worse, all those Apple TVs are selling into homes that have (and already had(!) xBox360s. And they boot instantly and stream/airplay all the video and music you could want (from your phone/tablet/laptop). So the xbox waits until it time for real gaming….except that is where is it “end of life” (in more than one sense). Oh, and the price point means 2 AppleTVs per xBox…maybe three when the new generations arrive.

      • Chris February 13, 2013 at 5:10 am #

        I agree a little, but not a great deal.

        The complaints about Xbox interface stuff is fair, I don’t like it either.

        BUT. I don’t see any trends that indicate less people playing consoles. The portable market (market for small screen, low powered battery driven devices) is a growth market for everyone that isn’t already a console user. Those number you show are as suggested, typical for end of life and market saturation.

        This is very important to understand, the big screen market, the home TV, is a VERY different market. So it is pointless to compare them, in a very meaningful way its like apple and oranges.

        What are the competitors in this market. Consoles and Smart TV’s running Andriod or iOS.

        What is best?

        We can ignore movies and media as a separation, as all of them will basically provide the same.

        It just comes down to the games, and how we interact. What system would you rather buy games to play on your big screen for?

        One system will let you get 10 of the 5 million low rent, common denominator andriod and iOS games that you can play on your phone. The other just one massive blockbuster from a huge development studio. NO CHOICE.

        If I was in the business of making a device for the big screen gaming market, I don’t want to be the one that plays low rent, 5 million crappy apps. Why buy it, when your competition is sexy makes some incredible things. For big screen, quality will trump quantity every single time.

        And, I also don’t want a stupid virus or stolen personal details – which I’m sure some of that 10k for development licence + all the rigmarole of having your software certified ensures a much higher level of security analysis.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

        i hear you, i still think you are underestimating how developers, given the opportunity, will create the right software for the right device. if it’s in front of the TV they will make specialized games suited to it — they will make things that consumers want. if the hardware has enough oomph and local storage, they will create more complicated, higher production-value games that they will charge more for and people will buy them.
        as to low-rent/high-rent, the business model of all of these devices, from phones to PC’s to consoles, come down to lifetime margin.
        if you are selling your hardware console at cost or at a loss you want to make sure your attach rate (number of titles you sell through to each console) yields an overall lifetime margin you like. you can choose to own the low-rent market if you have a very high attach rate (hundreds of titles you make a small amount on), or the high-rent market (fewer titles you make a large amount on), or you can blend both.
        if you are making big margins on your hardware, you might be OK with owning the low-rent market because you simply don’t need the rent at all to make your margins.
        personally i think Microsoft should be making sure it has a strong presence among low-rent developers without detracting from the ability of high-rent developers to make money, because i think if they don’t they will eventually be undercut. I think this is totally doable, without attracting malware or junk — it’s just a matter of making it the plan and putting in the effort.

      • Andrew Hall February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        “Why can’t I write a game for xBox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home xBox or at my friends’ houses? ”

        It seems staggering to me that the founder of the XBox does not know that this is already possible.

        You can, Mr. Brown. I have. And you don’t need $100 worth of tools; XNA is free.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

        I do note XBLIG and XBLA in the post. It is somewhat possible, what I was trying to say is that it’s not an effective or profitable marketplace for game developers, at least not at all in the same league as iOS or Android.
        Outside lack of promotion for indie games it’s worth remembering that XNA, pioneered by many of the original xBox folks, like J Allard, has been discontinued. Ouch.

      • joequincy February 14, 2013 at 9:11 am #

        While I agree that the casual console concept is poised to take a large segment of Microsoft’s non-“core” demographic… It is a little difficult to agree with the anti-Microsoft conclusion when it completely ignores competitors besides Apple.

        The Ouya system (I’m not a fan, as I fall under that “core” category) is poised to take advantage of all of the Microsoft-countering features you highlighted in the Apple TV. It has a massive and thriving app store with a very low barrier to entry for newbie developers, and as an Android device it promises quick load times, low OS overhead, and the advantages of an OS designed to be network- and cloud-friendly from the beginning.

        It’s not the only competitor, but it’s a big one… And it’s a bit hard to take an article seriously when it looks down on Microsoft, casts a glowing light on Apple, and ignores the rest of the market. If you’re not able to see the whole picture, then maybe you’re missing something important that Microsoft sees. (And maybe your conclusion is wrong, and the numbers support normal EoL decline. You said yourself that actual usage was in growth.)

    • drm February 14, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Though I totally agree with just about every point you made, I wouldn’t put too much faith in Apple. They are every bit as sclerotic and bureaucratic as any other competitor. I myself have applied to be a content provider on iTunes 5 times. I fill out the digital paperwork. You know what happens? No acceptance. No rejection. Just nothing. You would think a forward thinking company, hellbent on a providing a relentless stream of new data, might want to re-think their current practices of kowtowing to the aging media beasts of old. Not so. They are every bit as blind as Microsoft.

    • hhammack May 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      This is a monumentally stupid comparison. Comparing a $99 Apple TV, a failing one at that, to a very successful $300 console that’s at the end of it’s current console generation is idiotic. Of course console sales are declining. We’re 8 years into the current console generation, with new consoles about to be announced. What do you expect it to do?

      You can also spare me the Apple TV BS. Apple TV is a giant failure and sucks as a streaming box. Not only is the Xbox far superior with more content, the Roku is a better streaming box. Of course sales increase when your product has nowhere to go but up.

      • natbro June 5, 2013 at 6:14 am #

        I like the latest Roku boxes as well. But your definition of “giant failure” is, I guess, different from mine. Apple TV has an installed base of 13M units, about 6.5M of which purchased the latest-generation device within the last 12mo, representing > 90% year-over-year growth in sales. Roku reached 5M devices this year – year-over-year growth in sales appears to be < 50%, but the most interesting recent models just started being available, and that could improve its penetration. Apple TV customers are surveyed to have the highest customer satisfaction rating for TV-connected devices, citing the simple setup, remote control, and ability to purchase movies and TV-shows in a consistent way. I think lack of some TV content definitely hurts Apple TV's value proposition and limits its sales. We'll see how it plays out – I personally think adding games to Apple TV at a $99-$149 price-point would more than compensate for lack of some streaming content, but I'm OK if you disagree — we'll see what happens over the next 12mo, this is just my guess.

  2. Alex Handy February 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Hit the nail right on the head. Didn’t MS buy some Tivo-like company years ago just with the intention of offering Tivo-like functionality on the Xbox? They’ve really goofed up their online stuff. I hate paying a yearly fee to use NetFlix on the Xbox, and my wife is constantly mystified by anything on the console that isn’t in-game content. The menus, the sign-ins, the vagaries of Xbox live…. It’s enough to make you fell like Sony gets online more than MS. Which it kinda does… except the security part….

  3. Marcelo Calbucci February 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Hey Nat, this is a fantastic post. I wrote about my frustrations with using Xbox as an entertainment unit about a year ago:

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      hey marcelo – i remember your post, great! i didn’t even bring up how loud the thing is in my post 😦 i was running out of venting ability, i guess.

      • Cleo February 13, 2013 at 9:57 am #

        > i was running out of venting ability, i guess

        So was the XBox.

  4. Cameron February 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I think the stage is set for Valve to swoop and and capture the living room from Microsoft with the Steam Box.

    • Kiefer Jackson February 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Check my previous response . You must be psychic!

    • Derek February 13, 2013 at 7:01 am #

      Will be interesting to see if the Ouya takes off… I have one pre-ordered…

      • Rizl February 13, 2013 at 7:51 am #

        I love the idea, unfortunately, they need content.

        The Ouya will be going head to head with some of the largest corporations in the world, who have no qualms about internally developing games like Halo 4…which are so beyond the scope of the lowest tier of developer there is no hope for a small fish to succeed.

        I have worked in games a long time…good games are expensive and it takes very good teams to make good games. Most game companies need support to launch a truly new and speculative title like the ones the Ouya will need…

        So unless Ouya is providing the initial set of content…and have the perquisite marketing support to gain literally any mind share, their odds are beyond long.

        There is only one question you need to ask: “When a Steam Box comes out, will anyone be buying an Ouya?”

      • Peter Kropf (@pk22901) February 15, 2013 at 7:05 am #

        @Rizl (following) “good games are expensive and it takes very good teams to make good games.”

        Perhaps Apple has a moonshot solution to this issue. What if Apple iOS 7 includes an extreme CGI game function that does the same thing to games that the LaserWriter did to desktop publishing?

        What if it took only 2 bright guys to design, code, and ship the next Halo? Just a thought.

    • Facelord February 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      I don’t get why people keep claiming that the Steambox is going anywhere at all. It’s a total farce.

      A Steambox with specs comparable to the PS4 or 720 would have to cost more than them since Microsoft and Sony have reason to take a hit on the price of their hardware, Steam’s already a thing and the Steambox would just give users a slightly more convenient HTPC build, nothing more. If it cost as much as the PS4 or 720, its specs would be very disappointing. Hell, even if the hardware was on par with the PS4 or 720 the Steambox wouldn’t provide the hardware benefits of a console- namely direct hardware access/bypassing the API layer PC development requires and perfect hardware optimization potential(one set of hardware versus millions). I honestly don’t think the Steambox is going anywhere, and why should it? It makes no sense that it’s existing in the first place, it wouldn’t offer anything the user couldn’t build(at much cheaper rates and with a much higher ceiling for the hardware potential) and it has limitations a standard PC wouldn’t have(a limited form of Linux vs the industry-standard Windows; I’m an Ubuntu user, just stating the facts) and it doesn’t offer the hardware advantages of a console.

      Either you’re a Steam fanboy or you can’t think for yourself, maybe both- that’s the only way I can figure out your logic, or Kiefer Jackson’s. Valve already has it made, they don’t have to deal with hardware to print money with their Steam service. I think it’s an imbecilic mistake for them to want to enter the hardware market on the same level as Sony or Microsoft, if they’re smart they’ll understand that they’ll likely move as many units as Ouya or the average gaming laptop. The Steambox is going nowhere.

      • thegamingrag February 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

        I agree with everything you are saying here. On another note, for me personally, It has annoyed me how everyone in the gaming press and gamer community is so hyped for this “Steam box” when it is vaporware.

        Who’s manufacturing it? Oops, noone knows. It certainly is not Valve which they have already stated publicly.
        What are the specs for this magical Steam box? Oops noone knows because its vaporware.

        The only thing that you can really say that is definitive on it is that Gabe wants it to run Linux (and even that isn’t set in stone) and that it will have a steam client on it.

        I have never seen so much hype about a system that does not even have a Alpha grade prototype in the wild.

        I’m not saying that I think there will never be an actual Steam Box but I don’t see the point in even including a Steam box in a next gen convo when so much about it, including Valve’s ballpark expected release date or even a date to share any kind of information other than Pie in the sky wishlists for features that Gabe wants.

        Is there really that big of a unrepresented consumer base within the gaming market that this “Steam box” is going to satisfy?

        I’m reminded a lot of when the original Xbox released and a lot of people were skeptical of MS just swooping into a market that most people felt they knew very little about. There was a lot of hype but just as much skepticism to go with it. That healthy, constructive skepticism is all but missing when you see the gaming media comment on things like the Steam box or the Ouya.

        Just a thought. Ok, way too long response over. 🙂

      • Giba February 19, 2013 at 10:35 am #

        Guys, you’re missing a bit the point here… Steam already have the games (and the gamemakers) for Steambox, it’s a PC, period. The point with the Steambox is to give a clear option at the retail stores, to persons that don’t know which hardware spec they need to run games on a PC. Something like: “This is the Steambox (or a Steambox certified hardware) and it will run your games.”

        So, what’s the “plus” in get a Steambox? You will be able to run some of the games (and softwares) that you bought to your box on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer as well… because it’s not clear if MS will do the same with 720…

        And the bad side is, how long I’ll be able to run new games on my Steambox? Will it have an upgrade? Affordable? That is the point.

      • natbro February 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

        Make no mistake, I really like Steam and I like things like Ouya. I have no idea if Valve is really going to create a dedicated Steam Box. I think it will take a lot more than the great characteristics you list for Steam to get big in this space – but those are some really strong characteristics! Things like a unique/exclusive title that is break out great and only on Steam would be one thing, and a strong retail distribution partner would be another.

      • Wayne Borean February 21, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

        I’m looking forward to getting an Ouya, and maybe tossing together a game for it. I have this silly idea…


    • hhammack May 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      LOL! Yeah, an expensive home theater PC that nobody except PC gamers would want, is going to take over the living room. Steambox is DOA just like the Ouya. The Steambox only appeals to PC gamers. Casual gamers and other casual consumers are not going to bat an eye at the Steambox, especially when it will be more expensive than consoles. Not to mention the fact that it runs an OS that won’t run 95% of the Steam library, and publishers are not going to spend millions to port their games to an OS with 1% market share.

      So the only people that would be remotely interested in a Steambox, already have a Steambox called a PC, and many of these people have already created home theater PCs and have them hooked up to their HDTVs.

      Steambox is going nowhere, especially as Valve doesn’t have the resources to push hardware, and third party OEMs are not going to lose money on a Steambox by subsidizing it the way Microsoft and Sony do.

  5. Philip February 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Good post, I think the points on xbox you have highlighted are all valid (you would hope Microsoft would fix those in their next console, but then they do seem to tie themselves in knots sometimes, look at how convoluted they made changing a hard drive in the xbox in comparison with Sony PS3).

    As you suggest I think Apple would step in the market at some point, but especially if these android based consoles like OUYA start to sell in numbers, that may prompt a similiar iOS type approach from Apple.

    Considering that this last games console cycle has apparently been a loss maker for Sony and Microsoft, it would have made more sense for both of them [and customers!] to agree a common console platform for this cycle (especially with both ‘rumored’ to be based on similar PC component hardware this time), unfortunately they aren’t going to do that (maybe next cycle…).

    I can’t help feeling it’s Nintendo that’s going to feel the most impact soon, their console cycle is now out of step and the handheld games console market I personally believe won’t survive the smartphone/tablet onslaught (that goes for Sony with the Vita as well of course). Of course if that means Nintendo just turns to software publishing for other platforms then maybe not great for their shareholders but for customers I think it’s something well overdue!

    • hhammack May 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      “Considering that this last games console cycle has apparently been a loss maker for Sony and Microsoft”

      It’s been a loss maker for Sony, not Microsoft. Microsoft has made money hand over fist, and the Xbox division has been profitable for years now.

      As for Apple stepping in, there’s no way. Apple is not going to subsidize hardware and take a loss. Any Apple console would cost a fortune.

      • natbro June 5, 2013 at 6:03 am #

        I certainly don’t know if Apple will step in, and I agree they would never subsidize hardware and take a loss as happens traditionally in consoles with the upside selling high-margin content – that’s not Apple’s model. But I think there is a serious chance they will. I don’t think they would or even need to compete head-on with the hardware specs identical to or beating XBox-One or PS4, which would make the device too expensive. Apple can double or triple the CPU & GPU and RAM capabilities of an AppleTV each year while keeping their build-costs (and 40% hardware profit margin) steady – that potential box with millions of loyal and well-paid indie developers behind it should scare the shit out of Microsoft and Sony, they would not stand a chance.

  6. Voyance February 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Microsoft can sell an “Apple TV” like, or cut the price of the X-Box 360.

    You forget to tell that everybody is waiting for the new X-Box, it can explain a lot about sales numbers.

    Even the new Real racing 3 will be a freemium title, people don’t want to pay more than a $0.99 to play, Microsoft and his partners won’t lowered the ball at this level, even with a lot of micro-transactions.

    Casual gamers like people who bought the Wii will be with iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, and the hard core gamers will buy the new X-Box, except the hard core gamer market will be smaller than it was 5 years ago…

    • NineYarder February 13, 2013 at 5:36 am #

      Tim Cook just announced yesterday at the Goldman Sachs meeting that Apple is paying out $1 Billion per month to independent game/app developers. Apple has the ability to remake an entire market in a matter of months. They are moving at light speed.

