Xbox-180: Microsoft Rethinks DRM Policies

After a rough E3 for Microsoft and its’ PR department, today they announced that they have changed their DRM policies in response to the strong consumer feedback they had received.

Earlier today, Giant Bomb‘s Patrick Klepek broke the story that Microsoft would be reversing it’s policies. Within hours Microsoft had confirmed this with a post on Xbox Wire from Don Mattrick.

The Good:

  • An Internet connection will not be required to play offline games. There will be no 24-hour check-in. After a one-time initial connection for setup, you will never have to connect to the internet again for any offline activity.
  • No used games restrictions. You will be able to trade-in, lend, resell and gift disc-based games just as you can with current gen discs.
  • There will be no region restrictions. Games will be playable on ANY Xbox One console.
  • Games will still be available day-and-date for digital purchase. Digital games will also be playable without an internet connection.
  • With this lack of required internet, the concerns of Kinect respecting your privacy should be a bit less… concerning.

With Microsoft’s removal of systems and restrictions, there does unfortunately come a loss of digital functionality, some of which is unfortunately some of the features I was most looking forward to. It should be noted that Microsoft has not ruled out the revival of any of these features at a later date, as they still correspond with their vision of a digital future. In response to Kelpek’s queries on the subject, Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten said “We’ll see where we go.”

The Bad:

  • Disc-based games will not become part of your digital library. You can still install from disc, but it will require the disc to be in the console to play. As such, to access your disc-based games on any console, you will need to take the disc with you (for now). This obviously does not apply to digital games.
  • There will be no family sharing system. Games will continue to work across the accounts on your console, but as for the “up to 10 family members” accessing your library from anywhere – that’s gone (for now).
  • There will be no system in place for the sharing/lending/selling of digital games.

The Rest

  • An advantage Microsoft did point out in regards to having to take the disc with you to play on other machines, is that once the game is installed on the system you can make the digital purchase and will require no download or disc to play. This also suggests that the underlying functionality of playing disc-based games without the disc is still intact, offering hope for the feature to return at a later date (maybe once we’re all online all the time anyway).

With this current version of Microsoft’s policies, it seems very much like the Xbox One has gone from pushing the frontline of digital games and DRM to being a somewhat shinier Xbox 360. While many of these systems and functions, or others like them, will likely make a comeback further down the road, it is a little disheartening to have already lost out on the digital future.

The thought occurs; what if we were given the choice? We could have these functions if we were willing to commit to an online check-in to use them? If we didn’t (or couldn’t) check-in or choose to subscribe to the service, then we couldn’t share our whole library or forgo discs. Food for thought, perhaps?

On the other hand, the power of the consumer was put to use before the console even came out: Microsoft listened to the concerns of the people and cut out online requirements, used-games restrictions and region locks. This was definitely a victory for those fighting for it, and Microsoft seems to have gently moved us back into safe and familiar territory, but I guess we will see what it all amounts to when any of this actually makes a difference (you know, when these consoles are even a thing). Hopefully Microsoft will approach these concepts with a little more tact and awareness if they do revisit them.

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