What I’m Backing
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I’m a little annoyed.
I had this giant post dedicated to whether you should buy a PS4 or Xbox One this fall. It was pretty thorough and I was pretty proud of it. In the end I even capped it all off with my personal opinions and a few additional suggestions based on your personal gaming and entertainment styles (/toots horn). I was personally leaning towards the PlayStation; what with all that DRM, game-trading, and “always online” nonsense Microsoft was foisting on us, the choice was turning out to be pretty clear for me. Not to mention the fact that I found the Xbox One gaming showcase a little uninteresting to boot.
But then I went on vacation, and upon my return everyone and their mother immediately instant messaged me with some variation of this:
“So…have you seen this? <Insert Xbox One DRM Backpedal Link Here>”
Thanks a lot, Microsoft – you just screwed up a week’s worth of writing. XBOOOOOOOOOOX! /shakes fist
So instead of discussing which console you should buy, let’s just talk about Microsoft’s HUGE new announcement!
At E3 this month Microsoft discussed their new policies on DRM and games, including:
All of these new rules were intended to push we the gamers into a purely digital future; the requirements were both for piracy concerns and locking down game trading, both supposedly at the request of game publishers. After the huge public outcry against all these rules it’s been tough finding a publisher willing to stand by this claim, though – EA COO Peter Moore told Polygon specifically that this was not something EA lobbied for – so it’s difficult to tell from where these regulations really originated.
These DRM solutions for which publishers were “clamoring” were, in a nutshell, deemed unacceptable by many gamers (to put it nicely); Microsoft was essentially giving us a new console with significantly reduced functionality. I don’t think we as a group are opposed to the move to digital-only gaming – clearly Steam has been able to do this with minimal bitching on our parts – but rather we don’t accept an alternative that requires us to consistently check in online and locks down our ability to trade and lend games at will. Especially with the recent burns by Sim City and even some from Diablo III regarding the online requirement, it boggled my mind that this was their proposition. I’m sure their thought process was something along the lines of “but that won’t happen to us.” Right, because Blizzard and EA, owners of D3 and Sim City respectively - are new to the gaming scene, amirite?
Anyway, my point here is that Microsoft was attempting to “look to the future” with the Xbox One, but severely fumbled their delivery both logically and verbally, and this made the choice between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One pretty easy for a lot of us. Nobody wants reduced functionality on a brand-spanking new console, especially one with a $500 price tag.
But what do you know – it turns out that sometimes screaming and gnashing of teeth actually works! This week Microsoft announced a full reversal of these DRM regulations.
I find it super surprising that Microsoft actually decided to listen to the community in the first place. It’s easy for big companies to ignore the complaints of the general public when they know that it ultimately won’t lead to reduced sales. Consider the fact that Amazon sold out of all its Xbox One pre-orders, the sales of which were reported as “record breaking”, despite these crazy regulations which at that point were still pretty poorly described. Clearly our mouth-frothing desire for more polygons, flashing colors, and general pew-pewing tends to get in the way of voicing our outrage in a way that can really be understood by the people in charge. Sometimes you just have to vote with your dollar to get the message across, and that can be tough if you’ve owned a 360 for the last 5 years. Who’s going to pay all that money to switch to a PS3 midstream just to make a point?
Luckily for us, the simultaneous release of the PS4 and Xbox One gives us a perfect opportunity to do just that – make a clean break and very effectively vote with our money. Insane Xbox One pre-orders aside, clearly Microsoft did some sort of number-running-magic to determine that the backlash from the users and the easy opportunity for many gamers to jump ship would ultimately yield them less money. I was sure that they were going to get away with leaving the console with all the DRM-related rules intact, so it’s exciting that for once by yelling loudly enough and yelling at the right time we were heard.
The idea of moving us into a digital world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Microsoft pointed out we’re already doing that with TV and movies and it’s worked really well (most people I know with Netflix accounts no longer receive discs anymore, they just stream content). Having all my games available “in the cloud” is pretty appealing too, though to me this makes more sense regarding PC games as opposed to console (I typically only play console games on my single console, while I might play a PC game on either my laptop or my desktop PC). Additionally, there’s this vague idea that by restricting enforcing a stricter DRM policy game prices might actually start to go down as publishers wouldn’t be losing as much money through game trading and piracy. Because it relies predominantly on publishers, though – mystery publisher, none of whom are claiming they asked the hardware companies to make these sort of DRM changes – it’s unclear as to whether this tactic would actually work on its own.
My general opinion is that there must be a better way to accomplish handling digital games and their inherent DRM issues. Admittedly users have a tendency to cling to the way we’re used to doing things (I’m guilty of this too), but there has to be a way to make everybody happy, or at least not make those of us who obtain games legally feel penalized for those doing otherwise.
Like I mentioned before, the release of Sony and Microsoft’s consoles at the same time gives consumers the perfect opportunity to do serious evaluation and decide if it’s best to stay put or make the move to the opposing faction. With all the DRM rules Microsoft was coming up with Sony had success more-or-less in the bag for a lot of people who simply didn’t want to put up with it. Now that Microsoft has done a hard backpedal, though, what was a clear choice for many is now definitely fuzzier.
There’s obviously plenty of other aspects of the consoles to consider; the ever-present Kinect on the Xbox, the consoles’ differing attitudes towards indie game development, and the gaming exclusives are just a few. I’ll have to take all of these into account as I decide which console I’ll be going with; Xbox has definitely now made itself a possibility in my mind as opposed to a sad, yet fairly clear, “no”.
How has this DRM reversal affected your views on your future console choice?