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On Running Feuds
Microsoft's Three-Party Disharmony
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 09, 2009   |   Episode 165 (Show Archive)  

            

Warning: This article will be outdated within hours!
The Power Pad. The U-Force. R.O.B. The Power Glove. These were all game accessories that sounded like good ideas on paper, but ended up being met with apathy and disdain. For years these unique controls have been the laughing stock of the games industry; a silly punch line for all of us snarky games journalists. You can now add Microsoft's Wireless Microphones to that list, because this seemingly innocent accessory may be Microsoft's most infuriating product yet.

Released only a few weeks ago, the Microsoft Wireless Microphone looks and feels like the must-own control for any wannabe singer. But don't believe its lies, because this $60 microphone isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not only is it overpriced (a familiar tune for anybody who has price checked Microsoft's 120 GB Hard

Uh dude? I think your Power Glove may be malfunctioning!
Drive or Wireless Network Adaptor), but the packaging isn't even honest with its customers. And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Microsoft decides question the intelligence of their English-speaking consumer base. It all adds up to a disastrous start to what should have been a no-brainer accessory.

Thanks to games like Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Band 2, Lips and Karaoke Revolution, there's a real need for an Xbox 360 compatible wireless microphone. After brushing off the idea of an overpriced wireless control out of hand, my mind was instantly changed when this $60 control showed up on my doorstep late last week. Although I'm usually the one

Before Lips I didn't know who this person was. Now I wish I didn't!
playing guitar at my Rock Band parties, I've been known to belt out a diddy or two in my day. But what should have been the door opening to an amazing new, wireless world of gameplay was quickly stomped out by three major problems.

The first is the price, which has you paying a premium price for what in essence is an inexpensive microphone. I certainly won't argue the control's quality; it looks nice and feels great in my hands. But at its core this is nothing more than the Lips microphone, a year-old pack-in accessory for Microsoft's moderately successful SingStar clone. While that in and of itself isn't a problem, the $60 price tag is.

Lips, like SingStar and Karaoke Revolution before it, packs a pair of inexpensive mics and a mediocre game into one reasonably priced package. These days you can pick up the complete set for $49.99, ten dollars less than the upcoming sequel, Lips: Number One Hits. Both

Lips - Packing all of those songs you kind of remember liking into one package!
games are good deals for what they are, offering you a cool wireless microphone with flashing colors and motion controls.

But all this begs one simple question: If you have the choice to buy a microphone and a game for $60, why would you buy the standalone mic for the same price? What makes this unbundled microphone any better than the bundled version? And most importantly, why does Microsoft feel the need to take us for a ride every time they release a new accessory?

Yet, as frustrating as this pricing structure is, it's merely the beginning of Microsoft's microphone problems. Right on the box Microsoft

If you don't already own it, run out to your local game store and buy The Beatles: Rock Band RIGHT NOW!
tells you what you can expect from their wireless control. They say that this microphone is compatible with games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Lips, offers high performance to super-star your voice (whatever that means) and offers the coolest microphone design. There's just one massive problem, this device is currently not compatible with either Rock Band 1 or 2.

The good news for Beatle fans looking to pick up The Beatles: Rock Band today, these microphones work flawlessly (I used this very microphone for my full review). However, contrary to what it says on the back of the box, this control does not currently support Rock Band 2. And while fans of High School Musical and Guitar Hero (two games that are currently compatible) may not see the big deal, the fact that I can't use this microphone to sing my 500+ Rock Band songs makes me a very depressed crooner.


This product desperately needs a U.N. translator!
Thankfully there's a patch on the way to resolve this little problem, but how long must we wait? After looking back at statements from both Harmonix and Microsoft, it seems like we've been promised a patch for the better part of a year. Both the game's website and box art specifically states that it will work with Rock Band 2, which is both misleading and dishonest. While it may be compatible in the future, nowhere on the box does it suggest that you will have to wait. To make matters worse, this wording is one of the reasons it's so difficult for somebody to return the microphone, since it specifically states that it DOES work with my favorite music game.

Maybe the problem is that Microsoft thinks we Americans are too stupid to figure out that Rock Band 2 isn't actually compatible. Confused by how to get my brand new Microsoft Wireless Microphone to work with my beat up copy of Rock Band 2, I turned to the trusty instruction manual. At least, I was going to turn to the instruction manual, but for some strange reason Microsoft decided not to ship an English manual with their product. Instead they offered a small card that explained everything you could possibly need to know (below), all without a single word of English (unless you count the URL address).


While French and Spanish speaking gamers get an instruction booklet with thousands of words, English speaking customers get a card with six black and white pictures. Does Microsoft think that Americans

All I want to do is sing my 500 Rock Band songs (not pictured)!
are too stupid to read? As if we drag our knuckles down to the local game store, fumble around with money we don't understand and then get confused at all of these differently shaped numbers and letters. Then again, According to Jim was on the air for close to a decade, so maybe Microsoft is right.

Of course, there's a chance that my Microsoft Wireless Microphone was just missing the English instruction manual. And I'm sure that we'll eventually see a Rock Band 2 patch that allows me to use this new control with my 500 songs. But even then, what's the excuse for the price? And why wasn't all of these dealt with before the product hit the shelf? I'm not demanding perfection, but I don't think it's too much to ask for some sort of clarification on the website letting people know that the patch isn't available yet. After all, if you went by the box art and website, you would spend hours trying to figure out how to get Rock Band 2 running. And I don't care how good the new microphone looks or how many colors it can strobe, this amount of frustration is not worth $60.
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