Microsoft pulls an Xbox One-Eighty, reverses controversial DRM policies

by Max Saucedo

Courtesy of Microsoft
Courtesy of Microsoft

This is what backlash looks like.  This is what happens when companies attempt to put restrictions on projects and make them basically unmarketable.  This is what happens when Microsoft realizes just how badly they’ve shot themselves in the foot.  For those of you just joining us, Microsoft has officially announced a complete turnaround of their policies regarding the new Xbox One

It began long before E3, with Microsoft continually being vague and unsure of how to handle the used game issue, while trying to rationalize the “always on”, problem.  Weeks of internet jokes and opponents taking open jabs at their console all leading up to E3, the definitive chance for Microsoft to change their ways, to listen to the consumers and make the console that would lead us all into the next generation.

They didn’t.  And the jokes got even worse.  If E3 showed us anything, it’s that just because you have flashy new hardware, a brand new “Halo” game, new IP’s, it all doesn’t mean anything unless you have open ears and a finger on the pulse of the community.  Sony managed this all the more effectively, and as a result, won the E3 title of best show, bringing the house down over and over with their pricing, used games support, and the lack of an internet connection to play offline.

Microsoft has floundered since E3, being outsold in the pre-order game by Sony on what is becoming a very lopsided battle.  They tried to rationalize offline use, with hapless quotes from Don Mattrick such as, “We have a console for those who don’t have an internet connection.  It’s called Xbox 360.”  The spectacle began reaching critical levels when instead of simply doing away with their always on connection; they changed it to an every 24 hours update in order to play offline.  They justified the price tag by claiming the new and improved Kinect came bundled with the new Xbox One.

Gamers and consumers were not impressed.  And thousands of them showed their displeasure by flocking in droves to what was seen as “gaming Eden”, over at Sony with the new PS4.  Sony seemed to have kept the gaming community in mind and was reaping the benefits.  Pre-E3, there was speculation that Sony would also join Microsoft in restricting offline play, used game sales, and keep their prices high.  Instead, now the unthinkable has happened.

Microsoft has bowed its head in defeat.  No more always online requirement as well as doing away with checking in every 24 hours.  No region locks. No restrictions on used game sales.  No difference in offline play for downloaded games.  An the only time an internet connection is needed?  A one-time setup when first plugging in the console.

This is huge.  This is not just a company seeking profits.   This is a full on company reversal.  Not only has the ship stopped, but the captain has ordered to immediately turn around.  But why should we care if we’re not even Microsoft gamers?

Because the will of the people was spoken and communicated to the highest echelons of Microsoft’s leadership, and the message read: “Change your ways or else.”  Why was Microsoft for so long able to delude itself into thinking it was making the right decision?  Possibly they were too concerned with their stockholders and wanted to maximize profits.  They may have legitimately believed this was the future and they were going to be the ones to lead us to glory on the back of black box called Xbox One.  Maybe they felt they were too big a company to have to bow to the masses and that they could force whatever restrictions they wanted on us just as long as, “Oh my god a new Halo game!”  Regardless of their original intent, Microsoft has finally reversed their policies and totally managed to look foolish once again in the process.  Amazing.  All of this would have been impressive if it had happened one or two months after E3, after all the hype and anger died down and Microsoft grudgingly changed its ways, like Old Man Rivers giving the neighborhood kids their ball back to play with after it landed in its yard.  But this is a week after E3.  One Week.  Not only has Old Man Microsoft given the kids their ball back, but as they’re walking away he’s doing a song and dance number right out of “Singing in the Rain”.

We won’t know the full impact of Microsoft’s decision until a few months.  Has Sony and the PS4 successfully managed to gain a foothold in the next-console wars by being the first to woo gamers?  Or has Microsoft found a silver bullet worthy of toppling all the progress Sony has made since it first announced how it would do business.  Will gamers simply go back to the WiiU, filling Nintendo’s coffers to bursting?  Or will you buy an Xbox One because, “Holy Metroid, a new version of Minecraft exclusively for Xbox One!”

Time will only tell.