Panicked Microsoft Reverse Xbone DRM Policies
In quite possibly the most redundant news story to have ever graced the hallowed pages of Caspius.com, the Xbone 180 [sorry] has been forced to do a precise u-turn on virtually every obnoxious DRM measure that the genius design team in charge of its creation had planned to put in place. Gone is its twenty-four hour authentication requirements, gone too is its regional restrictions on games, and gone is its used game restrictions in service to Microsoft’s game leasing business model. Microsoft have previously stated that a reversal of this nature was simply not possible owing to the fact that the Xbone’s infrastructure and business model were built around this concept – that Sony have forced a frightened Microsoft to recant suggests one of two things; either they were lying from the outset, or this is yet another feature of their half-baked console which remains on the to-do list mere months before the Xbone launch.
Along with their anti-consumer DRM policies, Microsoft have also bemoaned their having to jettison some potentially game-changing console-features, such as: ten-person shared game libraries, discless retail game playback, and the ability for an Xbone owner to access their game library from any Xbone console. It does stand to be said however that the ten-person shared game libraries have been heavily rumoured by NeoGAF to entail naught but timed demos, that people can still play without a retail disc by simply buying download titles, and that gamers who wish to access their libraries from any console can do the same [or simply carry a physical disc of the game they wish to play, which can be accessed far more readily than having to initiate a potentially 50GB download to play an owned game on a friend’s Xbone console]. Caspius.com is happy to report to Microsoft that all of their touted features are in fact possible today with respect to digital copies of games sold on their Xbox 360 console! Caspius.com fully expects ten-person library sharing to be implemented in the next Xbox 360 firmware update.
At any rate, what remains very much up in the air is the degree of permanence with which this about-face for Microsoft will endure. On the one hand Microsoft have made it abundantly clear that they would very much like to move to a digital license model and are not above making insane decisions which inconvenience their users, but on the other hand the prospect and magnitude of the class-action lawsuits they would be hit with for flipping the DRM switch must give even this most out of touch of companies pause for thought. Regardless, this Emperor has shown himself disrobed for all the world to see, and it would be a brave [foolish] gamer indeed who buys this turkey without some serious misgivings.
Changes to the Xbone Are Lamented by the One Percent
In the wake of the Xbone’s drastic shift in policy, the console’s new focus is being heavily bemoaned by a vocal minority who viewed Microsoft’s arcane failbox as the future of gaming. Such irredeemable twats fall into one of two camps; namely some entitled developers in conjunction with the easily impressionable simpletons under their sway, and highly affluent digital natives to whom the concept of ownership means very little.
The game developers in this instance are perhaps best typified by Cliffy B. – who has not at any point this week shut up about the issue. Cliffy B. feels entitled to make bloated triple-A games, yet said games are unable to make enough profit to justify their existence – as such, Clifford feels that it is the rightful duty of gamers to support his failing enterprise. To this end Clifford can easily justify using any cudgel available to punish consumers into opening their wallets still further to contribute towards whatever is his latest blockbuster dude-bro outing. Thus, he sees it as a huge missed opportunity that Microsoft will no-longer allow corporate publishers to strip private ownership from their customers in order to prop-up moribund business-as-usual:
“More studios WILL close and you’ll see more PC and mobile games,” he tweeted.
I have seen the number of unique gamer tags vs actual sales numbers and it ain’t pretty.
I want developers who worked their asses off to see money on every copy of their game that is sold instead of Gamestop. F*** me, right?
Brace yourselves. More tacked on multiplayer and DLC are coming. You’re also about to see available microtransactions skyrocket. HATS FOR EVERYONE.
You’re going to see digital versions of your favourite games with added ‘features’ and content to lure you to digital over disc based. ‘Do whatever it takes to keep that disc in that tray’ is the mantra of developers in a disc-based world.”
And? Mobile and PC games are bad how? Cliffy B. used to make PC games – though he appears to have forgotten where he came from. Every used game was new at some point, and it is never the consumer’s fault if the developer’s game [read: Gears of War] is too shitty for them to want to hang on to it. The game’s ownership was transferred with first purchase. The game’s server bandwidth was paid for with first purchase. When the triple-A industry is banal to the point of despair, why would any gamer wish to inconvenience themselves in order to prop it up?
The other side of this hand-wringing DRM defense force can perhaps best be illustrated by Gizmodo’s hairless Thai catamite look-a-like, Kyle Wagner, who this week penned the supremely entitled article: The Xbox One Just Got Way Worse, And It’s Our Fault. By ‘our fault’ he means ‘your fault’.
“Every game you bought, physical or digital, would be tied to your account. This would eliminate current-gen problems like buying a disc, and then being unable to store it or download it from the cloud.”
