Schell: Microsoft made a mistake listening to consumers

Schell: Microsoft made a mistake listening to consumers
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

August 5th 2013 at 3:10PM

'The reality is that they can't do what the customers want,' says Jesse Schell on Xbox One policy reversal

Microsoft’s U-turn on some of its Xbox One policies based on consumer feedback was a mistake, says game designer Jesse Schell.

Speaking to GamesIndustry, Schell said the computing giant had had not understood the psychology of its customers, and that overtime its online-focused policies could have won them over eventually.

He explained that consumers want companies to stay the same “even if it drives you into the ground”, and pointed out what he saw as a contradiction in users criticising Microsoft’s plans to make a Steam-like console, but enjoying Valve's digital distribution service on PC.

"The reality is that they can't do what the customers want,” he said.

“Basically, Microsoft said, 'We're going to be Steam. You like Steam, don't you?' And we all said, 'No, we hate that. We hate you. You're an idiot to do that.'

"They came out and said, 'We're gonna do this new thing.' And the customers said, 'No, we don't want that, we hate that' - even though it's what they really want and what they will ultimately buy. So now Microsoft has had to say they won't do all that stuff, but someone will.

"That's how it always goes. This is the lesson of the innovator's dilemma. Why is it that big companies fail when the technology changes? It happens in every industry, so what's the pattern? What are they all doing wrong? Everyone says, 'Oh, it's because they're stupid. Big companies are stupid.' They can't be stupid. How did they get that big and stay that big if they're stupid? Microsoft isn't stupid.

"There's one mistake that they all make, and that mistake is listening to their customers."

Microsoft chose to abandon its daily online check-in requirements and ability to share or resell downloadable titles in June after a backlash from some consumers against what many saw as harsh DRM policies.

The move appears to have paid off in the short-term, bringing some consumers back on-side, but it remains to be seen if Microsoft will look to bring back some of its policies in future having designed an online-focused console, as well as its huge investment in cloud services and Xbox Live.