    • Mat Barry February 13, 2013 at 6:54 am #

      You’re right that a lot of people are waiting for the next generation of xBox, but it really hasn’t been announced or is known by the majority of kids that parents bought xboxes for.

      The problem with Microsoft is that they got to where they are with the console by listening to customer feedback (for the most part), and have gradually let money get in their eyes. The second the latest versions of dashboard released, you realize that all is plastered about is advertisements for other products. It’s like browsing through a cheap magazine.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like to see new content and what’s up-and-coming, but I want to have that option to go and look for it when I WANT TO, not when it’s forced on me when I PAY for your service every year. Now that people are buying it and they see the age ranges and demographics for those who are buying them, they believe that the content and entertainment use itself is the reason people are purchasing the console. Though it may be true in some sorts, the reason those people are really buying it is for the value of the entertainment system at its current price range. If you throw a new console into the mix at what will more than likely be $100-200 more (at least), you’re going to cut that demographic out and ultimately be left with true gaming enthusiasts who want performance and GAMING.. not just TV stations and other advertisement-ridden content that they’re trying to get away from in every day life.

      If the latest changes to the xBox are any indication of what the new console has to offer, it will NOT sell as much, especially if the price is much higher. They’re losing touch with those who helped them create and innovate the console to bring people in touch and have fun. When you bring massive amounts of advertisement money and cut off developers not only with price gouging their profits, but not giving them full access to processor threads… they’re going to get away from you.

      Right now, apart from price, people that are buying the consoles are parents. Kids play the Xbox and LOVE it. The interface is more bright and intuitive for kids and they can relate because it’s easy. Older generations also find it a bit more comforting than other consoles (apart from wii) as well. This is sony’s downfall, imho.

      Whatever they do, they need to honor gaming as well as keeping a close relationship with media…without shoving advertising money down paying people’s throats. They’re making enough money from XBL alone, and those who are loyal are getting taken advantage of.

      Either way, it’s going to catch up with them, like the author said. They have to change or they’ll ultimately fail. By the looks of it, Sony will be who to look out for. They can only make so many mistakes before making changes for the better.

      • Al February 13, 2013 at 11:14 am #

        The real problem with Microsoft is that they are, for lack of a better word, led by a marketing guy with no vision and no plan. And yet Ballmer remains in charge.

    • John S. Wilson (@JohnWilson) February 13, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Not exactly. Infinity Blade grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and can’t even stream to a TV set via AirPlay at full resolution. What if one day it can? As of now it’s just a huge hit on iPad and other iOS devices. But add in full TV resolution and a wireless controller and there’s no limit. Know how it grossed so much? Cost only 4.99 but in-game purchases ring up quickly. I spent over $200 beating the game. Sure I may be an edge case, but their revenues say otherwise.

      And Infinity Blade is not the only one. Many games are seeing incredible numbers.

      • Ricardo Dawkins February 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

        Infinite Blade; Low polygon count, low resolution textures and dumb gameplay. Do not want in my HD console. Next.

  7. Jim P February 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Well said. Steve Jobs once said “The problem with Microsoft is that they have no taste.” Your examples of how their UI is awkward are prime examples of the agony of using their products that we’ve experience since the first time we got one of those ambiguous “Abort, Retry, Fail?” messages. Added with the bloatware, malware and UI changes that have occurred and I’m thoroughly disappointed in the state of computers.

    • Ricardo Dawkins February 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      The funny thing is the author of this blog doesn’t says that the Apple TV UI is WORSE than the current UI on Xbox 360s.
      And those Xbox screens he is showing are for the system level tasks.

      • natbro February 14, 2013 at 3:27 am #

        I made no subjective statement comparing Apple-TV UI and xBox UI because that wasn’t the point. I happen to think xBox should have a better, simpler, and more consistent UI (and fewer ads running). If Apple added console capabilities to Apple-TV, I would hope they have a better, simpler and more consistent UI than they currently do to help you get to playing games or watching movies or listening to music faster and more intuitively.

        As to what screens I happend to take pictures of, I showed screens that stand between me putting in a disc and playing a game, or between me switching games. Somehow these are “system level” and I shouldn’t be annoyed at how long they take or how confusing their UI is to me and my family? Perhaps you mean because as a percentage of time, this time of starting or switching shouldn’t be much of my time versus how long I’m playing the game where it’s not intruding on me?

        In any case, there is plenty of horrendous UI and very difficult UI inconsistency within games as well.

        It’s OK with me if this UI doesn’t bother a lot of gamers, and it’s OK with me if it doesn’t bother you. It was an original design goal of xBox to make sure there was a consistent, fast, easy UI — without cryptic error messages — that anybody could use. I think it has gotten clunky and this will be detrimental to its long-term competitiveness, that is all.

  8. Marauderz February 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Err… valid points, though do you use a PS3 as well.. cause if a 4MB update is a complaint wait till you see what you get on the PS3

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      ha! yes, I have one of every dumb console 🙂 no, I wasn’t complaining about the size of the update, just the fact that it bothers telling me it’s 4MB. like I care! just install it!

      • Marauderz February 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

        I guess it all boils to liability since people are so sue happy 😉 don’t want to risk the off chance of a power failure corrupting your 10 hour save game.

        As for the warnings for returning to the dash, yes.. the games don’t communicate to the OS when it last saved, but the question is how does the game tell the OS its OK to quit since diff games have diff notions of a save.

        Reminds me of the problem when my son plays with the iPod touch, you never know if the game can survive a home button press and where and how does it save the game state.

      • James February 13, 2013 at 7:05 am #

        I care. And the next Xbox will have a way better Kinect and Illumiroom is simply amazing, and I would imagine Microsoft has patents all over those, and those 2 features alone make all the difference.

      • blahblah February 13, 2013 at 9:11 am #

        “I guess it all boils to liability since people are so sue happy don’t want to risk the off chance of a power failure corrupting your 10 hour save game.”

        LOL okay, I’ll bite. What cause of action would someone possibly have under those circumstances?

      • February 13, 2013 at 10:07 am #

        natbro, if you think all consoles are dumb would you also agree that you are writing an extremely biased blog post?

        Some of your con’s with the Xbox are actually far better user experience than the Wii or the PS3.

        You sound very disgruntled, and to be making a blog post like this so late in the console franchise when you have no direct ties to the Xbox makes me wonder about your credibility.

        Yes, there are some nuances about the Xbox 360 (I own 3 of them), but overall your attitude is somewhat childish. I mean, are you really complaining about the confirm messageboxes when downloading and saving updates? Would you be more upset if there was a 200mb update, no warning message, and you started the game, but are left wondering why it’s taking 15 minutes to start the game (while it updates in the background)?

        Also, you claim it takes ‘minutes’ to start a game on the Xbox 360, but is that really true or are you just exaggerating to make your biased blog seem more credible? Have you actually timed it? Doubtful.

        Your blog post is full of comments that would sound more appropriate coming from someone who has a grudge against Xbox 360 (which I’m assuming you do). Otherwise, why wait 12 years to bash on its success?

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

        you’re an odd fish, slandshark.
        i have no grudge or axe to grind. i have an opinion about what i think is going to happen and some backstory on how we originally pitched the project, got funding, and laid out a long-game strategy that was in execution for several years and then changed starting about 2006.

        i was very surprised that this blog post has created such a lot of coverage – totally not my intention, but it’s interesting to hear lots of good opinions and thoughts.

        yes, i have timed the minutes going by while looking at my watch (or playing Tiny Wings or Galcon on my iPhone) while waiting for Forza or Portal or CoD or N4S, etc load, or even go between levels. i have timed the minutes while updates download and reboots happen. i have watched my kids get confused and not understand the error messages and warnings. i have fought with microsoft to recover my live-id.

      • Chuck Jacobson (@chuckiej) February 13, 2013 at 11:56 am #

        Burnout Paradise had updates that added gigabytes of new stuff (motorcycles, day-night cycles, new car models, etc) and I would want to know the size of that before installing.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

        a couple of people have made comments along these lines, that the size of the update is useful to know. i guess for me it never has been, i don’t pull a lot of DLC, so i am critical of putting a geek-centric number in front of users for basic patches, but i understand where you are coming from. to most users I think the most interesting thing to know is: will it fit on my device or not? this is how updates work on iOS, and I pretty much agree with that philosophy. if i were to balance both points of view, i might try to tell the user that they have space for it and it should take N minutes to download and install, then let them choose to drill in for more info. if absolutely necessary — i would hide all system and standard game patch information from users completely and just do it if it really needed to be done.

      • FPS February 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

        I think I have seen this sort of UI discussion a million times now. Most of the times it boils down to MS preachers saying that other simpler UIs take out user control by narrowing down options and hiding information. I could not disagree more on this matter. Information display and dosage for humans has always been an impossible task for Microsoft products. Most of the times, the user ends up having to learn an extensive amount of data that really doesn’t matter (at least for the user) in order to feel that they are not doing something wrong or that their actions will not jeopardise the console.
        This is simply the insecurity of the developers showing through.
        It’s like being forced to read over 20 books of sociology to play The Sims “correctly”.

      • Christopher Parsons February 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

        I think some of this might come down to selling the consoles across regions with radically different broadband policies. I know some people (in Canada) actually put off some of the larger updates until their monthly broadband cap ‘refreshes’. So, for them, knowing that it’s a 4MB vs 400MB vs 4GB download is of incredible significance.

        Going over monthly caps by any significant amount can incur significant extra costs, and if someone gets a massive bill from their ISP because they were downloading a game or an update they’re going to be furious with xBox and Microsoft. These issues with caps are made worse when you’re dealing with consumers who lack reasonable wireline broadband access, and instead are forced to use wireless broadband mechanisms.

      • EB February 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

        @Christopher Parsons, I think his point is not knowing whether it is 4 MB or 4 GB, it is that I don’t NEED to know if it is 4 MB, regardless of demographic. Like @FPS said, I don’t NEED to be told I plugged in an HID, and then that it is a mouse. All I need is the cursor to move once I plug it in, and if doesn’t, then I can go seeking information. MSFT has gotten better at this, but this is a key example. Do I need to choose where to install the patch? Install it to where I last installed a patch. Do I need to know you downloaded 4 MB? No, but you better tell me if it will be 1 GB, etc…

    • Tom Servo February 13, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      The difference between the PS3 and the Xbox is that former updates only once in a long while, where as on the Xbox, I’m getting littered with separate mini updates wherever I go, if I haven’t used it for a month or two.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

        yes, i don’t understand why it can’t/doesn’t consolidate patches. this was a hard problem to solve back in 1995, not clear why you don’t just block-and-tackle and get this one done.

      • February 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

        I don’t understand your stance on this, natbro. On one hand you talk about MS needing to cater more to the indie markets and game developers.

        On the other-hand you suggest that MS should allow patches less often. If you reduce the ability for developers to patch their games, you being to hinder the user experience if there were any bugs/content issues needing attention.

        I’d rather have a more frequent smaller patches if it meant my games and apps were always up to date.

        Inability to quickly patch games is one of the largest pet peeves I’ve seen when game indie developers bring up the subject.

        Lastly, a game or app update takes no more than a few seconds most of the time, maybe a minute or two on occasion. Compared to the PS3, the Xbox 360 updates/patches are WAAAAAAY faster (and immensely smaller in size).

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

        sorry if i wasn’t clear. i don’t mind lots of small patches. i don’t mind occasional big patches. bugs being patched and games being updated are GOOD for customers. i love, love, love being able to easily update my iOS apps for my customers, at zero cost to me — well worth my $99/year to Apple for the developer program.
        i very much mind system and app patches that have to be applied, installed, and rebooted/restarted sequentially. your patching system should be designed to accomodate applying multiple patches at once with a minimum number of restarts.

        i also very much mind patches that make me wait while they download. your patching system should (by default, OK by me if configurable somewhere far away for people with slow connections or otherwise) do anything network-related in the background and while i’m idle.

      • EB February 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

        Not sure if the xBox does this (my brother has one, in his playroom, for the kids – so games only, not an entertainment hub), but my PS3 has a setting to allow updates in the middle of the night, and it turns itself on, downloads the updates, and then turns itself off. I beleive this is the default setting, but you can designate the specific time it will do it. When I turn it on I am only told what was updated since the last time I ran it.

  9. AC February 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    It’s Xbox.

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      originally it was “xBox” when i wrote it on my whiteboard in building 2. i can’t stand typing Xbox, I’m a headlessCamelCase kind of guy.

      • KC February 13, 2013 at 1:45 am #

        Haha some Anonymous Coward correcting the founder of the xbox on the spelling, priceless!

  10. msathia February 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    For a simple user(forget an app developer woes on xbox, for a moment) why in the world I need to pay for XBOX LIVE GOLD membership for using the basic apps? Arcane pricing strategy. I would guess an ad revenue stream for free apps will be a better one.

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      It never made sense to me to pay for XBox Live and then also pay for Netflix. Also, I don’t know how it is for Netflix, but most of the big apps actually pay Microsoft an up-front/yearly fee as well as a percent or recurring per-user fee. It is much more complicated and designed to confuse and maximize revenue vs. asking your partners to yield a clear fixed percent (e.g. 70:30 rev-share) and having some placement/promotion advertising fees.

      • bc February 13, 2013 at 8:51 am #

        This is one of my biggest gripes with xbox. Without having a live membership, there is virtually nothing that can be done (.i.e. netflix) where as on the ps3 ou have access without having to have a live membership. I’m not a huge gamer but do enjoy having the ability to do what i want to do when i want to do it without being forced to jump through hoops to get things accomplished. With new consoles around the corner, it will be interesting to see what happens and how the ecosystem evolves to deal with what is becoming a saturated market, increased pricing across the board and the average persons willingness to buy the next new thing without a marked increase in features, form and/or function.

      • ChadF February 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

        “Without having a live membership, there is virtually nothing that can be done (.i.e. netflix)” …

        This of course is just another manifestation of the “Intellectually Property” stranglehold often done by large organizations. And in the article was illustrated by how they shoot themselves in the foot by limiting the ability for anyone [that’s not rich] to release software for the platform and without having their form of expression potentially stepped on (what would be a free speech violation if it was the government, instead of a company — but still the same oppressive act). Some, like Apple, do the same thing.. in Apple’s case I heard they claim it is to keep “low quality” software out, but really we all know it is for profit, keeping power/control, and their “public image” in case someone creates software that might seem “offensive” and taint their name somehow by association (but _everything_ always offends _someone_). Bad software will naturally die out on its own and doesn’t need to be “nipped in the bud”.. well, at least when it is not being carried by a company with deep pockets that keeps promoting it (and hopes people can’t tell the difference).

        Actually, I’m kinda surprised that netflix even lets them get away with it. Since it is effective a usage tax that microsoft is forcing upon netflix’s customers. Netflix is the one doing _them_ a favor by allowing the player on it (making the product more “useful”), not the other way around.

  11. dd February 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    This blog post says exactl what I think when I sit in front of the XBOX. Wh is Xbox not a seamless set of thousands of “tiles”, each tile being an application, all have equal status within the system, be they premum or indie games, or music, or tv stations or radio stations etc. Navigation via sliding across the tile space using touchpad interface.

  12. MichaelGG February 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    Holy crap! I thought I was the only one that noticed how annoyingly slow the Xbox UI is. I hate starting the Xbox because it’s going to ask to install and reboot 2 or 3 times in a row. Then navigating the UI is a pain. Press the Xbox button, and watch as a grey rectangle is slowly drawn, then pieces of the UI filled in. I don’t even know how you can write UI code that runs that slow.

    Navigating the in-game “app store” is a nightmare. It’s so slow to bring up the simplest details, the descriptions are usually filled with crap or just flat-out wrong, and there’s no decent search. (E.g. how can I find games with local co-op?)

