Trust no One: Microsoft burns bridges with developers just like it did Xbox fans

Friday, 18 July 2014 14:38 GMT By Matt Martin

Microsoft is cancelling the last of its original Xbox One vision at the risk of alienating some of its best games developers, says Matt Martin.


“The Xbox One hardware has been in a state of flux since before it was even released. It’s a console still in beta.”

It’s easy to kick Microsoft around the floor for its pre and post launch Xbox One shambles – the jokes about u-turns write themselves and I’m not here to dredge through one about-face after another.

But the collapse of the original Xbox One vision continues even eight months after release. Where Microsoft alienated its own consumers pre-launch with its unwelcome online strategy and high price, it’s now sticking two fingers up to its developers by killing Kinect, not coming clean on its indie initiative and this week, shelving its TV plans.

Fans didn’t want Kinect, nor did they ask for Halo TV shows, but both had support enough from Microsoft that two highly praised development studios backed those particular visions. Harmonix’s Fantasia: Music Evolved is built as a Kinect-only game, while Remedy’s Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break has been at the forefront of Microsoft’s obsession of combining TV and video game experiences.

Both projects still continue with the public support of Microsoft, but the development teams behind closed doors must be quietly fuming. With less focus on Kinect and multimedia, you can bet Microsoft’s marketing budgets for those games will be considerably slashed. And in an age where great games poorly marketed can sink a studio, no-one wants to only get the leftover budget from Halo or Forza.


“In an age where great games poorly marketed can sink a studio, no-one wants to only get the leftover budget from Halo or Forza.”

The whole indie initiative has gone remarkably quiet too. I believe the man from the Xbox Advanced Technology Group when he says there are no longer plans to turn a regular Xbox One into a dev kit, regardless of Microsoft’s recent denial – because Microsoft has such bad form when it comes to sticking to its original plans and following them through. The evidence is in plain sight. The evidence mounts every week.

Games development is a tight knit community. They see that Microsoft – platform holder, gateway to millions of fans, digital retailer to consumer’s with money to spend – is commissioning lofty projects and ambitious ideas and then canning them before they can come to fruition, let alone be part of a wider gaming ecosystem. Why would you get in bed with Microsoft now? You could sign on the dotted line only to be left high and dry way before your game is finished.

The Xbox One hardware has been in a state of flux since before it was even released – dare we say it – it’s a console still in beta. It drops massive, allegedly system-selling functionality only months after launch. The console you bought in November isn’t the same console you can buy today, for better or worse.


“Microsoft has sold the vision of a games system that no longer exists.”

I was a massive fan of the Xbox 360 last generation. But as a consumer I barely believe anything Microsoft says now about the Xbox One and I would imagine many feel the same way. The wait and see approach is the only one that makes sense with Microsoft today, because there’s no guarantee that anything else it announces will actually happen. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Microsoft has sold the vision of a games system – to fans and developers – that no longer exists. The original Xbox One’s reason for being has been completely replaced. Xbox One was going to be an entertainment system and now it’s “just” a games console. Hallelujah for that we all say, but at what cost? There’s no trust anymore.

The tables have turned. Where the Xbox 360 outpaced the PS3 in the U.S. last generation, the Xbox One is now trailing behind the PS4. Games developers can clearly and publicly see the company is failing to deliver on its end of the original deal, so why should they work with Microsoft at all? A games console without enough developers making games for it is going to struggle further – just ask Nintendo.

Right now, games is all the Xbox One has going for it. But if it loses the faith of developers it runs the risk of doing further damage and losing the games themselves.