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New Xbox 720 – Always-on DRM would be arrogant, foolhardy and ill-judged

Andy Vandervell by

New Xbox

New Xbox 720 always-on DRM

All I wanted to do was watch the Formula One highlights on Sky.

“Error: You must be signed in to Xbox Live.”

Sigh. Is the internet down? Nope. Can I sign-in again? No dice. Test connection. Still no dice. Restart Xbox…

It’s working, whoop.

10 minutes later…

“Error: You must be signed in to Xbox Live.”

Rinse and repeat, twice. Annoyed, infuriated. Dissatisfied.

I gave up in the end, but not before I was reminded of the continuing rumours that the Xbox One due to be announced on 21 May will not only bar second-hand games, but will use ‘always-on DRM’ that, when an internet connection is absent, will timeout after three minutes.

Rumours they might be, but the lack of an official denial is telling – especially after Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth took to Twitter to say “…that's the world we live in. #dealwithit” when discussing the Kotaku report that set this story in motion

In the fallout, Orth resigned from his post – a tragic consequence for simply sharing one’s opinion, but a topic for another day. The key point is this…

Microsoft could have nipped this whole sorry tale in bud with a simple, straightforward denial. It hasn’t.

That worries me.

Microsoft: please listen to your fans

It worries gamers, too. When we asked our TrustedReviews Facebook page followers which next-gen console they favoured, one simply responded:

“Which ever camp doesn't have ‘always on’.”

Another said:

“Not going to buy it [the new Xbox 720] for that very reason. Do not care how good it is.”

A scientific survey this is not, but you don’t have to search very hard to find similar sentiments. It seems the very topic of always-on DRM is toxic. People put up with all sorts of problems and frustrations with their favourite tech, but ‘always-on DRM’ is a deal breaker.

People will leave Xbox and join PlayStation over this.

Microsoft isn’t this stupid, surely?

I don’t believe, perhaps naively, Microsoft is so stupid to follow through on any always-on DRM plans it could have for Xbox 720. The recent Xbox Live outage, which prevented users accessing Netflix and other apps, should have been warning enough.

But if that, and the fallout from Orth’s mis-tweet, aren’t enough, then surely the sensational failures of Diablo 3 and SimCity to implement always-on, not to mention Ubisoft’s belated backtrack on its always-on system on PC, are enough to dissuade it?

Hell, if Microsoft was to start its 21 May launch by saying it wouldn’t implement always-on DRM, it could turn a potential disaster into a great PR triumph.

But if Microsoft ignores all the signs, all the rage and all the evidence, it would be one of the most arrogant, foolhardy and ill-judged decisions I can remember.

I’m an Xbox fan, so I hope it doesn’t. How about you?

READ MORE: Xbox 720 news, release date & rumours

Andy Vandervell is Deputy Editor at Trusted Reviews. He tweets at www.twitter.com/andyvan and you can follow him on Google Plus too.

Go to comments

Charlie Mozzie

April 25, 2013, 4:19 pm

Microsoft has stated on several occasions that they will not be doing always-on hardware so why are people still talking about it...


April 25, 2013, 4:30 pm

Really? If you have a link or source for a direct quote from a official Microsoft spokesperson, please share.

In any case, as I say in the piece, I don't believe (I hope) Microsoft isn't stupid enough to implement something like this for all the reasons outlined above. I don't believe the rumours are an accident. I'm sure this was on the table at some point, but I find it hard to believe Microsoft would proceed after all this.


April 25, 2013, 8:27 pm

If you want to pay $300 for $800 worth of hardware then learn to live with DRM.

MS are not deliberately trying to p1ss you off, they are just trying to protect their assets. Don't like it? Don't buy it but i don't see you complaining about Steam and they didn't invest billions in developing, manufacturing and distributing a console.

Bill Gates


April 25, 2013, 8:42 pm

WB Andy Vandervell. This place has changed a lot since you left and returned. Us readers have not been kept informed at all of changes. Staff come and go. So many new names you wonder who's TR and who isn't and what they're doing here. This place feels very cold and impersonal these days. Hopefully, with your return as Deputy Ed, we'll see a turn around? Nice to see you again though. Not seen much of Ed lately actually (busy over at BitTech?) and we don't see enough of Gordon either. You're gonna have to fix that. ;)

Ian Smith

April 25, 2013, 8:49 pm

Technologies which protect the company's assets while providing no benefit to the consumer are, while common enough, ultimately self-defeating. Fortunately, consumers have far more power to veto this technology with their dollars than the content industry would have you believe.


April 25, 2013, 11:49 pm

I wonder if Lars, Riyad and Benny will also be returning :) ? It's good to see Andy back. I think there's always a danger of believing things in the past were better than they actually were, but in TR's case it has a ring of truth.

My wishes include a return to tangible news stories instead of the rumour and speculation that passes for a lot of TR's news output nowadays. I know they probably bring in more readers, but after the 5th XBox 720/iPhone 5S rumour maybe it's time to focus on other stories.

Also the move to Disqus comments hasn't really delivered on its promise of more activity in the comments section, except in a few cases - mainly the product comparison articles. What I felt it did though was get rid of a lot of the regular commenters who didn't sign up with the new system. I still think the best system was in place just before the redesign two years ago. Anyway, nostalgia, eh - time to get back to the article.


April 26, 2013, 7:33 am

"People will leave Xbox and join PlayStation over this."

Indeed they will.

I sympathise with banning second hand games, for it is a cancer at the heart of the games industry, but on a sheer point of principle i refuse to get MS's magic box of DRM nastiness if Sony will provide me an alternative without.


