Though they started this generation on an incredibly sour note, Microsoft's gaming division has bounced back in a major way and seems poised to reclaim the console crown come late 2020. What's more, their cross-platform Xbox Game Pass makes first party games like Gears of War and Forza Horizon 4 more accessible than ever, drawing more consumers to their brand.
That said, it hasn't always been easy-going for Microsoft; they've made plenty of questionable decisions in the past, and they've likely tricked themselves out of billions already. From the red ring of death to the death of used games, here are 20 major gaming mistakes from which Microsoft hasn't learned.
20 Chasing The Motion Control Trend
Though the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 boasted respectable sales figures during the seventh console generation, the undisputed champion of the era was Nintendo's Wii, and, as a result, Microsoft tried desperately to cash in on the motion control fever everyone seemed to have at the time. Unfortunately, the Kinect failed to be the gaming revolution Microsoft believed it to be, and it served as little more than a malfunctioning gimmick which cheapened the console's overall presentation.
19 Disc Grinding
The initial version of the Xbox 360 came with a number of fatal hardware flaws. We're all painfully aware of the infamous red ring of death, but these first consoles were also notorious for grinding and scratching discs. If the console was titled at all while the disc was spinning, there was a chance that the 360 would etch some horrible rings into the game and make it unplayable.
18 Destroying Rare
During the era of the Nintendo 64, RareWare pumped out hit after hit and developed more than a few must-have games which likely boosted the console's somewhat lackluster sails. That said, it was all downhill after Microsoft acquired the studio in 2002. Mostly forced to work on budget titles for the Kinect peripheral, Rare's output under was far from stellar.
17 Xbox SmartGlass
Launched in the waning days of the Xbox 360's life cycle, Xbox SmartGlass was an app which allowed players to mirror gameplay from their consoles to their mobile devices. Though it was ahead of its time, very few titles actually included SmartGlass support, and, as a result, everyone essentially forgot that it existed, and Microsoft unceremoniously discontinued the service in 2018.
16 The Xbox 360 Arcade
Microsoft chose to launch a budget edition of the Xbox 360 alongside the console's initial release. Dubbed the "Arcade Edition," this console was much cheaper, but it came at a hefty cost; it didn't include a hard drive. This meant that, much like the old days of playing a PlayStation or PS2 without a memory card, customers couldn't save their games unless they went out and purchased an external hard drive, which essentially negated the money they saved buying the budget version of the console.
15 Xbox One Elite Controller
While customization and comfort are important to most gamers, these enhancements were totally overshadowed by the original Xbox One Elite controller's awful durability issues. These things began to wear right out of the package, and Microsoft received a fair amount of backlash as a result. Buttons would stick, thumbsticks would wear down, and these things originally retailed for a ludicrously-high $150.
14 The Xbox One Announcement
E3 2013 was a major failure for Microsoft, so much so that they are still dealing with the repercussions. The 360 faithful were eager to hear about Microsoft's next console, but, rather than choosing to focus on what the new hardware could do, they mostly focused on TV and streaming options while marketing the thing as an all-in-one media center which nobody in their right mind would have wanted.
13 Bundling The Kinect With The Xbox One
By 2013, the motion control fad had come to an end, and gamers were ready to move on. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't seem to get the memo, and they forcibly included the gimmicky motion sensor/webcam/NSA spying drone with every Xbox One while raising the price by an extra hundred dollars. Needless to say, fans weren't happy, and Microsoft eventually caved and released a cheaper version of the console which came without the unnecessary peripheral.
12 Always Online DRM
Of the several blunders endured by Microsoft during the Xbox One reveal, this was perhaps the most severe. Presenters announced that the console would have an always-online requirement and would check multiple times per day to confirm that it was connected to the internet. Needless to say, consumers despised this and rallied against it so hard that Microsoft had no choice but to acquiesce and ax the built-in DRM.
