I can’t say that I’ve ever really been critical of Microsoft’s approach to updating the Xbox One. When new Xbox One features that you like are added on the regular, it’s hard to find it in yourself to examine things in a critical fashion. Every time new Xbox One features are added in a monthly update I picture a guy in a straw hat two-stepping with a cane from side to side and exclaiming “the happy times are here again.” I’m a disturbed individual; this we all know.
This joy doesn’t always come in the morning, though. Too often we all collectively spend lots of time celebrating the new features that these updates add. We forget all about the things that these refreshes and upgrades take away. It feels like more and more Xbox One features end up disappearing.
If you’re a gamer, you’re likely having a hard time recalling any of the missing features that I’m talking about. I’m equal parts Xbox gamer and entertainment lover, so it’s easier for me to pick lost Xbox One features out of a line-up. Remember when your Xbox One and Kinect sensor would automatically switch accounts when you handed off a controller? That’s one of the few gaming features I can remember getting the ax.
I’m a disturbed individual; this we all know.
Search Xbox Wire for the phrase “everything that we do” and you’ll notice Microsoft throws a bone to gamers at every opportunity. That focus has manifested in the loss of lots of entertainment features. The Xbox One’s retail packaging touted Snap as a differentiator for Xbox One. With Snap, you could play games while listening to music or watching videos. Microsoft quietly killed that feature in the Xbox One update that it released to everyone last week. An update to Xbox companion apps removed the ability to use your smartphone as a remote to browse TV listings and change the volume on your television set. That was on Thursday. Most apps on Xbox One lack voice navigation. Even with a Kinect sensor plugged in, Xbox One never hints at voice navigation.
Simple Xbox voice commands nearly found themselves on the chopping block when Microsoft introduced Cortana to the console. Thankfully, they made a return. We probably owe that about-face to the Xbox Insider Program. That brings up another point. The Xbox interface continues to get navigation and design updates. Theoretically, these result in an easier to use experience, but it also has the side effect of disrupting the experiences of everyone regularly.
I’ll be as succinct as I can. I’m all for a sustained program to deliver updates. What I’d like to have Microsoft explain publicly is how it decides what will get axed. How many people must be using a feature for Microsoft to not take it for the greater good? How many times must I have opened the Xbox app and turned on my television to have made it worth continued support?
How many times must I have opened the Xbox app and turned on my television to have made it worth continued support?
Also, why is it that Microsoft insists on making Xbox software updates mandatory to be connected to Xbox Live? Millions download every iOS update for iPhone that they can get their hand on, but they have the option to skip it and still have their smartphone work correctly. How is it fair that I purchased a console for a specific set of features, only to have them stripped away over time because Microsoft decided it no longer wanted to make the effort to appeal to me? How many times do I have to wake up to walk my dog at 4 AM, turn on my television and find something that I use has been snatched from my grasp without much warning?
I’ve always encouraged people to buy something because of what it does today, not what they hope it might do tomorrow. That’s ironic given that Microsoft routinely removes features I purchased my console for and never dreamed they’d actually remove without recourse.