In light of Microsoft’s recent reveal of Xbox ONE, and the hate that it stirred up on the internet, Sony has officially stated that they will not have compulsory DRM on PS4. Publishers will be free to use their own proprietary DRM (just like they do now), which of course made the Xbox ONE look even more like hot street trash to any consumer. But is Microsoft just trying to reinvigorate the games industry, and is Sony holding it back?
Right off the bat, Xbox ONE is easy to hate due to its compulsory DRM and its need to be always online, but some don’t see the full picture and don’t understand that they will still be able to sell and buy used games. The only difference is that now places like Gamestop won’t get all the profit from used game sales. The inexcusable and absolutely detestable need to always be online is there specifically to allow that.
When someone buys a game and installs it, the machine automatically reads the unique code on the disk, checks in with Microsoft to see that nobody else is using that code, and then allows the game to be played. So far, it’s just like the universally beloved and objectively wonderful Steam. “Durr but Steam doesn’t make it impossible to play games when you’re not online durr,” you say. Sure, it’s unforgivable, a giant deal-breaker, and quite frankly a gigaton punch in the dick to anyone living in a place without constant internet access. What if somebody wants wants to play while their internet is out? And of course, let’s not forget all those people with gaming consoles in their car. Surely people still do that, right?
Now that the game is installed and the code is tied to your system, the game will check in every now and then to see that you’re the only one using that code. The reason for that is presumably so that you can sell that code back to the developer for money, untether that code from your system, and make it available for re-sale. Similarly, one may be able to sell that code to Gamestop or other similar places that will have contracts with Microsoft and the developers to do just that. That retailer will pay you once they magically remove the code from your system, presumably with help of Microsoft. This all means that now developers and publishers will be making money from trade-ins and used game sales.
Say you buy a game for $60, sell it back to the developer for $30, and then they sell it again for $60. The developer makes $60, then a further $30 from every re-sale. Even if Gamestop (or whichever middleman) take $10 from that, for services and whatnot, the publisher and developer makes more money from every consecutive buyer. As it stands now, they only get the proceeds from that initial $60 and then have to patch the game, bring out updates, and keep up servers for however many people down the line that buy the used copy from which only the seller benefits.
The main problems which rightfully scared most were the inability to lend games to friends and profitably selling games on eBay. From a recent press-release by Microsoft where they finally put all speculation to rest it was mentioned that a game can, in fact, be lent. That can be done just once per game and to a person who has been on your friends list for over a month, but I think that’s a lot better than nothing and, most importantly, more forward-thinking than Steam itself. In many groups of underage or college-broke friends, only one person might own a game, and then everyone else borrows it to save money. Now, that will not be possible for more than two people, unless you include your friends in your “family”. The way Microsoft put it is that anyone within that will be able to share the same library, with up to 10 people and you will all be able to play all the games from your library, while only one person other than you will be able to play any one specific game. So if you have Call of Assassins: Battlefield 2014 only you and one other person will be able to play it. It may require some level of trust to let people into the family and might just be too much of a pain in the ass, trying to sort out who gets to play what without getting into a massive fight. Inability to sell games on eBay is none too pleasing either, as that’s exactly how some get money to fund their gaming habits. But what if those problems were completely moot because of a marketplace with amazing prices that wouldn’t even need you to sell games?
If Microsoft takes another cue from Valve and makes the pricing and deals as delicious as the ones that Steam offers, nobody will even want to bother with selling games and buying used copies because everything will be so damn cheap. And with the ability to sell games that you no longer want, one will be able to keep on buying extremely cheap games while the developers will keep on getting a kickback from it. Now, developers making more money from game re-sales will mean that they will be more likely to make single player-only games as those are the ones that are sold back the quickest and the most often. They will be more likely to strip away nonsensical and unwanted multiplayer and just be able to make more goddamned games and take more risks, lack of which is something all gamers are whining about.
What this boils down to is that Steam always had DRM and everyone loves it. Nobody ever complains about inability to trade back games because they’re so damn cheap, so Microsoft is taking a step towards the light that is Valve, and arguably is even aiming to get past them. This could be a huge overhaul of the console games market, so of course people are freaked out and perhaps don’t understand all the details which I tried to lay bare here. The biggest problem is that Microsoft horribly mismanaged the news initially. Apparently, their marketing department has a budget of 20 cents and a ripped-off button, and is staffed entirely by monkeys who while away the time by throwing feces at Don Mattrick. In the end, the consumer rather absolutely benefits from it all, but unfortunately those with limited internet access are quite screwed indeed, unless Microsoft makes some changes to try to appease the general public.
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