E3 2013: Bludgeon that horse again! Xbox One DRM

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, E3 13, E3

So heading up to E3, Microsoft decided to drop their DRM bombshell so it would get buried over the next couple of days. In terms of permissiveness, the Xbox One is not nearly as bad as feared; of course, it is still terrible in certain ways.

Microsoft will allow games to be played offline on the Xbox One... for 24 hours. If your internet connection has been offline for longer than that period (unclear whether the timer starts when internet goes out or from last update) then your system will be locked to live TV and disc-based movies. Games and apps, even ones which should have no online functionality, will cease to function until you reconnect with Xbox servers.

This also means that if the Xbox servers have an outage lasting between 24 hours and "taken offline forever", all gaming and apparently apps will cease to function on the Xbox One.

And people wonder why I freak out about Windows Store.

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It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury

But at least they will allow some level of used-game transfer... if the publisher agrees. Check out this statement from Microsoft Studios:

In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.

So this will be an interesting experiment: how will revenue and profitability be affected for game publishers who deny used game sales? I honestly expect that used game sales actually promote the purchasing of more games and that initiatives to limit used game transfers will reduce user engagement. Of course Microsoft is now taking all of the flak from Sony, who may or may not be considering the same practice, but I am sure at least Microsoft is hoping that everyone will forget this when shiny new trailers erase the collective gamer memory.

In return, however, Microsoft is being fairly permissive when it comes to how many users can be licensed on a single disk. Up to ten family members are allowed access to your collective library.

And, after all, it should not be a surprise that a console game disappears when Microsoft shuts down their servers: consoles were always designed to be disposable. I have been proclaiming that for quite some time. The difference is now, people cannot really deny it.

Source: Microsoft

June 6, 2013 | 09:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)


Viva La PC Revolución!

I'm sittin this out. Only reason I bought the X-Box 360 was for Gears of War and X-Box for Halo. Console exclusives of course always screwing the consumer, plus long awaited games. I have nothing I'm really looking forward to. Don't care about the media center crap, just want to play games without having to think excessively about this or that holding me back.

Sony's going to come back this time around, unless they have some super secret bad news they aren't telling anyone. They said it best. This isn't a console for games, this is a media center with games being an optional choice on the menu.


June 6, 2013 | 09:24 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I expect that we'll see the typical consoles get punched in the crotch this generation. There will likely be some big monkeywrenches in their gears... I expect the browser vendors will flip a few tables.

June 6, 2013 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Jangsterish (not verified)

Perhaps this will allow competition among publishers in terms of resale costs for consumers. Although, I'm sure Microsoft will have their say in setting up minimums and such for opt-in publishers. It's unfortunate that this element is being forced into the gaming market.

June 7, 2013 | 02:26 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Well, it would cause competition in a space that was, and should according to a literally applied First Sale doctrine, be free.

Remember, content is not "property" despite the moniker "intellectual property". Content belongs to society and (in the US) the constitution only grants you limited exclusivity for a finite time. A political and judicial decision could slap them if its deemed harmful to society... although most laws end up going the other way. :-\

June 7, 2013 | 09:30 AM - Posted by Jangsterish (not verified)

I'm interested to see how Sony will approach the issue. At this point, they haven't provided a lot of information. This as an opportunity for Sony to sway a lot of people away from Microsoft, ~if~ they play their cards right.

June 7, 2013 | 08:31 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Well the funny thing is how Microsoft announced this:

"Microsoft Studios will not do this, we will not charge anything to retailers for selling used copies, etc etc etc." but "Third Party publishers can opt out if they desire".

It's another way of saying: "We were planning to do this... we already promised publishers we would... and now we want to change our mind but we must honour the commitments we made to EA/Activison/etc."

June 7, 2013 | 10:28 PM - Posted by Jangsterish (not verified)

This may put more than a few publishers in an awkward position. Do they charge for resales and pigeonhole customers ? Or do they forfeit resale capability and lose sales from people who won't bother purchasing in the first place. I don't know... I miss the cartridge days sometimes.

June 6, 2013 | 11:21 PM - Posted by capawesome9870

I wonder who the xbox would/could consider to be in my "ten family members." i have 4 (blood) family members (plus me), but i also have a friend or 2 that i go to his house and bring my games. Could i add my 2 friends to my Family list for the few times we go and play games that i own and they do not.

June 7, 2013 | 08:50 AM - Posted by grommet

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure those ten family members will need to access the content from the console it was purchased for. I seem to remember something along those lines (without the number ten disclosed) was mentioned in a previous statement from Microsoft.

