Xbox One's Dramatic DRM Reversal: Five Questions

Senior Contributor
06.20.13 77 Comments


It’s official; Microsoft has heard the polite suggestions and sheer fan rage about the Xbox One’s DRM policies, and they’re officially off the table: It won’t phone home every 24 hours, games will play off of discs instead of downloading, used games will be available, you can rent games… it’s completely different. But that still leaves us with questions.

How Deeply Seated Were These Protections In The Software And Hardware?

Technologically speaking, this is an almost absurdly drastic switch. Keep in mind, discs were just supposed to be data dumps for the hard drive; streaming data off a disc and just ripping it off a disc are two entirely different operations. Is Microsoft retooling the console substantially? And if not, this raises another question: If the Xbox One was always fully capable of these functions, why did Microsoft cripple them?

Is This A Permanent State Of Affairs?

Building off of that, will Microsoft ever choose to flip these requirements back on? Or have they committed to leaving these bad ideas on the table? Presumably Microsoft isn’t going to try and lure in players and then pull a bait-and-switch, but understandably, some people will want the company’s word.

What About The Games Obviously Built To Be Online All The Time?

The Xbox One showed off a line-up of games that were clearly built around constant Internet access; Forza 5 and Sunset Overdrive were talked up quite a bit in this respect. Will these games still rely on Azure? Will there be a solution for players who have choppy connections?

What Really Inspired This Change?

While it would be nice to say that the game industry is carefully attuned to the needs and concerns of gamers, the truth is that most of the industry is well aware that gamers will gripe, whine, moan and then buy it anyway. But as we noted elsewhere, gamers weren’t the only ones who were surprised and confused by the policies Microsoft announced; both EA and Ubisoft flatly stated they hadn’t even held any meetings about what to do with these policies. And tellingly GameStop came up repeatedly in discussions of these policies. So, was it really the “passionate feedback” from gamers, as Microsoft says, or something else?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Whenever we’ve wrote about the Xbox One, the comments section has been filled with consumers flatly stating they were buying a PS4. So, has Microsoft won back the fans? This is the one question Microsoft can’t answer yet… but we suspect they desperately want the answer to that to be “yes”. And if it isn’t… what will it take to win back those fans?

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