Xbox One’s DRM policy clarified and it’s just as bad as we expected

By: - 8th Jun 2013
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Today Microsoft detailed the Xbox One’s used game policies, and guess what, they’re as bad as we thought. Publishers want a slice of the used game pie, but are they biting the hand that feeds by trying to impose anti-consumer restrictions?

Firstly, the 24 hour requirement hasn’t changed, you cannot play games on the Xbox One if it hasn’t been watered by a WiFi signal for more than 24 hours. You might think “so what I have a secure connection that rarely goes out,” but what about those around in rural settings or countries with an under developed infrastructure? Those poor souls who aren’t fortunate enough to have access to a stable connection are out of luck. This would most certainly include a large portion of the Military, many of which relax on days, off all around the world, by playing games.

Lending and renting games

I remember when I was five years old, in kindergarten, owning a brand new NES. A girl I had a crush on talked to me about her NES, soon after we discovered we played a lot of the same games. She owned some games that I had barely heard of, specifically Castlevania, at the time I had only heard the name and that was enough to know I needed to play it. Long story short I lent her Contra in exchange for Castlevania, and it was awesome.

Nearly 25 years later Microsoft has decided to put an end to this practice, how will this impact you, the end user? You’ll now be able to gift your game to a friend a single time, but in doing so it permanently revokes your license to play the game. It is important to note that this functionality will not be available at launch, which makes this feel like an after-thought in response to consumer outcry against the new DRM policies.

It might not affect the largest demographic (males age 18-40) because most of them have their own income. Kids on the other hand, they swap games all the time. When it comes time to return the game, at least in my experience, kids will badger their parents until they get the game. In this way, game lending actually promotes purchases. On the other hand it also discourages, I typically borrow games so I don’t have to buy or rent them, but is that enough cause for Microsoft to grab the pitchfork?

There hasn’t been new clarification of game rentals, as Microsoft mentioned before, a full license is required to play a game no matter what. Gamefly and Redbox will certainly not offer that because discs can only activate one time. So this policy will most certainly affect those businesses. Additionally this hurts franchise adoption because many users become fans of a franchise through a rental and then subsequently preorder the sequel.

Games in the family

At my house we grew up with two of the same machines, partially to stop arguments with my siblings, but mostly because my Dad could play when he wanted to. We shared a single copy of a game between our consoles. Microsoft has clarified that you will be able to share games within your household and beyond, limited to 10 friends and family consoles. Presumably you will not be able to play the same game on two consoles simultaneously, but you will be able to share your entire library.

It wasn’t stated how this would be monitored or if the 10 activations are permanent. For example if I reach 10 activations of my account can I deactivate one like iTunes or PlayStation Network accounts? I might be alone in this but it seems too good to be true until Microsoft further clarifies the restrictions of the policy I’ll remain indifferent.

Used Games

Microsoft has stated Xbox One games will and will not be sellable, letting publishers decide if they will allow the practice on a game-by-game basis. Furthermore, games will only be sold to select partner retailers which have yet to be announced. Since games do not require discs after the initial activation, when you go to sell an approved title you will revoke the license on your account.

I sell games because gaming is an expensive hobby and I’m not one to collect things that sit around gathering dust. When I sell a game I have no intention of playing it again, so it makes sense to offset the price of a full priced new game. Apparently that hurts the industry, selling a one or two month old game is taking money away from publishers and developers. What about that 40 dollar GameStop gift card I got in exchange for those games? That money will assuredly dry up considerably with resale restrictions.

Plain and simple, used games create more buying power for the consumer, people will have less money to spend on games. 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot sold 3 million plus copies and that was considered a disappointment because the budget was bloated. When customers have less buying power, games with huge budgets will struggle even further to reach profitability. Publishers will be forced to slash budgets and scale accordingly to the sales, which very well could decline, especially with lower install bases.

Smile and nod

It seems as though Microsoft expected consumers to like their new policies. Sure, there are redeeming points, like not having to use a disc. I’d gladly get off my couch if it meant the games I purchase were actually my property. While things were explained a bit better there are still a lot of questions, let’s hope we don’t have to wait until launch to fully understand them. It’s hard to say if this will damage the Xbox brand immediately, I’m sure the casual consumer will be peeved when they come to find things aren’t how they used to be.

Will it be a deterrent? That largely depends on Sony. Right now the ball is in Sony’s court, but they’ve been extremely vague in Q&A’s with the media stating “used games work on PS4.” Many are hoping that Sony is not purposefully evading the issue just to announce they have a similar policy at a later date. If this is truly at the behest of publishers, Sony would find they’re between a rock and a hard place.

I for one, hope Sony won’t deploy the anti-consumer measures Microsoft have taken with the Xbox One. Not only for my own selfish reasons, but because I have become accustomed to the big budget triple A game and I’d hate to see those get scaled back because they just aren’t profitable anymore. With E3 just days away it won’t be long before we get all of the details of both machines, keep an eye on for updates.

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