After Microsoft hits reset on its Xbox DRM policies, gamers react

xbox one feature art

It seems like the backlash was too much for Microsoft: Yesterday, President Don Mattrick wrote a blog post officially walking back the changes the company had made to game DRM for the Xbox One, citing “user feedback.”

“While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content,” Hattrick wrote.

Here’s a summary of the changes:

  • No more constant internet connection needed for disc or downloaded games, but you do need one to set the system up initially.
  • Users will be able to play offline, but will no longer have the ability to play a game without the disc in the tray.
  • Sharing is at the owner’s discretion, but is limited to physical sharing of the disc. The Xbox Live library shares introduced by Microsoft no longer exist.
  • Games are eligible for resale at the behest of retailers (like Gamestop).

Essentially, the Xbox One now, for all intents and purposes, operates the same way that the Xbox 360 does today — no cloud, no sharing, and no Internet.

This extensive rollback of all of Microsoft’s changes to the console has lead fans to call it the “Xbox 180″ — and has divided a gaming community that is now suddenly confused about how to feel towards the Xbox One.

The change hasn’t necessarily won back the hearts of gamers automatically — some in the community are now reacting towards Microsoft’s seemingly “all-or-nothing” behavior that sacrifices all of cloud gaming and sharing properties to bring offline play to the table.

A popular infographic posted onto /r/ gaming, entitled “What We Want Xbox One,” shows how Microsoft could divide DRM based on media choice and gives a pretty clear indication that the only thing gamers want in this instance is choice. The choice to play into the DRM measures that unlock the access to the cloud, and the option to play offline at another time.

Still others are involved in the backlash to the second backlash, defending Microsoft and deriding others for complaining about the features in the first place. One notable person in this camp is Gears of War creator Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski, who expressed concerns on Twitter that walking back the DRM meant Microsoft left small-time developers out in the cold and prey to the resale industry.

“I want *developers* who worked their asses off to see money on every copy of their game that is sold instead of Gamestop. F*ck me, right?” Bleszinski tweeted.

And, still others are concerned that Microsoft refuses to address the level of data collecting and privacy implications of the system itself, and continue to press the company on unveiling more information about the system as a whole.

Plenty of memes still poke at Xbox One’s other mandatory feature, the Kinect. SlashGear has also reported that the Xbox Kinect may have to come with a warning sticker that announced the government may have access to the device if a new bill, entitled the “We Are Watching You” Act, passes congress. Microsoft has done very little to allay concerns about privacy, which still has the potential to turn away a large section of the fanbase.

In the long term, it’s hard to imagine that Microsoft has alienated its entire community wholesale, and that its snap-decisions will drastically affect the Xbox One or future consoles from the company. However, what this proves is that forced DRM by requiring a constant online connection or server check-ins will never fly with the core gaming fanbase. When purchasing a game, players want to feel a sense of choice and of ownership — that the game is theirs. Microsoft’s DRM undermined ownership, so the community complained.

I believe that there is a way to successfully implement a cloud-based system, but the next company to take a crack at it needs to listen to the gamers. Because really, all they want is the option. Is that too much to ask?

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