Microsoft has made a dramatic U-turn overnight over its decision to impose pre-owned games restrictions and online authentication on their next generation console. But will they be able to win back the hearts and minds of gamers with this reversal?
Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick posted a statement, which was inaccessible for some time due to heavy traffic, on Xbox Wire early this morning to announce the changes. Entitled ‘Your Feedback Matters’, it said: “Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.”
He then went on to backtrack on some of the controversial aspects of Microsoft’s plans for their next generation console. An internet connection will no longer be needed to play games offline, a requirement originally thought to have been introduced as DRM: “After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc-based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.” In addition, the company has backtracked on their second-hand game policy and gamers will be able to trade-in, lend, resell, gift and rent disc-based titles in the same way they currently do: “There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”
These new rules will apply to games bought as physical discs only and won’t affect those downloaded via the Xbox store. Mattrick stated: “While we believe the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listed and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.” However, there’ll be something of a trade-off for gamers.
Xbox Live’s Vice President Marc Whitten stated in an interview with Kotaku: “There’s a few things we won’t be able to deliver as a result of this change. One of the things we were very excited about was ‘wherever we go my games are always with me.’ Now, of course, your physical games won’t show up that way. The content you bought digitally will. But you’ll have to bring your discs with you to have your games with you. Similarly, the sharing library [is something] we won’t be able to deliver at launch.”
Microsoft had planned to allow users to ‘trade’ downloaded games online in exchange for money off new titles. But the change of stance means that gamers will no longer be able to do this, something that Gartner’s Research Director Brian Blau suggests we may regret in the future: “It could be a case of ‘you asked for too much, and you got what you asked for’. But I think it’s a good thing if Microsoft are listening to their potential customers and responding to them. The fact that they have this technology means they can always bring it back at a future point in time.”
The company has had a pretty rough ride this year and this is their second high-profile turnaround in short succession: last month they told Windows 8 users that they would be bringing back the iconic ‘Start’ button after dropping it from the redesign. They came in for some heavy criticism after their big reveal on 21 May 2013 and the announcement of their DRM policies, which saw many long-time Xbox gamers turning their back on the One in favour of the PlayStation 4.
To make matters worse for the company, Sony launched a direct attack during their press conference at the E3 expo last week and was greeted with rapturous applause. And Gaming Blend is reporting that the results of an Amazon poll asking readers to vote for what they thought would be the best next-generation console were so skewed towards the PS4 that the online retailer removed the survey early. Ouch, that’s got to hurt.
Our current poll seems to back this up with currently half of voters saying that they’ll be purchasing Sony’s console – and none voting for the Xbox One. It will be interesting to see how these statistics change in view of Microsoft’s U-turn.
But could there be more to Mattrick’s statement than first meets the eye? The policy changes for the Xbox One could actually be less expensive for Microsoft. The company revealed its plans at the big reveal to increase the number of servers used to power the Xbox experience by twenty times from 15,000 to 300,000; but they may not need to add to their current server expenses now that check-ins are no longer required. In addition, a DDOS attack could do a lot of damage to consoles that are required to authenticate online, so Microsoft could actually be saving themselves a lot of trouble later by removing this component.
General opinion across the internet seems to be favourable so far, although a lot of gamers are saying that it’s too little too late. Blau stated: “This reversal is a positive move for Microsoft as they need to compete strongly against the PS4. It’s a really good sign that Microsoft is listening and providing the functions and features that their core audience is asking for. This has to help improve the overall impression that some may have had about Microsoft being a bully when it comes to video game DRM.”
So this all seems like pretty good news overall so far but we can’t help feeling like there’s a bit more to it. Microsoft is obviously a very large company and must therefore have a number of experts and researchers; surely at least one of them must have highlighted that the implementation of the original DRM plans would cause a huge uproar. And if this was the case, could the U-turn be one big publicity stunt? Call us cynical, but Microsoft has certainly received a lot of media attention overnight; and Sony is no doubt already working on something that’s going to hit back hard, particularly after the news that their latest PS3 firmware update is bricking consoles.
☆ Thank you to skidpro from The Manic Zone for the heads-up early this morning!