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Microsoft: We shouldn't have "sugar-coated" the Xbox One controversy

Xbox boss Phil Spencer says Microsoft's messaging about the console's controversial (and since-reversed) policies could have been handled better.

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Microsoft Studios executive Phil Spencer has acknowledged that Microsoft could have done a better job handling its messaging surrounding the Xbox One last summer. Fans will no doubt recall the original Xbox One announcement in May was muddied by confusion about the platform's online requirements and even more drama came to light when Microsoft revealed its controversial used game policy at E3 in June.

"I look at last summer and that wasn't a highpoint for me, coming out of the announcement of Xbox One and E3, where I thought our messaging around what we believed in was confused...mainly by us," Spencer said during a presentation at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The talk was captured by YouTube user gerrenlaquint.

Phil Spencer
Phil Spencer

Microsoft has since reversed some of its controversial Xbox One policies, dropping the requirement that the console be connected once per day and fully allowing used games. Now, Spencer and other Xbox executives are increasingly active on Twitter and other social networks. This was an intentional effort to better connect with fans.

"One of the reasons I wanted to be a little more active socially was because I knew the core of why we were in this industry was not an evil reason," Spencer said. "It was to really delight consumers and build a great product that millions and millions of people would love."

One of the lessons Spencer said he learned from the entire matter was that it's important to be upfront with consumers--especially when he's bringing news that some might not like.

"I learned a ton last summer as a leader of our groups and in our company about being true to your core vision around what a product is, not being confusing, and frankly, when you're going to say something to a consumer that might put them off, it's better to just be direct and honest, rather than trying to sugar-coat something that might be controversial," he said.

"I'd rather deal with the controversy of what we're doing, and have an above-table conversation about that topic, rather than trying to sugar-coat it with some other news," he added. "And, my interactions over the last six months, and I really think the interactions of [Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi] and [Xbox corporate vice president Marc Whitten] and other members of the leadership team--we had our meeting to build on what we learned last summer."

The Xbox One launched in November 2013 and sold more than 3 million units by the end of the year. Microsoft has not provided a new sales update for the platform in 2014.

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