xbox-one-logo

The Xbox One: A Levelheaded Look at Always-Online DRM and the Next Generation of Console Gaming

quote1As President John Henry Eden once famously said, we stand now at a precipice.  He may have been talking about the destruction of all mankind to radioactive nuclear fallout and anarchy, but a new generation of gaming consoles is kind of the same thing right?  As the Xbox 360 and PS3 suffer through their final death rattles, their fresh faced progeny are hitting the big stage at this week’s upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it’s widely known (Electronic Gaming Expo might be more accurate, though it does lose a bit of the alliterative flair).

While you’d think the fanboys and gaming loyalists would be out in droves in anticipation of this great moment in history, think again.  Controversy has engulfed these burgeoning consoles before they’ve even had a chance to bask in the warm glow of adulation that almost always accompanies the announcement of new and exciting technology.

So what’s this great controversy you ask? Well, what else?  Digital Rights Management of course, or just “DRM” if you’re in the know, the buzzword of the age.

Sony has (wisely it seems) kept their mouth’s relatively shut on the issue (though rumors persist that the PS4 may include some form of DRM, and Sony has subsequently stated that publishers will have the option to use it), instead, they’ve sat back and allowed Microsoft to blunder their way through a series of PR disasters and in the process bring down upon themselves the wrath of angry consumers the world over.  We now know, in what appears to be the makings of a strict DRM policy, that the Xbox One console will require its users to be connected to the internet at least once every 24-hours in order to “authenticate” their game library.

As you can imagine, this did not go over well.  The DRM hounds smelled the scent and began to bark, vociferously.

On Thursday, Microsoft released some more information about their new console and the gaming community has lost their collective minds.

What is DRM and why does it matter?

SimCity-Launch-Fail

simcitydrmDRM is a blanket term that refers to the forever evolving measures that game developers (and other digital media creators) use to try and prevent the illegal distribution (or piracy) of their intellectual properties.  Things like online registration of cd-keys have been used for decades, to rather laughable effect.

With the increasing availability and speed of the internet, pirating video games has become an ever expanding problem for game publishers who see billions of dollars lost every year to unlawful downloads.

2010 CESA study concluded that $41 billion was lost between 2004 and 2009 on just DS and PSP sales alone, and, according to torrentfreak.com, the popular FPS franchise, Call of Duty, saw just one iteration of their series pirated over 5 million times in little more than a month, or the equivalent of about $300 million in retail sales.  Other popular franchises see similar numbers every year.  Certainly not every illegal download represents a potential sale, but even a very conservative rate of 10% is still billions of dollars not in the hands of developers each year.

As a result, companies like EA have responded by implementing more intrusive DRM measures, which consumers have come to consider unfairly restrictive.  Among these new measures has come the concept of “always-online DRM”, by which a game’s user is required to login, and remain logged in, to a company’s servers in order to play their game.  If you don’t have access to the internet?  Sorry, you’re SOL.

DRM debates recently came to a head when the long awaited and much anticipated sequel to 2003’s SimCity 4, SimCity (weird I know), an ostensibly single player game, was revealed to require an always-online connection.  SimCity publisher, Electronic Arts, took major grief when their servers proved to be less than equal to the task (similar issues plagued the launch of Blizzard’s mega-hit, and always-online single player game, Diablo III) and gamers were left unable to play the game several days after it had launched (yours truly among them).

Opponents of always-online DRM point to incidents like the aforementioned Diablo III and SimCity launches as evidence that DRM’s punitive repercussions for consumers far outweigh their potential benefits for publishers (one petition on change.org following the launch of SimCity garnered nearly 80,000 signatures).

quote3

Furthermore, they argue, DRM does not stop piracy, in fact in some cases it even encourages it as angry consumers, who would otherwise buy the game legally, turn to piracy as a means of “sticking it to” the publishers.

diablo3And then of course you have the tricky issue of private property ownership and claims that always-online DRM is more akin to borrowing than buying, since the game will become inoperable once the publisher takes down the servers.  Instead of buying ownership of digital media you are simply purchasing the rights to use digital media temporarily, the true ownership of which remains in the hands of the publishers, or so the argument goes.

