Microsoft is one of those companies that people seem to both love to hate and hate to love. The latter especially came into play when the company entered the video game console market and proved that the Xbox platform was actually a legitimate contender. The Xbox 360 is currently the sixth best-selling non-portable game console of all time, even ahead of both the NES and the Super NES.
However, the current struggles of the Xbox One prove that Microsoft doesn't always make the best decisions for its video game division. The original Xbox might not have had a successor if it wasn't for Microsoft having deep enough pockets to weather an under-performing console (and also, Halo), and even the massively successful Xbox 360 wasn't without its fair share of missteps by its parent company. We here at The Things truly love the Xbox family of consoles, don't misunderstand... but we also call bad decisions like we see 'em.
20 Letting Bungie Go
Maybe nothing Microsoft said or offered would've changed Bungie's decision to go independent in 2007. But it's hard not to wonder if Microsoft played a part in driving away the most important developer in the history of the Xbox.
Bungie made nothing but Halo games in their entire time at Microsoft, whereas they dabbled in a half dozen different franchises prior to their Xbox era. They certainly loved Halo, but Microsoft likely insisted they keep working on Halo and probably didn't give them a chance to stretch their legs creatively. If they had, maybe Bungie would've stayed aboard and kept making more great games for (only) Xbox.
19 The Disastrous Xbox One Unveiling
Type "Xbox One Announcement" into a Google search and the third auto-fill suggestion is "Xbox One Announcement fail." There really isn't a more succinct way to describe the disastrous public unveiling of the XB1.
Microsoft was riding high on the success of the Xbox 360, and should've been able to smoothly transition into the next generation without much trouble. But Microsoft did just about everything wrong when they announced the XB1, with promises that felt more like threats: mandatory Kinect purchase and usage, always needing to be online, and not allowing used games. They walked all of that back, but the damage had been done, and the XB1 got off to a bad start that it never fully recovered from.
18 Giving Up Mass Effect To EA
The original Mass Effect was a really strong exclusive for the Xbox 360, part of an established tradition of epic, important RPGs helping to sell systems and turn the tide in console wars. It was pretty obvious that it was intended to be turned into a franchise, and had it stayed an Xbox exclusive, it would've given just about any PlayStation-exclusive franchise a run for its money.
Of course, that isn't what ended up happening. After just one Microsoft-published installment, Mass Effect jumped shipped to EA who not only made Mass Effect 2 multiplatform but even ported the previously Xbox 360-exclusive original to PlayStation 3 as well.
17 Abandoning Xbox Live Arcade
With the criticizing of Xbox Live Arcade out of the way, it's time to discuss why it's such a tragedy that it's gone.
On the Xbox One, Microsoft pledged to treat all games equally and not partition indie games off from the big boys. It's a nice thought that feels like it seeks to treat indies with more respect, but instead it ends up making a lot of them get lost in the shuffle. The next Super Meat Boy, Fez, Castle Crashers, or 'Splosion Man might never get its big break without the special promotion that Live Arcade used to offer but the current marketplace doesn't seem to.
16 The Xbox 360's "Red Ring Of Death"
No console maker ever chooses to release a faulty system. And there are certain design flaws that are tough to suss out no matter how much testing you do that don't become apparent until actual customers get their hands on your console and put it through its paces.
But the console-breaking Xbox 360 error known not-so-affectionately as the "Red Ring of Death" should've never happened, and Microsoft should still feel guilty that such a rampant issue affected so many systems, and continues to do so to this day. Anyone who still plays their X360 has to live in constant fear of those dreaded red lights.
15 Forcing Xbox Owners To Have Hotmail/Outlook Email
It might not seem fair to pick on Microsoft for this, as anything Google owns requires you to have a Gmail address for log-in purposes, but Gmail has become the "go-to" email service in recent years, and Google does own an awful lot of stuff. So that doesn't feel like as big of a deal.
By contrast, a lot of people didn't even have a Hotmail when they activated their Xbox accounts, and were forced to create one. Many people now have Outlook— what Hotmail evolved into— accounts only because they have to for their Xbox profiles and for literally no other purpose.
14 Squandering The Once-Promising Crackdown Franchise
When David Jones, one of the key creative figures behind the creation of the original Grand Theft Auto, left Rockstar to do his own thing, Microsoft wisely offered to develop his first big post-GTA project. And that project ended up being the excellent open-world action game Crackdown. It was well-liked by gamers and critics alike, and it was great for the Xbox to have such a promising franchise all to themselves.
Crackdown 2 ended up being little more than Crackdown 1.5: Zombie Edition, and after an extremely long wait, the recently-released Crackdown 3 was pretty unremarkable as well. Yet another Xbox-exclusive franchise that Microsoft just let fall apart.
13 Thinking "Cortana" Could Compete With Siri And Alexa
We get it, Microsoft: You want to have all your own things, and have those things "power" your products. We already addressed forcing Xbox users to have your email service, and we reluctantly use Bing sometimes because we earn rewards for it.
But having the ego to think that you could create a talking digital assistant into a world where Siri and Alexa already have that locked down was too far. Even trying to name it after a popular Halo character/pin-up girl wasn't enough to woo us away from Siri or Alexa. Unsurprisingly, Cortana has been all but abandoned already.
12 Putting Restrictive Data Caps On Xbox Live Arcade Games
These days, the sky's the limit on the size of game you'll find on Xbox's digital marketplace. But when Xbox first launched Live Arcade, games for the service had a strict size limit: a paltry 50 MB. This was to ensure games fit on 64 MB X360 memory cards, back when they were still foolishly trying to push HDD-less X360s.
The result was that most Live Arcade games amounted to little more than smartphone-esque experiences, which wasn't what people wanted to play on their fancy consoles. Fortunately, Microsoft slowly raised the data cap over the years, and it's basically unlimited today.
