After E3 the reactions from the gaming community at large was shocked, appalled and disgusted at the new DRM rules with the Xbox One. Now only a few weeks post announcement they have recalled their DRM policies. The latest news showcases Microsoft’s willingness to listen to their customer audience, the power of capitalism, but also I think steps us back a few years in the digital evolution.
Listening to customer’s should always be at the top of anyone’s business model. The fact that these unwanted features were in the Xbox to start with may show that Microsoft is out of touch with it’s community. However, they have removed these very quickly after seeing the negative response. The ability to share games will behave exactly as it does on the 360 now. You do not have to stay online or check in online, you can play offline for any amount of time. You can physically trade a game, sell it, or give it away. To play a game you have bought you MUST have the disc in the drive during game-play. Digital games cannot be shared. The previously announced family sharing plan is now nixed.
The whole rapid change of DRM changes in the Xbox One is a great example of capitalism in action. If these two consoles were in the government market way of things, there would only be one console on display. So let’s pretend that that would be the xbox, with the bad DRM. Bad user feedback would not motivate them to change the policies because they have a monopoly on the market, and can spout out government rules for why they should be allowed to have these items in there. Now let’s go back to reality, we live in a capitalistic system where these devices are owned in the private industry. It allows for competition that is cut throat. You could see it in the E3 press conferences; right after Xbox’s announcement the PS4 announcement was geared right towards going against the bad policies of the first announcement. Anyways, Microsoft saw that they would lose business to PS4 with these policies and have reacted to change their system quickly in order to stay in direct competition. This is a win for capitalism as it showcases how a users preference is what controls a private market, and it does it better than a mono-choice socialist government held type system.
Anyways, lets talk on the negatives real quick about this announcement. Xbox One had some amazing benefits that came about because of the DRM rules. For instance, you could share your game library to 10 people across the world for free, without them having the disc (that’s pretty wild). You could also go to any other console and log in as yourself and download any games you bought, regardless of carrying your discs about. They have also factored in to most games the concept that they can leverage a massive online cloud server that can be used to help enhance game-play, graphics, AI, and multi-player combat (this was tied in to expecting and forcing people to be online). Now that they have removed the force of games to be checked via online DRM checkers, they have to revert to the only other way a publisher will check that you have not pirated the game (which is checking you have a disc inside the system), so the possibility of being able to share your games with others, and yourself on various consoles and points in the world cannot work since you have to have a disc in place to meet anti-pirating rules (this is DRM, and everyone implements it this way, a digital DRM would actually be an upgrade to those in a connected world, although to those in a non connected world it is obviously a downgrade). Anyways, they have managed to hold their cloud server enhancements mostly in tact, Forza 5 for instance will take much use of the cloud to enhance the game-play by storing and hosting drive-a-tars that learn and adapt to your gaming skill and style. Some of the features planned I believe will still come about in a future world, maybe Xbox was just half a decade ahead of today’s climate (but people like Steam already make use of some of the now nixed Xbox policies).
There truly are ups and downs to Microsoft’s 180 reversal on DRM policies. It is a shame to lose some of the forward thinking features in the Xbox One. However this whole fiasco of changing policies is more correctly aligned with the majority of the current gaming population, showcases Microsoft’s commitment to their customer base, and is a great example of how capitalism is a great thing in society (or at least a video game industry).