Proponents of always-online anti-piracy measures point to the fact that, while piracy is still possible, games with these features make it much more difficult (no game requiring always-online DRM has appeared on a torrentfreak.com most pirated list).  In addition (and despite all the bluster and bloviating by anti-DRM lobbyists) including always-online DRM in a game has not been shown to adversely impact sales.

With nearly daily reports of game developers going belly-up and the increasing discontent with games that “play it safe”, publishers choosing to make an umpteenth sequel to an established franchise rather than taking a risk on a new IP, defenders of DRM argue that without drastic steps to combat piracy, the quality of our games and the innovative potential of the industry are seriously at risk.

Yes, law abiding supporters of gaming will be unfairly punished for the sins of our scurvy-infested brethren, but that’s the price we must pay to ensure the long-term health of the hobby we love.

Which brings us, finally (God, I know right?), to the matter at hand.

While piracy has not impacted the console gaming market quite as much as it has PC (as you’d probably imagine, pirating a PC game is a much simpler process), the numbers have been steadily rising into the 7 figures (Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the most pirated console game of 2011 – the most recent data available – with nearly 1.3 million downloads).

With the announcement that the new Xbox One console will require an always (or nearly always) online connection, many have assumed it represents nothing more than an always-online DRM console wrapped up with pretty paper to convince you that the features are for your benefit (the power of the cloud!).

Let’s put that assumption to the test.

Why it looks like DRM

anti-drm5

Obviously the concept of the console requiring an internet connection sounds very similar to the aforementioned always-online DRM which requires a user to remain logged in at all times.  While Microsoft has said that you will only need to log in once every 24-hours, skeptics dismiss this point as largely irrelevant since this “check-up” has the same general effect of forcing you to prove your ownership of a game at least once a day.

According to Microsoft’s own licensing information a game can only be “gifted” to one person, meaning you can give your game to a friend but that’s it, he now owns it and cannot gift it a second time.  Obviously this would require that your console track the ownership of the disc via online registration, an invasion of privacy that many find hard to swallow.  “Why should we acquiesce to Microsoft’s draconian concepts of ‘ownership’?”  They might say.  “Did I not purchase this physical disc?  How can they tell me who I can and cannot lend it to?”

The used games market is a touchy subject in some gaming circles, but it’s undeniable that many people take advantage of it and it looks like the new Xbox One may put the kybosh on selling used games:

“We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers.  Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.”

DRM cynics point out the ambiguity inherent in the language “publishers can enable you”, and argue (perhaps rightfully so) that by putting the decision in the hands of the publishers (a demographic that, for obvious reasons, have been largely anti-used games), MS is essentially eliminating the used games market and in the process further blurring the line between game ownership and game use.  If I cannot resell my game, do I really own it to begin with?

Why it might be more than just DRM

xbox-one-specs

While it’s hard to argue that DRM won’t at least be a component of the new always-online console, there are several reasons to believe it might not be the only reason for the requirement.

Microsoft has revealed that now up to 10 members of a family can share their gaming library and play any shared games from any Xbox One console, whether it is in their home or not.  Furthermore, this shared library can be accessed from any console at any time by logging in using your Xbox Live credentials.

People who have lamented the fact that they cannot bring their games to play at a friend’s house need not worry.  Your game library goes with you everywhere, and you don’t even need a disc (though you may have to wait a few hours while the game downloads… you should probably just bring the disc).  This library sharing could potentially lighten the load for families who have gamers living in several different states and can’t share physical media with one another (my cousin Ronny will be getting a call).

quote4

The online capabilities of the console also means that you will be able to purchase games digitally (granted, a feature that PC gamers have enjoyed for years).  If a game has a midnight launch you should theoretically be able to purchase it in advance and your console will download the game in the background, allowing you to hit the start button right as the clock strikes 12 without fighting through the unwashed masses at a GameStop Midnight Madness event (those crowds can be pretty gnarly, or bro-tastic if it’s a Madden launch, which is probably worse).

