The Smartest And Dumbest Things Microsoft Did In 2012

As the year winds to a close, it's becoming possible to get some perspective on just what happened in gaming this year. If promises were kept, expectations met, games loved or trends followed. What exactly were the major companies up to in 2012?

One company managed to stay busy while avoiding perhaps the one thing people wanted most. Though it was missing the obvious signifier moment -- the announcement of a new console -- 2012 was nonetheless a year of change for Microsoft, as a game company and otherwise.

With Gears of War in an off year, Microsoft returned to the story and title that started it all, as Master Chief kicked off a new trilogy in Halo 4. Meanwhile, they were doing a complete revamp on their home and mobile software as Windows 8 was rolled out. Following this trend of change, CEO Steve Ballmer took the axe to Windows president Steven Sinofsky, who had been the heir apparent to the Microsoft throne, forever altering the timeline.

With the amount of big exclusive games slim, Microsoft instead focused itself on downloadable titles and entertainment. The content on XBLA continued to thrive, with great titles like Spelunky, Mark of The Ninja, and Minecraft. Microsoft's E3 presentation focused on their desire to become the home's entertainment hub, integrating new and original video content, as well as sports and music to the Xbox Dashboard, and the release of SmartGlass. While hardware sales remain high, Microsoft is clearly building to something new. Hopefully it will be called Entertainment 720.

Smartest Moves

Bye-Bye Microsoft Points? Someday soon, Microsoft will hopefully be phasing out Microsoft Points. While this change has yet to be implemented on Xbox Live, the simple fact that Microsoft acknowledged the biggest complaint about their online purchasing system is a sigh of relief for gamers that's been a long time coming. Microsoft's arcane attempts at cheating extra money out of its fans -- who it apparently considers rubes -- has made buying games from the XBLA almost prohibitively frustrating, purchasing rigid packs of points to then purchase games with instead of just, y'know, buying the fucking game. In the Windows 8 Game Store you can now purchase directly with a credit card, and this change, lord willing, should come to your Xbox. Please.

Not Ruining Halo While it didn't exactly shock the world, there was still a sense of trepidation mixed into the excitement following the news that Master Chief was coming out of retirement. Would he be like Jay-Z and struggle to reclaim his former glory? Like Mike Tyson, and tarnish his legacy? Or like Brett Favre, flashing his junk all over town? Luckily, he did none of the above, instead making a great showing in Halo 4. 343 Industries more or less knocked it out of the Library, and there's no doubt that this series will remain at the forefront of gaming for years to come.

Dumbest Moves

Windows 8 With its market share continually falling in comparison to Apple, Microsoft attempted to shoot some adrenaline into its sales this year by revamping their OS with Windows 8. Sporting a whole new look and feel (one that borrows liberally from the paradigm established on the Xbox 360 Dashboard), Windows 8 has been more-or-less well received by most groups. One faction that isn't so pleased, however, is gamers. While reactions on our site have ranged from somewhat annoying but "fine" to downright disastrous, you didn't see any PC gamers beating down the door to praise it.

Halo 4 "Playtime" Rewards Not exactly the type of thing that will tank your stock, but Microsoft's November "promotion", which offered Microsoft Points in exchange for Halo 4 multiplayer hours, was simply embarrassing. Sure, the concept of getting "money" in return for playing games is dandy, but the frugality on display was tone-deaf. To get the "big reward" you had to play approximately six hours every day for the entire month. That "big reward?" Approximately $US7.50. Just enough to buy some salve for your thumbs. And dignity.

What did you all think were Microsoft's best and worst decisions this year?


