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Does Microsoft’s Xbox One DRM Reversal Mitigate Their Long-Term Strategy?

Posted by on June 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm
A short-term victory may cost them a big goal.

A short-term victory may cost them a big goal.

(Yes, it’s confirmed, check the update below.) If word from Giant Bomb’s ever-reliable Patrick Klepek is to be believed, then Microsoft is ready to ditch the DRM tentpole of their Xbox One strategy that’s received such an epic backlash over the past week. My question then is whether this will mitigate the Xbox One’s long tail, as I defended on our conferences podcast, in trying to become a robust digital retailer like Steam.

As scooped by Klepek, the bullet points look like this:

  • No more always online requirement

  • The console no longer has to check in every 24 hours

  • All game discs will work on Xbox One as they do on Xbox 360

  • An Internet connection is only required when initially setting up the console

  • All downloaded games will function the same when online or offline

  • No additional restrictions on trading games or loaning discs

  • Region locks have been dropped

…which sounds like a complete reversal of everything they’ve said about how their console operates. But it’s stuff like this that’s the future. Physically trading games between people is soooo 1990, as comical as Sony’s PlayStation4 video is. If that’s what Microsoft needs to do to quell the unrest, then whatever, right? This knocks a huge advantage out of the PS4’s column in many eyes.

But as an anonymous alleged Xbox engineer explained last week, what Microsoft wasn’t explaining was that by having this DRM in place, they’d be able to control where the games went and how they were used so you could, effectively, have a version of Steam on Xbox and prices could be rapidly discounted as a result. Without this (perhaps draconian) system in place, Microsoft can’t have this anymore or it will be greatly mitigated. I believe in a digital future, but it seems enough people have strong enough pangs for their physical thirst that Microsoft couldn’t overlook it any longer.

Honestly, as someone who’s always connected to the internet, it’s a bit frustrating, but oh well.

UPDATE: Microsoft has just confirmed the changes.

UPDATE #2: This also confirms that you’ll no longer be able to install the game off a disc then toss the disc away. Man, I wish there was an opt-in for this thing.

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