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Xbox One DRM Policy Reversal – The good, the bad and what it means for gamers

Andrew Williams

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Xbox One DRM Policy Reversal – The good, the bad and what it means for gamers

Microsoft has confirmed that much of the Xbox One’s controversial DRM (digital rights management) has been removed. Its games will work much as they do on the Sony PS4, or indeed the Xbox 360.

But what does this mean for gamers? There are good and bad points to note.

GOOD: You won’t need to be online to play Xbox One

At E3 2013 Xbox’s Don Mattrick was pretty blunt about the Xbox One’s DRM, saying that if you want an offline console, buy an Xbox 360. He has since made a complete U-turn.

The Xbox One will no longer require an internet connection to play offline games. As Microsoft says, “you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.”

Blu-ray discBAD: You’ll need the disc to play games

The downside of this much more traditional approach to authentication is that you will need to keep the game disc in the drive to play. The clutter of console gaming isn’t going anywhere.

With the previous DRM policy, which required a once-a-day connection to the internet to play, you did not need the disc to play a game. Instead, your ‘right to play’ the game was checked using this online authentication, and was linked to your Xbox Live account.

GOOD: But you can also buy games online for disc-free play

Not all games have to be bought at a store, though. Microsoft is going to release all of its Xbox One games on Xbox Live, at the same time as they appear in stores.

Bought this way, you won’t need to have the disc in the drive to play. However, the download size of these games is likely to be immense. Xbox One games use the Blu-ray format, which offers 50GB capacity in dual-layer format.

These downloaded games cannot be shared, either.

BAD: It makes taking your games with your trickier

Under the previous DRM regime, all of your games – including those bought from shops – would show up in your Xbox Live account. Your games would travel around with you, in virtual form.

Now this persistent collection will only feature games bought directly from Xbox Live. Games bought in disc form will not be ‘linked’ to your Xbox Live account in the same way. Technologically-speaking, this is a significant backwards step.

GOOD: There’s no region locking

Alongside confirming that the Xbox One’s DRM has been dropped, Don Mattrick also announced that there will be no region locking for the console.

Don MattrickFor most gamers, this will make little difference. But for the more intrepid, this means you can import games from another country and play them with no issues.

With simultaneous digital releases of games planned, the benefit of region-free disc games is minor. However, it is still possible that not all games will be released in all territories – for example some Japanese games are not released in the West, and are left untranslated. This tends to happen with titles that will have a limited appeal in territories like the US and UK but it means fans of JRPGs should be happy.

GOOD: You can still rent games

One of the most damaging ramifications of the Xbox One’s original DRM strategy was that game rentals would no longer be possible. The main game rental spot of old, Blockbuster, has a limited high street presence these days, but online game rentals still hold appeal for many, through services like LoveFilm.

Until 19 June, it looked like only Sony PS4 games would be rent-able.

GOOD: High-street retailers get to live another day

High street games retail is not in a good state. In 2012, Game got rid of 40 per cent of its workforce and closed 277 stores – more have shut since. US game sales dropped 31 per cent year-on-year in May.

The last thing it needs is another knock. The original Xbox One DRM would make game trade-ins possible only through particular retail partners. However, the new scheme means you’ll be able to sell game through eBay, or trade them into a high street shop. Pre-owned games sales will continue with the next generation.

Comment: What does this mean for Microsoft?

Evan Kypreos Evan Kypreos, Editor

The turnaround by Microsoft on the draconian DRM and second-hand games policies it announced a short time ago goes to show just how hard it felt the consumer backlash. What we shouldn’t forget here is that if Sony had announced similar policies Microsoft would never have back-tracked and console gamers would have to suffer in silence or opt for the Wii U. It’s a big win for the consumer and can only help Sony’s cause with the PS4.

Many gamers won’t forget that only an embarrassing u-turn will allow them to play used games for free, or play at all without an internet connection on the Xbox One. How damaging this will be to Microsoft and the Xbox One remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the fact the PS4 is more powerful and significantly cheaper is the real threat. I expect a hefty price drop within a few months of the Xbox One’s release for it keep pace with its bitter rival.