    Friends tell me the PS3 is even worse, and I’m not overly impressed with the Wii, so maybe MS thinks they get a free pass.

    Wrong. It’s because of the annoyance (and all the damn ads all over the dashboard, even though I pay for Xbox Live Gold) that I just don’t bother turning the bloody thing on anymore.

    • Chuck Jacobson (@chuckiej) February 13, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      “I hate starting the Xbox because it’s going to ask to install and reboot 2 or 3 times in a row.”

      Sorry, that’s a PS3. One thing Xbox 360 got right is that when updates are needed they happen very quickly.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

        orly? geez, not on my planet. i’m glad they are fast in your universe. i got 5 in a row last fall with the dashboard update. with like 4 reboots. agh!
        (although, yes, PS3 is hard, and the Wii-U launch update-required debacle was amazingly poorly done)

      • Chuck Jacobson (@chuckiej) February 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

        I think the fall update was two reboots at the most for me. But in Xbox land they still happen far less frequently and far faster than on PS3.

      • Anon February 22, 2013 at 10:58 am #

        Not to seem like I’m fanboying, but I haven’t had one update on the PS3 that required me to restart multiple times. It downloaded all patches, had me restart, and it was all good. And just by curiosity, when and how did you come across that multiple reboot on a PS3?

      • mx April 11, 2013 at 2:45 am #

        Agree with Anon above, I’ve owned a PS3 for 6 years and I have never seen an update require more than a single restart.

      • natbro April 11, 2013 at 7:57 am #

        in the past if you played regularly, the ps3 and xbox updates tended to need only a single restart. when 2-3mo pass between starting, i have gotten double restarts out of ps3 as well. xbox updates have been much more frequent in the past year, even going 2wks without using it you can get multi-restart updates. ugh, i don’t know what they are thinking and why they don’t know how to consolidate patches. stupid, stupid.

  13. Hamranhansenhansen February 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    I don’t see how Microsoft has a future with consumers at all. Microsoft leadership does not understand consumers, and consumers hate the Microsoft brand. Not for small reasons, either, but because they’ve been fighting with Windows at work for years. I can’t remember ever hearing a candid success story from a Microsoft user, i.e. “my ass was in the fire but [Microsoft product] really came through for me.” Instead, I hear stories very much like this one — “why is [Microsoft product] so dumb?”

    AppleTV sold 5 million in 2012, but the other iOS devices sold 200 million, and they double in sales every year. Never mind AppleTV overtaking xBox — iOS devices are about to outsell Windows PC’s in 2014, and by the end of 2015, iOS will have a larger installed base than Windows. Right now, iPad by itself is a bigger company than Microsoft, and iPad is only 3 years old. So AppleTV is the least of Microsoft’s problems. Why do I need to be in my living room to game when I don’t have to be in my office to work? The answer is: I don’t. I can play multiplayer 3D games anywhere I like, for 10 hours on a charge, with an iOS device. To me, AppleTV is just an AirPlay receiver that makes TV/speakers available to whatever iOS devices are in the home. I don’t need to run apps or games on AppleTV itself.

  14. Chris Johnson February 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Apple doesn’t need to offer a $200 “console” apple TV, do they? Couldn’t they just offer a $80 controller and let you seamlessly move from your handheld device when away from the living room, to AirPlay to the TV + controller controls when at home?

    I mean, I see the idea behind having the set-top box being the place the game software “lives”, but I also think AirPlay could make that idea outdated.

    In any event, I definitely see the upcoming “console” generation to be AppleTV vs. SteamBox vs. whatever bizarre thing Nintendo creates (“Smell-o-vision! No really!”).

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      Your vision of this is appealing, but my take is that in practice the CPU+GPU and network in your phone/tablet is not going to be up to the task of real hard-core games streaming to your TV. It’s pretty fun to use AirPlay mirroring for some types of games, but it won’t cut it for the best ones today. I think at least for the next 5-10 years it will require a dedicated fixed device (plugged into the wall & to the big screen) to really be on the cutting edge of gaming. There will be all sorts of orbital handheld/touch devices/tablets participating in the game experience, but the main game code will likely be on the fixed device.

      • FuzzyPuffin February 13, 2013 at 12:38 am #

        If Apple enters the living room space for gaming, and I have my doubts that they will, they aren’t going to care about being on the “cutting edge.” They’ll care about ease-of-use.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        well put, and you may be right. interesting that today we’re seeing a rumor about an Apple-TV SDK possibly being announced in March. if it’s not updated with new hardware and a gaming controller, then this will definitely be an ease-of-use device with just casual game apps. which would be OK and probably a big business for them, but it won’t short-term impact Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo.

      • roselan February 13, 2013 at 2:39 am #

        consoles are “pc-ised”.

        Years ago, the pc at the center stage, but pc gaming has been swept away by consoles. Mainly for convenience reasons. To what I know, up until recently, triple A games sold 10 time more on consoles.

        But “PCs” are doing a come back.

        Even if pcs are more expensive, games are cheaper (if not torrented, steamed). Indie games shine on Steam ( by example).

        But let’s be frank, the *real* issue is the lack of big games. AAA games cost is more or less linear with the number of polygons in the game. Without dwelling in the topic of game mechanic and play style, games are a risky investment.

        Next gen will demand even bigger investment for AAA games, while the consumer base seems to be shrinking.

        The console is squeezed from all sides. Hardcode gamers are (back) on pc, only to take advantages of mods. eSport is a pc thing. Casual is steam, web or ipad. So what’s left for console? Madden/fifa (sport) and mw/halo types of games.

      • 011010100010100 February 13, 2013 at 3:41 am #

        I take your points about the ‘plugged in to the wall and tv’, but I can’t help thinking that a simple iPad dock could do that job. If Apple sold decent controllers and extended GameKit a bit I’m sure that the development community would do the rest. One of my bets for 2013 was an Apple game controller that connects to the iPad, but you could be right that the hardware/network/cost elements won’t add up for a few years yet. Of course perhaps Samsung want to take a shot with something that works with the Galaxy tab…..

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

        You could be right. I think to be a competitive console in 2013-2014 that could last a few years you would want to launch with about 4x the CPU+GPU, 2x the RAM and at least 128-256GB of flash. this seems to me outside the path of the iPad CPU/GPU/Storage trajectory, but well within what they could cheaply build given their assets. I wrote about this on HackerNews,

  15. Mark February 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    MS has screwed up every other area they were ahead in. So it only makes sense that Xbox would be the next area to lose to Apple. While I agree with most of your criticisms, they’re coming more than half a decade too late to matter. And even your own post doesn’t come across as very confident about their ability to change their fate at this late stage. So what’s the point besides a good rant?

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      mea culpa about my comments being late. I have tended to give feedback directly to Microsoft folks in the past, but everybody I know is now gone. Last night I just couldn’t stand reading about this new “studio” and “interactive content” plans with new SVP hires from old media. So, yeah, it was just a good rant.

    • Cat_Sandwich February 13, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      The point is to discuss what people want, and what WOULD work. The more opinions that are out there such as this, the more likely people in the industry will see and listen (if they’re smart).

  16. Falkun February 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    Some interesting points, but several false and/or erroneous statements. I used to work at Xbox too, more recently than you, but also left some time ago. Some corrections:
    1) the Xbox is no longer a “loss leader”. Depending on the model, it’s either break-even or profitable.
    2) This following statement is absolutely false: “I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and tv-uses was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of”. To use your own term, that’s bullshit. Kinect was an accident of circumstance? It was a deliberate and concerted effort across multiple teams (hardware, platform, content, developers) to expand the system to include casual users. It didn’t just “accidentally” happen.

    The Xbox is the center of our entertainment universe. Now that I no longer get Xbox Live for free, I happily pay the price for a gold membership to consolidate multiple services into one magical box that saves me 100 times the cost in cable fees. Hulu Plus, Netflix, Xbox Video, Amazon Prime, trailers, etc. ON TOP OF kick-ass games like Skyrim, Halo, Gears, etc. – hours of endless entertainment through one device directly to my 62″ TV? Gold membership fee is a steal – sure lots of consumer expect everything to be free, the focus is on 30M or more users willing to pay that fee because they recognize the value in this.

    Most of your other comments about the developers and user experience are valid. The user experience, especially with Kinect, can be vastly improved. It still bugs me that when using connect, you sometimes get a message (like many that you show in your post) that requires you to use a controller to proceed. That’s a broken experience. I hope they will have that solved when they release the next console, if not sooner. Also, I’ve set up enough Xboxes for friends and family to confirm that the whole setup process needs to be vastly improved. If I wasn’t there setting it up, I’m confident the newbies would not have been able to make it all the way through. And finally, the new security measures, while providing vastly improved security, also provides vastly reduced functionality.

    • natbro February 12, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      Great points.
      Note: I didn’t say it was still a loss-leader anywhere.
      Also, my points about the casual transition were not meant to include the transition to casual games, which Kinect definitely helped make happen. I was trying to refer to the transition to non-game uses: netflix, music, interactive-tv, which a lot of current press being fostered by Microsoft is painting as the big growth area for the platform (by virtue presumably of it driving subscribers & revenue). This is what I have heard people say was “intentional strategy,” which I call bullshit on.
      I really love Kinect, and I know and have heard that it was a focused & concerted cross-group effort. Moving 24M of anything to consumers (an attach rate of 33% for a >$100 peripheral – unheard of) is phenomenal. What I will criticize Microsoft for wrt Kinect, is what I mentioned: failure to capitalize on the success. I have a Kinect. The first-year launch titles were good, and I was expecting more & better, and I was expecting an SDK for laptops/Windows promptly. Nothing. No astounding follow-on titles in 2012. The holiday 2012 titles for year-2 were nothing interesting. This is failure to capitalize on your success and drive bigger growth. The attention is obviously elsewhere, it’s not on game titles anymore.

      • P-Nelly (@JPNelly) February 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

        Love this post Nat. Like minds.

        Falkun is definitely a fan, and with good reason, but having to pay for free apps, no matter how much of a perceived steal it is to one person, no matter if it’s a lazy lump into the everything for one price pile, is not going to fly with most people – which numbers prove. It’s free on PS. Free on iOS. No cumbersome signups, should just work out of the box, but they lock those up and cause people pain to get to them. Terrible UX.

        Also would like to point out that Kinect really did “accidentally happen”. And it almost didn’t happen. I’d even argue that MS never wanted the peripheral in the first place. Hardware teams cold called and presented multiple solutions in the beginning of the Kinect movement that Microsoft’s best didn’t want and scoffed at. It only became sort of deliberate across the teams after being shoved down necks and put on a list of forced to-do’s. Now of course its genius, scramble for patents and protection, lawyers, more integration, but wait, it’s open source. Ooops. Another indicator of missed oppty. Anybody can tap this tech and use it or distribute it, and there are much better solutions for a true “Minority Report” like experience.

        Last rebutt .. You’re right, some profit over the last few years, finally, but check out the data/graph:

        And with the new release this year, the loss leader strategy will come screaming back. I can just imaging the bedazzling going on over there right now.

        I’ve got much more, and I’ll be here all week, try the veal …

      • EB February 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

        I think he was reading your responses as well and had in his mind this comment: “Apple is beating them in unit growth (and selling a profitable unit, not a loss-leader unit) at the thing they have been focusing their attention on.” where you never said the XBox was a loss leader, other than by implication that the AppleTV is not…

    • Peter February 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Xbox Live worth the cost? No offense meant but I call bullshit on that – I think that world view / delusion is part of Microsoft’s problem. BTW I own and like my Xbox 360 and Kinect – but just for gaming when I can be bothered fiddling with inserting discs, etc.

      The Xbox offers me absolutely and utterly NO benefit for consuming entertainment beyond gaming.

      My year old Samsung TV has free apps for Hulu, Netflix and a bunch of other services, including Pandora. Why should I pay Microsoft an extra tax for services I already pay for, i.e. Netflix?

      The TV also talks DLNA, so I can (and do) easily broadcast media from my iPhone, home media server, laptops and desktop machines.

      I also own a 3rd gen Apple TV (at 99$ its nearly free), which I’ve connected to an older TV in another room. With the Apple TV there’s no extra cost for using Netflix and Hulu (beyond what they charge). Strangely, I don’t stream games from my iPhone to the Apple TV – I don’t know why.

      Microsoft needs to stop thinking in such traditional and conventional terms on how to make money out of entertainment. Stop thinking in terms of charging for entry (Gold Membership), think in terms of charging for use (Apple’s App Store). Apple’s App Store 30% take is a great example of how to make money. Enable consumers to spend money in small amounts, and then let then spend as much as they want as often as they want – but don’t force them. A big up front monthly cost is a big deterrent without a significant, obvious and ongoing benefits.

      BTW if Microsoft provided Skype on the Xbox I’d be spending more money on my Skype account – and I’d be happy to BUT I won’t buy a Gold account just for the privilege.

  17. maximus February 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    I also don’t understand why I see advertisements on the dashboard when I’m paying for a Gold membership already.

    The metro UI makes it very hard to mentally arrange everything so that you can shoot for something using muscle memory. Instead, one must deliberately look at every arbitrary shaped tile and find the content they’re looking for.

    Here’s my favorite. For some tiles, as you as you hover over it, the contents goes away completely and is replaced by the title (such as “What’s New” or “Recommended”, etc.). This makes no sense at all. You then wait for the content to pop back in at which point the title is gone. Who thinks of this stuff?

  18. itsne February 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Thank you for so eloquently putting words to those niggling thoughts in the back of my head. I haven’t turned my xbox on in months. What do I use instead? A raspberry pi as a media box and the occasional game on an android phone. The xbox platform is too expensive (in terms of time) and too expensive (in terms of no micro apps or cheap games) and too expensive (in terms of all this live id and gold memberships and bullshit).

    On my phone I go to the play store. I download a game. Its free. I play it. I like it. I pay for it and play it for a few months on and off.

    Microsoft: are you listening? Can you compete with that? (<– this is a request, not a question).

  19. betaservices February 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Used games is only an issue for physical media. You still wont be able to sell or use used games on an Apple TV based console. But somehow thats acceptable?

    There would be no concept of used games on the SteamBox either? So the sooner consoles lose physical media, the sooner people will adapt to buy it once, keep it forever.

    Which, in my opinion, is a good trade off: never having to keep track of or protect the disc.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Excellent point. Not being able to give games to friends (or Kindle books for that matter) definitely troubles me in iOS and on other devices. If you’re going to have discs, I think people should be able to re-sell them or give them away. I guess it’s not 100% logical, but that’s what I’m used to when somebody sells me a physical item. When they sell me something digital, it irks me to not be able to give it to somebody else, but I am used to it.

  20. Gabe February 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Just wanted to say that my wife and I bought a 360 so she could play her Kinect fitness games and we could watch Netflix. Strike One was live membership to watch Netflix. Strike two: live memberships must be paid per- user, so someone always had a crippled Live account. Strike Three: constant updating. Strike Four: High content prices. Strike five: online play involved being called faggots repeatedly. Strike six: Clumsy, slow ui and unreliable voice commands. Strike seven: the box is loud enough to be heard during quiet Netflix scenes. Strike eight: controllers stop working after about a year, consistently. electrical contracts get messed up and don’t clean up well.

    I am not against paying for services as long as i am getting something out of it. Current Live pricing feels like i am paying ransom to use basic features. If they threw in a full Xbox music membership and one Gold account on the device enabled Netflix and all current gold tier apps for all users on the console it might be worth it.

    As it is, we bought a Roku and the Xbox is now rotting. We don’t even miss it and we dread turning it on.

  21. (@misterxmedia) February 13, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    I know only 1 person who can be called the father of Xbox – J Allard. Is that you? Can not find any signatures to this blog and post.