Since I mentioned used games as a casualty of the new console, it should be noted that Microsoft has stated that they will allow their first party games to be resold with no fee, what third party publishers choose to do is up to them.

By being always-online, updates and downloads can take place at set times when you aren’t playing, or go on in the background while you are (another feature common to PC gamers but denied the console crowd).  No more waiting for an update to finish or a game to download and install, just tell your console when you want to play and it will all be ready for you when you arrive.

A further benefit of always-online gaming, according to Microsoft, is the ability for game developers to create persistent worlds.  Because all Xbox One owners will have a broadband connection, developers need not fear alienating their fanbase by including features that can only be used online.  Persistent worlds could mean anything from an MMO style universe (which have until now been largely unplayable on consoles) to constantly updating real-time dynamics (weather in Tiger Woods 2015 changing instantly to reflect real-life conditions, for example).

And finally, and perhaps most importantly (depending who you ask), always-online will allow game developers to utilize cloud computations to effectively increase the power of the console itself.  Don’t take my word for it, General Manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms, Matt Booty, claims the following:

“There are some things in a video game world that don’t necessarily need to be updated every frame or don’t change that much in reaction to what’s going on… One example of that might be lighting.  Let’s say you’re looking at a forest scene and you need to calculate the light coming through the trees, or you’re going through a battlefield and have very dense volumetric fog that’s hugging the terrain. Those things often involve some complicated up-front calculations when you enter that world, but they don’t necessarily have to be updated every frame. Those are perfect candidates for the console to offload that to the cloud—the cloud can do the heavy lifting, because you’ve got the ability to throw multiple devices at the problem in the cloud.”

Sounds intriguing right?  Well, to back up their claim, Microsoft has revealed that they have upped their server infrastructure from roughly 15,000 at the end of the Xbox 360 life-cycle, to more than 300,000 for the launch of the Xbox One.  Do we honestly want to argue that 300,000 servers are necessary for DRM?

Conclusions

jump_to_conclusions_mat

Microsoft isn’t stupid, they didn’t become the monolith that they are without taking some risks and suffering through some backlash, hell I can remember the outcry when it was announced that Xbox Live would be broadband only (those damn 56k gamers were seriously up in arms about it) or, worse yet, that it would cost $50 a year to use (“Why would I pay for something PlayStation gives me for free?!”).  30 million Xbox Live subscribers later and it looks like a pretty smart idea, Sony still hasn’t managed to catch up.

Innovation often requires doing things that the majority of people will not like initially (I spent many days in high school trying to convince customers at RadioShack that DVR was going to be the next big thing, they just couldn’t see the point), but ultimately the goal of every corporation is to make money, and in that single driving impetus they will not implement and support policies that the majority of their customers do not want.

Microsoft broke into the console market when Nintendo and Sony seemed to have it pretty well cornered, now they’re the guys everybody else is trying to beat.  You don’t go from worst to first without learning a thing or two about your customer along the way.

Maybe the always-online console will be relegated to the dustbin of history like so many of its brethren (the monumental failure that was Sega Dreamcast is still one of my all-time favorite consoles), but it also wouldn’t shock me in the least to be writing an article a year from now reflecting on just how funny it was that so many people thought the Xbox One would destroy gaming as we know it.

quote5

American consumers can be a remarkably intransigent lot at times, fighting tooth and nail to keep things the way they are, yet force them to the watering hole and they do prove surprisingly adaptable, innovation catches on very quickly once America embraces it.

Microsoft concluded their licensing news release with the following statement:

“In the months ahead, we will continue to listen to your feedback as we meet with our partners in the ecosystem to bring additional detail about our policies.”

MS seems married to their always-online model (300,000 servers can’t be taken back to the store), but changes to their position on DRM and your ability to lend and borrow games may still be up for discussion.  If you don’t like their policies or the direction of their console, by all means, continue to speak out, this is a free market after all and the customer is always right (unless of course we’re not).


