Why Microsoft's Xbox One Backpedal Is A Hollow Victory
By now, you're probably all aware that Microsoft has seen sense and rescinded the positively absurd 24-hour authentication DRM which it was planning to package with the Xbox One. As it often does when such news reaches the public, the Internet exploded. Microsoft listened to the fans! We won!
I hate to be a downer, but...no, we didn't.
See, while Microsoft has axed its DRM, it's also eliminated one of the most promising features of the Xbox One: shareable digital libraries. With this, they've essentially turned the Xbox One into a shinier, more powerful Xbox 360 that can also stream live TV. As with their earlier decisions, the choice to eliminate cloud gaming from the experience is baffling. To me, it almost appears as though Microsoft is playing the spiteful child, as though it's punishing its fans for speaking up.
Further, don't make the mistake of thinking that Microsoft is somehow more connected with consumers now. The company - and its executives- are still as hopelessly out of touch as ever. They had months of feedback regarding what people thought of online authentication long before the Xbox One's announcement at E3. They've (presumably) heard people buzzing about their hatred of DRM for years beyond that. In short, they should have known better.
Worse, it's fairly clear that, while Mattrick and his team understand that people were upset about the Xbox One's DRM, they don't fully grasp why.
"You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world," Mattrick writes in a news post announcing the changes.
To be fair, a good portion of that is likely spin - Mattrick seems a touch savvier online than he does in person. Even so, it's fairly clear that Mattrick's post represents yet one more communication failure between Microsoft and its fans. Physical media honestly shouldn't even factor into the discussion.
The reason people were upset with Microsoft - and what Mattrick doesn't seem to understand - had next to nothing to do with physical discs. The issue was that Microsoft was ready to foist its flawed 24-hour authentication system onto gamers everywhere. It was the fact that Microsoft was ready to treat every player as a potential criminal. It was the fact that it seemed to believe 'digital' and 'DRM' go hand in hand.
This 180 wasn't necessary. Microsoft could have sought a compromise in this whole fiasco, it could have worked out something to make everybody happy. Instead, it panicked and cut out several promising features, simply because of the mistaken belief that its innovations couldn't exist without some faulty, draconian regulatory system in place. This all-or-nothing approach is foolish, and Sony is likely still laughing all the way to the bank.
Lastly, it's worth noting that the consumer is by no means at fault for Microsoft's poor and unreasonable response, however much people might like to believe otherwise. It was the organization's desision to add insult to injury; this had nothing to do with the fan outcry. All people wanted was for Microsoft to kill 24-hour authentication. We didn't ask for this.
I'm still holding out hope that this is just a temporary solution on Microsoft's part, that maybe they'll think of implementing digital sharing and cloud libraries at a later date - this time without requiring authentication. Until they do, my stance remains the same:
I still won't be buying an Xbox One.