The Next Generation of Innovation and Limitation

Jun 19, 2013

Update:  As you may have heard, on June 19th, Microsoft announced the following:

  • Xbox One games will not require an Internet connection every 24 hours just to play offline.
  • A one-time Internet connection will be required during system set-up, but that’s it.
  • Games on disc may be lent, resold, given away and rented, just as Xbox 360 discs are today.
  • Downloaded games will work without an Internet connection.
  • There will be no regional restrictions.

This is fantastic news for gamers (especially this gamer).  If my internet goes down I can still play games.  I can sell my games in order to help afford new games.  I can still rent games.  According to Gamefly co-founder Sean Spector, “today is a win/win for consumers”.  The people have spoken (as did the US Military) and Microsoft has responded by taking a “180” on their stances.

While this is fantastic news, this leaves me with many questions.

Video game publishers/distributors desire the death of used game sales.  How are they going to approach game distribution?  EA recently eliminated their online passes.  Did they do this in preparation to upcoming DRM policies on game consoles?  Other companies such as Naughty Dog still utilize online passes.  We could see a big push in codes or passes to incentivize buying games new.  There is also the possibility that there could be other used game deterrents being worked on that we don’t know about.

Another possibility is the re-introduction of DRM from the console level.  Microsoft, while their announcement is a good thing, they have now shown that they are not shy to change policy after it has been put out there.  You can’t rule out that they may decide in the future to roll this back out incrementally instead of all at once.  The hardware and software in place to apply DRM and 24 hour internet requirements is not being removed.  There will be a day 1 patch to bypass.  What if Microsoft decides to apply DRM limitations on Halo 5?

While there will still be a high amount of questions left to be answered in the future,  this announcement has brought the Xbox One and Playstation 4 so much closer to being basically the same console (leave your hate of this statement in the comments below).  Now we can get down to business of discussing the most exciting part about the next generation…the games!
Original post:

“Welcome to the New World, one in which companies are retaining control of their products even after consumers purchase them.”  This is a quote that is becoming truer every day.  Companies are relaying promises that their hardware must be online for validation purposes.   Game publishers have stated that games cannot be traded or borrowed.  While the purpose of these policies is clear, are companies hurting their relationships with customers?  Are they burning down the house to kill a spider?

Microsoft is stating that the Xbox One must be online once every 24 hours for “verification”.  While they state that there are important reasons for this, Microsoft has instantly alienated a number of users.  Are there that many homes without internet nowadays?  Not really, but people don’t game only at home.  Did I bring my console on a trip to a location without internet or wifi?  Even if I’m at home, what if my internet has gone out?  If internet is not available for whatever reason, I cannot play any games.  This effectively turns my $500 media box into a very expensive paperweight.  When making the decision of what console this would very much be taken into account.

And what about used games, game rentals or borrowed games?  I do not have an endless amount of money to spend on games, especially after I have spent an extremely high amount of money on the new hardware.  Personally, I do not buy used games.  Buying used games is not an issue to me; however, I will sell games to help fund purchases of new games.  Restricting my ability to sell games will restrict my ability to buy new games.  Publishers, hardware companies, even game review outlets have gone in detail about how used games is taking money from developers.  There is little to no talk about how removing the ability to sell used games will hurt their sales of new games.   In addition to used games, there will be a limit or removal of the ability to rent or borrow games.  This process is free advertising.  If I’m not sure about a game I will rent it or borrow it.  If I really enjoy the game I will purchase it, purchase sequels and/or pick up other games from the same developer.  Reducing or eliminating my ability to rent or borrow games will simply make me less likely to try new things and will further reduce the amount of money I will spend on games.  The talk so far has been how these steps give more money to the developer, but how much money will they be taking away?

In my previous article I went into detail about Xbox versus Playstation.  During this year’s E3, Sony proclaimed that their console would be $100 cheaper than Microsoft’s and would be no restrictions on used or borrowed games.  This news was met with thunderous applause, but is this completely accurate, or public relations spin to garner support?  Less than a day after this announcement Sony Computer Entertainment of America CEO Jack Tretton stated that DRM would be the decision of the developer.  In addition to this there is the fact that taking a DRM-free stance could strain relationships with developers who want their games to not be resold, effectively reducing the games that could be available.  And in regards to the price point, while many gamers are not interested in motion gaming, we are not taking into account the fact that Microsoft’s price includes a very good piece of hardware.  Plus we would be remiss to think that there will not be different, more expensive versions of the Playstation 4 available on or near the release date.  While I think Sony did a great job, we would be better suited to take everything into account when deciding which console would be better suited to spend your hard-earned money on.

It’s a very exciting time where we will be moving forward into the next generation of consoles, but will our experiences as a gamer be the same, better or more limited?  I am excited to be a part of this, but I will definitely be skeptical and extremely careful in my choices.  No amount of advertising or displays at conventions will deflect me from the thought that my gaming experience could be made worse by reducing my ability to play games.