 

So what do you think?  Is an always-online console (DRM or not) something that you find intriguing or simply intrusive?  Do you plan to buy an Xbox One or are you withholding judgment until you know more about it?

I for one anticipate that I will buy one, I love games too much not to have access to them all, and the sports and TV features actually appeal to me (though I may be in the minority of gamers on that point).  In the end it will likely come down to what you value most and whether or not DRM and always-online represent untenable restrictions for the way you play games.  Personally, I have no issues with either and the prospect of being able to have a shared game library is a major selling point for me.

As always, please Like, Tweet, and +1 if you enjoyed this article, and you can always find me on Twitter, email, or start a discussion in the comments.  Your feedback is always appreciated.

33 thoughts on “The Xbox One: A Levelheaded Look at Always-Online DRM and the Next Generation of Console Gaming

  1. pog

    Thank you for some of the most interesting content on this topic. Your raise valid points of interest that I find match my own thoughts on the subject. Great article.

  2. friv250

    I personally think your article is awesome! I am intrigued with much of your information and am persuaded to agree with you after reading your material. I’m hoping you’ll add more articles on this topic.

  3. Don Juan

    Nice !
    Yeah the kill zone looks good (a book I have is called that and it’s about a cop that shot someone and quit the force and went back to school to study what the physiologic effects are in life or death situations – how time slows down – your focus narrows – you don’t hear anything – he became a psychology professor)
    I’m glad they’re competing since it should make both consoles better .

    Just found that they have NBA 2014 for Xbox one – Hibbert should have a beast rating

  4. Josh Boeke

    Lol. Not bad. There will always be alternatives. I think once the growing pains are over, say a year from now, things will begin to work themselves out. Retailers like GameStop have some power as well, they will have a say in the used game discussion too.

  5. JuneBug81

    Well, I do have hope that, worst case scenario, the gen after the one that’s about to start – or by the end of this gen – internet infrastructure will have improved enough to get rid of data and bandwidth caps, and the cloud will really take off and be taken advantage of in unique ways.

    Along with that, and with that success, I think companies will begin to settle in to lower prices and sales and the like as they have on PC. And when that happens, I won’t be nearly as resistant to all of this. I just want either used games at low prices, or some alternative thereto. Having neither – and the publishers having the power to give me neither – is the sticking point for me, along with some privacy concerns.

    I spent half an hour making this as a semi-joke by the way lol. It’s funny, but it also says, “I do have an alternative.” Even if it has only a few games relatively speaking, it’s not like I’ll have to abandon the hobby or anything. Even in a worst case scenario.

  6. Josh Boeke

    While I can’t speak to the level of your noobishness (you seem pretty all right to me), I don’t think you’re too far off base with the comparison. People have pointed out some important differences between the two, but at this point a lot of that is speculation, we don’t yet know what the marketplace on Xbox One or PS4 is going to look like. Unlike Steam, for example, players will need to check in every so often in order to access their game library, Steam’s offline mode does not carry the same requirement (which is the source of a lot of the consumer backlash).

    Certainly there are some games that do (like the ones I mention in the article), but as of now that’s a relatively small percentage. We will have to wait and see how it shakes out but today E3 press conference has convinced me that there’s more to the always-online than just DRM, regardless of what anyone wants to claim.

  7. Josh Boeke

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective, it’s really improved the level of discussion here.

    I get what you’re saying about feeling left behind, but I also think we should consider that all this always-online DRM stuff is really still in its infancy and as the market begins to understand what is and is not acceptable to consumers, the right balance will be struck and things will improve.

    I think publishers are just trying to get ahead of the problem and making some mistakes as they go, but eventually it will get figured out in a manner that works for the most number of people. It has to.

  8. Josh Boeke

    Digital media is just different, for lots of reasons. If your Ford dealer had a competitor down the road who wasn’t just selling knockoffs for less money but was actually giving away their exact product FOR FREE, bolt for bolt, spark plug for spark plug, I’m pretty sure your Ford dealer would take some pretty drastic measures to put that guy out of business and nobody would fault him for it.