Presumably Kyle Wagner’s other pressing real-world ‘problems’ include finding a powdered wig at 3:00 AM on a Saturday night and sourcing a reputable tailor to make fashionable clothing for his poodle. Funnily enough, this is not actually a problem for people who simply cut-out this nonsensical work-around and opt to buy digital from the outset. Gamers can buy digital if they value flexibility, and they can buy physical if they value permanence and private ownership. Every game will be available digitally on day one, and there are no limits as to how many digital games one can purchase. This argument is literally meaningless, and is likely to benefit an astonishingly small group of people, most of whom are probably game reviewers [who would have very little sense of a game’s value].
“Because reselling games would now work through a hub, publishers could make money on resold games.”
Why should the publisher make money on resold games?
“Here is how this makes sense for YOU: New games could then be cheaper. Why? Publishers KNOW that they will not make money on resold games, so they charge more to you, the first buyer. You are paying for others’ rights to use your game in the future. If the old system had gone into place, you would likely have seen game prices drop. Or, at the very least, it could have staved off price increases.”
Microsoft have one of the most mature digital storefronts in gaming. At any point of their choosing they could have opted to offer more competitively priced content, due to the fact that online sales eliminate most of the production and distribution costs. Instead digital pricing in most cases lags way behind retail and online retail. So yeah, let us all trust in the altruism of the grasping mega-corporate dinosaur!
“You would also, as it happens, have been able to share your digitally purchased games. That’s a REALLY BIG DEAL. We won’t be able to do that now, though. We still have to use the disc for games we buy physically. This is the loss of some of the most future-facing features of the system, things that changed and challenged the traditional limitations of console gaming. We are literally standing in stasis, refusing to move forward, at the behest of those who are loudest and not ready for the future.”
Again, this was probably just timed-demos, and certainly something that Microsoft could enable for digital purchases. If a digital future is something that Microsoft wish to hasten towards, then a game-sharing scheme could be a nice little carrot to convince gamers to buy digital; instead Microsoft have sulkily opted to take their bat and ball, and have gone home.
“compare that to the benefits of DRM. It helps build an ecosystem that is easy and convenient and, most of all, affordable enough to draw customers. That’s what Apple did with iTunes and music, and it’s what Amazon did with books. The content was just too easy to get and too cheap to bother with pirating it. We could have had that with the Xbox One and games.”
So we can devalue gaming to the point where it is no longer worth pirating? FANTASTIC!
“Today also proves how widely that nerd-influence can swing an entire generation of hardware, based solely on the whims of internet jokes based on information that isn’t even accurate, and tinfoil fears about worst-case scenarios. Cheaper games. Easier sharing. The end of discs. The Xbox One would have been just fine despite the chorus of haters, would have been a better system for ignoring them. Microsoft losing its nerve on this isn’t just disappointing for the features we lose. It’s unfortunate because it shows just how heavy an anchor we can be.”
Easier sharing and the end of discs is literally something that would only benefit a tiny fraction of elite game consumers in contrast to a DRM system which stood to inconvenience a great many of them. As for cheaper games, that is a pure nonsense – and something which is not borne out by any real-world evidence. Not even Steam sells new games at a fraction of their retail price at launch, and it is only once games stop selling that they are discounted to improve sales. Microsoft is not Valve. Moreover, if Microsoft wished to make a digital console, then they should have had the courage to actually make a digital-only console, and completely dispense with retail discs. Microsoft did not create a digital-only console however, because the market for such hardware does not exist as of yet.
Before Microsoft’s 180 Gamestop Had Stopped Taking Xbone Preorders
Before Microsoft’s big announcement this week, Gamestop had gone on record as stating that they had hit their Xbone launch cap, and had stopped taking preorders for the console. Numerous sources have corroborated the fact that each Gamestop store was only able to allocate a handful of Xbone consoles despite the fact that they had scores of PS4s available for preorder. One possible explanation for this was that manufacturing problems had caused a dire shortage of Xbone consoles, yet, in light of Microsoft’s DRM backdown, a more plausible explanation is that Microsoft were shitting themselves about being frozen out of the retail sector by Gamestop. In other words this past week has seen a game of corporate chicken played out on a grand scale, and Microsoft blinked.
Further strengthening this interpretation is Microsoft’s increasingly desperate attempts to increase their retail presence, from opening hundreds of Xbone stores within Best Buy outlets throughout the America’s, to partnering with Game to open Xbone stores within the UK. When attempting to sell a product at retail one should never alienate their retail partners, and Microsoft broke this cardinal rule in the most emphatic of ways. Xbone’s DRM policies were costing Microsoft dearly in terms of retail exposure, and so this week’s backdown was really the bare minimum required of them to mend their ties with Gamestop and their ilk – though the success of this move will remain to be seen. One imagines that the vocal cries of gamers on the internet had very little to do with Microsoft’s reversal of policies, though this has not stopped a circle-jerk of smug fucks from patting themselves on the back as though they were Operation Rainfall.