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

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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.

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