You’ve won. You’ve defeated the great and terrible Microsoft at their anti-consumerist game. They have bent to your relentless complaints regarding their online DRM policies on the upcoming Xbox One.
Microsoft has officially gotten rid of online check-in on the Xbox One, and now allow used game sales and trade-ins at all retailers.
To preface this, here’s what people were mad about with the old policy:
- 24-hour check – in on the Xbox One required for all games, single and multi-player
- Restrictions on used games – they could only be given away once, and only certified retailers could accept and sell used Xbox One games
- Region locking – you could only use the Xbox One in countries where it was supported, and games would only work in one region each
I’ve felt rather lonely on the Internet lately, seeing as everywhere I go I’m subjected to people absolutely raging about Microsoft’s new Xbox policies. In the public eye, Microosft’s policies have been viewed as draconian, anti-consumer, and greedy.
I, for one, don’t agree.
Here’s some of the benefits of a couple of Microsoft’s old policy requirements.
- Game sharing – people could share their games with up to 10 of their friends, over the Internet, anywhere in the world. No disc required for sharing games.
- Installations – any game you purchase on disc would automatically download to your console and would no longer be required to play the game.
- Free Digital Copies – free digital copies of your games with each disc purchase.
- Digital Used Game Sales – you could sell your digital copies online, something that is not possible today.
- Cloud Gaming - sort of - cloud gaming does require an internet connection, but it wouldn’t have been directly tied to their 24-hour check in. (This is still a feature on Xbox One by the way.)
All these unprecedented consumer benefits are now gone. Kaput. No more. Extinct. And why? Because misinformation prompted reactionary behavior.
Microsoft did a terrible job explaining what the benefits of an “always online” console are. As a company, they have never been quite as proficient at Public Relations as they are at software, and this hurts them quite a bit. Their original Xbox One reveal left many gamers with questions, and only towards the end of E3 did they start talking about the benefits at all. One perfect example was “Game Sharing”, which I felt was the strongest selling point of the Xbox One. Microsoft didn’t begin to discuss that in-depth until the end of E3.
There was way too much time in between press conferences – 19 days, in fact – and people used that time to get a little outraged. Microsoft could have capitalized on all the backlash surrounding the Xbox One simply by being 100% transparent about their intentions, but because not all of their policies were set in stone, they were reluctant to respond. In my opinion, they should have done the reveal at E3, in order to satisfy all their customers’ hunger for information about the Xbox One.
Here’s another point to think about: the 24-hour check-in that the Xbox One used to require would have driven down the price of digital games.
Many gamers hold the PC in very high esteem simply because of its low-price games, and this is thanks to the Steam platform by Valve. Steam offers sales on their PC games that are absolutely unheard of on their console counterparts. The reason why Steam is able to do this is because they don’t have to cover the loss in revenue that they would ordinarily lose to used game sales. They’ve also proven that when they lower prices, they actually make more money. This concept is called Elasticity of Demand – it describes the responsiveness in demand to changes in price. In layman’s terms: as prices go down, sales go up.
Steam can only offer these low prices in an environment that enforces DRM, the same kind of DRM that people were outraged about on the Xbox One. If the Xbox One was able to cover its bases and not lose money to used game sales, they could then have made more money by offering more savings to you, the consumers. This is the best example I’ve ever seen of a win-win in the gaming world. Sadly, unless Xbox One brings their revolutionary ideas back, we won’t have these great prices to look forward to.
All-in-all I think this was a loss for Microsoft, a loss for gamers, and a win for…Gamestop? I now have to bring discs everywhere I go, I can’t lend my games to friends without a disc, and I have to switch discs in my console instead of just having them installed. But good thing Gamestop can still give you $5 for that copy of Modern Warfare 10 that you bought yesterday.
Microsoft was correct to begin with, digital is the future and PC has proved it. Why are we okay with DRM on smartphones or on PC, but not on consoles? Maybe people are just too afraid of change to risk improvement, or maybe they just don’t know what they want yet. Either way, Microsoft had a vision and now they’ve tarnished it, and branded themselves as a company that will cave to consumer demand, even if they know they’re in the right.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford