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How Microsoft has dropped the ball with the Xbox

The Dvorak family Xbox 360 had just crapped out, making it the fourth machine that has completely failed and needed to be replaced. I'm not sure if this device is poorly designed, poorly manufactured, or just made from cheap parts, but maybe the kids have been hammering on it. I have computers running 24/7 that are better made than an Xbox 360.

So it was just before Christmas and I decided to buy another one of these turkeys just so we could get through the holiday season and that would be the end of it – I hoped.

Apparently not thinking clearly, I was going to upgrade to the Xbox One when the kids all stopped me in my tracks. They said not to get one and to buy a new version of the Xbox 360 instead, because the Xbox One was completely incompatible with their large hoard of 360 games.

Microsoft is a computer software company that understands the importance of backwards compatibility, so exactly why it would do something this stupid is beyond me. (Although Sony did the same thing with the PlayStation 4, in fairness). The hardcore gaming community says not to worry, the solution is simple: Keep two machines!

Given the Xbox 360 failure rate, I'm sceptical of this strategy. So as we check out the gaming landscape it appears many are flocking to the PS4, for a change of pace if nothing else.

Microsoft also screwed up at the outset with the Xbox One, putting all sorts of ludicrous and arrogant restrictions on the console with zero respect for its customer base. The company said you had to be online the whole time, that used games were forbidden, and the Kinect had to be attached whether you liked it or not. Not to mention your entire existing game collection could no longer be played. This customer-unfriendly strategy had to hurt sales even after the initially imposed restrictions were lifted.

It amounted to the worst sort of hubris, and made you wonder what else the company was going to do in the years ahead to gouge its loyal customers. The customer has to assume this is what the company wanted in the first place, and will keep trying over and over until the fan boys give up fighting. This was not a mistake by Microsoft, it clearly showed which direction the company wants to take, and it is not good. It's better to walk to Sony or settle in with Nintendo or PC gaming.

And what's the point? Microsoft is worth over $300 billion (£180 billion), brings in $80 billion (£48 billion) per year, and it is concerned about the used game market? Are you kidding me? How greedy can one company get?

Apparently, the sky is the limit.

I have some advice for Microsoft. First of all your machines are junk. There is no reason to have so many failures in the field unless you either do not care or figure this is a good way to make more money. Pro tip: It is not a good way to make more money. It makes people angry. It results in columns like this.

Secondly, serve your customers, don't find ways to screw them over and gouge them.

Now this could all be the machinations of the gaming group at Microsoft. In the early days of the Xbox experiment these folks seemed better managed and more customer-oriented than the main company. That changed with new personnel and I do not like the new crowd. The Xbox was turned into a cash cow for the company after a lot of work and these folks do not seem to care.

The Xbox One falling into second place behind the PS4 shows Microsoft dropped the ball, badly. Maybe the whole group should be spun off and set adrift. At this point it may be a liability for the company.