All games were published or distributed by Microsoft Game Studios Happy Action Theater - February 1 Alan Wake's American Nightmare - February 22 Microsoft Flight - February 29 Kinect Star Wars - April 3 The Splatters - April 11 Trials Evolution - April 18 Fable Heroes - May 2 Skyrim DLCs - June-December Deadlight - August 1 Mark Of The Ninja - September 7 Joe Danger 2: The Movie - September 14 Harry Potter for Kinect - October 9 Dance Central 3 - October 16 Forza Horizon - October 23 Halo 4 - November 6

For these 'Year In Review' segments, we'll be taking a look at what major gaming companies did in 2012, with summaries of their biggest news and releases, best and worst decisions, and complete lists of the games they were a part of. Check back tomorrow for a look at another major company. It rhymes with "pony".


    Not sure what is wrong with Windows 8 for gamers. My outdated gaming rig currently runs better on Win 8 than it ever has, and games are running better. Team Fortress 2, which I have played a LOT and which I am very familiar with is running quite noticeably better since the upgrade. The frame rate increase and consistency is obvious.

      I dunno bout gaming specifically, I just dont like the whole "metro" thing that is clearly designed for tablets and is just a rip off of whatever Apple is doing. Not a good thing for those looking for the apple alternative in a laptop or desktop.

        Rip off of Apple? If you're talking about the app store, Ubuntu (unsure of other distros) has had a central repository to get programs from for ages.

        Last edited 11/12/12 6:18 pm

        metro is a fullscreen start menu. thats about it. ive been using a surface plus win 8 on my desktop for a while now and i think i am more efficient now i know both the touch and mouse shortcuts. and the desktop is still there.

        what everybody has missed is that metro is designed for performance. this is a pared back operating system. it is lighter than previous windows.

        Last edited 11/12/12 8:06 pm

    Windows 8 is perfectly fine and it's cheap for once too

    Do you guys realise that fat piece of shit from valve is an apple fanboy wake the fuck up

      Yeah, that's just the Upgrade Version. It's easy to get confused. ( You *may* want to find the full version; I found out through experience that only buying the Upgrade version is a 30-day-trial pain in the ass.

      I wouldn't call Gabe an Apple fanboy, it's his own honest opinion if he believes Windows 8 is a piece of crap, especially if it means bad business for Valve. (something about the Win 8 store conflicting with Steam , and DRM) If he didn't include Mac and now Linux support for some of his games, it'd be easy to call him a Windows fanboy. He can't win either way.

        I paid $80 for a full non-upgrade version of Windows 8 (all valid and so on). The joys of shopping around.

        So yeah, it's cheap enough.

          But yes, DanielD is not quite... 'rational'

            I'm genuinely interested where you got it from. The cheapest ones I found was around $150 - $200.

              Hate to be a downer for all of you, but the "Upgrade version" of Pro, can be installed, on a fresh hard drive, with no windows 7, and I picked it up for $15USD (Not sure if that promo is still running). However I believe the standard upgrade price is $40USD.

              Run the upgrade tool, pay $40, get a key, download the iso, blow away your OS, install Win8, make a registry change and you're done.

      Apple fanboy? Gabe used to work for MS, that's where he got the cash to start up Valve.

    So game publishers with a vested interest in keeping people inside their own systems having a whinge about gaining a minor competitor in their space is equated to Microsoft making a dumb move, because none of the games blogs ran anything else about it? :\

    I love how in the pro column is the MSPoints system which they havent removed and its only there cause you THINK its going to get removed because Windows 8 doesnt have it, YET you put Windows 8 in the con section Cause Kate Cox?
    Weird article.

    I don't really get this whole "Windows 8 is bad for gamers" thing. I am using it and have not had any problems besides some games requiring a little bit of extra work to get running (which is normal for a new OS). People need to try it for themselves and not just avoid it because of the words from someone like Gabe.

    I by no means would recommend it over W7 for the RRP, but if you look around you can get it for as low as $15.... And for that price it's well worth it.

    Last edited 11/12/12 5:32 pm

    I don't like the points system, but would it be so bad if they found a way to make points co-exist with real money at least for a transition period?

