Why Microsoft should revive the killed Xbox Ideas UserVoice service

Xbox UserVoice
Xbox's UserVoice page allowed users to upvote ideas, which could then be turned into new features. (Image credit: Microsoft)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Xbox had a public UserVoice page. 

Commissioned in 2018, originally during the Xbox One era, Microsoft created a dedicated website it called Xbox Ideas, powered by the UserVoice platform. A few years later, and the platform was sadly shut down, with many feedback requests left unanswered and forgotten.

The platform emerged from an era when Microsoft had, at least in part, become misaligned with its audience following the poor reception of the launch of Xbox One. Microsoft found itself in a position where many of its plans had to be pivoted away from, and the Xbox OS itself had to be almost completely overhauled. 

The Xbox OS of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S era is very different, sporting many features we now take for granted. Things like Xbox backward compatibility, custom themes, and much more emerged as a result of user feedback. Even with UserVoice shut down, it's not as if Microsoft doesn't take feedback into account when prioritizing features. UserVoice was a bit different, though, for a variety of reasons, and I think it was the best avenue Microsoft had for collecting feedback. I, for one, would like to see it returned. 

What was Xbox Ideas UserVoice?

Xbox's UserVoice page was an online hub for upvoting ideas that could make their way into the Xbox OS itself.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

UserVoice is a platform that any company can leverage, creating a space online specifically tailored to gathering feedback. In Xbox's case, it used your Xbox network login details and Microsoft account to set up a profile, after which, users could submit ideas to the community. 

Split into a wide variety of categories, users could submit ideas, desires, and comments about all aspects of the Xbox platform. The Xbox Ideas UserVoice gained the most traction during the big Xbox backward compatibility push, where Microsoft asked users to vote on which games they wanted to see incorporated into the Xbox 360 emulator on modern Xbox consoles. Thousands upon thousands of votes were cast, resulting in one of Xbox's biggest, most crowning achievements, in preserving our digitally owned games for future generations. Microsoft even eventually expanded it to the original Xbox, again, based on your feedback. 

It wasn't just for backward-compatible games, though. Feature requests could be submitted across the platform's various categories, from the hardware itself to the Xbox operating system and beyond. With ideas submitted, users could then upvote features they thought were cool and most important. Xbox staff could then chime in with their own comments, noting that the idea had been put under consideration or even production, and if rejected, they could explain the reasons why. 

It was a great service that gave Xbox users a forward look at the direction of the platform we all invest in. And I think now might be the right time to bring it back. 

A centralized, visible place for sharing feedback

On UserVoice, users could upvote ideas to shape the future of the Xbox platform.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

It's not like Microsoft isn't gathering feedback anymore, since UserVoice closed. Microsoft has the Xbox Insider Program, which allows users to offer feedback directly on their Xbox console. There's also the Feedback Hub on Windows itself, also the Xbox Insider subreddit, which does produce weekly threads for gathering ideas. Microsoft developers also engage with and do react to feedback submitted on platforms like Twitter (X). My issue with this approach is that it's all just a bit scattered. 

The Xbox Insider subreddit, for example, is pretty much dead. And the way Reddit works doesn't really lend itself well to categorizing feedback of this type. UserVoice works similarly to Reddit with its upvote systems and the like, but it also allows you to visibly categorize things in a more simplistic and accessible interface. Reddit is an incredibly popular site, but it's also notoriously opaque to use for newcomers, and I would argue that Reddit is probably not a healthy medium for collecting and collating feedback from the general Xbox audience.

The community section of the Xbox Insider Hub just links out to reddit and Twitter (X), which aren't exactly great places for building a feedback community in my opinion.  (Image credit: Future)

The Xbox Insider Program itself is far better, but it lacks that sense of community and visibility UserVoice had. Offering direct feedback is important, but you can't get a real sense of how popular an idea might be if it isn't shared among the general user base. Sure, you can see how many users are requesting a specific feature, but you can't see how many users might not have thought they'd want that feature in the first place. Perhaps they hadn't simply thought of it before seeing it, and without seeing it, maybe they'd have never known they'd have wanted it.

I suspect that one reason Microsoft wanted to nix the Xbox UserVoice page is that it's probably not cheap to operate for a large company like Microsoft. UserVoice has its own charges and probably created a ton of additional costs for Xbox on top. But, as someone who has covered Xbox for over half a decade, the pace of feedback getting addressed feels like it has slowed down to a snail's pace. 

I think the answer probably lies in the Xbox Insider Hub, which is available both on Xbox and PC. Baking feedback tools for visibility and community sharing directly into the app, rather than relying on the clunkiness of Reddit or the chaos of Twitter, should foster a much more productive feedback loop. It would also give users who are interested more visibility over what features Xbox plans to bake into the system, if any, and foster excitement for the future. I acknowledge that Microsoft already has a lot on its plate right now, though. 

Xbox does have a lot of stuff cooking right now

UserVoice is nothing but an error message these days. (Image credit: Microsoft)
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It's all well and good for me to sit here and complain about stuff like this from the comfort of my desk, knowing full well Microsoft has an enormous amount of dev hours going into new Xbox features right now. Integrating things like Battle.net and Activision's platforms into Xbox Game Pass has been a massive undertaking, so I hear. Changing Xbox Cloud Gaming to support games you've purchased is on track to launch later this year, so I'm told, which has also been a huge undertaking. Microsoft is also building a new Xbox system that could be more Windows-like than ever if teases from Phil Spencer earlier this year are anything to go by. If that proves true, any major features baked into the Xbox OS as it is today might be wasted if we're moving to something completely new in a couple of years' time. 

I just realized that, to some degree, Xbox users, as of right now, don't really have a centralized and accessible way to share and submit ideas about what they would like to see from the Xbox platform. I really want some dumb basic stuff like cloud save sync indicators on Xbox and the Xbox PC app, for example, given that I sometimes turn my Xbox off too quickly and find that saves haven't synced properly. I also think the Xbox Game DVR is still far off from where it needs to be, both in terms of stability but also features. I also want to see Xbox achievements evolve, and I'm also interested in how many people want to see Microsoft do something, anything with Xbox Avatars it invested so much into. 

Even if now isn't the time, I think if we truly are moving to a new type of OS with the next-generation Xbox, having some kind of centralized, accessible, and visible feedback repository would do the platform a world of good. What do you think?

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Arun Topez
    What's the point though? As we've seen with all their products, especially Windows, their UserVoice and Feedback Hubs are basically useless. So many important and highly-voted features and fixes requested, and instead they focus on unnecessary stuff or removing stuff and adding it back.