Xbox DRM Update: Daddy Was Right

It is as I suspected: faced with the spectre of people defecting, en masse, to the Playstation 4, Microsoft has (wisely and justly) abandoned its confusing and obnoxious DRM and always-online policies.

See here for the news and here for a Microsoft exec’s take on the issue. (My favorite quote from the news story: “[I]t was never assumed that Microsoft would change the DRM policies before the console was actually released!” Yeah it was — by me!)

Left unaddressed is the lack of backwards compatibility (which it shares with the PS4) and the $100 “Microsoft Tax” added to the cost of the Xbox One (when compared to the PS4).

It’s looking better, Microsoft, but not perfect. I still predict an uphill battle for Redmond’s little black box, but at least it won’t be the Custer-iffic slaughter the Amazon presales predicted.

Well, This Isn’t Good News

“Playstation 4 Launch Edition Already Sold Out At Amazon.” The Xbox One? Not so much.

The piece, it should be noted, has a few unsupported assertions — “sources have told me” — to which the Internet version of Occam’s Razor should be applied: “pics or it didn’t happen”. Even so, this is not a good sign for Microsoft.

That said, Microsoft has proven willing and able to rethink problems. When the 360 was close to launch, there was no hard drive and no backwards compatibility. After consumer outcry, they implemented both, quite quickly. It’s possible they could do the same wrt/ DRM and “always on”.

That won’t fix the pricing issue, however. $100 more for a Kinect? Pass.

Pricing dogged Sony all during the last console generation, and it bids fair to do the same to Microsoft this generation. I have no idea how they can reverse course on that.

So Let’s Talk E3

Uhh… wow… Sony really… uh… boy, was that ugly. How ugly?

Penny Arcade ugly:

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Yipes.

How bad did MS screw the pooch? Let me count the ways:

• Always on connectivity. (“Buy a 360 if you can’t get online.“)

• DRM.

• Restricting used games (selling, swapping, giving) via DRM.

• No backwards compatibility.

• $100 more than the PS4.

This story gives a pretty typical reaction.

Unlike some pundits, I’m not making a big declaration. (“I’m leaving your platform, and I’m never coming back!”) That’s kind of childish.

But right now, I see no reason to drop $500 on the Xbox One. It’s expensive, won’t play my games, and has a lot of policies I find intrusive and offensive.

I want to keep playing my current library. (Such as Crackdown.) And if I need two consoles to do that… why not make one of them a PS4?

$100 less, no used-games folderol, no “always online” requirements… why not?

The Post You Were Probably Expecting

…when I announced Video Game Week. So, here it is.

Mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones seems to be a huge and growing trend. According to this article, it drove THQ into bankruptcy, forced out John Riccitiello from his job running the soulless corporate combine called EA, and even kneecapped Zynga (Facebook’s social gaming mega-moguls). That’s a lot of scalps, kemosabe, and all in a very short period of time.

And, of course, all these developments are sparking the usual overblown rhetoric, “The Death of Console Gaming!” and the like. Now I can’t tell the future yet, but I seriously doubt console gaming is going to die anytime soon. At worst, we’re looking at a long period of slow decline as the platform gradually sheds users and developers. (You know, like PC gaming, certain politicians, or European imperialism.)

Of course, console companies can speed the process along. Maybe by making a console so shitty no one wants to buy it. Or by requiring always-on DRM or axing backwards compatibility.

As a dedicated console gamer who’s spent — literally — thousands of dollars on Xbox gaming, I’m contemplating buying a Playstation for the first time, ever. That’s not a good sign for Microsoft. Of course, if Sony proves equally dickish I won’t buy from them, either.

After all, customers don’t have to buy a console — a fact Sony learned the hard way this console generation. And if the — rumored and announced — draconian policies really are implemented, console makers might drive people to alternate venues.

Mobile gaming won’t kill console gaming. But console manufacturers can commit suicide, by badgering customers, making crappy consoles, and in general acting with thoughtless arrogance.