Microsoft Changing Their DRM Helps Us All

Written by on June 25, 2013 in [, , ]

When Microsoft announced their original DRM strategy for the Xbox One, I was one of that vocal “internet community” that was outraged. To me, it was an attempt by Microsoft to get rid of what few rights we consumers have. There’s been an active war against many consumers to try to limit what they can do with their games, namely that companies are looking to limit the ability to re-sell your games.

Microsoft’s message following this was fuzzy, at best. They came off as incompetent and brash in their rebukes of any questions. People got incredibly angry by the bad messaging and even after E3, they couldn’t seem to get their footing back. Sony saw this disadvantage and swooped in, announcing at E3 that the PS4 wouldn’t have any of the restrictions that Microsoft had. Sony struck fast and hard with this piece of information, leading to one of the funniest E3 videos I’ve ever seen. It was clear that Microsoft had to do something.


I think everyone expected Microsoft to change their policy between E3 and the launch of the Xbox One but no one expected such a drastic reversal. As an opponent of Microsoft’s DRM policy, I give them all the credit in the world for changing their stance. This change will help us all in the long run.


We Have a Voice

Sure, Microsoft did this as a response to Sony’s press conference. However, the reason Sony did it was because they had heard the outcries of people. In the lead up to E3, Sony was being incredibly dodgy about their DRM system for the PS4. It seemed that they were just waiting to see what the response to Microsoft would have been. When they saw how vocal the community was about not wanting these DRM restrictions, they knew that they had to change.

Make no mistake, those of us who were vocal about Microsoft’s vastly anti-consumer policies made a difference.



No Reason to Believe in Console Equivalent’s to Steam Sales Yet

Microsoft has, for a number of years, had their Games on Demand service, which allows you to download games to your console as opposed to buying disc-based versions. In theory it’s a decent system. Many pro-DRM folks believed that because this would give Microsoft and publishers more of an incentive to lower game prices.

However, this all comes with the caveat that we trust Microsoft to do this. In their many years of having Games on Demand, it wasn’t until earlier this year that any large sales occurred with them. I was able to purchase El-Shaddai for $3. Even when Microsoft had this sale, it was for one week only. Microsoft has given no one any real reason to believe that they would lower their game prices in the way that Steam does during their major sales. If they had, I would be far more excited for the concept.



The Family Share Function Wasn’t Well Defined

The only real explanation that we had of why the DRM had to be in place to begin with was due to the new “Family Sharing” feature of the Xbox One. Despite the excuse of the so-called “Family Sharing” plan, which would supposedly allow up to ten people to access a shared game library, all of the details were still fairly fuzzy. Microsoft wasn’t trotting this out as the massive game changer that so many people viewed it as. This, likely, was because even they weren’t totally clear on exactly how it would work.

Recently, a supposed Xbox engineer came out and claimed that the Family Sharing function would act, in several ways, like the timed trials that Playstation Plus offers. If this was the case, it would mean that once a game was added to the shared library, the ten people would have access to a timed trial of the game. This was later, however, countered by Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg when he tweeted that, “There was no time limit, it was as we described.” However, even if Aaron Greenberg was completely correct and this wasn’t a time limited function, there were still a TON of unanswered questions about this service and Microsoft did very little to explain what this service would entail. Personally, I find it hard to believe that companies would have absolutely no problem simply allowing up to ten users across different consoles to play the same games, especially when this was the main reason that game sharing was almost completely shut down on the Playstation 3.


The DRM Only Served Publishers

There’s no denying that the DRM restrictions that were initially set in place by Microsoft only benefited the publishers. Not a single person who would own the system would actually gain anything by having to check in every twenty-four hours with their console. It was clear that this was put in place to appease publishers who’ve long been attempting to rid the market of used games. And while we’re at it…



Used Games Are a Boogey Man and Nothing More

Here’s where I might take a bit of heat but hear me out on this. We’ve heard tons of publishers say that used games are the ultimate enemy of the market. Even Cliff Blezinski stated, “You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people.” Surprisingly, I don’t disagree with that statement. He’s completely right that you can’t have game and marketing budgets with massive sales projections, where if a game even slightly underperforms the CEO of that company has to resign. That, however, isn’t the fault of used games and rental markets, it’s the fault of overblown marketing and production budgets.

You only need to look at a company like 38 Studios to see where this problem occurs. Only a year ago, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was released and, while it sold decently, it caused a game studio to shut down. A new IP shouldn’t need to sell three million copies just to break even. Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million copies and yet it was “disappointing” because it didn’t sell between five and six million copies. Meanwhile, a company like From Software and Namco budgeted accordingly and were exstatic when Dark Souls sold 2.4 million copies.

The problem isn’t the used games industry. Renting and trading in games helps consumers greatly and it even helps the new game market. A 2008 study found that 16 million people use their trade-in credit to buy new games exclusively. If you cut off that market, that’s a LOT of lost sales for the industry. Perhaps the industry, for all it’s bluster and anger about used games, can’t afford to not have the used games industry…at least until they control their budgets.



It Will Breed Better Things for Everyone

I absolutely love competition in this business. Without competition, stagnation is likely to occur in the games industry. What Microsoft did changes the entire Xbox One vs PS4 debate. The playfield is level once again and now we have a race. Sony and Microsoft are going to have to appeal more and more to users who were on the fence by offering various incentives to choose one over the other. Maybe Microsoft subsidizes the Xbox One in a similar manner to how they did with the Xbox 360, offering a lower cost model where you have to make a payment every month. Maybe Sony offers dramatic additions to Playstation Plus.

It’s a LONG ways to the holidays this year. Things can only get better for gamers.


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Author: Addam Kearney View all posts by

6 Comments on "Microsoft Changing Their DRM Helps Us All"

  1. Vince June 25, 2013 at 6:15 am - Reply

    While I understand the worries of people who wanted to trade games, I am a gamer who was on the other side of this fence. I did lose things I liked about the new xbox one and gain nothing from the new reversal. I don’t trade games but do use multiple consoles in my house, sure would have been nice to not have to swap disks anymore. I am always connected to the net and liked the fact that drm would allow some freedom for Microsoft to be innovative and release new features. As it stands I guess the majority just wants a new paint job and not a truly new system.

    • Gustavo Ramirez June 25, 2013 at 9:09 am - Reply

      You gain the ability to actually own your physical product. Physical discs should have always been handled like this with Microsoft incentivising digital purchases with the family sharing plan. Its sucks for the launch period but i’m pretty sure all the features that got ripped out will be replaced via software updates in the coming year. Everyone will win in the long run.

  2. Goalie June 25, 2013 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Great article. If the only thing I’m missing is disc or no disc in the tray, that’s a silly trade off for having to be connected always.

    I just want to play the games I buy, and with the original Xbox one rules, that was Not a guarantee. It’s like saying you can’t play any games on your iPad unless connected to the Internet. I don’t think we are at that point yet.

  3. Shane Bailey June 25, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Great article Addam.

  4. Kropotkin June 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    The Xbox One has been developed by the 1% for the 1%. Every decision that has been made concerning that console has been terribly misguided that only a blind deluded fool would endorse them. I now hear that the headset will not be included out of the box with the Kinect being relied upon for voice comms. Can Microsoft get any more short sighted? This is a ludicrous solution that forces the consumer to fork out yet more cash for what they admit to be an ‘essential device’. The PS4 will come bundled with a headset by the way…

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