Microsoft Backs Down From the Void – No DRM for Anyone!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been introducing Microsoft as a company that’s been getting a ton of bad press. Ever since it came out in their press release that they would be restricting used games and are requiring an internet connection to play offline games, they have been getting slammed by all sides: gamers, gaming media, and mainstream media. It has been a PR nightmare for Microsoft, and they seemed to keep making things worse. The first response to the online-only criticism from Microsoft was to tell people not to buy an Xbox One and instead to buy a 360. It was a level of arrogance and mean-spiritedness that really upset a lot of people, particularly those who actually wanted an Xbox One. It came to the point where Sony was unanimously declared the winner of E3, principally by doing nothing, not supporting or restricting publishers from imposing DRM. Microsoft seems to be aware of all of the insane bad PR they’ve been getting and that it’s all centred around their horrible policies, because yesterday they removed their restrictions on used games and being always online. It is a victory for consumers and we should all be pretty happy.

Worst PR team in gaming.
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Many gamers have attributed many different things as to the reason for the 180. Some have stated that Sony’s conference at E3 is what scared them into action. It isn’t hard to see why. After all, Sony, for its actions or lack thereof, had been pretty much declared a hero by the gaming community, while every good thing Microsoft did was unable to get past the shadow of their restrictive DRM policies. Others have declared that it was the massive fan reaction that got Microsoft to change their minds and that, like they said in their PR announcement, they were actually listening to their fans. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that Microsoft did not do this willingly. They were kicking and screaming the whole way in order to support their draconian policies. That doesn’t mean that what they did wasn’t good, but it’s important to remember that they didn’t do this out of the kindness of their heart. The most likely culprit was probably investors who were monitoring the insane backlash the Xbox One had garnered. These people were the ones who likely pushed Microsoft over.

I don’t think you know what that word means.
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There is much cause to rejoice among fans of all consoles. This is great news all around. You see, if Microsoft had actually moved ahead with their policies, it would be much easier for all companies to justify it next generation. Don’t think for one moment that Sony wouldn’t eventually adopt this model if Microsoft proved successful at it. Nintendo might never, but they don’t really care what the other two companies are doing. More importantly, Microsoft backing down has set a precedent where consumers can fight for their rights and win. It is massive that Microsoft decided to not be pig-headed and instead, cater to their audience. They were forced into it to be sure, but the fact that they allowed themselves to be forced into it instead of going down in a blaze of glory makes me feel like the industry might actually be alright.

Unless they change their minds again.
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In order to accomplish the removal of DRM practices, Microsoft has had to remove, what many were considering the system’s most interesting features. Namely: instant game switching, and family sharing. Details had been slim on exactly how family sharing worked, but it seems like you could activate any 10 people and share your games instantly. It was a fairly good idea; although, I’m not convinced it would work as perfectly as many Microsoft advocates had claimed. Instant game switching was something I never thought was particularly useful. It was impressive, but how often are you going to be flitting though dozens of games while you’re playing? Despite my reservations on both policies, they were something that set the Xbox One apart from the PS4 and now they’re gone, at lest for physical media for game switching.

Pick your big black box.
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This leaves the gaming world with two increasingly similar consoles. Many have started lamenting this fact, particularly the Microsoft faithful, who ardently believed that all of the restrictions were for the betterment of gaming. I actually don’t think that this is a bad thing. At the end of the day, this generation was dominated by two nearly identical consoles with nearly identical libraries minus a handful of exclusives. That system allowed for multiplatform games to reign supreme, which was a boon for developers and gamers who didn’t have to own three systems in order to get the best games. As it stands, that’s what the next generation looks like. There will be two nearly identical consoles and it won’t really matter which one you own. Sure there are plenty of differences left like Kinect, “cloud gaming,” Gaikai, and the oft’ referenced $100 cheaper hardware, but the bulk of the experience looks like it will be the same.

Still don’t trust Kinect to keep anything personal.
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In the end, what Microsoft has done has ignited a console war spark. Many gamers are declaring the end of the PS4. Others are saying it doesn’t matter and the bickering is sick. This isn’t a victory for Microsoft. It isn’t a loss for Sony, and it isn’t anything to Nintendo. What this is, is a victory for consumers. Yes, this is more fuel for the console wars, but we need to briefly look past any kind of fanboyism. It doesn’t really matter where your “allegiances” lie. Nobody loses here. Even Microsoft who had to turn tail and run wins here. So for a small moment, let’s try to not gauge out each other’s eyes.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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