Xbox One: The Sequel! …wait what?

Remember when we covered Always-On DRM a while back? Think of this post as the sequel to that. I got a great response to that, and that’s awesome! DRM and piracy is a conversation that needs to be had, and solutions must be found. But I scarcely think the direction Microsoft chose last Tuesday was the solution we need.

If you regularly follow video gaming, and even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard about last week’s unveiling of the Xbox One, the successor to the Xbox 360!

Okay why have they always denoted they aren’t going anywere? 360 means a complete circle, as in ultimately going nowhere, and one means the beginning. But as I’ve heard this is more a reboot, so one could get away with calling it that. Naming aside, a lot of people are up in arms about it. Where to start?

Well, all the info out there is still really sketchy. Y’see, when the PS4 was unveiled earlier this year in February, they didn’t have any representatives, spokespeople, or otherwise on the floor afterwards answering questions. This wasn’t the case at Microsoft’s event Tuesday. They had all kinds of people on the floor and available for questions from the press. What’s wrong with that? Normally, openness to the press is a good thing, right? Only if everybody is on the same page…

And that was definitely not the case here. Different reps said different things, resulting in a whole mess of conflicting information, especially in the new console’s treatment of used/rental games, and its “Always but not really”-On DRM. Let’s start what we know (or at least think we know) with the former, first. Again, bear in mind, these details are sketchy.

The nitty gritty is that when you first put a game into the Xbox One, it will install itself and bind the CD key to that user’s account. This “key” is non-transferable, except through a new service through the console which would allow people to sell/trade these keys. Want to play a game you bought used? Rented? Borrowed from a friend for the weekend? Too bad! You’ll have to pay a fee in order to play it. Where it really gets sketchy is how much this fee is. Is it the full retail price of the game, or something more/less? An alternative is to sign in as the original user on your console, but I can’t imagine there not being some sort of restriction to this. Considering that EA, who is generally believed to have started this DRM mess, decided to end their similar program requiring people to buy a pass to play their games online, why are companies like Microsoft still trying to shove this down?

This leads us to the heart of the matter, DRM. Before, there were rumors that the console would need to always be connected to the internet in order to function, no questions asked. Just before this conference, Microsoft announced that wouldn’t be the case. In the sea of info that gushed out after the event Tuesday, it was said that the console would have to connect at least once a day to re-authenticate. In other words, it’s not Always-On DRM, it’s Almost-Always-On DRM. …Soap box time.

HOW THE HELL IS THIS ANY BETTER?!  It literally doesn’t solve any problems people have brought up up about Always-On DRM! People who don’t have an easy means to connect their consoles to the internet are still barred from using this console. And remember what I said about the infrastructure Microsoft would need for this thing? The same rules would still apply. These authenticator servers would need to be online at launch and stay on – for the rest of human existence.

Am I asking a lot? As a gaming consumer, I don’t think so. On the day these authenticator servers shut down the Xbox One and its library of games will become useless bricks. Literally nothing has changed in this argument.

But again, these details are very sketchy. In fact, Microsoft’s own Major Nelson recently made a statement to attempt to put this raging storm of information (how many more metaphors can I come up with for this…) to rest:

“The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.”

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. This statement didn’t beat the bad PR to the gate.

But who knows? Perhaps this, along with Project Adam Orth last month, was Microsoft testing the waters on this subject. Now that they’ve seen the almost universally negative reaction to these hot-button topics shows that consumers are really not on board, or so we hope. That “near future” Nelson’s alluding to is most likely E3, coming up in about two weeks. This should also illuminate the subject of the games this console will have, if at all.

As garme jurnaliszt Jim Sterling put it, at the present, this console is only really being marketed to only the most privileged consumers, those who have a nice, fat income, and who probably have devices that can play movies on demand, on their TV, when they want. Games should’ve been the focus last Tuesday, and should be the focus of this new console to come.

Stay tuned for Act III of the Microsoft DRM saga (hopefully) in a few weeks! Until then, let’s keep this important conversation about DRM going. Consider this article someone brought up last time…

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