Next, read our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison

Matthew Priestley

June 20, 2013, 12:04 pm

They were ready and willing to shaft their customers when they thought they would make a ton of cash thinking that people would just accept it. They even had the gall to dismiss their customers concerns about it needing a internet connection by making that sarcastic comment about the 360.

Now, after all the negative internet chatter, they have had to embarrassingly climb down from their vision because they are worried about their profits!

Nik

June 20, 2013, 4:05 pm

as Mr wolfie smith would say POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

pimlicosound

June 20, 2013, 4:16 pm

It's interesting that only now are the big media sites admitting that there were any positives to the Xbox One's DRM policies. From today's news:

http://www.theverge.com/2013/6...

http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/...

http://www.eurogamer.net/artic...

http://www.computerandvideogam...

The Verge, Polygon, Eurogamer and CVG are all running articles explaining that Microsoft's U-turn means that we have lost some positive features that had the potential to change console gaming for the better.

I'd love to ask the technology and gaming press why they helped kick up a storm of protest and relentless negativity against Microsoft and the Xbox One, only to do a U-turn of their own when Microsoft bent to the pressure of their demands?

What is to blame? Cynicism? Technical illiteracy? Click-baiting?

To the guys at Trusted Review, I hate to lump you in with these other websites, but it looks like you too have jumped on the bandwagon of explaining the positive aspects of DRM only after those positives have been taken away from us. Can you please tell me why you (and perhaps why other websites) did not explain these positives sooner, to provide some balance to the debate over the last few weeks?

Andrew_TR

June 20, 2013, 4:19 pm

You're right about a strange media backlash - this is why we've kept things fairly straight rather than opting for the 'incensed opinion article' approach.

pimlicosound

June 20, 2013, 4:28 pm

Yep, thanks for keeping things fairly sensible around here. It's always appreciated.

Adnan Naimat

June 20, 2013, 7:30 pm

Their previous announcement seriously made me ditch Xbox after years but now I think I will still stick with Xbox :)

Andrew_TR

June 20, 2013, 8:09 pm

Sounds like many people are with you, given the Amazon pre-order catching fire. Not sure which to go for myself. Plus I still have a giant pile of shame for the current consoles (not to mention Steam). There just aren't enough hours in the day anymore...

gunholio

June 20, 2013, 8:17 pm

I have 2 360 at the moment. I have my original launch (no rrod!) 360 and then I picked up the MW special edition elite when I moved in with my girlfriend. I have the elite in the front room and the original in the attic room for when my girlfriends has friends round or when she watching soaps etc. 3 floors apart I thought this new DRM was the answer to all my leaving discs on the wrong floor - well, eventually when I picked up a second a few years down the line.
Also the family Gold was going to be good as then my gf could use the it for iplayer and Netflix instead of having to sign in as me and getting game requests while i'm out.
That and the really cool way they showed in the E3 presentation of having a game sit in the back ground and wait for your friend to accept a game request whilst you played something different had me looking forward to the new system as it was.

Markus Ptolmey

June 21, 2013, 6:21 am

It is strange to see that people are fine with Steam's DRM, and everything cloud strategy, but they were up in arms against similar strategy of MS. However, with regard to used games/rentals etc their planned ambitions were pretty pathetic, so good to see that public pressure made them retreat.

On PS4 being more powerful (factually correct), but practically, the it is the lower spec console which will define the standard. Hence, XBOne will not have much disadvantage there, and as overall package it will be pretty competitive (if not better) proposition.

Spike Black

June 21, 2013, 10:55 am

Anything bought on line could still work the same way they suggested. The backlash was against the online drm for disk based games. Downloaded games linked to a live account should still work as they suggested across multiple consoles, you then have a choice download with drm or carry a disc around.

Many of us luddites prefer to hold the disc in our hands. I don't buy MP3's for instance I still prefer to buy the CD.

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