    Seems fake to me. I guess Sonys propaganda defence works in full force because they afraid of what MS is cooking for next They would not to complete his that. MS will cover all bases this time with another hardcore gaming push in order not to loose the core of their system

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      J did indeed take xBox from the “seed funding” stage we “founders” established up through startup, to a full huge team and then across the finish line not once, but twice. i think J is great, and it makes me sad he left Microsoft.
      feel free to search around, I’m real.

  22. registradus February 13, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    I don’t know if I agree with “failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect.”. Consumers just don’t like it…

  23. registradus February 13, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    The ‘Select a device’ prompt is a huge annoyance to me.

  24. Ben February 13, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    Hi, i really like your comments on XBox. I personally have problems with some other things on xBox 360, like forcing me to pay for an Gold Membership just be able to watch a Lovefilm (read Netflix in Germany) or even public television like Germans ZDF.

    In terms of games, what do you think of the Ouya console? I am a supporter on kickstarter and would be curious to know what you think about it.

  25. frankluciferfroehn February 13, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    i also find the idea of a gaming-enabled apple-tv appealing on first sight. but i’m not really sure if the’ll ever do it – it would fragment ios as a gaming platform. also, they could have brought out a (clip-on) controller for ipad to make those shooter games playable – but they didn’t.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      i originally thought they might use iPhones/iPads/iPod-touch as a controller, but I increasingly think that if they enter this space they would have to introduce a proper game controller peripheral. i think games could include other iOS devices, but I simply don’t think you’re serious about console gaming without a really nice controller for the styles of games that people are used to playing in that setting.

  26. Manuel February 13, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    you’re really pissed to have lost your job,hu?

    Its not like apple delivers a good price-performance ratio and this is clearly an important factor for a Console and Mediabox, as Users dont want to buy every two years a new one.
    Apple could just deliver that much pads and phones, because they are subsidized by Network contracts.

    I agree with you that it would be great to have one box for everything, but its much to soon for this and the only way it will happen is inside the cloud. But as most people in the World dont have good enough Internet speed and the pings are sky high, dont see this happening soon. We will see traditional Consoles, this generation mixed with more Media capabilities, for at least two more Generations.
    Maybe in 10-15 years the cloud will be much more present and playing Games via Stream will finally get a good and smooth experience.

    • Wayne Borean February 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Its not like apple delivers a good price-performance ratio and this is clearly an important factor for a Console and Mediabox, as Users dont want to buy every two years a new one.

      Horse manure. I went over all of Apple’s pricing a couple of years back, and it is competitive with everyone else. Read The Mythical Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field Debunked.

      Apple does work in the premium end of the market. Comparing a basic WalMart Windows box with an Apple Mac doesn’t work, because the low end WalMart special doesn’t have the same specifications or capabilities. You have to use top end Dell, HP, Lenovo etc. machines to see that Apple is equivalent or slightly less expensive in most cases.

      Yes, they are more expensive sometimes, but that’s why you comparison shop.


  27. Lelala February 13, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Thanks for that post; it actually saved my paper that i’d thought to be finished on the weekend (it is about Microsoft and their strategy in the consumer market)
    Many Thanks 🙂

  28. stillglade February 13, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    You should take a look at the – open hardware is the key.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 5:57 am #

      I’m very excited about the ouya. The two things that interest me most about it: (1) how good is the controller, how does it feel in my hands, (2) how is the marketplace for games going to work, how easy will it be for users to find and pay for games and promote them to their friends. I think they have a distinct advantage in the developer community by choosing good common hardware and a software stack that is well-known to a lot of developers. I personally really really hate writing for Android and using Java at all – I don’t port anything I do for iOS to Android. I will dust off my whole Java/Android toolchain for Ouya if the controller feels good and the market sounds right.

  29. Ken Esq February 13, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    Some very good points.
    The XBox 360’s UI looks like it was done, and continues to be worked on by people that never use the device. One of the things that made Microsoft great was its ability to release products and then constantly improve them until they were as good if not better than all of the competitors. There has been almost no improvement in the XBox360 since release. Changing the basic UI looks not only doesn’t count, but actually makes things harder on the audience they are now chasing. People don’t want the way their TV works to change every year…especially since those changes are not directed at making the device easier to use.
    They say they’re a home content device. Well, that’s true for the reasons stated by the author, but they’ve done nothing to make it really work. Try connecting t2o XBoxes in the same house? What’s that…they both use the same router ports and unless you know about port triggers only one can really work at a time. I guess in the Microsoft world people only have one TV?
    Then there’s game quality. Microsoft seemingly allows the big titles to go out there with a plethora of serious bugs. I’m talking the titles by EA, Beyond, etc.
    The only thing that is really holding Android and iOS back at the moment is the hardware as that improves the games will be able to reach the “depth” of the XBox titles and that’s an issue.
    Some other questions.
    So, how long has Microsoft owned Skype and had Kinnect out there, but there’s still no Skype for the console?
    I hope that Microsoft stops focusing on anti-customer technology like disallowing used games, EA’s online play license, and similar and begins looking at their last best hope in the home. It’s really time for some customer focus in Redmond.
    Although, I’m not so sure the current administration is capable of that kind of thinking.

    • Cat_Sandwich February 13, 2013 at 6:28 am #

      Great points. Someone needs to come in and hand Microsoft’s butt to them on a silver platter. Maybe then they will get the message.

  30. Jibaholic February 13, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    I have to disagree. No one wants to play Angry Birds on an xBox. Apple is not a competitor to Microsoft or Sony except in the very limited sense that some casual gamers may have bought an xBox in the past (the more likely profile is the people who bought Wii’s and never used them). Are there any iOS games that even remotely stand up to good console games? Does Infinity Blade compare to Final Fantasy? Do people who played Infinity Blade on their phones say, “Wow, I can’t wait to go home and sit in front of my xBox for 6 hours and play more Infinity Blade?”

    No? So then what’s the point of an app store? A small-time developer with a small staff can’t make games that compete with Call of Duty or Final Fantasy or Forza 4. So what’s the point?

    And by the way, I’m an Apple guy. I like the App store. I just don’t think a puzzle game that helps me pass the time while waiting in line is going to shake up the console market.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 6:22 am #

      Super well said, if a bit down on the abilities of small developers.
      I completely agree that the majority of touch-based casual games on mobile/tablet won’t translate to the living room or to a different controller.
      I don’t think you need indie developers or a proper digital-distribution “app store” in order to just port touch-based games.
      I think you want digital distribution and an app economy for games that are specific to the console — specific to the TV, any sensors, and the controllers that people are using or want to use or create for the console and the gaming experience.
      Give this ecosystem to developers and a reasonable and non-onerous review process and you will get high-quality games. You will of course not always get games with the same length of game-play, depth of artwork, or depth of audio experience that an EA. At first you will get lots of small games. Over time, depending on what (how big? how updatable) and how much (how much can they charge? can they charge subscriptions?) you allow developers to deliver, they will make bigger and more complicated, higher production-value games… if it’s profitable to do so.

      I don’t want any puzzle games on my TV, either. But I know there are smart people out there that will come up with kick-ass games if they have the opportunity to make money doing so. The PC indie game market proves this.

      • Bill Bliss February 13, 2013 at 11:07 am #

        There was an interesting article on TechCrunch a few days ago that touched on some of the distribution/app store questions discussed here:

        When I read that, I was thinking that this is a classic Innovator’s Dilemma problem for Microsoft/Xbox. The gap between the ASPs (Average Selling Prices, as you know of course but perhaps other readers may be unfamiliar with the term) of console games vs. mobile/casual games is so large, and the economics/who-pays-whom are so different, that it’s hard to make the leap from one to the other. On the face of it, it looks like economic suicide.

        On the other hand, it’s not all that different than what you are seeing on the iOS and Mac app stores now, compared to the prices paid for traditional productivity apps when sold in software stores (remember those?) and office supply/big box stores. Yes, the ASPs are lower in the app stores, but the volume and distribution makes it worth it for many software vendors, and the Mac App Store ASPs are are much higher than the iTunes ASPs (although it wasn’t easy to find a source to quote that is both recent and reasonably authoritative, sorry).

        More to the point, I think it’s wrong to assume that the ASPs you see for games in the iTunes app store would be the same for console games. I see no reason that people wouldn’t pay more to get more, which totally changes the dynamics of “who will be willing to build high-quality games?” My gut says that the ASPs will be less than today’s console games but significantly more than iOS games. I think Steam’s marketplace proves this, as you pointed out.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

        Thanks, Bill – I read that article with interest as well, it was one of the several triggers leading up to my fury watching the interviews from D: Dive Into Media about stupid “interactive content” and “the transition to an entertainment hub.”
        I personally do think console game prices at $50+ are slightly too high (I prefer to buy things used a few months later, I’m a cheapskate), but I do think that the consoles, by virtue of having more storage and CPU+GPU horsepower, and by virtue of where (living rooms) and how/when (during longer stretches of idle time), enable and promote a higher-production-value game that can last longer and have more depth. People can and will pay more for things that have more value, and console games should be able to command higher value if they are good. That said, there is plenty of room for smaller, cheaper, quicker-to-play games on consoles as well, one that is unserved. But, only if the console boots quickly, launches titles quickly, and doesn’t have an intrusive, friction-filled UI.

    • Cat_Sandwich February 13, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      I see what you’re saying, but I feel you may have misinterpreted his point. Apple isn’t a ‘direct’ competitor yet regarding major hardware/software, but they’re absolutely a competitor for your entertainment time in general!
      Microsoft needs to make money on the xbox. If they can’t offer the infrastructure to support indie developers (which involves allowing them to make money, too) then they won’t be porfitable. Apple is already on the right track. If they enter the console market with anything bigger then Microsoft will feel the heat. Maybe that would be a good thing.

    • Cleo February 13, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      There are plenty of commercially successful XBLA games made by small developers. The last time my XBox was hooked up, it was essentially a dedicated Catan and Bomberman machine. Super Meat Boy, Fez, etc… Small games by small devs that many people prefer over Boring Big Budget Realistic Tactical Military Sim XII.

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        I don’t entirely disagree, I love some XBLA games as well. But you certainly can’t say that if you normalized for the installed base between iOS and xBox that the payout to indie developers through XBLA and XBLIG is anything approaching the payout and success folks have on iOS and Android?
        Most developers you can talk with will tell you: not worth it, not enough visibility in the marketplace/dashboard.

    • michael February 13, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Games are to gaming consoles what phone calls are to smart phones — an important-but-miniscule part of what matters.

      I used to use Windows Media Center, and liked it a lot. Trying to replicate that dead-simple home theater experience on an Xbox was a nightmare.

      Now I just use XBMC on an HTPC. So much better.

  31. Cat_Sandwich February 13, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Great blog! I’ve seen a lot of good comments lately on subjects such as this. It really makes sense when you think about it. I’ve always thought the ads on the XBL interface were annoying, but if I’m paying (a good amount) for it, why should I be tolerating them?
    You offered a very interesting developer perspective, too.

  32. shadowkain99 February 13, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    Great post! I had an xBox (spelled right there? ha) and xBox 360. They were fun but clunky. I really thought that the original xBox was going in the right direction with its media capabilities, but they have truly lost sight of things. The Wii and Wii U are bland now, and the PS3 only serves a purpose of being my Blu Ray player and the few exclusive games I want to have for it. Call me crazy, but after the hey day of my LOVELY Nintendo 64, the consider my gamecube to be my favorite “retro” like console. There were quite a few fun games for it, the console design was very um “chic’ ???) and the discs were so tiny! It came in great colors around the world like the N64 and had a small following. It was too bad, that that* console should have been what was the “N64 Days”. It probably would have fared a bit better. Just my 2 cents!

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Funny that you mention N64. The Sony PS1 was the console whose financials (installed base, software attach rate, something like 30% of Sony’s profit in 1999 from 1% of its workforce) helped BillG and SteveB understand why we should enter the console business, but the N64 was the console that I wanted us to channel. Fast boot. Fast to start games. Great sound. Easy to plug-in/-out controllers and kid-friendly controllers and connectors. My son & I still crack out the N64 for some Yoshi’s Story, Perfect Dark, Super Mario 64, and a few others.

  33. Jason February 13, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    They ought to focus on making it durable. Did they learn that lesson? Will consumers have to buy multiple boxes and wait years before MS starts making consoles that work (and replacing broken consoles with ones that work). I know I’ll wait for a long while before I rush out for the next box from them, even though I love my 360 (fourth one).

  34. Jason the Saj February 13, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    I agree with pretty much everything he’s said, except for viewing Apple as better.

    Example: Apple ecosystem fail. I’ve bought a game, we’ve purchased add ons. But for whatever reason (re-install, multiple devices, etc). I have to re-install it.

    crApple, makes you go through the entire purchase process. And only after you’ve agreed to buy at $x.xx price does it inform you that you’ve already purchased this option.

    Really Apple, you couldn’t check that before you bring me through your billing/purchase info.

    Apple is just as bad, if not worse that Microsoft/Xbox. Advantage is, that at least the Xbox platform is innovating.

    • Jason the Saj February 13, 2013 at 7:50 am #

      Big Fails for M$ & Xbox, is they didn’t listen to the email I sent them back before the 360 was announced.

      1. Integrate media player with Xbox. In this case, let a Windows Phone hold gamer tag, saved games, replay videos, etc.

      2. Windows is a tarnished brand. Microsoft would have a lot more sales if they sold the “X Phone”, and made it so that thousands of Xbox minigames could be ran in emulation on the xPhone.

      3. Kinect, omg, how do we still not have a lightgun shooter game. Take Cabela’s Big Hunt and cross it with the Blackwater game and you have a “Killer App”.. Seriously !@$% fail?

      4. Developer access…let it be an entry way. Allow free developer kits, free IDE, so that anyone – especially college students or part time entrepaneurs can develop and sell a game through Xbox Live. Same model as Apple. M$ keeps a share.

      5. Fire Steve Ballmer, this man is KILLING Microsoft.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      i know what you mean about the re-purchase UI being poor. i agree that’s a pain and should happen better when you fire up a new apple device – it should go through and list what you used to have and get them again and restore their purchases. i think they think that most people restore from backups? fwiw, developers do have the option to perform a “restore previous purchases” inside their apps, and some developers do this on first-launch, which eases some of the in-app-repurchase UI nightmares.

  35. Kevin February 13, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Does have a few points, but screaming from the outside in does not help, you need to get back inside Redmond & then scream your thoughts at the person that needs to hear it.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      it would take a miraculous act of some sort to convince me that going back to Microsoft could even begin to make a difference. last time i spoke with Microsoft folks about going back (2006 sometime?) i joked that I’d come back if I was given 400 “you’re fired” cards which I could hand to anybody at any time for any reason if they got in my way, and they would just be fired, no questions asked. i’m was joking, but seriously there is some truth to the amount of purging and simplifying of processes that really needs to go on there.

  36. Patrick Husting February 13, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Agree. I think the game console market is saturated and we need some new devices to perk it up. AppleTV is pretty nice and a solution from Valve will get my purchase if a new HALF-LIFE is shipped! :o)

  37. John N. Seattle, WA February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Even my non-technical brother noticed that when they moved from the “classic” blade UI to “It’s not Metro”, the box became more difficult to use! He noted that what used to take 2 clicks to accomplish, now takes 5, among other issues. We both LOATHE the “live tiles”, and the necessity to scroll through endless screens to find whatever you are looking for. Also, have you ever had to search for something using the controller? Who in their infinite stupidity decided to replace the text input for an ALPHABETICAL scrolling list??? Obviously someone who is interested in making text input as painful as possible to promote sales of the Kinect!

