When the Xbox One was announced some months ago, it wasn’t the games or the new controller that ignited conversation. It was Microsoft’s draconian digital rights management (DRM) policy that really lit the Internet on fire. Chief among gamer concerns were a 24-hour mandatory “check-in,” a used game and rental game lockout, and a lending program that required users to register up to ten friends and family members with whom they would share games.
Needless to say, gamers are a vocal bunch, and cries of “Xbox is finished” and “boycott Microsoft” could be heard all over the Web, from gaming blogs to Reddit. The firestorm even made its way to ubiquitous online merchant Amazon.com, whose poll about next gen consoles had to be taken down, because over 95% voted against the Xbox One.
However, as soon as the fire reached its peak, Microsoft did something unexpected: They went back on their DRM stance. According to The Guardian, Microsoft has gotten rid of its ambitious DRM plan and gone back to a system that mimics the one currently in place for the Xbox 360. Though gamers will still need to connect to the Internet to “check in” with a game, this will only happen once, when the game is first booted up. Microsoft has also opened up their licensing model, and used/rented games are back to being fair play.
Though the gaming community at large has been pretty positive about this development, some have wondered if Microsoft was right to reverse its policy before the console even came out. Some are saying that though many of the implications of this policy were blatantly anti-consumer, Microsoft could have used these policies to offer discounts to cash-strapped gamers or build a cloud-based gaming environment where games could be tied to usernames, and players could travel from console to console and carry all their data with them.
Of course, this type of rose-tinted thinking wasn’t around when the controversy first broke, and the fact is that DRM has always been about maximizing profits, not “providing experiences.” Sure, there may have been some benefits to the program, but by and large it was designed to lure developers into giving Microsoft more exclusive Xbox One games with the promise of less profit losses from used/rented games.
However, it looks like Microsoft quickly realized that if you don’t sell any consoles, exclusives won’t matter and developers will walk away. Though there may be some naysayers out there, this reversal is clearly a win for consumers, and Microsoft was wise to get rid of this issue before the Xbox One’s holiday release.