When the Xbox One was announced, gamers were immediately upset by a couple of revelations from Microsoft. The first was that the console would need to connect to the internet at least once per day, and the second was confusion about whether used games would be permitted or not. There was understandable uproar at these proposed policies, and Microsoft rightly saw the error of its ways and reversed and clarified both decisions. Speaking at SXSW, Microsoft Studios executive Phil Spencer admitted that things could have been handled better.
It looks as though Microsoft has learned a great deal from the debacle, with Spencer saying that there is no need to sugar-coat news that could be perceived as bad. "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."
We’re used to seeing Major Nelson interacting with fans on Twitter and other social networks, but he is not alone. There has been a concerted effort at Microsoft to engage with users on a more personal level.
"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," says Spencer.
In terms of public relations, it's a move that makes perfect sense. Whether good or bad news is to be delivered, it is always better to be upfront and, where possible, direct. "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," admits the Xbox boss.
Do you welcome the opportunity to interact with Microsoft employees? Do you think the big names at the company should be spending their time working with customers or focusing on other areas?