In a stunning policy reversal Microsoft has announced the Xbox One will no longer feature built-in DRM restrictions and a mandatory check-in online every 24 hours. Ever since the press conferences at E3 last week the company had taken a pounding in the media and with consumers while the PS4 dominated in pre-orders by taking its place as a perceived savior for gamers and the industry as a whole.
The article over the weekend declaring the PS4 as the home for sports gamers laid out the drawbacks of The One facing consumers. It was $100 more, lacked MLB, and restricted the sale of games, ability to play used games, rent games, or share games – making the value of third party games much higher on the PS4.
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.
These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.
The moves made today by Microsoft puts the console on more even ground though a few arguments still remain in the favor of the PS4. It’ll have the premier (and likely only) MLB game, packs in a headset, and is still $100 cheaper. However the One does offer some exclusive content for EA Sports games, packs in Kinect (which some may consider a positive and others a negative), and has the TV features and NFL deal which little is still known about. At the very least there is justification there for someone to say the $100 is providing value to them.
Last night on Late Night host Jimmy Fallon referred to the PS4 as the only place where used games would be able to be played in the next-generation. That casual perception – and Fallon did the same foretelling of the Wii U’s woes by once referring to it as a controller add-on for the Wii – may have been the tipping point. Articles in the New York Times and other mainstream publications – it wasn’t just the gaming blogs making noise – had to have been especially alarming for Microsoft and the pre-order numbers didn’t lie.
Third party pressure could have played a part here as well. Publishers had to be analyzing not just pre-order numbers but how the value of their games on one console would be greater than the other and the confusion it would create at retailers. They needed things to balance back out – especially when that comes to someone like EA who recently cozied up to Microsoft and was staring big losses in the face if the PS4 outpaced the One so drastically.
The question now is one of trust. Microsoft could not just flip-flop on their policies and return the DRM and online check-in later without facing lawsuits for doing so. That may not be reassuring for everyone though. In addition the condescending manner in which Microsoft executives have treated consumers in the last month shouldn’t just be instantly forgotten. They need to do, and say, the right things leading up to the console launch to earn back the favor of gamers.
In what is surely no coincidence Amazon has added more stock for the Xbox One Day One edition. There are also still multiple PS4 Launch Day bundles available. Not a bad idea to pre-order both and if deciding between the two cancel later (Amazon doesn’t charge until a product ships so no penalty for cancelling until then).
Today’s news represented an enormous win for consumer rights. The choice between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 becomes a much more difficult one – and ultimately that is a good thing for everyone.