Since the reveal of the Xbox One policies there has been a lot of anger aimed at Microsoft. This wasn’t helped by Sony’s well targeted E3 conference last week.
A major question I can’t help but ask myself is whether this criticism is justified or are people just overreacting?
I think the most important question people have is why do they have to have all this new DRM (Digital Rights Management)? Well it’s simple; Microsoft wants to change the established formula to push the industry into a new digital age. No longer will your games be bound by physical discs. You associate each game with your profile so that you are able to play it whenever and wherever you want…with a periodic connection to the internet.
To me this is a good thing. I lose things. I owned Final Fantasy XIII but I have no idea where it is. Did I lend it to someone or did I lose it when I moved house? Maybe it’s in a box or cupboard somewhere. I do want to finish but I just can’t find it. I’m pretty sure I lent Forza to someone as well. I don’t know who, but if you’re out there please return it.
Also, I’m lazy. There’s been many late night gaming sessions where I’ve wanted to change games but I simply couldn’t be bothered to get up, go find the disc, change the disc and sit back down again. Don’t judge me. The idea of being able to say some magic words then…poof… the game is on, sounds very appealing to me.
The problem is this comes at a price. If I am able to install a game and play it without a disc, what is to stop me from buying a game, installing it and then returning the disc only to continue to play the game. Something like that could potentially kill the industry. To stop this Microsoft forces people to link games to their account in stores and connect to the internet every 24 hours. These are the two things people seem very vocal about.
To me they seem quite manageable. When I purchase games at EB I already link it to my EB account, how hard would it be to have my EB account linked to my profile.
But what if I can’t connect to the internet? I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t able to establish some sort of connection to the internet in a 24 hour period. I think if my connection went down for 24hrs, not being able to play my console will be but one of many concerns I have. If I really wanted to play it, I could just connect it to the internet using my phone which would take about 2 minutes.
Bad Internet Service Provider? I challenge you to find a dodgier ISP than me. Mine made me sign a customer service guarantee waiver. I don’t know what the legal ins and outs of that is but in practice it means that after giving instructions on how to turn off and on, they give you a list of items that you need to buy that may or may not help. After this they tell you in a very RPG like fashion to not contact them until you have obtained the items on the list. When this happened to me, my internet only stayed connected anywhere between 2 minutes and a few hours before dropping out. Despite this, I was able to at least at some point in every 24 hour period connect to the internet.
Isn’t this all unnecessary? Well, Microsoft could have always stuck to the existing formula, chucked a bunch of new bits and pieces in a box and carried on as normal. It would have sold well, but is that really progress. I, like most PC gamers out there, haven’t bought a physical PC game in a very long time. If you would have told me a decade ago that I would only buy digital PC games, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. What about when I go to someone else’s house or lend a game to a friend? Well with Steam, like the Xbox One, you can connect to your account on someone else’s PC, download it and play it.
Another thing to consider is that retail has been on the downfall and there is no guarantee that in five years’ time that console gamers will not join PC gamers and only want digital games. If this happens, Microsoft is in a position to offer you digital games that you can trade, lend and play on other consoles.
Why not just get rid of physical copies altogether then? The current mindset of people is to associate console games with physical discs. This is something that will most likely change over time. To me, I still value dearly the experience of wandering around a video game store, looking at a bunch of games I’ve been weighing up getting then walking out with less money than when I walked in. A physical copy also reduces the internet usage which is beneficial to people with limited downloads.
There has also been a lot of anger centered on used game restrictions including publishers possibly getting a slice of the pie or not allowing it at all; one thing to remember here that this is left completely up to the publisher. It is unlikely that a publisher will restrict trade-ins on one console but not the other. Does this all seem evil? When I first heard about it, yes, but a self-claimed Microsoft engineer on Pastebin (http://pastebin.com/uCmdh9jB) paints the story in a much better light.
Think about it, on Steam you get a game for the true cost of the game, $5-$30. On a console you have to pay for that PLUS any additional licenses for when you sell / trade / borrow / etc. If the developer / publisher can’t get it on additional licenses (like Steam), then they charge the first person more. […] If we say “Hey publishers, you limit game to $39.99, we ensure every license transfer you get $10, GameStop gets $20”. That is a decent model… Microsoft gets a license fee on first and subsequent game purchases, compared to just first now? That’s a revenue increase.
Before you get your hopes up of a $40 new release, remember they are talking US$. Despite that, the promise of over $20 cheaper games on release if trade-ins are restricted is something I can definitely get on board with. I think the big question here is why Microsoft didn’t just say so.
But how will I play my games when Microsoft shuts down its servers? I can’t honestly see them doing this for a very, very long time. I also believe that when they do eventually shut off the servers they will sort something out. I’m sure the once every 24hr check in doesn’t really matter to them once Microsoft, the publisher and the retailer can’t make money out of it. It would however put a lot of gamers at ease if they talked about this a bit more.
So what is the problem then? I believe it was how Microsoft revealed this new formula. Microsoft did a bad job at conveying the positives of their connected world and showing how the restrictions are actually very manageable. They made me have to dive in and find it. It’s not that they didn’t try to show it, it’s just that that every time a positive is mentioned, it is overshadowed by a negative. They also seem to be focusing on the wrong things. At the moment I’m sure the majority of gamers don’t care about how achievements are going to work. What we want to know is why are you doing it, how it will work, and what are the advantages we will receive from it. The fact that some supposed Microsoft engineer did a better job at selling me the advantages of the console than his employer shows me the problem isn’t necessarily the policies but the way they Microsoft communicated them us.
So what is the way forward for Microsoft to win back its fans? Show us it is all for the greater good. Let us play around with it. Convince the masses that it is as manageable and beneficial as I believe it is. More importantly, Microsoft, show us how you came to the conclusion that these policies were the best decision for the new console. Just because it all makes sense in your head doesn’t mean it does in ours.
I believe that Microsoft can and will win over its fans eventually. At the moment people are afraid of the change and are not sold on all the restrictions. To me though, Microsoft has never let me down before and I don’t believe they will this time. Maybe this is just the mad ranting of a delusional Microsoft enthusiast or maybe there is some logic behind my words. All I know is I will be there on day one and will decide for myself.
Grant Cheetham is a special guest reviewer from www.vicbstard.com Head over to the site and give him some cred!