Well, despite my well-thought-out argument regarding online passes a week ago, I was proved wrong this past Tuesday when Microsoft unleashed their Xbox One upon the world. The console requires you to be online at least once per 24 hours (though that time frame may change between now and release, indicating it is controlled on the server-side). This restriction seems to be in place solely to power their ability to prevent used games from being played without the dirty rotten purchaser of secondhand software having paid their entry fee to the developers and by proxy the console manufacturer.
I noted in last week’s article that EA seemed to be putting the blame on the console manufacturers for the DRM restriction; after all, if it’s console-wide, what were they to do, ostracize an entire market? Microsoft seems to have returned the favor on them by making it known that the required online daily check is “not confirmed” and “developer-specific”, meaning if it’s in the game, it’s the developer’s fault (disregard the console manufacturer’s permission and pressure!).
This could very well be a PR nightmare for Microsoft upon the release of their new console, and the lack of actual games hurts as well. They promise more game releases at E3, but the damage very well may have been done already. The PS4 has made no comment one way or another regarding their own potential for DRM implementation, which is cause for concern in itself; if they had superior freedom, considering the backlash presented to Microsoft at the moment it would make sense to leak that information immediately to take the shine off of the Xbox One’s debut presentation and put the focus once again on the PlayStation 4. Since they have not taken this opportunity, they either seriously dropped the ball mere weeks before the biggest chance to show off their console, or they have a similar system in place and are going to take heat away from the Xbox One when word gets out.
From a user standpoint, this decision is disastrous. There is a lot of talk about how the used game market “stifles/kills innovation” because developers put millions of dollars into their games and see no income from the used game market; to that I question where the innovations of the last 30 years came from, because the used game market was as existent then as it is today. DRM existed in the form of putting vital information in the manual & having the game request it (for instance, the Carmen Sandiego PC games would request a certain word from a certain page, paragraph & line; failure to entry would prohibit future progress as a detective), but it was nowhere near as prevalent and yet innovation was still present. Developers instead need to innovate in different ways; instead of spending millions on a heavy graphics budget, perhaps toning down the imagery and spending more on developing the story. The Deadly Premonition mindset, so to speak.
In any event, EA has officially passed the buck to Microsoft. Their online pass which prevented secondhand buyers of their games from fully experiencing them is dead. Long live the online pass to prevent buyers of any used games from fully experiencing them.
Image courtesy: David Goehring