Microsoft's press conference at E3 2014 had its usual share of detractors. However, Sony worldwide studios head Shuhei Yoshid actually had some kind things to say about the presentation and the company in general.
"It was very interesting," Yoshida told Eurogamer. "The attitude was great, like from Phil Spencer. I read and listened to his interviews, and he's a reasonable, smart guy, compared to some other people who used to say some unbelievable things."
Yoshida seems to be alluding to the early days of the Xbox One when it seemed like Microsoft couldn't go a month without some controversy. First they announced restrictive policies that curbed players' abilities to play offline or trade games. Then there were the privacy concerns about Kinect's always-on camera. Microsoft's insistence on bundling the camera with every Xbox One led to a starting price for the console that was $100 more than Sony's PS4.
Microsoft's decisions were bad but the justifications they offered for them were worse. Former Xbox boss Don Mattrick said that if you don't have an Internet connection, you should just keep playing your Xbox 360. They insisted that the Kinect was an essential part of the console without actually explaining why. Long story short, last summer was rough for the company.
Phil Spencer took over the Xbox division in March. Yoshida said that the shake-up in management allowed Microsoft to "reset and re-sync everything," enabling them to be more "consistent."
Microsoft's made some big, positive changes since Spencer took over Xbox. They removed the Xbox Live Gold requirement from entertainment apps like Netflix and HBO Go. They made games the focus of their E3 2014 press conference, taking the opportunity to unveil long-awaited games like Crackdown 3 and HD remakes of the Halo games.
Microsoft also decided that Kinect didn't need to be sold with every Xbox One. They released a Kinect-less SKU for the XB1 that costs $399, the same price as the PS4. Yoshida, echoed Sony Head of Worldwide Studios America Scott Rohde's statements last week that Sony saw the Kinect removal coming. However, he thought they would do it later in the Xbox One's lifespan.
"Some media people totally believed they should have done it earlier, but some other media people thought it was a unique selling point. Personally, I was expecting that at some point in the future they'd unbundle Kinect, but I wasn't expecting it this early."
This year really has been a surprising about-face for Xbox One. I'm sure that Sony's not too happy that that main competition has stopped its chain of blunders. Still, kudos to Yoshida for acknowledging that Microsoft's gotten its act together.