Wednesday, December 7, 2011, 7:03 PM ET|Posted by Will RichmondNetflix announced its new Xbox experience this morning, but if the company was hoping for an enthusiastic reaction, it's instead getting a rousing chorus of boos from dozens of Xbox users. Nearly all of the comments on Netflix's blog post on the upgrade are negative, with some characterizing it as more of a downgrade and asking if or how they can restore the old Netflix experience.
I'm not an Xbox user so I'm relying on what the commenters are saying, but the primary complaints appear to focus around the elimination - without any notice - of a few key features that previously existed: group-watching parties, re-starting from the beginning of a title, easy pause/re-start, one-click jump-to fast-forward and re-wind and listing of the year a movie was released.
There is also lots of grumbling about new features which are considered either clumsy or superfluous: auto-starting TV shows when simply in browsing mode, inability to easily change display size, unwanted noises that accompany all navigation steps and unwatched titles being added to "Recently Watched" lists.
Some will excuse all of this as "version 1.0" issues, particularly since Google and others have made it fashionable to release software in "beta" mode even when issues are already known. But that feels too lenient to me. As Netflix management has said repeatedly in the past, gaming consoles like the Xbox are the most-used devices for watching Netflix streaming on TVs. In addition, gamers are notoriously passionate and vocal.
As a result, any changes in the Netflix experience must be thoroughly tested and over-communicated. In this case Netflix appears to have done neither. To get a sense of Netflix's thought process, HackingNetflix has a quote from the company's director of communications breezily saying the party feature, for example, wasn't used much so they just decided to drop it "to focus more on the interface and other features…"
After all Netflix recently went through with the ill-considered and poorly-communicated decisions around Qwikster and the 60% price increase - not to mention the drubbing the stock has suffered - you'd think Netflix would have learned and would now be meticulous about everything it does. Apparently not.