April 26, 2013, 8:31 am

Geez here we go again a discussion on something that nobody the hell know's besides < Microsoft> really does this have be discussed a million times more

And you call yourselves fans ya right more like sell outs !!!


April 26, 2013, 8:43 am

Well said, sir.


April 26, 2013, 8:46 am

Microsoft's profit margins are their prerogative, not paying customers who don't care beyond what is a good deal for them as individuals. We aren't paid to do market-research for Steve ballmer but Microsoft ignore the widespread concern at their peril.

It is the consumers right to not buy, as you rightly point out. Let's see who loses that potential war of the wallets if the speculation about DRM is true. Personally, I have choices as a gamer...And I won't be losing billions in potential revenue and lost profits.

Spike Black

April 26, 2013, 8:48 am

I lost my phone line the other day, no fault of my own as wire had broken in the connection box of my street but for two days I had no internet.

When there are thunder storms my adsl goes nuts and can barely stay online for 2-3 seconds

Then we have the outages caused by ISP hardware failure, a portion of the UK lost internet due to a fault in a BT exchange.

Making it always on drm would stop me from using the xbox720 on those occasions. Using it any where I don't have internet access would stop me using it.

With MS still charging for Xbox live with the excuse of more security, even though there are reports of that MS execs had their accounts hacked and Xbox live being taken down, with adding always on DRM I'd make the move to PS4. Especially as Bungie are no longer in control of Halo (4 was lacklustre imo) and GoW series has ended.

Have they not learned anything from the DRM complaints from people over the last few years.

People are also forgetting that removing the second hand market also prevents you from lending a game to a friend. How many have done that over the years?


April 26, 2013, 8:53 am

Thanks for the welcome, guys. I can't speak to the goings on in my absence, but I'm delighted to be back and I promise you we've got a great team here who - now that you've mentioned it - will get a proper introduction in due course.

In the meantime, do share any feedback you have and I'll do my best to do something about it.


April 26, 2013, 9:00 am

As I said in the piece, if Microsoft had just denied it we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Scott Rice

April 26, 2013, 1:44 pm

according to Bungie, the game Destiny is an always online game.
so i guess this always on rumor has some merit

Steve Lambert

April 26, 2013, 3:03 pm

True, but look at how many units Sim City still managed to shift—and they still haven't fixed the bloody thing!


April 26, 2013, 7:57 pm

It's one of the reasons we wanted the boy back :) I hear you guys, there's been a bit of firefighting for a while and that's meant we've not been able to be quite as engaged as we would want to be, but we're getting there slowly. Please keep telling us what you think and what you like and don't like.


April 26, 2013, 8:00 pm

My first experience of always on DRM was Half-Life 2. What a disaster that was, and all during the days of (predominatly) dial-up internet! I vowed then that I would not support games with heavy handed DRM, the fact that a whole platform might be involved now is a scary thought.


April 26, 2013, 8:52 pm

You're right, but then many people bought it before the problems really came to light, or decided to ignore them because they wanted the game so much. If another game, a less sought after one, tried the same stunt, I'd wager people would be more circumspect.


April 27, 2013, 2:09 pm

Any chance of putting the number of comments an article has back on the front page? That would be a small but welcome change in my book.


April 28, 2013, 12:25 pm

"Rumours they might be, but the lack of an official denial is telling"

No it's not, Microsoft have a set in stone policy of not responding to rumours, everybody knows that but still you try and make their silence out to mean something. Well, here's what it means, it means they aren't getting drawn in to talking about the next Xbox untill they are ready to, May 21st.

"especially after Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth took to Twitter to say..."

If you read the full exchange and have any kind of a sense of humor it's pretty clear Adam Orth was on a wind up or "trolling" as he put it and while he probably should have known better, you guys still helped him to lose his job so maybe you're happy now?

"Microsoft isn’t this stupid, surely?"

No, MS, whatever anyone thinks of them are a successful business so it's clear that the stupidity lies with sites like this one that perpetuate unsubstantiated rumours and naive assumptions because like a child who can't wait till christmas day to open their presents, can't wait a few months for real news to be released.


April 28, 2013, 7:11 pm

Hi Pbryanw
It's in the pipeline. We had to get the previous commenting system out and the new one in to get some of the core functionality the way it needed to be. There're still a few gremlins we're working on but we hope to have that on the backlog soon.


April 29, 2013, 9:21 am

the new rumor is that its up to the publisher to decide the level of DRM

Simon Winstanley

April 30, 2013, 11:59 am

Slightly off topic, but it warms my heart to see the kind of comments and discussion that endeared me to TR in the first place all those years ago. :)

Vlad Bazarab

May 1, 2013, 4:58 pm

I don't think they are stupid. I think they are arrogant.

I even
wrote to them and linked to a yahoo article where everybody commenting
was saying I'll either buy a PS4 or build a budget gaming PC if Xbox
don't allow 2nd hand games and be internet free.

Plenty of people still have dubious internet connections in the UK or just don't want to be connected online all the time.

concerning reason for their insistence is that kinect is supposed to be
built in and includes eye movement scanning and expression analysis. The
CIA openly stated that they would be using this technology to monitor

What does this mean? It means that while you're watching TV, that xbox 720 will be watching you reactions and hey...it has a built in camera and microphone so it can bug you and film you discussing politics or terror acts on the news. It will also be able to trigger from conversations you are having in what used to be private....as if your smart tv wasn't vulnerable enough to hackers already.

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