June 7, 2013 | 09:42 AM - Posted by grommet

Nope I was wrong- this is off Microsoft's site:

Share access to your games with everyone inside your home: Your friends and family, your guests and acquaintances get unlimited access to all of your games. Anyone can play your games on your console--regardless of whether you are logged in or their relationship to you.

Give your family access to your entire games library anytime, anywhere: Xbox One will enable new forms of access for families. Up to ten members of your family can log in and play from your shared games library on any Xbox One. Just like today, a family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend’s house. Only now, they will see not just Forza, but all of your shared games. You can always play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time.

June 7, 2013 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Brokenstorm

"and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time"

Wow, I though the 10 family member thing sounded pretty good, but it looks like only 1 of my family member can play any of my game at the same time.

So if I have 2 brothers and they each have their console only one of them can use my games even if they want to play different games.

This is it, not getting an xbone.

June 6, 2013 | 11:22 PM - Posted by capawesome9870

On the end of life for the Xbox; Microsoft could keep a small update server running, that would update xbox ones that connect to it to allow any game disk with out the online verification. although this is still 10+ years out, so M$ can plan a little.

June 7, 2013 | 02:10 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Or they just shut it down for the same reason they shut down Live for Original Xbox games: they don't care about societal benefits, they care about whatever they think will make them money.

They could do a lot, but they have demonstrated that they won't.

June 7, 2013 | 07:19 PM - Posted by razor512

While there is a chance, there is a significantly greater chance that they will just end support and leave users with $600 paperweights

when a company decides to end support, they usually want to do it as cheaply as possible, and a good cost saving way to end support is to not pay programmers to write an update that will get rid of the DRM.

June 7, 2013 | 01:51 AM - Posted by brucek2 (not verified)

I wonder if DRM is really the only or even the primary driver of the daily connection requirement.

Could it also be about advertising (having fresh spots to show, increasing the chance they are interactive, getting logs back to advertisers more quickly?)

And following today's PRISM disclosures... possibly also some encouragement from NSA to dump all the acquired data into their servers at least daily? Think of the possibilities: its got motion sensors, camera, a microphone I think....

June 7, 2013 | 08:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes a BIG M$ EYE staring you right in the face, as the voice from the box commands you to dance, Yes, dance that Ballmer Monkey Boy dance, and while you are at it give us yorr credit card number, don't worry about typing it in, ae can see and hear you! Yor TV Well! we we control the horizontal! we control the vertical! welcome to the M$ unlimited chain around your ankle, and you thought it was just another gamening interface! BWAH, HA, Ha HA, HAW!

June 10, 2013 | 03:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Haha, nice reference to the UHF Theme Song.

June 10, 2013 | 03:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Oh never mind, looks like the part in that song is actually a reference to The Twilight Zone, which is probably what you were referencing. Guess you learn something new every day.

June 7, 2013 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

[ae] : should be: we,

see what happins when the cheep lettering wears off of your cheep samsung keyboard, 3 months after you purchased it!

June 7, 2013 | 08:51 AM - Posted by grommet

"It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury"
I will never unsee that- thanks.

June 7, 2013 | 03:32 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

You're welcome.

June 7, 2013 | 08:54 AM - Posted by YTech

Thanks for the heads up!

I was very disappointed after watching the first live press-release.

Just more reasons not to get that unit.

They're probably focusing on American Urban clienteles. Would be "great" if they'd think about the vast majority who has no Internet access. What if you lose power? I know I could push an extra 2 hours of gaming with entry backup power devices :)

PC is still the best, no matter what the profit sales market stats tells you!

June 7, 2013 | 03:50 PM - Posted by Chris B (not verified)

I'm very glad they're doing this.

What they've done this generation is release a console using an AMD graphics card and a relatively anemic x86 processor. They're ratcheting down on DRM and used game sales.

On the PC side they've tried to force users into an awkward as hell interface on an operating system that's pissed off one of the head honchos of digital distribution to the point he's gotten his company pushing toward Linux.

Additionally, said company, Valve, is about to launch their own console.

So really we have this fantastic perfect storm forming. Not only will the Xbox one and the PS4 be easily emulated on PC within two years of their launches (this is my prediction), but Microsoft will alienate their users so badly that they start to move toward Linux. Developers may start looking at OpenGL and other non-Microsoft standards more often than they look at MS stuff.

Markets are slippery, squirmy things and Microsoft - as well as other game companies - are grabbing on a bit too tightly. Game developers are going under left, right, all over the place - but indie developers seem to be prospering. There's a split in philosophy between traditional developers/publishers and Indie devs.

Valve's found itself on the side of the Indie developers. It looks like Sony might actually be adopting the next generation's philosophy as well. It really isn't a complex philosophy, it's easy to adopt. It can be summarized in a single sentence and explained very easily:

Don't give the users any bullcrap that you don't have to give.

