Changes On the Horizon for Gamers?
By Michael WORKMAN
Microsoft has been in damage control mode since the Xbox One was announced back in May, mostly due to fans displeasure over “always-on” Internet connect and no game sharing policy. In June, E3 didn’t do much to help the Xbox One’s appeal since Microsoft was hoping that showing exclusive titles such as “Dead Rising 3,” “Titan Fall” and “Halo 5” would calm fans down and demonstrate that they are still the system of choice for gamers. It seemed Microsoft had made a horrible mistake and would need to do something drastic. Which indeed they did.
Only a few days after E3, Microsoft dropped a bombshell that lit up the Internet. The Xbox One reversed its Digital Rights Management policies, meaning the system would no longer require an Internet connection to operate, would be able to play used games, and have no regional restrictions.
Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, stated, “Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback.” Mattrick assured, “There will be no limitations to using and sharing games; it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”
This sudden turnaround certainly pleased many, but the question lingers: Has the damage already been done?
Unfortunately, while this seems like a victory for consumer rights, this Xbox One controversy may only end up hurting the gaming industry and gamers themselves. Microsoft and other companies understand that gamers can’t go back to the days of sharing cartridge games like “Golden Eye” for the Nintendo 64. The digital age has arrived and it is a very different environment that requires changes in the way video games are played. The Xbox One DRM policy was put in place to limit the rising pestilence of digital piracy that has plagued game developers. The truth is, it was not legions of gamers that forced Microsoft to change its DRM policy, but rather a very small and extremely vocal minority of hardcore gamers. This has become a disturbing trend especially in the gaming community.
Everyone knows that fans are passionate; you only need to look at pro sports to get an idea of how devoted fans can be. Hardcore gaming fans are different, though. Most are very tech savvy and already have a huge presence on several online forums and when they hear news about something they don’t like from the game industry, they get loud. Imagemacros and memes start appearing, mocking the developers or whatever is the target of their displeasure. Often times online petitions will pop up demanding developers change their product to suit them.
A big example of this exact behavior happened in 2012 with the release of “Mass Effect 3.” Fans were so outraged and dissatisfied by the ending of the game that a Facebook group called “Retake Mass Effect 3” formed whose sole purpose was to pressure the developers at Bioware to change the game’s ending. Eventually a DLC was released that expanded the ending and gave many hardcore gamers a sense that justice had been served.
Microsoft’s DRM reversal decision is only delaying the inevitable. Developers can’t just depend on the good will of gamers to not pirate their titles; piracy is causing heavy losses, especially for smaller companies. Many of these fans who don’t want any sort of DRM can’t seem to grasp that high end games are ludicrously expensive to make and take a lot of time and effort.
If a small group is allowed to dictate how the gaming industry will function, developers won’t be able to put in place the necessary changes needed to make great games. It’s ridiculous for these groups to scream bloody murder when something inconveniences them when they force companies to inconvenience all gamers.
But the sad truth is DRM is here to stay. It’s already in PC gaming with programs like “Valve’s Steam” and EA’s “Origin,” which use DRM, yet very few have problems with it. Sony received praise when it dedicated a portion of its E3 conference to mock Microsoft’s DRM features and many hail it as the standard bearer of how game companies should be. Yet in the coming years even Sony will have to push DRM on those vocal few and the proper way to do it is to ignore their temper tantrums.
Change is scary, but it can’t be halted forever.