    While I am on the subject of Kinect…this peripheral has been a huge disappointment! There is not ONE SINGLE GAME that makes owning it worthwhile! The games that DID look interesting (Steel Battalion comes to mind), worked so horribly with Kinect as to make the game unplayable. I am also VERY concerned with having an Internet connected camera in my living room! Who is to say what pictures, video, and other information is collected? Is there some nerd in Redmond sifting through photos at random looking for sexual thrills? Are other personal data collected, such as clothing brands worn, number of viewers for a particular episode on Netflix, etc? No one really knows WHAT MS does, and that is a HUGE privacy issue! The rumors that the new Xbox will REQUIRE a Kinect (that is properly calibrated…no putting a photo of your dog in front of the camera!) is especially troubling.

    Add to that the rumor that used games will no longer be able to be purchased! The sad fact is that Microsoft is becoming an inferior Apple. They have done everything in their power to close off their systems, create walled gardens, and restrict user choice. They maximize profits, sure…but they are alienating their loyal customers as well.

    Personally, I have already decided NOT to buy the next Xbox OR the next PlayStation. I am going back to gaming on PC…and I will be moving exclusively to Linux as soon as Valve and other companies get their top tier games ported over. I am DONE with “Metro”, I am DONE with Xbox, and sadly, I am DONE with Windows. See you Microsoft! It’s been real, it’s been fun, but it ain’t been real fun!

  38. Adam Carey (@admancarey) February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    Great post! It’s amazing that, basically, MSFT had a head start on iOS and now sees Apple in the catbird seat.

    Why couldn’t they have lowered the barrier-to-entry and unleashed the power of 10,000 small game developers to create a stunning gaming ecosystem.

    Payments are there, (home) location is there, development pool is there, goodwill is there. All you needed was a great SDK and you have iOS!

    I’d never think to remind MSFT what developers will do if they can make money. A shame.

  39. Synth February 13, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    The other thing is that Apple barely has to invest anything to make the switch you are talking about. The AppleTV leverages off-the-shelf hardware (iPod touch w/o a screen) and software (iOS) and the entire Mac/iOS ecosystem. Apple paid out $1 billion to iOS developers last month. Apple is already selling/renting 500K movies/TV shows PER DAY and just sold its 25 billionth (?) iTunes song. iOS apps are on a steeper trajectory than iTunes trax.

    Contrast that with the money MS has flushed down the toilet with X-box and how much they will have to invest in the next version of the X-Box so that it will become a “success.”

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      agreed. as I wrote over in the HackerNews thread (
      “I think they (Apple) could build a next-generation-console-capable Apple-TV and sell it at or below $199 while keeping their 40% margin. They would sell you each additional wireless controller (and it would be sweetly designed, I suspect) for the standard $79 peripheral cost.”
      “The primary contributor to their bill-of-material cost savings vs. competitors is that they already own and/or license at huge volume their CPU and GPU cores and know how to fabricate them in multi-core formats with high-speed cross-connectivity. They can also buy RAM and flash for SSD storage at better costs than anybody else. These are the primary cost drivers (basically money flowing to IBM, nVidia, etc for CPU/GPU and money flowing elsewhere for RAM/SSD/HDD) for xBox, PS, Wii.”
      “Apple would have dramatically lower overall startup costs versus the original xBox/xBox360 and PS2/3 given they already have a toolchain and SMP operating system with sandboxing, an App Store and its back-end, user-accounts and payment infrastructure, and numerous other costs shared with the rest of the Mac and iOS ecosystems.”
      “Apple wouldn’t have a lot of work to do to train developers: tell us the screen resolution, how to interact with the controller and any other new hardware capabilities, tell us anything special about the GPU’s and let us go to town with the existing toolchain we are using for iPhone and iPad.”

  40. winstuff February 13, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Interesting. This is why Apple keeps tinkering with its TV, even tho’ it can’t get the buck/title show licensing it requires to go full bore. Question: Does Microsoft lose money on the Xbox. I see various opinions and factoids online.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      I don’t know definitively. Back in the day the basic projection was to sell one device + controller for approximately cost + distribution + retail, then make back about 20% margin with 2 first-party titles and an additional peripheral or 4 second-/third-party titles and an additional peripheral, with a goal of having a 4-5 title attach rate over 24mo, a lifetime margin of 35-40%. this doesn’t take into account your initial sunk costs to spin things up. the additional revenue for XBox Live subscriptions are all things I never modeled.
      I think there are some pretty thoughtful replies about this post on HackerNews ( which break down the profit/loss these days, but I can’t confirm anything.

  41. George February 13, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Another good example of the sham that is Xbox Live:

  42. A7 February 13, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    You forgot about the fad-ish season-pass caveats: “Do not download from Xbox LIVE Marketplace or you will be charged twice.” Good thing they buried that deep in the center of the content details. No refunds people!

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      Yes, there is a whole tirade that one could go on about Windows Live IDs (or XBox Live IDs), billing, and how all of that is incredibly poorly maintained and flakey. Totally cutting edge and competitive with Apple-ID and iTunes billing when XBox Live launched (Cameron Ferroni, you are awesome and my hero), stagnant and pretty broken for most people on a regular basis today.

  43. Tom Servo February 13, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    I’m not even sure why Microsoft thinks that it’s a decent living room entertainment device. It rarely plays any of my media files correctly (it either has terrible framerate jitter, skipping audio, or plain out doesn’t support it), where as my PS3 plays them just fine. The only exception is canned content from Xbox Video. But then, why would I want to pay 7€ for a limited HD experience, when I pay 3€ to rent the full Blu-ray at the video store, that comes with all extras and language tracks the more than twice expensive stream doesn’t feature? Oh, I forgot, the Xbox doesn’t even have a Blu-ray drive (nor HD-DVD, which is where MS dropped the ball back then).

  44. Mark February 13, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Great post – a couple things you missed:

    1) Why the frack is it easier to connect to your network content via WMC on PS3 than Xbox?
    2) Why the frell can I not attach my own harddrive with all my media? Or to put my excess content (just games installed, over 320gb… what do I do with the rest? piles of 16gb flash drives anyone?)
    3) Why in gods name are you making it so expensive to get content? Price minimums, $7.99 for netflix – or – $44 for one season of one show on MS’s store?
    4) Don’t buy that content – cause I’m too stupid to realize the difference between a season pass and an individual purchase!

    I could go on and on… I wish I had the influence to be a UX designer.

  45. Chad February 13, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Getting Kinectimals started for my kids is a pain. It’s like no one that has kids worked on that game. At least we’ve got Tim Shafer doing Kinect games right.

  46. Dan Hilgert February 13, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Apple Tv is not a console. It doesn’t let you play games. Apple’s eco system takes too much of a cut. It makes it very difficult to use Windows computers within that eco system, or external hard drives formatted as windows. So its a no-go in my world.

    The system that would be successful in the living room would be affordable, fast loading, easy to navigate, update automatically, suppress annoying messages, open to windows and apple systems, friendly to indie game designers at a low cost of entry, and not necessarily the most advanced thing in the world.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      sure, Apple-TV today isn’t a console. I’m only saying it could be, and that Apple has big momentum with at least some game developers due to iPhone and iPad gaming, which has grown the overal game market and game revenue over the past several years.
      i don’t agree that Apple’s 30% cut is too much, that’s not at all unusual for consoles. i would certainly love it if it were 5%, though 🙂

  47. Russell February 13, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    I don’t want to play angry birds on my tv so I don’t see a console that tries to sell you those waiting for your oil to get changed type games as being a must have. The sad thing most people don’t realize is that anything you can do with a console can be done better with a laptop. I can plug it into my tv if I want to without it being a big to do if I want to have it with me when I travel. I think people just need to wave goodbye to set top boxes and consoles altogether. The only thing keeping consoles alive is when they’re able to keep a title away from the pc

  48. Zeph February 13, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    This is, in my opinion, Apple’s best bet for accelerating the growth of TV and for gaining the install-base necessary to really leverage the networks to give Apple content as an alternative to cable.

    Apple could release a game controller for the TV and that would be pretty effective, but considering that we haven’t seen even the smallest whiff in the supply chain of such an event, it’s far more likely that the next revision to iOS and the SDK will contain an official, supported API for Bluetooth controllers that 3rd-parties will develop.

    A D-pad, two sticks, 4-6 face buttons, and 2-4 shoulder buttons can be specced out and hardware developers can make their own controller, so long as A is always mapped to A and X is always mapped to X. iOS developers would be able to simply plugin the appropriate API calls to implement the controller and tie it to the same actions as specific touchscreen elements.

    If a user were to AirPlay the game to their TV, they’d be ready to take on the Wii U in terms of gameplay possibilities. Plus, with the TV already supporting Bluetooth keyboards, it’s likely the controller could pair directly with the TV and games could be downloaded and run locally or even streamed into memory from iTunes to work around the storage limitations of the current TV.

    I’m excited to see if Apple enters this space and what they do. All the pieces are already there, they just need to be assembled.

  49. JG February 13, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    My #1 rant is that I am required to insert the game disc even though the game is stored on the hard drive. I can understand a periodic insertion of the disc to prevent passing the disk around to my friends. However, inserting the disc every time is trying my patience.

  50. phillpcastaneda February 13, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Excellent article. We’ve been x-boxers for years – ever since we hooked up six xBox 1 units together to play Halo 1 in our living rooms. Amazing how Microsoft…MICROSOFT actually took the gaming industry and upped it several notches…literally lighting the fire of online play. I’ve complained for years that they are “resting on their laurels” and am looking for that innovative spark to take gaming to a new level. I really like what you said about developing apps should be an easier process – similar to android or ios. Thanks again.

  51. Chuck Jacobson (@chuckiej) February 13, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Nat, wonderful post! I’m also enjoying reading the comments. You echoed the unspoken concerns of many of us or educated us on issues we didn’t know about. The only problem really is that it may be too late in the process for changes to be made for Next Xbox (or should I type xBox?), Kinect 2.0, and the next version of Xbox Live. Perhaps not but time is running out before the release.

    You are so right that we need to get away from Windows-ish warning messages (though I think a “your game is saving” icon may still be necessary) and MS needs to move in the direction Apple has. When asking where my save file is, the XBox should do a quick search to see if saves for this game are on each device I have plugged in, or the cloud, and only offer those to me.

    I assume they are worried about an indie app that would unlock the console and allow piracy of games. This is possible right now but certainly tougher than jailbreaking an iOS device and putting Cydia on it. But it may be time to forgo worrying about that!

    I also think there have been some legitimate innovations in Xbox and Live but they are just not following through on the promise. Every device now has Netflix and many also have media stores. Even stellar voice control (if it gets to “stellar” someday) is not enough to convince the masses to buy an Xbox for those things.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Agree with you that the “I’m saving your progress” icon or indicator is needed, it’s the “please don’t shut off the device or unplug it” which is stupid. Also that there is no “dirty-bit” being communicated back-and-forth between games and the OS telling it when it needs to warn about saving content to return to the main menu.
      I guess I always hoped that “saving progress” would look more consistent across games so that users could always feel like they were being taken care of consistently.

      • MichaelGG February 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

        Is it cost prohibitive to include a few megs of NVRAM/write cache so these critical writes aren’t critical and slow?

      • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        Good question: don’t know. There are lots of techniques from the world of file-systems and databases that require nothing but a bit from NVRAM and careful buffer-management and flushing that would seem pretty obvious to do. These are things that NTFS and MS SQL already know how to do and do for atomicity. It’s the sort of thing that you do when you properly provide an operating system to your developers.

  52. Chuck Jacobson (@chuckiej) February 13, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Nat, what if the rumors (and facts) we are hearing are true:

    1) The new studio in LA
    2) An Xbox Lite aimed at Casual/TV released with the new better spec’d Xbox
    3) Download only games
    4) Only mild improvements to indie developer relations
    5) Few (but still some really good) exclusive games

    I see this as neither a “winning” or “losing” strategy really but more of a “floating along” strategy that could turn to losing very quickly.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      IMHO, definitely not a winning strategy. That said, I’m not privy to their financials and models wrt subscriber revenue. It could be they have some very clever plan that makes these subscribers defensible. I just don’t see how you defend a device without really having an open, digitally-distributed game/content market with strong exclusive games and other content coming from a thriving, large community. You can’t do it all on your own. You need to make an ecosystem where other people are thriving if you want to grow your base and be around for the long-term.

  53. George Wedding February 13, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Xbox may have one other problem. In a lot of homes, it isn’t actually in the living room. Rather, it often is relegated to the bedrooms of young adolescent males, to reduce noise levels and keep the HDTV available for television and movies (and use by the entire family). I’ve always doubted Microsoft’s claim to a beachhead in homes, and would like to see statistics on where these consoles actually are located. I think the answer to this question matters — and may hand Apple a golden opportunity.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      yes, the statistics on this are not clear, that’s an excellent point.

  54. Sean February 13, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Hella smart, too bad the dinosaur that is Microsoft (and even Xbox at this point) will never move as fast or as clever as you would hope :/

    Go work with apple to develop the product you envisioned here. It will be awesome.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      ha! well, i’m perhaps too outspoken for Apple and I like living in Seattle, and they passed on buying one of my previous startups,, and starting a dev-office in Seattle back in ’08… that’s a fun story for another day. if they ever wanted to build a kick-ass dev team in Seattle, I would be happy to help out with that in any way i could. honestly if sony or nintendo or even microsoft were serious about making a great console without bad (imho) compromises, i probably couldn’t resist trying to help.

  55. John February 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Thank you! I am so glad to have someone finally verbalize the ramblings I have had in my mind for so long. This is the truest thing I have read in a while, and I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t want to see it end either. It’s a tragedy in some ways. But, if that’s what it takes to keep innovation strong, then so be it.

  56. burjeffton February 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    With all the “next-gen” talk bubbling, this is a fantastic and timely viewpoint. I have friends who worked on the ad campaigns for 360 and the Kinect, and their impression on the culture of MSFT is one of discord. They’ve always made the point that the Xbox Live pipeline, while brilliant early on, was not something MSFT was getting behind, but was more interested in developing shiny tech demos like Kinect.

    I’ve thought for years that Apple could destroy consoles with their App Store platform with a flip of the switch and a hardware release. But nobody has described it as eloquently as you. Bravo.

  57. ylksa February 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    “Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox” you make it sound so easy, Apple already tried entering a market that have been around for a few years (maps) and are failing miserably so far.

    If Apple chooses to enter the console market it may effect PS, xbox and Wii after a few years and that’s it. The console experience requires a lot for it to be enjoyable and satisfying for gamers, it is something that Apple can achieve in a few years but not “simply” at all.

    The iPhone/iPad gaming experience is fun and great but never a replacement for the awesome gaming experience we get from consoles even if you get these games on TV.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      You are so right that this won’t be just “easy” but I believe it will be inevitable given how Apple rolls. They have a solid 80% of the console effort under their belt. If they believe the console/tv market for games is big enough and that they can sell a console product with a 40%+ margin, they have all the pieces to execute it and I have no worries that they could, even without Jobs and Forstall around helping it happen, it would just be about executing out of an old, proven playbook.
      You seem to be assuming that the apps would come over for free — I’m not saying that, these would be new apps, built for the TV, built for the new console, built for a new controller. Apple has proven that they can get a huge number of developers to target a pretty radically new layout very quickly (iPhone -> iPad and iPhone -> Retina and iPad -> retina iPad). This would be slightly different in that they would be changing the layout as well as the input method (a controller, I woudl assume) but I call this part of the 20% they could easily do.

  58. Shaun Gomez February 13, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    NATBRO- Great rant my friend! Here is the deal, I have been noodling a prototype Android/iOS set top for some time. In fact, my specs and design were so close to what ouya got out that I lost the wind in my sails. I bought an xBox (much better BTW) back when Halo 3 came out and 1 week in my power supply died. I was that upset that I returned it and never got another. I recently won an xBox at work and decided to give it another shot. I like Halo 4, but the most played game is Minecraft. My oldest son LOVES it. He told me it was digital legos and I love the creativity aspect.

