Microsoft today announced the removal of the Xbox One’s DRM policies, removing both internet requirements and used game restrictions. Some of the people who were annoyed by these features are now disappointed in the changes. Why?
Just last night I was at dinner with friends and the conversation that took up most of our night was about E3 and the next generation consoles. It was unanimously decided that the group would be buying Playstation 4’s, if nothing else. It wasn’t even a decision, really. One person said ‘so what games are we getting for the PS4?’ and nobody objected to the assumption. That’s the kind of position Microsoft was in just last night. People had already forsaken the console in favour of the Playstation 4.
We woke up this morning to some news that quite honestly came out of nowhere. Don Mattrick took to the Xbox website to announce some big changes to the Xbox One. Namely:
- 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.
We’ve also learned that the console will be region free – you can buy the console anywhere and play discs from any country. All of this will require a day one patch be downloaded.
When I sat here and read that for the first time I couldn’t see that as anything but good news. This is exactly what a lot of people wanted to see. We hated the 24-hour online check in requirement. We hated that we couldn’t trade and lend games in stores or with friends. Now those restrictions are gone. Whether it was justified or not, I was looking forward to seeing some of the vitriol die down. This is the kind of move that should have leveled the playing field more. But the people on my Twitter feed weren’t satisfied, and I’m curious as to why.
Too little, too late?
Microsoft have been in damage control for a while now. After the initial Xbox One announcement, the internet made its displeasure known. Rumours began to fly around about all sorts of nasty things in the weeks that went by – Microsoft employees taking to reddit on fake accounts to praise the console – and it seemed that everything Microsoft did in that time only made things worse.
There’s the now infamous line by Don Mattrick. ‘We have a product for those people [who can’t play online], it’s called Xbox 360’.
It’s simply undeniable that Microsoft dug a hole for themselves in the eyes of many, and the past month has perhaps irreparably damaged many people’s perceptions of the company. What that means now is that, even when Microsoft moves to make changes like it has now, people will look for reasons not to trust the console. This came up on my Twitter feed a few times this morning. ‘If Microsoft are so quick to change their policies like this, who’s to say they won’t change them again later down the track?’
For those people, a response like this is like a desperate plea to get back in everyone’s good graces. I’d argue that many of those people were never going to buy an Xbox One anyway, but it’s worth noting that Microsoft’s announcement now is so far out of left field and seems to go against everything we’ve heard from them lately.
The Xbox One is now the Xbox 360 V.2 (can we call it the 180?)
This is the first complaint I heard when I woke up to the news this morning. It can be summed up perfectly in Don Mattrick’s own words today: ‘you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360’. This is the same point I brought up last week about how Sony ‘won’ E3 -what’s actually changing here? Nothing. I’m always going to think of this as a good thing – sometimes no change at all is better than any change – and it would be hypocritical of me to praise Sony and then scold Microsoft for the same thing.
But it’s a fact that some people are now looking at the Xbox One (and perhaps the Playstation 4) and seeing a lack of compelling difference that makes these consoles a must buy. What are we left with at the end of the day? Consoles that do largely the same things they do now. In terms of innovation, some people aren’t seeing enough to justify the next generation.
A 180 is a bad move
This is what really baffled me about the announcement this morning. We’ve seen nothing but confidence from Microsoft employees in the face of all this doubt. Big names and faces like Don Mattrick and Major Nelson have been unwaveringly confident about everything the public has questioned. They genuinely believed that their policies were shaping the future of console gaming and that people would warm to them. We wondered how they could be this confident.
Now they’ve done a 180, and the message that sends is clear. They lost confidence in their product. That is what people will think when they read Mattrick’s statement. Despite the confidence and the bravado, Microsoft have reneged and taken a step back from everything. There’s obviously a reason for that – maybe they saw how well audiences responded to Sony last week – but the act of making that reversal sends a bad message.
This is really the kind of statement that should be taken with joy. ‘We have listened,’ says Mattrick, ‘your feedback matters’. It’s a statement that’s meant to show how Microsoft cares about the customer and is willing to respond to what they want. It’s meant to tell us that the Xbox One is a console for the people, and Microsoft will do whatever they can to make people happy, to make them want to buy it. But it’s a statement that can also have the reverse effect and it seems that, unfortunately for Microsoft, they just can’t win on this front.
Other features are being removed – temporarily?
The news didn’t come without sacrifices, though. Microsoft had envisioned that your full game library would always be with you wherever you went, digitally, so if you went to a friend’s place you could use your profile on their console to play a game without the disc. The family system that would let you share your games with nine other family members (which might possibly have extended to close friends and hey, Doc What is my dad right?) is also seemingly gone. While you can still loan these games to those people, that instant ease of access that would have been so compelling is going to be missing now.
These are features that were important to the Xbox One, and just like that, they’re gone.
There’s some valid reasons to be disappointed here, and there are some complaints that are just always going to baffle me. The gaming community is rarely please about anything and we’re never going to see the day where people are unanimously for or against something. It’s always a messy situation.
But the next time I have dinner with those friends, it’ll be interesting to see how the conversation has changed. Will everyone still be set on the Playstation 4? Will we continue to ignore the Xbox One? Or has Microsoft’s move today changed the landscape a little? It’s early days right now, but I’m looking forward to seeing how people will feel about the Xbox One after the initial reaction to this announcement has faded. I’ll keep you all updated on my dinner adventures.
Look at it this way. This is the exact same announcement we heard from Sony last week. These are the exact same features the Playstation 4 will have. This is what an audience cheered so gleefully for with Sony. Why is it not the same with Microsoft?