Xbox – Not for Me

FAIL_BOX_360Just got my very first Xbox last Thursday – the 360 with Kinect. And, after spending Friday evening setting it up, on Saturday morning I boxed it back up and returned it to Amazon.

It’s a shame, really, since the Kinect sensor seemed to work quite well and made for some fun games – but by itself, it’s not enough to justify the $250 price tag for the console.

Now, I should point out that I’m not a gamer (and I’m a long-time and generally satisfied user of the various Windows operating systems). However, I’ve had my PlayStation 3 for several years now and have been frankly amazed at everything it can do. I don’t play games too often, but Rock Band, SingStar and Little Big Planet are all great fun and I still play them every now and again. The PS3 also replaced my old DVD player and it does an excellent job with upscaling standard DVDs. Of course, it also plays BluRay and those disks look freakin’ great – especially since I got my big plasma TV. Oh, and it streams Netflix, Hulu, Amazon – pretty much everything – via WiFi or Ethernet connection.

The big selling point to me for the Xbox was the Kinect – and when I used it with Kinect Adventures and Dance Central, it was impressive. What was not impressive? Other than the Kinect, the Xbox offers a markedly subpar selection of features. For example, like the PS3, it offers streaming Netflix et al. – but only if you get a pay subscription to Xbox Live . Now granted, it’s only (“only”) $60 a year – but since I’m already paying Netflix for my subscription and my ISP for bandwidth, why should I also have to pay Microsoft to use the equipment I own in order to stream movies?

What was even more shocking to me? I attempted to use the pre-installed Internet Explorer browser on the Xbox to look something up online – only to be given a message that the browser was only available to Xbox Live paid subscribers! This was a potentially golden opportunity for MS to get me reengaged in using Internet Explorer, a browser I gave up years ago in favor of Firefox and Chrome. Instead, they prevented me from using their browser. Really incredibly stupid from a marketing perspective.

I had also imagined a really tight integration between Xbox and Windows 8, which I’d recently upgraded to at home (I won’t digress too far re. Windows 8, other than to say that it’s Windows 7 with an extra Start screen. All of the various “tiles” in the Metro app have, for me, not added any functionality – or more typically, as with Skype, provide less functionality along with undesirable and unexpected behavior within a somewhat more visually pleasing interface). This, too, was not the case – and was probably the most frustrating experience of my Xbox installation.

While the Xbox was downloading some system updates during set-up, I added the Xbox app to Windows 8 and signed up for the free version of Xbox Live. When I attempted to set up my profile on Xbox, using this same ID (which is also my Windows ID), I got an error that it was already in use and I could not set up a profile. So, I had to create another profile using another email address – a not desirable set-up, since I was anticipating a seamless experience across all Windows platforms with a single ID.

I did find the solution to the specific error message I was getting on the Xbox support site. Here it is and apparently it is not a joke:

xboxgamertage

My favorite bit is the 30-day wait period between steps 3 and 4. Well, that and the fact that you have to create a THIRD account just to get your one account set up properly.

Oh and did I mention that a gamer tag is assigned to you during Xbox Live set up? That’s right – you don’t get an option to create your own user ID, the name that everyone else using Xbox Live will see. You can do this once the profile is set up – but apparently only once every 30 days? Or else (surprise!) for a fee? I have no idea. It was, without hyperbole, the most ridiculous, user-unfriendly, non-intuitive method of creating a profile I’ve ever encountered.

I did eventually straighten things out after 30 minutes on the phone with Xbox support (and having to reset my Windows password, since apparently despite my answering all of the security questions correctly regarding the Windows account I’ve had for years was insufficient to determine that I was the owner of the account. Ridiculous.) But it really painted a sad picture of Microsoft’s ability to integrate their products. I’ve already seen this with MS’s recently-acquired Skype, but was truly surprised that the company can’t provide a decent (let along great) experience for users of their two biggest platforms, both of which have been around for years and years.

The Xbox interface itself is a mess – confusing, unintuitive, filled with ads, options buried deep within sub-menus. Plus, every selection seemed to require the user to answer several questions or confirmations before the task was executed.

Oh, and did I mention that the Xbox doesn’t play BluRay disks? And that the controller comes with a pair of AA batteries rather than being rechargeable? Lame.

Anyway, so long Xbox – I can’t imagine you’ll be welcomed back again. And I just ordered Child of Eden and the PS3 Move controller bundle with Little Big Planet 2 – for just around $100. The $150 I saved versus Xbox can go into my 2013 vacation fund.

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