With the turn that arrived in Microsoft completely reversing their DRM and “always online” policy in the Xbox One, that calls the question into light: should Microsoft have yielded on this? Was this even that bad for consumers to begin with? I personally was excited for the changes to the console generation that Microsoft was introducing with the Xbox One; now let me explain why.
DRM (Digital Rights Management), though being quite anti-consumer, doesn’t mean that those anti-consumer growing pains may lead to a better, more consumer-friendly future. Now don’t get me wrong, the ability for the consumer to be able to exchange, share, and trade-in games is great, and brings power back into the consumer’s hands. My problem is that this seems to be a short-term fix to something that, in the long-term, will become a serious issue.
As Kyle Wagner outlines in his opinion piece on Gizmodo, having this digital push could prove extremely innovative when creating consumer rights for digital purchases. Even the idea of this “transfer of a digital license” via the game transfer system originally in place on the Xbox One to someone on your friend’s list is more right to any digital purchase we have ever had before. Of course, Kyle also presents the idea that publishers could create digital hubs where users can sell digital licenses to one another for a slight profit for themselves, and money that can actually go to the publisher/developer instead of GameStop or BestBuy. Of course that’s just speculation, but the mere idea is exciting nonetheless.
My point is more along the lines that even that idea coming up in a conversation with the original Xbox One’s DRM set-up proves that there are exuberant amounts of innovative possibilities out there and this digital-focused home console could provide some of them. Steam users have been buying games in stores, such as Skyrim, just to take them home and install them directly into Steam for years. How was the Xbox One’s idea of discs being ways to install games any different? It really wasn’t. PC users have been buying licenses through Steam for many years, and seem to love it.
Now the Xbox One has, quite literally, reverted back to exactly where the Xbox 360 is. Even the wording for the new DRM policies says, “just like on Xbox 360,” which is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because the consumers don’t have to worry about losing their freedoms, bad because the room for innovation can’t really happen if we are leaning on the crutch that is the previous generation’s policies. There will always be growing pains when adjusting to innovative ideas and a possible change in the way we play and consume games. It’s normal, it’s natural, but we do have to let it happen. Complaining, arguing, yelling, and sending death threats before we have the console and before we’ve even experienced the way those policies work shouldn’t be the status quo.
One step forward – two steps back.
I really believe that in the long-term, when we are on the precipice of an all-digital future within the next five to ten years, we could have used these early-trained policies to adapt to that. This is just going to make that inevitable change to digital only more challenging for the consumer.
I am on the bandwagon that wants this all digital future, and that was ready for these policies. I know I am in the minority, and I am not faulting those who weren’t ready for this. I just want to propose the idea that having moved backwards now, may not be to our advantage in the near future.