Microsoft’s Xbox One release has been one of the biggest PR meltdowns this year. The Xbox One was intended to be a potential game changer in the world of console gaming and an upgrade to the 7-year veteran and predecessor – Xbox 360. In an attempt to market the new console as an “all-in-one media device for your living room”, Microsoft received negative exposure and felt a major backlash from loyal fans. The Xbox One release serves as a great example of why listening, understanding, and delivering to customer needs plays such a vital role in a brand’s image.
The Xbox One reveal, broadcasted on May 21st, 2013, started off with a safe yet arrogant stance on the future of console gaming. The console giant miscalculated and made some controversial decisions on key consumer issues such as privacy, used games and an always-on Internet connection. A major mistake was Microsoft’s unwillingness to speak to the decisions they made, which was highly criticized by console gamers. Microsoft further alienated themselves by focusing on how the console served as a media hub rather than the long awaited release of next-gen games.
The lack of candor on controversial topics such as privacy and used games combined with the absence of games resulted in Xbox fans losing interest in the console. Sony, Microsoft’s competitor, announced their new console the PS4 around the same time. With Microsoft botching their release all Sony had to do was swoop in and entice disgruntled Xbox fans. The PS4 release offered exactly that by advertising a lower retail price ($100 lower) and a better used-games policy. The strategy paid off and Sony seemed to have appeared victorious in the pre-release battle.
In a surprising announcement, Microsoft gave in to their fans in what seemed like a major win. The Xbox One would no longer have an always-on Internet connection and would revert back to traditional policies on used games that allows for easy sharing. The decision, which seemed like a potential win-win for Microsoft and gamers alike, had one major downfall. The omission of the always-on Internet connection would curtail Xbox One from delivering on features that would allow you to access all content tied to your account (not just digital content) and would prevent gamers from sharing content with friends globally.
In another PR misfire Microsoft did not inform gamers about the loss of these features. After this information surfaced, a few weeks after the Xbox One change was announced, gamers are now petitioning to bring back the original Xbox One features that were announced at E3.
Needless to say, Microsoft was painfully unprepared in regards to PR and did not properly market their new console. The perpetual back and forth since the release of the Xbox One has resulted in negative exposure for the brand. Whether or not Microsoft decides to adhere to the new petition, the Xbox One release has highlighted the importance of ‘listening & understanding’ your customer needs and expectations and delivering on it. The window of opportunity to benefit or lose is much smaller in today’s marketing landscape given the social empowerment, and brands cannot force sub-optimal products or services on customers. And, in the case of Microsoft, good PR could have helped alleviate some of the pain. Although the new console has yet to be released, Microsoft’s mishaps have clearly defined the value of customer-driven engagement.
You can also read a timeline of Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal here.
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