    So, now on to my rant. It’s absolutely silly that the system cannot determine what the last media (HD/cloud/4GB internal) selected and use that with a menu option to change storage media. Why on earth do the controllers still use (AA) batteries? It should be de-facto standard that it’s rechargeable (WITHOUT BUYING THE OPTION) just like wi-fi is now standard. The dashboard! WTF did they do here? I don’t want my GAME console to look with a windows mobile phone. It’s a GAME console not a freaking tablet/phone/computer/etc…

    “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”
    – da Vinci

    My daughter who is 5 is always having issues when the update screen comes up because she cannot read that well. Here is my last point. Why are there options to DOWNLOAD/BUY themes when they cannot be used with the current dashboard????????????!!!!!!

    This is why all my kids play with the iPad more than any other device. It’s easy, just plain works, and the UI is intuitive. All the downloaded apps/music is accessible from any device no matter when endpoint purchased the content.

    Time to clean house MSFT, get rid of that joker SB and put someone in who knows a thing or two about gaming and UI’s. I have a solid belief that the xBox brand will either carry or sink them. Where they are heading in terms of Enterprise desktop market share is rapidly declining. It’s a new age where iOS/Android/Linux are king, can Windows survive the next 5 years?

    If anyone is curious, I’m a very passionate gamer and collector. I got my first 2600 at the tender age of 5 for Christmas. I played combat for about 10 hours that first day and remember it like yesterday. I have been gaming ever since and while my heart lives in the retro space, I do enjoy some current games.

    One more thing… Why do current consoles give us the option to DOWNLOAD IN THE BACKGROUND? That should be the default without input from the user. Just saying!

    Sorry for the long post, this subject is near and dear to my heart.


  59. Areeb Fazli February 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    It is a very good post

  60. BrianAAA February 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    About the UI complaints-

    Daddy, what’s a Hard Drive?
    Seriously? Kids are not idiots. If they aren’t aware of the hard drive concept it is something they can, and should, easily grasp. It is the +50 crowd that might not get it. A more likely conversation is, ” Hey, son, can you explain this hard drive thing?”.

    Hi, I’m xBox. I’m too dumb to update safely.
    EVERY electronic device I can think of will brick if a firmware update is interrupted. Not a big deal.

    Every time I leave a game, even right after saving in the game, the system presents me with this little scare that I may lose progress.
    NOT A BIG DEAL. I would rather have this double check in case I forgot to do an in game save.

    These are not things future developers should waste any time thinking about.

    As far as xbox live arcade/inde games goes I don’t get the following complaint.

    XBLIG where Microsoft has ceded their veto power.

    Yeah, and have you seen the ton of junk on there? A little veto power would help a lot. At least if I go to xbox arcade I know the games will be decent. I am not a beta tester or a focus group. If I am looking for a downloadable game I should not have to wade through thousands of experiments. The best of both worlds is to have a choice which is exactly what arcade and inde offer. Leave that alone.

    No mention of the RROD? That is something that definitely never should have or will occur again.

    • natbro February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      what can i say, i just completely disagree with you. i think all of these things are broken and are a big deal to making the platforms better, with better games, and with more consoles installed. you don’t. i’m fine with that.

  61. Sock Rolid February 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    I doubt Apple will just open the doors to any and all when it comes to apps on Apple TV. It would have been relatively easy for them to do that, and yet they haven’t. Therefore I don’t think it will turn into an indie dev free-for-all. It really would have been easy.

    All the pieces are in place for an App Store ecosystem like the iOS and OS X App Store ecosystems: the Apple TV running iOS, Xcode, $99/year developer membership, AirPlay from all other Apple devices, etc. And yet Apple hasn’t opened the kimono yet. The Apple TV hockey puck is like an iPod touch connected to your TV that just runs one app: the Apple TV app.

    It’s possible that Apple may let 3rd party apps onto Apple TV. But maybe only the big players will be allowed to create apps for Apple TV (and whatever other hardware Apple will eventually ship in the television space.) Big players like the ABCs, NBCs, Netflixes, and Universal Studios of the world.

    Or maybe not even the big players will be allowed to fill the Apple TV home screen with their apps and icons. Apple could be planning to eliminate the concept of “TV channels” and “movie studios,” and just let people get “action adventure” TV shows and movies, or whatever they search for with Siri. No artificial content silos owned by competing content providers.

    Oh wait. We were talking about indie apps and games, weren’t we? Well don’t hold your breath. How much money is there to be made in games you actually play on your living room TV? A few billion here and there? So would it be worth it for Apple to actually go after that market? Or would it be better for them to go after the big cheese: remaking the greater TV industry in their own image? I think that’s the bigger play. Let Microsoft have their fun with Xbox. Small potatoes.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 3:45 am #

      nicely put, that may indeed be the big play! still, the video game industry as a whole is projected to rev about $70B/year over the next few years. it’s not tiny potatoes.

  62. Phillip J Fry February 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure I have to tell the app store to update my apps when there is an update on my iPhone… and I’m pretty sure apple doesn’t give me the option to use other storage like MS so kindly does… and I’m pretty sure I can’t play the game while I wait for it to be updated on my iPhone, which could take who knows how long and use who knows how much of my (very expensive) data plan… and I’m very sure angry birds will never be a console killer. Do you really think people buy game consoles for indie games? They buy them for Halo, Mario, God of War, and Call of Duty. Apple TV is a turd the XBOX/PS3 can do everything Turd TV can do and alot more (including playing indie games.)

    And speaking of indie games… how many indie devs on iOS NEVER make ANY/LITTLE $$$$? How many get support marketing their crappy fart apps from Apple? Why do you hold MS to this made up standard but not Apple? Aside from that did you ever stop to think that with W8, WP8 and the nextbox all sharing the same kernel and all having marketplaces for apps that maybe, just maybe, MS is planning on a unified marketplace across all it’s platforms… Seeing as if you build an app for one store now it takes little to build it for the others if you don;t code like a monkey… hmm… so lets see. A dev could spend their time coding for some weak phones and apple tv’s…. or they could code for every PC, XBOX, and Windows Phone in the world… need a minute to figure out what market is bigger? I’ll give you a hint, it doesn’t start with an A and end with pple.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 3:42 am #

      You are so right that consoles are bought because of great games, I couldn’t agree more!
      My point isn’t just “open it up to indies,” my point is “let all developers innovate and you will get awesome apps & games even though you might also get some crap” You are right that Angry Birds isn’t going to be a console killer, it’s a touch-based app that works well on the devices it was designed for, and it has sold billions of copies. But if you drop the barriers to entry to a big addressable market where people can make money some really smart people will create new things that are great console games. Right now the barriers are keeping smart people out, and honestly there is plenty of crap inside the console market despite the barriers. I have a stack of truly crappy console titles that I wish I hadn’t bought, I think most gamers do.

      As to how many indie devs on iOS make money… the answer is a lot. The game industry M&A activity has been entirely about small mobile/tablet dev shops with small-to-medium-sized hits consolidating and starting to form bigger mobile/tablet companies with more titles. A lot of people don’t see this because these indies have been moving quickly to becoming non-indies.

      As to MS’s plan for a unified marketplace for apps that span all their devices – you are absolutely right that this should be an awesome targetable market, and of course it’s what they are working on and promising. I honestly look forward to it! Bring it on and I will be there writing and selling apps. To date, they are executing really poorly and slowly on this promise, like 10 years slowly, so a generation or so of developers are finding it easier to make money elsewhere — what a shame and what a screw-up! Maybe this blog post and the response it has gotten will help nudge them towards getting it done and getting it done faster.

  63. SSTMBH February 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Spot on. As an current Xbox 360 owner and fellow ex-MSFTie, not surprised to see the company blow yet another opportunity. MSFT took the short-sighted path of early monetization by requiring XBL Gold for Netflix, Hulu and other connected entertainment services–effectively missing out on the opportunity it once had as the ONE device besides the Blu-ray player that took a large screen TV’s or home entertainment system’s HDMI port. With blu ray players and nearly every mid-range TV now offering built-in connected services with no monthly fees, you have to wonder if MS mgmt has ever been to a Best Buy or grasp the concept that consumers quickly vote with their feet when they see a better deal. We see the same rerun in Xbox’s Music convoluted pricing, which effectively penalizes Xbox ownership. Unbelievable and yet not surprising, that there’s highly paid professionals in Redmond who collectively act to ensure that promising new products like Xbox Music are DOA.

  64. (@misterxmedia) February 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    If anyone actually read the article – his main point is that it’s hard for indie devs to get their games up on XBLA. He acknowledges the media box thing, but has no problem with it specifically, just that he feels the focus should be on getting more indie games on there.

    He says it’s a $10,000 fee to register as a developer- which it is if you want to be on the main part of XBLA. And that as a result of this – a “whole generation” of indies have gone to iphone/android.

    He seems to forget the existence of XBLIG – where for a fee of $100 a year (same as Apple) – indie devs can go hog wild. None of the other platform holders offer an equivalent of this.

    I wouldn’t want XBLA to turn into the AppStore – where fart apps and the like outnumber quality software by a ratio of around 10-1 (being generous here) – and even the indiegames channel of XBL has its share of fart apps and the like.

    So XBL is more open to indie devs than any other “big 3” platform. It has more indie games in the main channel (XBLA) and an entire dedicated section where bedroom coders can put their games up (for $100 annual fee – same as Apple/ios) – so I really don’t see what point he’s trying to make.

    Good work though people who have hijacked his statement for their own agendas, that have absolutely nothing to do with what he’s saying.

    If he was asked about other platform holders – based on what he’s said – he’d have less positive stuff to say about other platform holders (eg. WiiWare only pay once you’ve sold over a certain amount of copies, Sony have near identical requirements for PSN devs as XBLA does – but choose to handpick a couple of indies every couple of years to basically “sponsor” with exclusivity deals in exchange for funding eg. ThatGameCompany – much as MS have with Notch and others – and neither have a dedicated Indie channel available for low cost to devs).

    So put it back in your pants fanboys – this isn’t about Kinect or media centres. It’s about him seeing MS as not doing enough for indie devs – not them doing less than anyone else.

    Considering this guy worked on Xbox for approximately 1 year (he left in 2000 – 13 years ago) – and I’ve heard little of what he’s spent the last 13 years doing – I’m not really sure why this is even remotely important. Next up – 30 year old guy who worked at McDonalds in high school gives his opinion on 2013’s lack of improved menu choices.

    • chrismasiero February 13, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      He helped define the initial goals of the XBOX, and It’s big enough to be Slashdotted – therefore the opinion matters.

      The good thing here is that it has given food for thought.

      As I’ve said. I don’t agree with his opinion on the development side (IMHO – windows RT compatibility will be there at some stage anyway, and open those floodgates connecting with MS’s mobile strategy), because that kind of small time gaming with low volume indi games (if you can afford the 10k you’re low volume) is never going to be the core business of the living room console.

    • JimmyDanger February 14, 2013 at 12:32 am #

      Man – I can’t believe you cut and pasted my enitre post from the discussion of this article

      That referred more to the conversation going on there, which is more along the lines of “Yar Sony! Don’t disagree with the xbox founder!” The discussion here is much more rational and balanced.

      I’ll also admit – that was before I’d read through this entire blog (and discussion points)- and is basically a summary of my impression of Nats position read the article (and discussion) – and isn’t a fair summary of all the issues, but rather the ones more pertinent to smaller devs – that GI’s article focused on. Indeed Nat had mentioned in his original post some of the points I’d raised, and addressed others in his responses.

      Still – I’m quite flattered you (above) chose to cut and paste me verbatim!

      And sorry for the last para Nat – it was more of a response to people who were treating your blog (or rather read the headline “Xbox Founder says Last 5 years of Xbox have been painful to watch” – then posted their own anti – MS/pro Sony rants) – as “The Catholic Church denounced by Jesus” rather than the Apple/Google/MS comparison it was. In fact, short of referring to Nintendo and Sony as “stumbling failures” – I noticed hardly any comparison was made between MS and the other current platform holders.

      • Chris February 15, 2013 at 5:22 am #

        You talking to me???

        If so, link your post dude cause no WAY have I copied anything.

    • Phi February 14, 2013 at 12:46 am #

      The reason it says ” ‘may’ need a restart” is because files that are in use are overwritten at next boot. If they aren’t in use, which depends for the most part on what programs you’re running, then the reboot will not be necessary. There’s no point scanning as the installer starts, as another program might be booted mid-way during the installation, and start using a file that wasn’t in use when the install started.

      • natbro February 14, 2013 at 2:39 am #

        In a console OS environment you have a lot more knowledge about what programs are running or not and should be able to say definitively whether a reboot is required.
        Even in a more general operating system environment – Windows 8, Windows Phone 7/8, Mac OS X, iOS – you can build your patching system so that it is incremental and knows when a reboot will be required or works to sandbox already running applications. Windows has always done this poorly. Mac OS X doesn’t always do it perfectly, but it’s quite a bit better. iOS does app updates and infrequent system upgrades quite well.
        It is entirely a matter of choosing whether it’s worth your effort as an operating system builder – making patches and updates hidden and silent in the background to users or up-front and in their face, interrupting what they are trying to do with your device.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 3:14 am #

      FWIW, I do mention XBLA and XBLIG – just trying to point out these are simply not viable, thriving ecosystems for third parties and XNA in particular has been mothballed. You are right that Sony and Nintendo don’t do this any better. I personally don’t think Microsoft should be worried about Sony or Nintendo, they need to be worried about who is going to eat their lunch. Apple, Ouya, maybe somebody else.
      My main point is not just pro-indie-game-dev, it’s pro innovation. They haven’t capitalized on Kinect, their UI hasn’t improved, and droves of developers who could write truly excellent games for xBox and make xBox and themselves money do not, they head to mobile devices where the startup costs are lower, the approval process is faster, and the payouts happen.
      As much as you’d like to remain pure, long-term in this market you simply shouldn’t try to control whether or not there are 100’s of fart apps. In the past consoles needed the walled garden to prop up game prices so the loss-leading hardware sales were covered and because big game companies demanded them. That business model is done, it’s time to open it up so that developers can unleash their creativity on the platforms and take them to the next level. Without fart apps you don’t eventually get an Angry Birds or a Tiny Wings (and I don’t mean those actual games — they aren’t appropriate for the console, they are touch-based, etc — I mean novel, unique, blow-out huge-selling games that come not from big players but from small players with great ideas).

  65. Joe Cassara February 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Chief among the reasons we experienced the video game crash of 1983 in the states was anyone could develop a console game (and often tried). The market experienced a deluge of mediocre titles. Coupled with other factors (Commodore’s price war, a generally lukewarm economy, etc..), this crippled the home gaming industry.

    To this day, fear that we could see a second video game crash, along with a business model that favors development system fees and licensing in lieu of hardware revenue, compels console manufactures to lock out indie devs in an effort to exert tight control over their eco systems.

    It’s time for that to change, but I think it’s more likely to happen as Nat suggests, through Apple TV or an enterprising new console project. Dinosaurs don’t like sprints.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      Feelings about the causes of the many console cycle crashes as well as a desire by the big players (EA, Activision/Blizzard, even Microsoft as a first-party publisher) to have a walled (or “strongly fenced”) garden which keep prices high are definitely the main contributors to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo avoiding a strong indie effort.

  66. leeoades February 14, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    Enjoyed your article.

    May Microsoft’s loss be Ouya’s gain!

  67. Areeb Fazli February 14, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Hi i liked this post .
    Can you come and see what i am writng on

  68. Alex Amsel February 14, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    On behalf of many of the indie developers out there, I feel I ought to add some more detail to the XBLA/indie games topic.

    XBLA itself is very, very difficult to get onto and rarely profitable. It’s onerous and expensive to develop for, Microsoft are effectively in control over schedule and pricing, they make it very difficult to get existing games on board, there are endless qa (cost) and marketing issues, and so on and so on.

    I would love to have our game (eufloria) on there but it’s just a nonstarter because of the politics and commercial prospects. We even chose blackberry over any Microsoft platform (other than basic windows) because of the frankly terrible and yet still plummeting reputation they have with developers. It’s hard to put into words quite how low they stand.