    That’s the state of piracy in the gaming marketplace. I can go to Steam and purchase a game for $60, or I can head over to Pirate Bay (for example) and do a quick search, download the game for free (identical game code line for line) and fire it up with very little hassle.

    You’re also overstating what DRM does. Saying “use occasionally if the publisher permits it” is quite a departure from reality. 99% of DRM does not have restrictions anything close to what you’re describing and even the always-online variety allows game owners to play an unlimited amount (not just occasionally) and are only unusable on rare occasions when servers are being updated on off-peak hours. There have been some bad launches (which hopefully publishers have learned from), but after the initial problems these always-online games play just like any other (assuming you are connected to the internet).

    P.S. Plenty of E-books use DRM measures, pirating is a problem for book dealers as well.

  9. Josh Boeke

    You may be right, but when those games were made internet piracy wasn’t rampant and people were not stockpiling libraries of games that they did not pay for. It’s also unclear whether or not you need the servers to be live in order to play the games (certainly certain games will require this), whenever those servers are taken down (assuming that’s even a concern, MS isn’t going out of business any time soon), the publishers could simply release the DRM requirements for the game.

    I get where you’re coming from but I’m not sure things are quite so drastic. Would you not play those classic games now if you had to do it through a server? Personally, I still would.

  10. Patrick

    Most of this sounds like what steam is currently doing. I bought civ 5, and entered the activation code I received into steam and linked the game to my steam account. Don’t see a huge difference between this and that (but maybe I’m just a huge noob)

  11. Michael

    Then why not extend it to EVERYTHING we buy? If I buy a physical item, I want ownership of it. If I buy a car and want to sell it to someone else a few years later, should Ford get a cut of the money? Of course not. If I buy a guitar and then want to give it to a friend, do I need permission from Fender? Hell no. If I want to sell a book to a used book store, should I be forced to sell it to one of the two or three “participating retailers” that the book’s publisher has chosen. No.

    There is no difference between a physical copy of a computer game and any other goods. You buy it, you own it. You do not buy the permission to use it occasionally if the publisher permits it. It’s disgraceful.

  12. Michael

    I will not be buying the Xbox One, unfortunately. The dealbreaker for me is the DRM. If this business model had been around 30 years ago, no-one would be able to play The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros. 3 or Resident Evil today, because no company will keep servers running indefinitely. The reason we can still play these games and all the other classics is because we have the physical copies that don’t require an online confirmation to work. If Microsoft succeeds, this is the end of gaming as we know it. Your children or your children’s children will never, ever be able to play an Xbox One game.

  13. Josh Boeke

    You son of a bitch!

    I assume that’s just your way of saying you don’t want to share your game library with me.

    P.S. Paranoid much? Got something to hide?

  14. JuneBug81

    Yeah, and I think as I get older and move further and further from that key 18 – 25 audience that everyone wants, that’s one thing that kind of hurts. I’m NOT part of the target audience… of a lot of things, not just this one company and its new platform.

    I felt really disenfranchised by things like Diablo III and SimCity. I could see the appeal and the innovation of what they were doing, but there are just enough frustration and principled distaste on my part to not be able to support them. I did see a friend play SimCity. A lot of what they did – as with this system – was very exciting and innovative. And a lot of it looked fun. And lest we forget (as it’s easy to sometimes) fun matters, and can’t be discounted because of other concerns.

    But it’s always a weighing and a balancing dependent on what your individual standards and principles are, and so at the end of the day, while I totally respect and accept that people loved those games – just as people will no doubt love this system – I do feel like I’m less and less the person they’re catering to.