    I'd love the option to buy the exact amount of points I need to purchase a game. I have 150 points I need 400 for a game I can buy 250 points for $4.13 AU (Based on a current price of $8.25 for 500)

      While the whole points thing is hideous I prefer to buy a prepaid card rather than give them my credit card details, apart from their frantic desire to sign you up for monthly (ie: expensive Gold) I've already been hacked once on that system and I hate to think of the mess of I had a credit card linked.

        Yeah I don't leave my credit card details on my X-Box for obvious reasons (I'm using Paypal) and Microsoft have taken steps to prevent fraud. When ever I want to spend money I need to get an E-Mail code and enter it. For people to hack my account and distribute points they need to hack or re-direct my E-Mail first.

        Maybe a Token code generator thing like World of Warcraft or various banks use shipped with the next console would help security.

        I know you can no longer just call up MS and get an account e-mail redirected so easily these days.

    Yep, still not getting the whole hate on W8 as a gamer. All my games run fine. Laptop wakes up from sleep even faster despite not having an SSD. What is there to hate? Surely it's not being suggested that "gamers" are slow and cannot adapt to the lack of a start button or whatever bollocks complaint it is about W8.

    MS Flight was certainly an epic letdown. Sure it was aimed at beginners, but in doing so they alienated everybody like me who was hanging out for a new hardcore sim. No TrackIR support (VERY important), no virtual cockpit in premium aircraft, all shite. And now they have shut down the multiplayer servers for FSX too! :(

      Most assuredly! The controls were also hideous.
      I was really looking forward to flying a 747 to L.A.

    "One faction that isn’t so pleased, however, is Gabe Newell."
    There, fixed that for you :P
    You also forgot to mention how Windows 8's app store means devs can make a game and target both desktops and tablets at the same time. Something that could have a huuuuge benefit to tablet gaming, hopefully bringing it's quality near to desktop/console quality.
    Anyway, the whole "windows 8 is bad for gamers" thing has gotten rather old. I don't even see how a lack of a start button (it's there on autohide) or a full screen start menu is supposed to negatively affect gaming anyway :/ Performance improvements, however, I can see how they'd affect gaming, for the better.

    You can put Kinect in both camps...such promising tech that has been modded and hacked so brilliantly yet just god-awful games that use it...Not sure it will become anything but a wave-your-arms-like-a-dickhead-in-front-of-the-family-like-a-wii-thing...

    Microsoft bad move: Mountain Dew & Doritos. They tarnished the image of Halo 4 for the sake of cash money.

    Windows 8 was a smart move. As you said, it now looks similar to the look started on Xbox, but in actual fact, it started with Windows Phone 7.

    With Windows 8, Microsoft now has a consistent look through all of it's devices creating a streamlined experience. It's now much easier for developers to create games that work across all three of it's main devices from WP8, Windows 8 and Xbox Live Arcade.

    The dropping of it's Zune brand to Xbox Music and Video was also a smart move as Xbox is known as it's entertainment hub, where Zune is known as a failure.

    I remember all the same bitching about Microsoft when Windows XP came out.

      Yeah, but when XP first came out it WAS crap.

      Windows 8 was definitely a mistake in my opinion, for several reasons.
      The new interface was obviously designed primarily for tablets (giant tiles that don't get obscured by fingers, hidden menus, gesture specific commands, full screen apps) but for keyboard and mouse users the changes offered no productivity gains in an some cases actually made tasks take longer to get done. I have no problem with change, but if you're changing something without improving productivity or making it easier to use, then to me it's just change for the sake of change.

      Having a consistent look and feel across platforms is all well and good as long as you keep in mind that each platform serves a purpose and should be designed around that. Web browsing and reading emails is something I do across all platforms, but anything that needs a reply longer than a sentence I'm going back to the my laptop for. Similarly for gaming, it's my PC. The Windows 8 interface works on a phone or a tablet, but on a laptop or PC, I spend all my time in the desktop, so why make me boot into metro (yes I know it's not called that any more, but it's still the easier way to describe it). The popularity of add-ons like Start 9 and Classic Shell just reinforce that this was a bad decision on Microsoft's behalf.