    Let’s not even get started on the absolute disaster that is the XBLA store or the general console interface. Not that other consoles get off lightly – they can be even worse.

    XBLIG is also a disaster, and XNA is dead. No good reason for either of these, simply Microsoft making mistake after mistake.

    There seems to be no leadership there, or at least no clear headedness. It’s hard to spot many good decisions they have made in recent years across their divisions, not just XBox.

    I agree completely with the op re: UI and have been banging on about it for years. Similarly, I agree completely about apple. They may or may not enter the space but I have another take on it – they HAVE to enter the space. They simply have nowhere else to go right now. They need to make a 200 dollar box that they can upgrade annually, which most people will upgrade every 2 or 3 years. I don’t knowif they will of course, but I know that’s the space they need to be in/carve out.

    They are closed to maxed out in mobile, tablet is growing but gaining serious competition, macs are growing but relatively small fry, iPod is everywhere but often in the form of a phone, tv is simply too low margin/high cost to work… That only leaves one digital device – something under your tv. To dominate that world you have to play games, there is no question about it.

    As a platform agnostic developer, we go where makes sense. All platform holders have good and bad points, it’s just a matter of balancing them out. Few developers care for Apple, Sony, etc, we care about where works for our products. I can tell you for free, if apple sort out Apple TV, we’ll be there immediately and so will just about everyone else I know.

    In contrast, this isn’t true for Xbox, the next Xbox, windows rt, or windows mobile 8. Yet we’d also support ouya and steam box because they will be a much lower risk than anything by Microsoft. Even bb10!

    We are not alone. Microsoft needs a radicle change of direction. They also need to start looking after developers.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      i appreciate your thoughtful feedback, that is a lot more in-the-trenches detail than I have gotten, though it all meshes with what I wrote and how it appears.
      You are so right that developers should and simply have to follow the path to where they can make money. It is the job of a good platform to make that ecosystem work for small and large developers.

      • sillytuna February 14, 2013 at 8:18 am #

        To also address some other comments.

        30% cut is perfectly acceptable to me as a developer and is very standard. Anyone trying to take more can frankly get stuffed. I can’t divulge figures on here but I already said that XBLA is not commercially viable (or rather, commercially sensible because of the costs/politics/lack of control/exclusivity requirements).

        The days of fart apps controlling the iOS stores were gone years ago. There will always be the odd naff app that does well but then that just means people want it. If you look through the top 200 lists, most of those apps/games are pretty damn good now.

        I have issues over making everything IAP, the race to the bottom in price to the point where consumers consider a Starbucks coffee higher value than a game that they play for 8 hours, and some discovery issues in general – the app store is far from perfect, it’s just streets ahead of anything else.

        That is a comment on two things:

        1) How far ahead of the curve Apple were 5 years ago, thanks in no small part to their iTunes infrastructure for selling music.

        2) How bad must the competition be for them to not even have caught up with Apple 2008.

        Ok, so the Play store is getting there and is actually ahead of Apple in some ways now (the user review/developer feedback situation is something Apple should have sorted years ago; it’s desperate now).

        The console stores, however, need burying in a desert forever like game cartridges of old. I could rant for hours on the myriad of problems with the console stores. It must be costing them hundreds of millions in lost revenue, but my understanding is that internal politics is doing in for them.

        There is only one reason they are still here. Lack of competition.

        Last time around was a difficult transition for the previous incumbent, Sony. They went all out to make complex hardware that was expensive to develop, manufacture and to develop software for. The 360 did pretty well, and deservedly so. Live, although it’s time the fees went, was a wonderful addition.

        This time around, what is their selling point?

        Outside of the noisy hardcore teens, few people care about more polys, extra lighting, etc. We’re already used to having music and video on our boxes, and there will be vastly cheaper and more usable units than the next gen consoles, so that’s simply a requirement, not a selling point.

        The controllers have to be upgraded to include touch because not doing so will be such a killer to the UIs required for good stores, browsing etc.

        Kinect is not a system seller, but may give MS a leg up is some software warrants it. Please don’t force us to use it though, as developers or consumers. Probably not a system seller anyway, unless something amazing comes up that I’ve not thought of.

        That only leaves two things.

        1) Software. Call of Duty et al are going to be best on mainstream consoles, at least for the foreseeable future. If Apple do hardware, it’s not going to come close to Sony or MS hardware for some time.

        2) Price. Very, very concerning. If, and there are a lot of ifs here, Apple, Valve, Ouya and others start releasing/licensing $200-250 boxes, consumers are going to expect everything to be that price.

        It’s not just hardware though, it’s software prices. I spend vastly more on Steam than on my consoles. The same is even true on iOS. The games are often cheap, their are great deals, they are not a faff to download, the stores are low friction, and the purchase is low friction – both Sony and MS stores have had such a high friction multiple times for me that I can no longer even be bothered to waste my time with them.

        Returning all the way back to part (2) of this blog post – the user interface – purchase friction and store navigation are huge elephants in the room when it comes to the Xbox (and PS3). The small things mentioned are all true, but are dwarfed by this problem IMHO.

      • natbro February 14, 2013 at 8:33 am #

        Very thoughtful comment, thank you!
        Two thoughts:
        – I actually think Apple is in surprisingly good shape on the hardware front, better than you think in the coming year. They can manufacture 8-way CPU and N-way high-quality GPUs with custom core & memory cross-connect natively. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo have to go to outside vendors to do this.
        – I completely agree with you about purchase friction, including identity/account setup/maintenance and credit card settings – in the console stores. I literally just ran out of steam and energy taking pictures of every frictional element in the xBox UI that filled me with horror. I wrote a bit about the iOS advantage over on Quora some time back: The concepts apply equally well to xBox and Sony online stores — these guys just aren’t teeing up the customer for purchase well at all.

  69. Ian Davies February 14, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    I’ve got to say, I’m not sure how you’re surprised at the dumb / unhelpful / scary system messages when it’s just WinNT for PPC running underneath (isn’t it?). I mean, stuff like that is stock-in-trade for Windows, no matter how nice the lick of UI pixels is on top. The wording and terminology is almost identical.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      These don’t bubble up straight from the (old) common kernel, the GUI layer is custom and every one of those screens were written and reviewed by someone in the xBox team (unfortunately probably by a group of too many people) and allowed to appear. From the outside I would suspect that nobody reviewed these UI elements holistically or had the authority to force holistic changes – each one seems OK on its own, it’s just when you add them all together and they happen frequently that they appear ridiculous.
      One of the internal goals of the xBox, one aspect of the pitch which struck a chord with me and with BillG in particular, was the goal of using the UI simplicity, the fast-booting, and the fast-app-launching needed for a console to drive simplicity and speed back into Windows, where holistic efforts to rid the system of crufty error messages was not making headway.
      There was an early decision required for the 2001 time-to-market goal to customize an kernel into xBox 1. I wasn’t there for this decision, but it worried me hearing about it that none of the xBox UI innovation would flow back to Windows. The xBox 360 decision to use non-x86 (powerpc) CPU and further custom kernel development ensured that very little code could flow between xBox and Windows, and it made the development toolchain more complicated.
      So, no, these error messages don’t even come from the millions of lines of code in Windows which are also very bad about displaying too many obscure error messages continuously. They come from a process which seems to think such error messages are OK. They aren’t.

      • Paul Solt February 14, 2013 at 9:09 am #

        Xbox has no leader. it’s running around headless. I used to think it was great, but it’s been years since it was. iPad and iPhone have really displayed how far behind Microsoft is at this game.

      • natbro February 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

        i agree it seems headless, at least technically to me. i may not have agreed with some of the technical things that J pushed for with xBox & xBox 360, but I think he was a decider and a great leader there for a stretch.

      • Ian Davies February 14, 2013 at 9:10 am #

        Thanks for your clarification. It’s fascinating in a slightly detatched, nerdy way, but a little depressing that nothing seems to escape what looks from the outside like the all-too-common MS self-harming.
        To my amateur eye, it seems Apple aimed for a similar backflow of ideas from iOS to the Mac. How would you rate their success, assuming you think they are even the same things?

      • natbro February 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

        they are the same things. i don’t know if scott forstall and steve jobs looked at it in this way originally in terms of needing to address speed & confusing-UI which we did with initial xBox – Mac OS X really was on a good path there already. but i do think Apple is doing a very good job, indeed, working to pull concepts like App Store, better sandboxing, and full-screen/full-attention modes for apps which are simplifications forced by mobile which it turns out can take away a lot of user-experience complexity in the rest of the system. I think trying to unify your platform across devices is incredibly hard, though, and we’re early days for Microsoft, a little further down the path with Apple. so I don’t know how it will play out. I also personally think Apple is architecturally/technically in superior shape vs. Microsoft due to the strength of their compiler and toolchain and their use of Objective-C throuhgout both systems. Microsoft has been fumbling its frameworks, tools, and languages in a confusing mish-mash for years. I will write a blog post about that someday, it’s a huge topic.

  70. Paul Solt February 14, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I’m so disappointed with Microsoft. I used to work there (and Apple) and the Xbox is so old. It feels ancient and sluggish.

    Apple’s totally killing it with the iPad and iPhone release cycle. It’s going to put the traditional consoles out of business because they aren’t iterating fast enough.

    I can’t believe how slow my Xbox is compared to an iPad. In terms of performance/quality the iPad is almost (maybe it is) more powerful than an Xbox 360. Apple’s been focusing on user experience while Xbox is desperately trying to push a dinosaur.

  71. sillytuna February 14, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    (I’m not natbro therefore probably don’t know what I’m saying but…)

    In my eyes Apple are on somewhat rocky ground themselves. They’ve not had a good year and, although it seems obvious to say so, seem to miss the clear direction provided by Mr Jobs. It’s not about his rights and wrongs, it’s that he always knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to do it. The ship had a solid direction.

    I do feel Apple have floundered since he left and it shouldn’t be a surprise. The question is – have they learned how to steady the ship and set the right direction? I think it’s too early to say. Besides, they are in an incredibly strong position.

    In Microsoft’s case, the ship changes direction every few years and seems to be going backwards. Witness XNA, Windows Phone 7, Windows Vista, possibly Windows 8 and their tablets (too early to say but they certainly haven’t been a success thus far). I don’t know about their business side, but I do know that neither developers nor consumers are happy with them.

    Xbox hasn’t suffered too much visibly from their general malaise, not out there in the big wide world of consumers, but the next iteration needs to fare rather better than anything else MS have done since Windows 7 (and how long did that take?!).

    On the point of Apple hardware, I’m not saying they can’t produce higher end hardware, I meant that they will want to make a good margin and sell at a price which allows for 2 year upgrades. Mind you, the iPad isn’t cheap! Anyway, I doubt that they will come out with something particularly close to other next gen consoles because I don’t actually think they need to. They will just need good enough.

    If Apple enter the market, it’s going to be about the control device. Touch just won’t be enough, a joypad is definitely required, even if as an add-on. They may just get away without including one if it’s also a general tv media device and people can use their phones/pads/simple remote to control it.

    As a consumer, I won’t be buying the next Xbox unless I can buy apps quickly, cheaply, and easily. However, the Xbox does have Live/Gamertags – let’s not underestimate their power. If people started to give up on those, then Xbox is really in trouble.

  72. samuraiartguy February 14, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Spot on about the XBox. It’s amazing how badly MS is mismanaging their treasures. Don’t even get me started on Office.

    “It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of. xBox was for years the only network-connected HD-ready device already attached to tv’s that had multi-use potential (games, DVD, Netflix) in the household to justify and amortize its high cost of purchase to the family’s bread-winners.”

    Too true.

    Some years ago, my sons went in half each on an XBox. And As an old-school Atari-class gamer I got sucked into Halo and Mass Effect and Soul Calibur… Typically to get blown away by a Brute with a Plasma Cannon while my inner graphics geek was admiring the digital scenery.

    But I haven’t played Halo:Reach in over a Year. My younger son is off to college, and we spend 90% of our xBox time plugged into Netflix. Our household has dumped all the bugf**k costly premium channels on our Verizon FIOS TV service. The xBox won because we could pipe Netflix to the TV through it, something I CAN’T do through my Mac Pro, server class processors not withstanding… Thanks Apple.

    And yes, the interface and the incessant “WTF Microsoft?” alert screens makes actually playing even the most casual games a PAIN IN THE ASS. I can bug off and get a sandwich while any DVD based game loads…

    Oh wait, it didn’t, I have to download an upgrade…

  73. Dave Haynes February 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    I keep seeing posts about how the Kinect games have great interfaces. Has anyone played Just Dance 4? My girls just *cannot* get it to work about half the time. It’s a mess.

    • natbro February 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      I haven’t played Dance 4. For Kinect I have played Kinectimals, Joy Ride, Sports I & II, Adventure, and Zumba Fitness (hey, I like fitness stuff & Wii-fit, what can i say). Kinectimals and Zumba both have some really quirky Kinect stuff, Zumba so much so that I found it unusable just to navigate around the menus, let alone actually use it. Folks tell me the second Zumba “Fitness Rush” is better but still quirky, but I am loathe to spend another $50, it was so bad.
      This is sort of what I mean about neither capitalizing on the cool innovation of Kinect nor actually acting as any kind of quality gate on the actual games.

      • James February 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        I have Dance Central 3 for Kinect and it’s pretty impressive. It allows you to create your own moves and it is very accurate, you also have to hit the dance moves pretty perfect for a flawless score. I’m pretty excited as to what Kinect v2 will bring to the table if half of the rumors about it are true. If you were to combine illumiroom with these types of games it would be epicly immersive. As an afterthought the developers have the majority of influence on how well their games will work on Kinect, Dance Central 3 is the proof.

      • davehaynes78 February 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

        I should clarify. I like the Just Dance 4 game. What I don’t like is the user interface. Selecting a song shouldn’t be so difficult. That’s the part my 7 year old can’t do very well.

      • natbro February 15, 2013 at 5:10 am #

        ah, thanks for clarifying. zumba falls down a little more in gameplay/exercise as well, but the true frustration I have with it is the UI for getting started and changing things, sounds similar to your child’s experience. and like I pointed out in my article, my daughter certainly struggles with just launching Kinectimals, I could have also written about her annoyance around choosing storage devices and logging in, etc, using Kinect – yuck!

  74. Pudding February 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Will they (MS) ever listen to you, Natbro? :-/
    I’m afraid they wont.

    • natbro February 15, 2013 at 5:12 am #

      I honestly hope they read some of it and take it to heart for their future work. I may have written parts of it a bit more snarky than good constructive feedback should be, but there is constructive feedback to be taken from it, I hope.

  75. niko February 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Apple Tv/game console probably wouldn’t need a controller – just bluetooth pair your iPhone/Pad/Pod and WiiU’s one piddly tablet system looks like an idea from 2005. They could just sell stripped down, no-memory, old hardware iPod touches as base controllers if there is a need.

    • natbro February 15, 2013 at 4:35 am #

      You could be right. I do think that if they did such a product, iPhone/iPod/iPad’s would be able to fit in in some ways as controllers or additional screens. But I think that for the console world good “traditional” hand-held, multi-button/-trigger controllers are proven important and good input devices – they are an integral part of existing games but also something people are used to in the context of couch+tv and something which has been well refined over many years. When your eyes are pointed towards a big screen, having a great controller that feels good in your hands and that your hands’ muscle-memory knows the placement of the many buttons and joysticks — that’s simply the right input device for that environment. Having to take your hands away to manipulate soft controls on a touch screen, personally I think it is less suited to the console environment.
      What would be neat about an open app ecosystem on the TV that included the ability to wire in mobile/tablet devices in some way is that developers might come up with some really cool ways to control new types of games that are different.