    And I’d be lying if I said, after helping to support and build these companies and loving their products and giving them good word of mouth (in the case of Maxis for decades, and in the case of Xbox for 12 years,) that it doesn’t hurt to sort of be told, “We understand you won’t be happy with this, but frankly, you’re not a part of the broader audience we need to grow our business anymore.”
    And it’s a little scary, too. I love videogames, passionately. I always thought I’d be playing them until I was too old to hold a controller anymore. But now a small part of me (a very small part mind you, as I strongly suspect there will ALWAYS be alternatives, no matter how niche they become) worries that there may come a day when I look around and find nothing in gaming for someone like me anymore.
    But, I guess that’s something people face in all facets of life as they age, and we just have to find ways to make our own happiness. That’s a whole different, and much heavier, discussion of course.
    Anyway, I’m gonna hit the hay. Thanks again for a productive discussion. I wish every conversation with someone I don’t see eye to eye with was like this. People get so ANGRY typically. It’s really irrational and very draining as I’m someone who loathes conflict typically.
    Goodnight.

  15. Josh Boeke

    I feel similarly, though I can symphathize with those who see this new trend toward “usership” vs. “ownership” as an attack on consumer rights and a slippery slope that could set some dangerous precedents. In the end though, MS isn’t beholden to the consumer (just their shareholders), so if people buy what they’re selling, and they aren’t breaking any laws (wouldn’t shock me if some landmark court cases come out of this generation of DRM at some point), there isn’t much to be done about it, they’ll do what makes money.

  16. Josh Boeke

    Happy to help.

    I did see that, the new Killzone does look pretty damn fantastic. Hopefully MS brings some awesome games with them to E3 this week as well. Strong competition is always a good thing for consumers, it’s in our best interest as gamers that Sony and Xbox both bring it hard and do well.

  17. Josh Boeke

    You’re totally right. It’s going to be a very transitional and changable time in console gaming I think. PC has already struggled through a lot of these issues (though it’s certainly debatable how successful their measures have been). You can be sure that all these publishers are monitoring the consumer feedback and comparing it to actual purchasing behavior (once that data becomes available).

    Like you’ve said before, if this is just a very vocal minority and people still buy the system and accept its restrictions then the market will have spoken. I’m already on record saying that the DRM doesn’t bother me.

    I bought Diablo III, Starcraft II, and SimCity, among other always-online DRM enabled games and while the initial issues were admittedly obnoxious (SimCity in particular, I lost multiple saves and couldn’t play the game at all for nearly a week after launch, and even then a lot of their cloud features failed to work for weeks), I suppose I’m just more patient than most (I never felt compelled to take to the internet and record an angry rant on YouTube about always online single player games, though I could empathize with those who did).

    The features of the new console definitely intrigue me (without having seen the gaming side of their platform yet obviously), so I am probably their target audience.

  18. Don Juan

    I’ve been looking into what the new Xbox was all about – I’ve just seen the play station Jimmy Fallon Debut

    I’m glad you wrote this because I wasn’t aware of all the new kinks and whistles !

  19. Wyatt

    I love the idea of the Xbox one. It will integrate all the things I use on a daily basis. All the supposed down sides are things I stopped doing years ago (selling games, taking console to friends house). It hasn’t been outside a wifi connection in years. And it seems most people I know are in the same boat.

  20. Rob Boeke

    I guess the bigger more philosophical question is: “How many of your personal freedoms/privacy are you willing to sacrifice for the enjoyment of your hobby?”.

    Folks might reply that I’m being melodramatic or over the top, but seriously, since when is it my responsibility as a consumer to constantly and perpetually prove that I own this media that I’ve purchased? We’re all being forced to basically buy the equivalent of a “pass” to rent our games, and while we have a physical disc it amounts to nothing more than a shelf ornament once the game is installed and we’re being monitored by microsoft’s 300,000 glorious servers of divine judgement. As our news headlines playout the overreaching arm of our government subpoenaing our cell phone records and trampling on our personal freedoms, seemingly benign entities like microsoft and apple are providing us with entertainment in exchange for an ever encroaching breach of our personal privacy. And we’re arguing about persistent worlds, DRM, and sharing our games with grandma while these corporations have their arms folded laughing at all of us missing the point altogether. We’re going to become a completely monitored and exposed populace to the likes of a handful of big corporations (the US government being one of them), if we aren’t already; and it’s thanks in large part to our insatiable appetite for entertainment ,at the expense of all else, be it morality (piracy) or privacy.