      Finally, to quote Vaas from Far Cry 3 - 'Insanity is doing the exact... same fucking thing... over and over again expecting... shit to change.' The metro interface and app store were introduced over 2 years ago with the Window Phone 7, and yet during this time the phone never gained more that a 5% market share. It would be fair to say that a 5% market share for a company like Microsoft would be considered a failure. So what did Microsoft do? The replicated it across to tablets and laptops / desktops. And not surprisingly, sales are tanking and a majority of users are staying with Win 7.

    I'd say Forza Horizon was a smart move... I don't know if 'Playground Games' are a first party developer, but if not then they will be soon.

    Rolling 'Games for Windows Live' games under the xbox brand was a smart move too...

    Dumb move...? not picking up THQ.

    Worst move? Where can I try out a windows 8 tablet/surface? Haven't seen one in any retail store in Melbourne, or ami looking in the wrong place? Yeah, great product launch MS.

      You can only buy Surface online with Microsoft.

      That might be changing soon though......

        Already has:

    Halo 4? Smart Move? Righto. Multi player is a garbage attempt to be like COD with it's ridiculous class systems ruining the game and the Campaign is just tedious and boring while the story is just as convoluted and uninteresting as ever.

      I wouldn't call them class systems,I quite like the ability to have a particular loadout at the start, the scavenging for better weapons only to get killed 2 seconds later but some guy with an even better weapons made the previous Halo's a frustrating experience.

      Not to mention they're handling DLC much better this time around - have you played Halo 3 lately? If you don't have all the map packs you're locked out of two thirds of the game types. In the new one at least people dumb enough to shell out for map packs are being given their own playlist without affecting the rest of us.

      I personally think Halo 4 is a vast improvement over the Bungie games.

      Lucky all the critics and the majority of fans follow your widely held opinions right?

      oh wait...

    Microsoft Flight was another bad move. Although you can't quite lump it all into just this year.

    Good Moves:
    Halo 4
    Alan Wake's American Nightmare
    Trials Evo
    Mark of the Ninja

    Bad Moves
    Happy Wars (good idea and free, but frequent disconnects and laggy as hell)
    Steel Battalion - OK it was Capcom but you know M$ was heavily involved, it showed up Kinect's main flaw which is that subtle movements confuse it.
    Deadlight - the trailer sucked me in but the demo was no Shadow Complex and the reviews seem to back this up.
    SoA - the worst in living memory with only the Tony Hawk game (a HD remake) being any good
    The Wreckateer - a game so awful they actually gave it away for free a few weeks ago and still no-one got it - it promised to be an Angry Birds type game with Kinect controls - given that the Wii has Boom Blox you'd think it could work, instead the game was awful, clunky and cringeworthy, an opportunity to do something suitable for connect instead turned into a cover for shovelware.

    Finally - Microsoft's treatment of their loyal customers this year hit an all time new low, week after week of uninspiring specials (usually the same boring DLC packs from either Borderlands, Red Dead Redemption or Gears of War going on sale) and then during the thanksgiving sales Microsoft discounted Mark of the Ninja... on Steam!!!! What the Frak? Talk about handing sales to your competition :(

    There's nothing wrong with Windows 8. It's the same as Windows 7.

    They took the old boring start menu and replaced it with the Metro Start menu, and gave you the OPTION of an App store within that start menu.

    Quit it with the hyperbole. I've actually semi gone BACK to PC gaming because of Windows 8.

    No mention of the continued ruination of the Xbox 360's dashboard? Every release makes me enjoy using my 360 less... while the PS3's new Playstation Store is utterly AMAZING in comparison. Considering how much I loathe my PS3, that's saying something.

    lol Win 8 is fine. You "gamer" cry babies never could handle change.

    Last edited 12/12/12 1:48 pm

    I thought the ... made it obvious I knew that was happening.

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