Friday, June 21, 2013
MS reverses Xbox One policies, but was it the right call?
The internet exploded yesterday with rumors of Microsoft on the verge of changing their DRM and 24 hour check-in policies. Fans were stoked with these rumored reports and stood with baited breath to hear if they were true. Less than an hour later, Microsoft confirmed that these rumors were indeed true. And there was much rejoicing. But is it really a good thing?
I'm going to be the first in line to bring up my own articles that I've done in the past week talking about why Microsoft's policies were horrid in regard to the Xbox One and while I am thrilled Microsoft took a step back to reevaluate the way their policies would affect their customers, I think they looked at the wrong feedback. Whether they bowed to the pressure from Sony's splash in the media or they read one too many fanboy "debates" ripping apart their policies, Microsoft went way beyond what they probably should have done.
The biggest outcry we had seen online was in regards to the DRM and 24 hour check-in, both of which Microsoft addressed in their changes. Where they went wrong was linking the two together. The DRM policy was, well, it sucked. It was great for developers as it allowed for studios to get a cut of what was used game sales rather than Microsoft or stores like Gamestop. However, it was not great for consumers. People had massive amounts of restrictions on buying and selling used games (had to be done through authorized dealers only). Now, I want developers to get the money they deserve for making these games. They worked their asses off, sometimes for years, and for a studio to lose cash because used game sales take a large chunk out of extra possible revenue is bullshit. At the same time, it's not fair to the consumers to have to jump through hoops to play, sell, buy, loan, cut up, throw away, piss on, have sex with, or do whatever else they want to do with it. Making it so the game you bought was an extension of a movie rental is absurd. You buy the disc, you own the disc, you get to play the game that is on the disc. No, you don't own the game. No, you can't make thousands of copies and sell it/abuse it. It's not your game. It is however, your disc. Saying to someone, "Hey, you bought the disc, but guess what? We control what you can do with it" is going to end up pissing people off, and it did just that. It's basically a hostage situation and you're a lone, unarmed cop. You can talk on the megaphone and spout off whatever you want, but unless you play ball, the robber can just shoot the hostage and walk away from you.
Now, the 'once every 24 hours check-in' was just abysmal. Yes, internet is prevalent. Hell, you're using it right now while reading this article. You were using it when you were ranting about how the 24 hour policy is crap, which is a bit on the ironic side, but I digress. The fact of the matter is that while internet is huge in the world today, it's not infallible, nor is it available everywhere you go. Having your console be required to connect once a day is fine until you hit hour 24 and your Xbox just shuts down. There were so many issues with this idea. It was such a grand-scale bit of innovation. It was ahead of the curve and it was such an exciting idea. And if this was 2020, it would have gone off without a hitch. There are still millions of people who game without any internet connection to use, including military personnel currently deployed. Thousands of troops play games in their downtime, which the Xbox One would have been basically a gigantic middle finger to them. It's actually a really good change that the check-in is now gone. You never have to connect to the net beyond the first day's setup. That being said, the check-in had some very cool features. It worked for multiple reasons including some really awesome features that tied in with the DRM, mainly the "family sharing" system. Choose 10 "family" members (can be friends, can be fellow inmates, can be the homeless guy down the road with the plasma tv and broadband internet connection. Microsoft didn't really care) and they can access your entire game library over the net on their Xbox One. No need to mail off the discs to cousin Bob over in Utah. Simply sign-in, click "Library", and play. This was probably one of the biggest things people were excited about.
Fans get back control of what they can do with their discs, whether trading it in or loaning it out. Besides the one-time internet connected setup, you never have to connect your Xbox One with the internet. This frees up your options to take your console on vacations, to friends houses, to LAN parties... pretty much wherever you want that has power and a tv screen. There are no more region locks associated with the system, so you can take your US console to Japan if you want to. Fans got everything they demanded in regards to these policies. However, it came at a large price. With these policy changes, fans lost features many were excited about. You can no longer play games without the discs. You can no longer share your games through the cloud. The family share plan is gone. The concession of Microsoft was something many felt was a great thing, until the full consequences were revealed and the internet began to cry out again.
We've been split down the middle once more, this time we just swapped places. We lost innovation in exchange for an old system we've been using for 7 years with just upgraded graphics. And there really wasn't much of a reason to. I can think of several solutions that really would have placated the masses on both sides, one which is fairly simple to implement since Microsoft has already proven their own statement wrong that "these things are built into the system and cannot be altered." Loosen up the strict DRM policies to allow for game sharing between friends and make it so gamers can play offline if they have a disc or downloaded copy. That's all. Developers would still be getting their larger cut and gamers would get to enjoy the console on a greater scale. Rental companies would not have been hit with huge restrictions, used game sales would fall meaning possibly lower retail prices in the future, and there would not be such a large outcry on these policies. I'm sure there is something wrong with that idea on how to implement it, but from an outside perspective it seems to work just fine. It seems like rather than fight for their position on their innovation, Microsoft caved to the internet masses and just made an Xbox 360 2.0
Whether it was low sales numbers, genuine amount of complaints, or just Xbox deciding to throw in the towel, the fact doesn't change that Microsoft attempted to bring in new ideas and they failed to communicate that to gamers across the world. For every 1 person who loved it, there were 20 highly vocal ones who did not. Would those 20 have come around if the Xbox One had been presented better? Maybe. Microsoft still would have needed to tweak their policies to redeem themselves in the eyes of gamers, but they may not have been so drastic. While trying to bring back some alienated fans, they drove away those who were more interested in the innovative features to the next-gen console. It seems that Microsoft stepped in the same crap, just with a different foot.