  21. Ronald Banks

    I guess the bigger more philosophical question is: “How many of your personal freedoms/privacy are you willing to sacrifice for the enjoyment of your hobby?”.

    Folks might reply that I’m being melodramatic or over the top, but seriously, since when is it my responsibility as a consumer to constantly and perpetually prove that I own this media that I’ve purchased? We’re all being forced to basically buy the equivalent of a “pass” to rent our games, and while we have a physical disc it amounts to nothing more than a shelf ornament once the game is installed and we’re being monitored by microsoft’s 300,000 glorious servers of divine judgement. As our news headlines playout the overreaching arm of our government subpoenaing our cell phone records and trampling on our personal freedoms, seemingly benign entities like microsoft and apple are providing us with entertainment in exchange for an ever encroaching broach of our personal privacy. And we’re arguing about persistent worlds, DRM, and sharing our games with grandma while these corporations have their arms folded laughing at all of us missing the point altogether. We’re going to become a completely monitored and exposed populace to the likes of a handful of big corporations (the US government being one of them), if we aren’t already; and it’s thanks in large part to our insatiable appetite for entertainment ,at the expense of all else, be it morality (piracy) or privacy.

  22. Josh Boeke

    Hey Richard, thank you for the kind words! It really is unfortunate that the always-online aspect of the console is taking so much heat from consumers, it seems to be a major pillar of their vision for the Xbox going forward.

    Maybe they will show us something at E3 that will turn the tide of public opinion (though it’s a pretty high tide right now).

  23. Ronald Banks

    I live in a one bedroom log home with dirt floors and hughes net internet. You trying to tell me Microsoft don’t want my business? To Hell with em!

  24. Rishard Chapoteau

    Good article. I don’t really have a a problem with the used game aspect, but I do have an issue with the 24 hr connectivity requirement. If it was at least a 72 hrs I would have less of an issue with it. I would prefer a week, but I could live with 72 hrs. As it stands I will buy a PS4 if they do not have the same connection requirements, which makes me sad because I’m a diehard 360 fan.

  25. JuneBug81

    No, that I agree with. Piracy is a blight that I have always opposed. Everytime I see people saying, “Oh this company did this or that so I’m going to pirate,” I always respond with, “Theft is theft. The perceived immorality of the victim doesn’t make it right. And you are hurting your fellow gamers, not just these companies.”

    I got particularly angry when I read that Skyrim was pirated almost immediately. I mean, of all things, a game that people clearly – love it or hate it – spent thousands of hours crafting, and a game that really gives people theirs money’s worth assuming they enjoy it. That’s the last game I would want to see pirated (not that I want to see anyone’s work stolen to begin with.)

    In that sense, I actually agree with DRM. There HAS to be some form of DRM to protect people’s intellectual property. I have always conceded that, and even supported it in some forms. I think people like Stardock do a great job of balancing protection of their interests, good customer support and care, and making

    I don’t think any of these policies – DRM included – are automatically, inherently negative. It’s just the implementation, and in some cases the perceived motives, that I disagree with.

    It will be interesting to see which publishers exercise this new power to totally restrict used game sales, which ones take a huge cut, and which ones take what I would consider a more reasonable cut that allows them, consumers, and retailers to continue to thrive. That will give me a much clearer picture of who my opposition should be aimed at in my opinion. Because I’m sure there really are cases where it’s being done solely out of necessity.

    I wonder if we might even see fluctuations in publishers’ approach depending on how heavily a game is being pirated or bought used relative to new copies sold throughout the shelf life of games. That would be interesting to watch.

    For now though, I just can’t support the system. I will try to give it a fair chance over time and watch what they’re doing. But as it stands, all I see is publishers being handed carte blanche.

