To quote Futurama – “Good news, everyone!!”. Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, has announced some… changes… to DRM, licencing and re-selling/used games for the Xbox One platform. Some may call it a policy backflip, but I see it as more of a “return to the status quo” of the current generation.
“Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.
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.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.
These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.”
In the end, this has a number of consequences (though not all are positive):
- No online connection required AT ALL, beside a one-time, initial connection required to install “Day 1” updates.
- Can play games – online or offline – as long as the game disc is in the console.
- Region-free gaming!! Now we can import from the US and Asia without having to check whether the game will actually work first!!
- Can resell games as you like, whether through trading them in at EB Games or JB HiFi, or selling privately or on eBay, etc.
- Can lend games to anyone without DRM restrictions.
- Due to the (now) “openness” of licencing (and being able to gift or lend games to family and friends), the “Family” digital sharing of your game library is effectively dead. Hopefully MS will implement a modified version of this nifty idea.
- If online gaming isn’t mandatory (well, within a 24hr window), then will the often-touted “cloud processing” for ambitious games be put back on the shelf? Will developers design games (obviously later in the console’s life) if not all the console base will be online to use this feature in their games (a la how well Smartglass and – to some extent – how Kinect features are integrated in non-Kinect-only games?)
- Will this cut-off of 2nd-hand sales from publishers mean that the price of games will rise? Or will they re-invoke the “online passes” of this console generation? It’s possible…
- Gamers have cited Steam as how digital discount/sale promotions should be done – will these now be shelved for another generation?
Personally, I think this announcement is a mixed blessing. It basically returns us to the “current” state of gaming (and of licence ownership), yet at the same time diminishes the utility (or even whether they’ll actually be implemented) of several advantages of digital content and licencing – namely the sharing of games and cloud processing.
I would have loved for some sort of middle-ground to be reached – this scenario doesn’t have to be “either it’s our way or your way” – and more of a compromise like I wrote about previously could quite possibly have reached a nice medium where all are happy. Where they wanted to take their gaming platform was ambitious, it was more the manner of how they wanted to get there that had gamers mulling over whether to purchase MS new console. Nevertheless, online check-ins and game DRMs were something that I was waiting to hear more defined policies on before committing to buying an Xbox One.
“¡Viva la Revolution!”, but R.I.P. online “family” game sharing. But for once, it is nice to see a major conglomerate acquiesce to people power (OK, the vocal minority!!).
So do you think these changes are for the better? Are you now more likely to preorder (or even buy at all) an Xbox One?