Microsoft is kind of like an abusive spouse: sometimes you just love them even though you know you shouldn’t.
I’d like to be a fly on the wall at Microsoft these days. I’d truly love to know what the mindset is among those in the inner circle. While they have earned some well-deserved praise for the success of their next-gen console, the Xbox One, there does seem to be a bit of a disconnect between some important internal components within the corporation. It’s almost as if they are fractured into two completely different companies; one part managing the console and gaming side of things while the other handles all things relating to the public (badly I might add).
While the gaming side of things is going great, the PR side of things…not so much.
To recap, we recently had a high level executive up and quit his job after a decade working with the console. While we don’t have all the details, in a statement he alludes to something relating to the direction of the company not being in line with his particular skill set. Obviously, this translates to, “you’ve changed and I’m leaving you after ten years of marriage for my secretary.” Then, it was revealed that Microsoft tried running a Machinima scam that made some question their moral integrity. Actually, I’ll come right out and say it myself: it was damn near sleazy. Of course I’m referring to the report that Microsoft offered some Machinima partners a larger cut of the ad revenue to promote their product. Now, the word “promote” is used quite loosely here, as the terms specifically state they can’t say anything negative about the Xbox One or its games. So effectively, they are looking to turn those with an unbiased opinion into arm of propaganda for their own use.
In light of the recent bad press, both Microsoft and Machinima attempted to spin this news by releasing a joint statement that called this deal “a typical partnership.” However, they make no strides to deny the accusations that users were forced to not say negative things (and also are required to keep everything hush-hush). Essentially we received a non-statement statement that neither confirmed nor denies that this was a douche move on both their parts. The blatant apathy is amazing. They simply don’t care who knows it at this point.
This also illustrated how Microsoft does seem to be suffering from a bit of a personality disorder. For instance, even with some of the questionable business practices (with executives quitting and bribing YouTube partners), others within the company still stand strongly behind the company and its future. A recent story on Carl Ledbetter (leader of the team responsible for the major design elements of the Xbox One) revealed a letter he sent to his team after completing the console. It is an uplifting look into the heart of someone who truly believes in his work and that of those around him. In the letter, he calls the new console they’ve completed a “meaningful breakthrough,” and that it will be “…one of those products that don’t happen very often, and it is a moment in our careers that we will all carry with us for years to come.”
That is truly a lovely thought.
However, when the company you’re working for keeps blowing up the interwebs with their constant (and unapologetic) snafus, it kind of publically steps on that sentiment. More and more it seems like one hand doesn’t always know what the other is doing over at Microsoft. What I do know is that the head needs to get the body in check real fast. Microsoft has a strong standing in the console market with a product that people want. However, they can’t allow one slip-up after another to continue to define them as a shady character, which has become the perception. As of now, Sony hasn’t had to deal with half the PR debacles its competitor has, and continues to build on their good will (something Microsoft is seriously lacking right now).
You better steer into the skid soon Microsoft, or those left to sing your praises (like Mr. Ledbetter here) may come fewer and farther between.