11 The Death of Used Games
Another major fiasco during the Xbox One's unveiling, players learned that the console would charge a fee for playing physical discs which were already played on another system. This meant that used games and after-market transactions would be impossible, and everyone from dedicated collectors to GameStop higher-ups were infuriated by the news. Much like the always-online DRM deal, Microsoft eventually had to back away from this to save face.
10 Xbox One All-Digital Edition
Most of the major gaming publishers seem to believe that game streaming will be the way of the future despite push back from dubious consumers, and Microsoft took one giant step towards this disc-less future with the Xbox One All-Digital Edition. Cutting out the ability to play physical media completely, Microsoft was essentially selling an inferior gaming PC and slapping the Xbox brand name on it.
9 The PUBG Xbox One Port
This wasn't exactly Microsoft's fault, but they should still be ashamed that their name was on the product at all. Released in late December of 2017, The Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was downright criminal. Textures which took five minutes to load in, connection and hit detection issues which made firefights unbearable, and optimization which made the game feel as if it were being played on a Surface tablet, this was a loss for everyone involved.
8 Windows 8
Following the tremendous success of Windows 7, Microsoft did a total 180 and chose to create an all-in-one OS which attempted to unite the ease-of-use of mobile interfaces while maintaining the customization and detail of a standard PC OS. It did neither and was a complete headache for gamers, as it made running older games a total nightmare. It was so bad that Microsoft offered everyone a free upgrade when Windows 10 rolled around.
7 The Duke Controller
The original controller which came packaged with the first Xbox console was a total disaster seemingly designed for giants. An unwieldy, uncomfortable behemoth known as "The Duke," very few actually grew accustomed to this beast. Microsoft eventually revised the controller and came up with something much more usable, but the original controller still left a bad first impression.
6 Voice And Gesture Control
As previously mentioned, Microsoft was still convinced that the Kinect would be a huge success with the Xbox One, so much so that they chose to integrate it with many of the console's launch titles. Some of these games allowed players to perform certain actions with voice commands or with a gesture, but this all ended up as nothing more than a gimmick that was promptly dropped.
5 Xbox One Launch Lineup
As most day-one Xbox One owners will know, the game lineup for the console's debut was pretty lackluster. The first-party titles released with the console were little more than goofy, glorified tech-demos like Ryse: Son of Rome and Dead Rising 3, and there was no shortage of super mediocre stuff like Just Dance 2014 and Need For Speed: Rivals. Overall, it was a rough start for a console against which most were already rooting.
4 The Xbox 360 D-Pad
The D-Pad on most versions of the Xbox 360 controller was nothing short of atrocious. Unusable aside from a few ancillary functions, it made playing indie platformers and retro releases a total chore. What's more, it more or less hampered a portion of the burgeoning indie scene, as absolutely nobody wanted to play an NES-aesthetic platformer with that abomination of a D-pad.
3 External HD-DVD Player
During the dawn of the seventh console generation, there were two formats poised to overcome standard DVDs: HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Sony correctly predicted the winner of the format war and opted for Blu-ray, while Microsoft thought people would want to watch their HD-DVDs via a premium external peripheral. Needless to say, this was a major misstep in Microsoft's long history.
2 Missing Out On The Mobile Market
During the 2000s, major tech companies like Apple and Samsung were quick to get in on the burgeoning smartphone market. As a result, Apple's iPhone brand would compete with Samsung's Android line for over a decade, while Microsoft would come way too late to the party with their failed Windows phones in the early 2010s. As a result, they missed out on the billions made through mobile games.
1 The Red Ring Of Death
By far Microsoft's most infamous gaming mistake, the Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death was a widely-publicized issue which fanboys spent years trying to either justify or ignore. Rather than fix the issue before the console's launch date, Microsoft instead opted to build in a dedicated set of LEDs to let players known their console encountered a fatal error the second it happened. Today, it's a well-known meme which still haunts the tech giant's gaming brand.