Microsoft earned the ire of the gaming community when it revealed that it would pack its upcoming Xbox One console full of DRM requirements such as mandatory Internet check-ins every twenty-four hours; diminished capability to share, lend, or borrow games; and other such things. The company insisted that these restrictions were beneficial and would make games better somehow, but the community could not be appeased. Now that the Xbox One's DRM problems have started to leak into the mainstream audience (Jimmy Fallon just last night pointed out on NBC's Late Night that the Xbox One cannot play used games in the traditional way), it would seem that Microsoft cannot stay the course. The company has issued a statement explaining that its DRM policies are changing. Read what Microsoft's Don Mattrick has to say.
So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:
- An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
- Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
There is a trade-off though. The previously announced family game sharing program in which games could be shared digitally (with restrictions) among up to ten family members will not be offered. Playing a disc-based Xbox One game requires that the disc be in the console. Roaming between consoles with your profile and game library is out. Are these losses worth the DRM removal gains? I believe so. While these things would have been nice additions, the price was too high. Offline games should work without an Internet connection. Trading or lending games as easily as other objects should not be impinged. Moving into a digital future should not abolish the benefits of our physical media past and present.
I cannot recall a major video game company like Microsoft going back on its plans so drastically based on customer outcry. There are some very interesting stories behind today's news that I would love to hear some day. What exact factors caused Microsoft to reverse course? Was it the community protest? Disappointing preorder numbers? Hell, was it Jimmy Fallon? Money is the only language that corporations understand at the end of the day, so my guess is that someone did the math and realized that the Xbox One was heading for a disappointing reception under the then-current policies.
Microsoft earned its "listen to the community" achievement today. I'd like to think that the community had something to do with today's news. People need to speak up when they see unfair conditions bearing down on them, and while complaining about entertainment may seem like the epitome of a first-world problem, when something like the Xbox One DRM debacle comes along, an outcry is to be expected. Money is tighter now more than ever, and customers should not stand for being mistreated. I hope that Microsoft learned its lesson and I really hope that its competition was watching today. Today was Microsoft's turn, but tomorrow it could easily be Sony, Nintendo, Valve, Electronic Arts, Activision, or any of the other major players. The Internet loves to complain, but this issue was worth rallying the troops. The community will not sit quietly when pushed too far. Thank goodness for that.