Thursday, February 7, 2013

Always-On Rumors True? Xbox May Follow Suit in Blocking Used Games

Now that Sony’s PlayStation team is a couple weeks out from what I think will be the PlayStation 4 reveal, It looks like it’s Microsoft’s turn to continue churning the rumor mill.  A while ago you’ll remember that we talked about rumors of the PlayStation 4 having a mechanism to block used games or games not registered to a user from running on the console.  And I’m pretty sure consensus across most people was that it would be a horrible idea.  And in my opinion, that consensus was right.

Now comes the fun part – We knew Sony wasn’t alone in having this technology, but now there’s evidence that it may actually be put into practice.  Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox 720, or Durango, or whatever the hell you want to call it, will be featuring similar technology for the purposes of blocking used games.  While a lot of what I’m seeing across the internet are really just referencing this as rumor, Edge Magazine claims to have a source at Microsoft saying that this will be done by requiring an internet connection to even function.  They went on to mention that games would still be available to be purchased on physical disk media, but those disks could include activation keys, providing nothing to anyone outside of the initial user that bought the media.

The report also says that the system will finally support Blu-ray discs instead after finally giving up on their horse named HD-DVD, but I’m not really sure you’re even reading that part.  The always-on rumor kind of trumps it.

I’ve always hated always-on connections as a method of DRM.  Always. I hated it when EA did it on the PS3.  I hated it when Blizzard did it with Diablo III.  And yes, I have even historically hated it with Steam.  Years ago when I refused to use Steam and people said I was nuts because “dude the games are cheaper and it’s soooo much easier,” my concerns were on a higher plane of nerd.  I’ve always considered business models that require always-on connections to have heavily detrimental aspects to the user experience – most prominently being the one that says No, you can’t play any time you want to.  And Steam did exactly that.  They did it with software instead of hardware so it might be slightly different to the minds of many but the principle remains the same.  And in my opinion, while sure it was cheaper and easier, it was setting a dangerous precedent in gaming.  Not only because it did in fact take something away from the user experience, but that gamers were ok with it, and allowed it to keep happening.  There shouldn’t be any rule on any console or system that says you can’t play the games you’ve paid for when the internet is down.  It adds another point of potential failure to your gaming console in your internet connection.

I might add, before you all go off on me, that I don’t include MMO’s in this little rant.  I mean the “O” stands for online.

In addition to all of this philosophical wrong,  if these reports from Edge are true then it’s a fantastic blow to the used game market, which as we discussed before with the PS4 would in fact help developers since they’d be the only shop in town. What this does do though, if true, is give Sony a tremendous opportunity to say “No, we’re not going to follow that model – come to team Sony, my peoples!”   They have the option to become the console of the people by abandoning this practice before their PS4 reveal.

Truth be told, I really hope Edge is wrong, or that someone lied to them in an extremely convincing manner.  Either way, I’ll keep you posted.  I am not going to call this 100% fact until I hear something official from the Xbox team.

If they’re not hiding from us.

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