Microsoft may well have just pushed ahead in the “who had the better launch” race thanks to a new development that will no doubt prove well-received on the parts of gamers who bought an Xbox One
at launch and fell prey to the drive problem. This move is almost shockingly elegant, and solves two critical points at once: how to do customer service up right, and how to show the truest value of digital delivery.
Basically, what Microsoft did was take everyone who's waiting for a new Xbox One to arrive following the discovery of the grinding, clattering disc drive issue and offer a free download code for one of four games: “Zoo Tycoon,” “Ryse: Son of Rome,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” and “Dead Rising
3.” Thus, gamers will be able to sidestep the clattering drive issue and play games direct from the hard drive, allowing said gamers to keep right on playing as though nothing had ever happened.
Naturally, this is a move that's likely to endear a lot of gamers to Microsoft, a particularly valuable point after the less than successful E3 run that Microsoft had that caused the company to frantically backpedal on many of the Xbox One's design points. But this is a purely stand-up move that should make a lot of gamers feel better about Xbox One purchases, maybe even to the point where some gamers might actually wish the system said gamers had purchased was malfunctioning itself.
But beyond this, however—and in perhaps a slightly more insidious move—Microsoft is showing firsthand that, in a way, it was kind of right. Microsoft is showing that digital delivery is going to get and keep gamers in the game faster and more effectively than discs. Sure, if anything, it's on a subliminal level, but when the next generation comes around in another seven years or so, and hopefully the online infrastructure has evolved accordingly, people are going to remember how digital download saved that launch weekend, and maybe be a bit happier to see it. All that authentication nonsense isn't likely to fly, but people may well look at digital delivery a bit different, at least.
The biggest problem with digital delivery isn't so much the paradigm shift it represents, it's a combination of smaller issues. Sure, we like our rented games, the ability to try before we buy, or just see if we like a game enough to shell out the larger pile of cash to keep coming back. But more than that, for many, digital delivery just plain old can't happen. I can't imagine any game company wanting to lose those customers, particularly not Microsoft, so digital deliver may take a while in really arriving. But there will still be some of those gamers that remember how, one day in November, Microsoft saved the early days of the Xbox One with digital downloads
. And that could just color perceptions for some time to come.