Microsoft has gone FAR into the 'damn the torpedoes - we're in control, give us your money' philosophy and they have competitors who have equally compelling software lineups who think differently.

I predict their utter obliteration for this round of the console wars. I'll also predict Nintendo getting their act together in a year and rallying, and Microsoft patching this 24 hour phone-home requirement out of the Xbox One about 3 months too late for it to save them from a visceral marketing campaign from Sony that'll make the Apple attack ads on Windows Vista look friendly.

June 8, 2013 | 01:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Open drivers, hardware, OpenHSA, and open OSs, the server and cloud services sector is going Open, gaming should be the same with OpenHSA aware, open OSs, controlling x86, ARM, and any GPUs! All openHSA certified hardware will work plug and play style with CPUs, GPUs, and certified Open OSs and drivers will enable gaming platforms that resemble whole computing clusters on a single chip! There is no reason why for example 24 ARM CPU cores, and a reasonable GPU, could not be made to work for a low cost gaming system, and for that matter an APU with x86 and an ARM cluster with graphics on the same die, or systems that could scale, buy adding more computing power via additional PCI CPU/GPU clusters ! Maybe the Indipendent gaming industry can do with ARM and a custom GPU, and open OSs, drivers, and hardware, what the entrenched x86/OEM/OS companys Can Not/Will Not do!

June 8, 2013 | 03:02 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

ARM is incumbered as well as x86, the difference is that ARM is much more willing to license than Intel is.

As much as I like the concept of getting down into the native assembly language, the real openness comes from abstraction of hardware... unless someone like Sun (clearly not anymore) or Arduino steps up to the plate.

June 9, 2013 | 12:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's what HSA aware OSs are ment to do, abstract the hardware, any CPU, GPU, ETC, under a standard API, The HSA foundation and others, including the cloud computing makers are developing cross architecture open OS's, Hardware/drivers, APIs. The very definition of HSA is to abstract a heterogeneous mixture of hardware under an industry standard API/HAL to make computing platforms with and CPU, GPUs, etc, automatically interface and work togather, a plug and play for CPUs. GPUs, etc, what ever the native instruction set of the CPUs/GPUs their hardware will use a standard HAL (hardware Abstraction layer)! This is already being done with openCL,openGL,webGL, what HSA does and will do is take this to the OS level and using a standerd hardware/software API that all programming platforms can call upon this standard OS/API that can automatically create an asymmetrical computing environment that utilizes CPUs/GPUs/etc without the need for native programming!

June 9, 2013 | 01:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Go to this website and read up on HSA!


June 7, 2013 | 07:16 PM - Posted by razor512

Any type on online DRM or activation = bad (regardless of how unintrusive it may seem at the moment.

Think about what happens when the DRM servers die. What happens if the game maker goes out of business and takes their servers with them?

The fact about online based DRM is that you have no certainty in your ability to play your games at any point in the future. If one of your games, has it's DRM server die, you will end up in 2 situations, either you will never be able to reinstall because the initial install requires a server activation. Another situation for more heavy handed DRM, is that you may have a game that does periodic DRM checks where if the DRM server dies, then your game stops working within a few minutes, to a few hours.

If your PS4 requires any kind of online activation, then you have to wonder, if sony leaves the console market or just decided to stop supporting the PS4 because a new console came out, or if they go out of business. (how many people here have ever gone back to an older console to play a game, or played a game that is older than a year or 2, or played a game by a game maker that went out of business. (what if those games required online activation? )

Furthermore, without annoying online DRM, even if a multiplayer game loses support, dedicated servers can still remain, for example, the game freespace 2 still has an online community, long after the game lost support and related servers were shut down.

June 7, 2013 | 08:27 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

If gaming was pure entertainment, that wouldn't matter because it would be interchangable with some other surviving content.

The problem is, we want gaming to be art (which is timeless, intrinsically valuable, and not interchangable) and yet we continually support platforms which are completely designed to NOT be timeless.

Seriously, tell a gamer their content is not art and they'll chastize you. Tell them their art can't be timeless and they'll chastize you for "not supporting the console makers ability to make money" or
"PCs are just too hard".

Shows how much they want their games to actually be art... :-\

June 8, 2013 | 10:03 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

WHEN is Balmer going to be fired?

Between the Win 8 trainwreck and the check in mommy drm on the XBone, there should be plenty of blood in the water for sharks.

Glad I got rid of my MS stock.

June 9, 2013 | 09:26 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

this once every 24 check in thing is WAY overboard, guaranteed they'll be a workaround cause I know too many poorer people that don't have internet access except their phone.

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