11 Canceling Scalebound
As stated elsewhere on this list, the Xbox One has a bit of an exclusives problem. With that in mind, Microsoft should grab onto any high-profile exclusive from a respected developer that they can get their hands on, and make sure it sees the light of day.
To be fair, a lot of factors can contribute to a game's cancellation, including that the game just wasn't coming together. Nobody is saying Microsoft should release a bad game, but until we know more about why the promising, Platinum Games-developed XB1 exclusive Scalebound was axed, all we can do is assume it was a bad move on Microsoft's part.
10 Not Making The Most Of Rare
In one of the most shocking developments in video game history, longtime Nintendo collaborator Rare was bought out by rival Microsoft in the 2000s, which should've led to a lot of great stuff for the Xbox platform. Again... should have.
With the possible exception of Viva Piñata, virtually nothing Rare contributed to the various Xboxes in the first decade or so of the deal was anything special. This generation, they finally released a retro compilation, brought back Killer Instinct, and have revealed a new Battletoads, but it still isn't enough— and it took way too long to get there.
9 Windows Phone
The whole "PlayStation Phone" debacle should've taught us not to trust big promises of a console-like experience coming to mobile platforms, but we were still ready to trust Microsoft on their big plans to give us the Xbox experience on the go.
Not only could Windows Phone not compete with iPhone or Android just as a smartphone line, but the much-touted Xbox features amounted to little more than customizing your avatar and playing the same basic types of mobile games the other guys had— only a little bit worse. Now, you can just put an Xbox app on your iPhone or Android, which is what should've happened to begin with.
8 Letting Halo's Quality Decline
The original Halo remains one of the best launch games of all time, and as a brand new IP for a brand new line of consoles, Halo and Xbox are forever linked like Super Mario and Nintendo.
So it's really disappointing that Microsoft hasn't been able to effectively steer the series since original developer Bungie left it behind. Halo 4 was promising if flawed, but things have only gotten progressively worse with Halo 5: Guardians and the two Spartan games. Sure, Halo: Infinite looks incredible so far, but it's impossible not to be extremely skeptical until we see more.
7 Making It Too Difficult To Replace Xbox Hard Drives
When it comes to consoles that rely on hard drives, a wrecked hard drive makes a console literally unusable. This means that you should give customers a way to replace faulty hard drives inside otherwise functioning systems... right?
Microsoft didn't think so with the OG Xbox, tying each hard drive to its specific console and making replacing one literally impossible without modding. X360 hard drives do pop out nice and easy, but they only take proprietary replacements that are much more expensive than all-purpose ones. And the Xbox One requires you to disassemble your system.
6 Believing Way Too Much In Kinect
Kinect had its problems, but it really wasn't half bad if you got it working right— not that doing so wasn't a needlessly finicky task.
The problem is that Microsoft wasn't content to have Kinect just be an accessory that you used for certain games, and tried to make it a mandatory part of the entire Xbox experience. From the terrible redesign of the X360 dashboard to account for Kinect controls to the (fortunately brief) requirement that all Xbox One owners not only buy one but have it connected at all times, what little goodwill the Kinect had earned was permanently erased.
5 The Original Xbox's Required DVD Remote
Being a DVD movie player was a big part of the reason why the PlayStation 2 was such a massive success, as it came at a time when standalone DVD players cost as much as— if not more— than a PS2. Microsoft knew they needed to offer this as well with their competing Xbox.
Yet, despite DVD movie functionality being built into the Xbox, customers still had to buy a separate "DVD movie playback kit" in order to access it. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if the included remote wasn't so bare-bones and cheap-feeling.
4 Betting On HD-DVD For Xbox 360
It was a quick fight, but for a hot second, Blu-ray duked it out with HD-DVD over which would be the dominant successor to DVDs. With Blu-ray being a Sony product, that's obviously what powered the PlayStation 3... and exactly why Microsoft went the other way with the Xbox 360.
What was worse than backing the already-losing format just to avoid paying royalties to Sony was that the X360 required a separate add-on to play HD-DVD movies— for a whopping $200! It also proved problematic in terms of storage space.
3 Too Human
Too Human's legendary development troubles, subsequent legal issues, and eventual outright recall weren't technically Microsoft's "fault"— but when the company decided to take on the troubled project, they should've gotten more involved with steering the ship and not letting things get as out of hand as they did.
Developer Silicon Knights has always done its best work when under the watchful eye of an involved publisher (such as Nintendo), and that's what Microsoft needed to be for them. Instead, Microsoft just let them run amok, and their investment went off the rails and became a punchline.
2 The Live Arcade "Indie" Store Was Full Of Hot Garbage
When you think of "indie games" for Xbox 360, you probably think of stuff like Braid or Super Meat Boy. What you hopefully don't think of are Baby Maker Extreme, Try Not To Fart, and Massive Cleavage vs. Zombies. And, no, we didn't make any of those titles up.
Having a non-curated place for indie devs to upload their games sounds good on paper— but the result of the actual "Indie" section on Live Arcade was a handful of decent titles (and some so-so Minecraft clones) surrounded by literally hundreds of games that were unplayable garbage and often featured half-naked women and/or potty humor.
1 Most "Xbox Exclusives" Also Go To PC
At the end of the day, what a console lives and dies by are its exclusives games. The Switch has the latest installments in classic first-party Nintendo franchises to entice customers, and the PlayStation 4 has succeeded largely on the strength of big-name, critically-acclaimed exclusives like Spider-Man, God of War, Uncharted 4, and Horizon Zero Dawn.
Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't have enough confidence in the Xbox One to let it have many true exclusives, with very few of them not also going to PC. If people can just get a game on the PC they already have, why bother with an Xbox One?