Microsoft’s U-turn is not the end of console DRM

On Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 (halfway through “The Apprentice”), Microsoft gave gamers what they wanted. As rumours spread that the giant was about to backtrack on their Xbox One proposals, the following statement was released: “As a result of feedback from the Xbox community, we have changed certain policies for Xbox One.”

Those rumours proved to be true as a Microsoftblog post detailed that “an Internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games” and that gamers will be able to “trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today”.

The initial reaction was that this is a massive victory for the consumer. After the stick Microsoft received following the Xbox One reveal, including from rivals Sony, this U-turn can’t have been a decision they made with ease and goes to show that giants do actually listen to their customers.

However, while consumers may have won the short term “battle”, what about in the long term?

One of the possible outcomes is that the U-turn is simply a delay to the introduction of Digital Rights Management restrictions on games consoles. It’s clearly a concept Microsoft have been looking in to and is working on. It’s something they won’t want to see go to waste, and why should it?

Look at the music industry, for example. When was the last time you bought a physical copy of a track, rather than streaming the track through Spotify or downloading it from iTunes? Microsoft was hoping to implement a similar system for gaming, which had some promising concepts.

It was previously announced that Microsoft was to introduce a feature that would allow Xbox One gamers to travel with their full game library, without lugging a load of discs around. Now that the requirement to register discs has been abolished, so has this concept.

Secondly, Microsoft had plans to let users share Xbox One titles with up to nine family members, “family” being pretty much anyone in the world. However, this has also been sacrificed due to the lack of disc registration. These innovative new features would have made life easier for gamers, especially for those who play across multiple consoles.

Furthermore, the news is a big blow to publishers, who had more control over their games under Microsoft’s new system. How will this U-turn affect them? Will they introduce their own form of DRM, most likely through Online Passes? Probably.

While there’ll be a lot of speculation as a result of this news, it doesn’t mean DRM on game consoles will never see the light of day. Could it come to the Xbox One later down the line or (dare I say) in the follow-up console? That’s a matter for another day. Either way, there’s certainly a more positive buzz about the Xbox One and the console war is well and truly back on.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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