    And I don’t feel like I should have to be responsible for supporting every game and every publisher and every developer’s livelihood when there are so many, and my funds are finite. It’s a free market, so the option to buy at a lower cost is something I’m always going to at least consider, even while trying my utmost to support those games I feel deserve it.

  26. Josh Boeke

    Yeah, it doesn’t appear to be a great direction for gaming, though to some extent we did this to ourselves. After all, it is partly gamers that have created this problem that requires these drastic steps to try and fix (how successful they’ll be is a different question). It sucks that good people who have never stolen a thing in their lives are forced to give up on a hobby they love because of these extreme measures, but it’s also hard to fault companies who want to protect their intellectual properties.

    I know I’m oversimplifying the issue but the bottom line is that piracy does cost these companies absurd amounts of money and, while they may be handling it poorly, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t been backed into a bit of a corner.

  27. JuneBug81

    Yeah, Sega was a medium sized fish in an, at the time, small ocean, despite making some of my most beloved games of all time (see my avatar.) Microsoft is a blue whale in an increasingly large and crowded ocean. They have to succeed with this platform, and will do whatever they must to ensure that it does in my opinion.

    I think that people like me with stringent reservations about what they (and more than them, the other large publishers) are doing are just a vocal minority.

    I’m still going to do my best to not support the practices I disagree with, but I don’t begrudge anyone for wanting the system. It has a lot to like about it if you disregard my concerns. And that’s why it will succeed.

    The days of one console absolutely crushing another are pretty much over from where I sit. Both Sony and MS will do very well this gen. Nintendo I’m not so sure about. But at least I have their nostalgic simplicity to fall back on if all else fails.

    Part of this is also that I’m just getting older and I realize that.

  28. Josh Boeke

    There is indeed! Thanks for reading and I’m glad you found the analysis to be unbiased. I hope I managed to represent both sides of the argument at least close to how they would represent themselves.

    The next week should provide a lot more information about the new consoles, and at the very least we should see some next-gen games, which have been rather unceremoniously brushed aside by this whole DRM mess. I’m very interested to see footage of at least a few of these MS exclusives they’ve promised as well as to learn more about how Sony plans to take advantage of all this backlash.

    So many people have pointed to the PS4 as an alternative to the Xbox One as if it will have no DRM at all, but I have a hard time imagining that DRM won’t be similar if not the same on the PS4 as it is on the Xbox – it might help Sony with consumers to remove it but you’d think it would push publishers toward MS, and in the end isn’t it the games that will drive sales? That’s what will drive my purchase anyway. Would a publisher really have hard-line always-online DRM on one console and none at all on the other? That scenario seems impossible to me.

    I think this new reality of console DRM is just something people are going to have to live with, but we still have a few months yet before everything will need to be set in stone.

    And yes, the Dreamcast was a fantastic console! NFL 2K is still the best football game ever made IMO (though NFL 2k5 was pretty great too, and amazingly was only $20; the day EA bought the NFL license I died a little inside), and Soul Caliber is still one of the highest rated games ever made (right up there with Ocarina of Time). Microsoft isn’t Sega though, I don’t think the Xbox One would fold regardless of how rocky it is out of the gate (and it probably won’t be rocky, any press is good press right? MS has certainly been dominating the gaming news cycles since their reveal special).

  29. JuneBug81

    Hey Josh. Glad to see there’s a comment section here so I don’t have to reply to our discussion on IGN to comment on your article.

    I thank you for offering a balanced and fair analysis of the situation. I think you give a factual representation of the reality at play.

    At the end of the day, I think there are two issues. One is what the reality actually is. That I think you’ve presented. The other is how that reality will affect people. That, of course, is a lot more subjective and will depend greatly on many factors, both in terms of circumstance and ideology.

    Like any other product, whether it and its policies succeed will ultimately be dictated by the broader market. My protestations and others’ endorsements are just so much dust in the wind in the final analysis. The market will embrace what the market embraces. And we will all individually cope with those changes as we must, for good or ill.

    For what it’s worth, the Dreamcast is also one of my favorite systems. :)

Leave a Reply