      (The innovation in controllers, like WiiU’s tablet and the PS Vita’s rear-touch-area and Kinect are actually the types of innovations I think are really great, even when they fail. The problem in these ecosystems is Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo take on all the risk – they should be making their platform more open to other hardware and controllers and spreading the risk and reward of novel ideas. When they fail or stumble, they have no plan B.)

      • Chris February 15, 2013 at 5:18 am #

        The more you go on about this stuff natbro, the more I’m really surprised that someone who helped design a console actually believes that apply TV or some such device can compete with cutting edge consoles, or that a app world like we have with iOS and Andriod is the way forward for that stuff.

        I swear it’s not that hard forsee that as an absolute fail. Imagine Sony comparing 10 fart xbox apps to god of war 5 in a commercial. It would be such a win for them and make the xbox into a joke.

      • natbro February 15, 2013 at 6:20 am #

        We’ll see how it plays out. Console hardware is not magical – that was the point of xBox, we showed that off-the-shelf PC components and oem manufacturing infrastructure could compete with custom chips and vertically organized manufacturing techniques. the chip in the latest iPad3 has almost equivalent CPU+GPU specs to the xBox 360 (yes, very old now) but costs Apple almost nothing to create – the device is costly due to battery and screen. putting a lot more of those same cheap CPU+GPU into a device with higher clock speeds, into something that doesn’t need a costly battery or screen and can consume more power because it’s plugged in – that’s just as easy if not easier for apple to do than what we’re reading about in the next-gen console with 8-way or 16-way CPUs. I’m not saying that’s what they’d do, what the hell do I know, I’m saying I see it as a very obvious path they could take, one where they have tons of assets at their disposal.

        The fart-app argument keeps coming up. There are lots of responses to it in this thread and elsewhere. One that I would add is: walking down the Best Buy aisle, browsing titles, I sure see a lot of truly bad titles for Wii, xBox, PS3, Vita, DS. The reality is that every ecosystem has some great hits and a lot of duds floating around. All content is hit-driven. The walled-garden console approach attempts to control what’s available to promote quality and prop up prices, but all the console vendors let in bad titles while at the same time they are trying to find exclusive great content (like God of War or Call of Duty or Halo or Mario). My take is the walled gardens aren’t working for console vendors, they are stifling innovation and are not actually making sure only quality titles are available for their consoles, so just open it up and let the free market generate more possibilities for hit titles.

      • Chris February 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        Well, not to argue with you about the details of orginal XBOX, but didn’t you originally sell the hardware at pretty much a loss and at a fairly hefty price? $168 loss or so right? Consoles need to be powerful and relatively cheap, you make money on games because the games are SO good. It’s the tactic that sony pioneered, and is what won her the market share for so many year. It’s a winning formula.

        Do you think apple TV is going to be the same? Sell $600 of hardware in a $400 package and rely on games for revenue? Not likely

        It’s not just fart apps not competing, it’s a whole brand image thing. Apple would loose market image entering such a high profile market with a crap product.

      • natbro February 16, 2013 at 7:42 am #

        absolutely, yes – the xBox was initially sold at a loss, then over time manufacturing and volume and refinement gets you closer to cost. for consoles you model what’s called the lifetime margin of the product: what’s your profit margin assuming you sell some number of titles and some number of peripherals over the lifetime of the device. xBox also models in Live subscribers. it was and is a winning business model – it’s used in mobile phones, kindel e-readers, etc – and it’s a common console business model because the cost of competitive console hardware has traditionally been very high. it’s not the only winning formula, though, in consoles or elsewhere.

        no, i don’t think Apple would pursue a high-cost console that they sell at a loss — that’s not how they roll.

        take a look at some iSuppli bill-of-material tear-downs for iPads ( and AppleTV ( Note that (a) AppleTV is simply an iPad with less storage, without a battery, camera and display (the pricey parts of an iPad) and (b) that the CPU+GPU portion of the 3rd-generation iPad costs them $23. Next read about the dual-core CPU and quad-core GPU in the 4th generation iPad, It is estimated that this SoC still only costs Apple about $25.

        So besides the advantages Apple has with software developers, user interface simplicity, digital software distribution and payments, what their hardware trajectory says to me is that Apple could build a reasonably powerful (2x-4x xBox 360 capability) device with 64-128GB of local storage and sell it in the $199 – $249 range with their standard 35-40% margin. They are pretty uniquely positioned to do so. Although Android hardware folks are also similarly positioned (and this is why Ouya is so cool), and there are legions of developers, Android is not generally doing good/simple UI, their payments/store stuff is quite fragmented, and they don’t have the same retail infrastructure you need for moving consoles.

      • Chris February 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

        I guess I just don’t see it making inroads as a games machine. If anything it’s going to take market share away from their own products (iPad), and hurt the brand image as a technology leader.

        But, anyway, I guess time will tell hey!

  76. italiafirenze February 15, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    It must be very difficult having been so deeply invested in something to watch it take the wrong path.

    • natbro February 15, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      as with anything in life you invest time and energy into, of course. but, there are a lot more people at microsoft or formerly at microsoft who invested a great deal more time into xBox and 360 than I did – I hear from some of them that they shake their heads at the fumbling strategy and failure to innovate, too.

  77. bs February 15, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    A lot of developers are getting fed up with the 30% cut Apple are asking. But since its their way or the highway devs are stuck for now. The first console manufacturer that realises its worth their while not to squeeze money out of the very people that bring them hardware sales will be the success.

    • sillytuna February 15, 2013 at 8:09 am #

      The only developers fed up with 30% are the ones who are very rich already and are are looking to increase their profit by avoiding Apple (et al) altogether, and those who aren’t profitable at all. In neither case is the 30% the problem and no one I know complains about that percentage. If you mean complain that you have to sell through the app store, well that’s a monopoly issue and not a 30% one.

      30% is not squeezing money out of software developers, it’s actually a reasonable level given what’s involved (a lot more than you may think).

      Plenty of companies try to charge way more than 30% let me tell you, or try to require deals related to price and free gift promotions which very rarely benefit the developer in real terms. Apple’s store is simple in that respect.

      On the topic of xbox and 30% for developers – there is enough public information out there for me to say that it isn’t that simple. So if you want to complain about Apple, you’re going to want to complain about MS a lot more.

      The facts are that we have a product that’s sold over 500k units, has multiple award nominations, has a potentially interesting future, and yet it still makes no commercial sense to seriously consider at XBLA, even if we were allowed to make the game how we want on there (which we wouldn’t be).

      I want to make an XBLA version of Eufloria HD. I have the expensive kit required, I’m licensed, and we could do it technically in relatively little time. Yet it isn’t going to happen.

      Not only that, it’s barely worth our time starting a discussion about trying to get green lit because of all the politics involved (exclusivity requirements, game already exists elsewhere, the likely multiplayer discussion/requirement, marketing issues, store issues, royalty issues, XBLA sales issues, QA costs, compliance costs).

      We can do (and do) the same game almost anywhere else at a fraction of the cost and with a much higher chance of a return. Few of the costs are for pure technical reasons, they’re 100% Microsoft driven.

      What is that if not a total failure on the part of Microsoft given the platform they have built?

      The Xbox is possibly the one platform in the world that won’t ever have Eufloria. As a developer, that makes me sad. And angry. It’s pathetic, pointless and everyone loses because it isn’t just our title. There are many wonderful games, small and large, where the developers feel the same as I do. They want to do a game for your tv, they want to not have a touch screen as a requirement, or a mouse. They want to entertain YOU but they can’t.

      You could argue that why should xbox owners have a ‘port’. I would say, xbox should have a variety of high quality products and should be making it easy for people like us to give their users our games. If their users don’t want it because it’s on another platform, that’s their choice, not Microsoft’s to make for them.

      The walled garden approach is a failure because the wall is utterly borked. Publishers can more or less chuck out whatever they want on XBLA. I can actually accept some kind of walled garden to restrict content a little, but we’re way beyond that.

      The problems I refer to have little to do with quality, definitely nothing to do with revenue maximisation, little to do with brand management, and everything to do with dick waving and inter-company politics.

      What the xbox needs is leadership, forward thinking, and bravery.

      An xbox with a straight forward, open App store with similar front and back end features to Apple’s, even if devs had to pay 1000 bucks license fee to do away with the complete trash, would change everything overnight.

      If Sony or Microsoft do that *and* get hardware and digital software price points right too, they’ll destroy the opposition. If they don’t, the opposition will destroy them. It’s only a matter of time.

      It is that simple.

      I think this is essentially what Natbro is saying about Apple’s opportunity should they decide to go for it.

      • natbro February 15, 2013 at 8:50 am #

        thank you for giving such a solid real-world example that you’re living through. i hope people read this one and internalize that there is so much more to how payola and placement and approval and distribution NDA deals happen on xBox (or Nintendo or Sony) than most people realize when they are critical of, e.g. the 70:30 Apple App Store or Google Play split. The simplicity and relative level-ness of the playing field is something that makes the ecosystem stronger and easier for small, innovative entrants. Microsoft really wrote the book on complex deals and relationships – I used to be privy to some incredibly complex models of how co-marketing worked with PC OEM’s with respect to bundling Windows, Office, and various apps. Steve Ballmer and others really did brilliantly execute concepts like long-term enterprise contracts for software upgrades, and the structure of all these deals. But, they are friction for developers and consumers right now.

  78. Dominique February 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    HI Nat, It is worth pointing out that even though Microsoft has dropped support for XNA, those indie developers can still switch to using the Open-source MonoGame ( and their C# games will work on iOS, Android, MacOS, LINUX, OUYA, PlayStation Mobile and hopefully more.

    Btw, I agree with your points, hence why I decided a few years ago ti take control of my love for XNA 🙂

    • natbro February 16, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      great point! and thanks for the work you do, i have heard nice things about monogame!

  79. Claus Guivi February 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    There is really something wrong in the ‘Xbox department’. I’ve got a Surface RT, I’ve put in a 64GB card and try to use it as a player for my music library. Has anyone seen the ‘Music’ app? I mean, really, what is that? You can’t find your music with it! It somehow shows you 95% of music you could probably buy, when all you want to do is find your OWN music! There is no usable list view, something like a simple table you could filter. It’s really terrible and there is NO Windows Media Player on Windows RT, or iTunes. I think I’m through 80% of the music player apps in the store now, but I guess I have to code that myself. Ironically, the Zune app was so much better, you could browse your library with it and the visualizations were SOO beautiful, that I really used it mainly, not bothering that also the Zune app was simply not done and feature completed ever. Does someone at MS actually look at what software they produce? Well, all in all I like the Surface, but everything that has recently got the XBox label attached to it is… awkward, also Xbox on Windows Phone 8 is a step back from Windows Phone 7 and Zune. WTF!!!

  80. Ben February 16, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Judging by what hundreds are saying on various sites, they couldn’t care less about Apple and it’s attempt at gaming. I guess cheaply made casual games with £100 tools aren’t going to make millions trade in their consoles and AAA titles. Nor is the product to play them on as it will likely be overpriced. Good luck to Apple though.

    It is a pity Microsoft charges greedily for a subscription, then again their security seems better than Sony, guess there’s always a good and bad.

    The next gen consoles sound quite innovative and powerful against top end pc’s (however the single code use could be a brick wall for sony and microsoft as it potentially kills gaming outlets and leaves consumers weary of buying. Personally I don’t want to buy a game for new price, if it’s developers were lazy, it lacks quality, has bugs etc.

  81. Anthony February 18, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    Just to get this straight I am not a Market analyst nor a Computer engineer I play the Xbox for it’s games I want to jump on my Xbox and be running over my friends in a bus now what me and most of the people I have known that play the Xbox do not want the Xbox to turn into some sort of twisted Wii/Xbox hybrid now I agree the Kinect great piece of technology unfortunate you need space outside of your own bedroom to play it but hey that’s life now having read the article and previous comments I find it hard to believe that you seemingly to my notice have missed out on the biggest market that first bought the bloody Xbox in the first place and that was Hardcore gamers so now you’re telling me that there will no longer be an affordable console for the Hardcore gamer and that well all have to go buy massively overpriced PC components that we have to replace with the newest software every month just to keep up with the pace of technology basically what im saying on behalf of many hardcore gamers is why is microsoft abandoning us for a multimedia/living room family market thats already jam packed with hundreds of well established products like apple, no stop come back to the hardcore gaming community that have been faithfully buying your damn shit over the years and give us what we want.

    • Anthony February 18, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      Just to sort of clarify the people I’m talking about are the people who work or are at some sort of education then come home and go on their Xbox to play and relax I mean the only thing I’m seeing from Xbox at the moment is hundreds of new exercise apps and games. I mean go away Microsoft I go to the gym to exercise I don’t need you telling me to its bloody patronising. On another note when I saw the supposed leaks of the technology behind the new Xbox 720 (or whatever it will be called) and a friend of mine who is a Computer Engineer told me that would mean it could possibly be less powerful than the new Playstaion 4 I seriously considered finding the person behind this and giving them a Glasgow Kiss.

  82. Wayne Borean February 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Some of the same concerns you have with the xBox/xBox 360 also apply to the Sony PS2/PS3 (I’m ignoring Nintendo because it basically revolves around Mario).

    None of the classic consoles have gone out of their way to make it easy for developers. While Apple isn’t perfect, their App Store, which the stole from GNU-Linux was a huge step forward. Google’s Android store may end up being better, time will tell.

    Sure Mobile and Tablet applications tend to be limited. But where will they be in five years as more powerful ARM processors come into play?

    The console OEMs should be worried.


    • natbro February 19, 2013 at 8:48 am #

      yes, certainly all my points about indie developers apply to the other big players. Sony and Nintendo also do a poor job with software updates, and Sony has some pretty horrible cruft in their user-interface. None of them make account creation or payment handling in their network easy. Of the three, I think Nintendo has traditionally done the best job of getting games loaded and running quickly and not having a lot of friction in the user interface.

      • joequincy February 19, 2013 at 9:28 am #

        Traditionally, sure… Nintendo used to be better. Take the Wii U for a spin though, and you’ll see that’s now history. :/

        I have one, and using it is so utterly frustrating that it’s been gathering dust for over a month.

      • natbro February 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

        you’re right, i’m unimpressed with Wii-U on a lot of fronts. great audio, good industrial design on the box and controllers, fun gameplay (especially Mario Kart!), simple UI, and quick load times were really what Nintendo had going for it.

  83. Seth February 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    I’ll defend Microsoft and Xbox, but there is room for improvement.
    1. I love that my console is a few years old, but it’s capabilities have increased greatly.
    2. I love using voice commands via Kinect for watching Netflix, but it’s annoying that they don’t work for watching DVD or network media.
    3. Xbox Live Arcade has been my absolutely favorite feature. Finding quality content among Indie Games is a bit challenging, but it’s not hidden. Indie games come up with search and they will pop up in Recommendations and Related, but it’s a bit flakey. It’s also difficult that you can’t browse all games by genre (full retail release, Games On Demand, Arcade, Indie Games). Descriptions of Indie Games are also sloppy, with community ratings dominating the “description” field.
    4. I don’t mind paying for Gold, but a Gold membership should not be required for posting to leaderboards. Heck, games should have local leaderboards for local profiles that aren’t even on Xbox Live. It’s impossible to compare scores with visiting friends!
    5. Kinect is amazing for fitness and dance. Dance Central is especially wonderful. I would really like to see a shape boxing arcade game like Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout for Wii. These kinds of games played with ankle weights and weighted gloves are excellent workouts. Navigating Kinect menus could be simpler and less prone to making errors, however.
    6. The homescreen is ok, but it should really be a start screen for my favorite, most frequently used content.
    7. Kinect is big for fitness, but Kinect PlayFit is a buggy mess that works with too few games.
    8. I wish there was a setting for games to automatically update without confirmation.
    9. Content can vanish without warning. Accessing Kinect Fun Labs, for example, is quite difficult. The Guide button is less useful than it used to be.


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