Microsoft Removes Xbox One DRM
After taking a PR battering over 24-hour online check-in, used games restrictions, contradictory explanations of their policies and seemingly mocking people who didn’t like the Xbox One’s policies, Microsoft is performing an about-face on their established DRM policies.
A post on the Xbox website said that Microsoft was backtracking on the DRM and used games restrictions that nearly derailed the Xbox One in this console generation before it started.
The key phrase in Microsoft’s announcement was “just like the Xbox 360.” In a post attributed to Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment, Don Mattrick, updated Microsoft’s DRM and used games policies as follows:
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – 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.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
Interestingly, just last week at E3, Director of Xbox Live Programming Larry Hyrb, AKA Major Nelson, told YouTube’s Angry Joe Vargas that it wasn’t easy to just turn off the DRM requirements of the system. It looks like either Major Nelson wasn’t actually up to date on how the Xbox One’s DRM works or Microsoft wasn’t preparing to change DRM policies last week.
The move was necessary for Microsoft. Unofficial surveys and anecdotal reports indicated that Microsoft had next to no support among gamers and in the pre-order market. If Microsoft did nothing, the Xbox One would have been dangerously close to competing with the Wii U to not be last place among the big three. And it was only appropriate for Mattrick to be the name put to the press release because of how badly he put his foot in his mouth when he said, “We have an offline device. It’s called the Xbox 360.”
Slightly lost in the shuffle is that the family sharing program, which allowed you share games with up to 10 family members (though likely any ten people on your friends list) and was considered one of the few positives to come as a result of the Xbox One’s DRM policies, has been removed. It has also been reported that mandatory installation of games has also been dropped so the digital existence of games that allowed sharing or downloading on a friend’s console has been cancelled too.
The question is now how much the month of Microsoft promoting the need for the Xbox One’s DRM will affect the Xbox One’s image among consumers. Microsoft lost a lot of ground by championing DRM. This announcement won’t change the balance of power overnight but it will give the Xbox One a fighting chance against the PlayStation 4, even with the $100 price difference and the Kinect privacy concerns. And that’s assuming that anyone still trusts Microsoft after announcing the policies, justifying them and now reversing course while asking us to love them again. That and being the first company to provide data to the NSA as part of PRISM.
The good news is that the status quo still reigns in the games industry. It’s almost sad that we have to celebrate the status quo but here we are celebrating Microsoft going back on its restrictive DRM policies. We should be progressing in consumer rights as time goes forward but somehow it’s an accomplishment that we aren’t going backwards. I guess that’s better than nothing.
Still, I don’t think we should forgive Microsoft for backtracking on DRM. They made the mistake of rolling out with these draconian policies in the first place. They can’t go presto change-o and get my trust back instantly. I hope the rest of the serious gamers out there are going to do that because Microsoft wants their money. Microsoft isn’t making this change out of the goodness of their hearts. This is just the first step on Microsoft’s road to redemption.