Well it looks like Microsoft has recanted and their diabolical plans have all been upended due to “customer feedback” also known as shareholder and Wall Street feedback. Microsoft announced that all those “draconian laws” that they were initiating with the Xbox One, you know the always online requirement, the publishers can charge you a fee for even thinking about sharing a title, and the oh by the way you can only let someone “borrow” your game once and that’s only if they’ve been your “friend” for 30 days on Xbox Live requirement, are all solidly laid to rest and have gone the way of the Sega CD as in it sounded like a good idea at the time.
Personally, I actually think Microsoft was on to something with their walled garden Apple-esque behavior. It seems like Microsoft is looking to make a unified, one size fits all, software solution that would create uniformity across the Microsoft brand regardless of hardware. By merging tablet, PC, and Xbox platforms in a way that would keep gamers hooked into Microsoft’s matrix, they could ensure that whether you’re on the couch, in the office, or on the go, you’d be in the Xbox Live ecosystem. In other words, they are trying to make the Xbox One more like a PC. Which is obvious when you look at the hardware and software specs. Today, if you buy a PC game, you can either get the disc from a retail store or shipped to you, or just download it. Once the game is installed you never touch that disc again for the most part, as most PC gamers can attest some having a decade worth of old boxes with discs in them on their shelves collecting dust. All updates, patches, etc. are handled directly on the machine and most of the time even expansions.
No one ever “shares” a PC game and it’s next to impossible to trade it in due to licensing and yet PC gaming is just as vibrant as ever and more so in some instances. Microsoft was trying to bring that model to consoles and either failed to realize that console consumers didn’t want the same experience as a PC, or their PR guys just really suck. I actually like the idea of the Xbox One as a dedicated media PC that specializes in gaming. You buy your titles online or directly on the Xbox, it downloads, and you play. All your titles are kept in a library by user name and it doesn’t matter what hardware you log into, you still have access to all the games in your library. Does this model sound familiar? It should because that’s exactly what Steam does!
For those who have no experience with Steam, it’s like the best thing to ever happen to PC gaming. All your titles are in one place, managed by your account user name. You can play your games on any PC or Mac, you just need to log in, download, and play. If the titles you purchase are for both the PC and Mac, your games are available to play on both platforms. I truly believe this is what Microsoft had in mind with the Xbox One and is actually where console gaming should be going. I have yet to hear someone complain that they can’t trade their games in on Steam or can’t lend a game in their library to another Steam user, although rumor has it, that’s about to change and Steam’s implementation of said service, is what Microsoft should copy. Steam users and PC/Mac gamers in general accept these so-called limitations as part of the territory. Once the game is bought that’s it. No do overs, no trade ins, etc. You enter the license key and it’s yours forever, more or less, and some titles do cost as much as console games and more in some cases.
So I guess the industry is happy now. But the rejoicing will come with a cost. One policies in Microsoft’s agenda that I thought was a good idea was Steam-like. With the online requirement, Microsoft was going to allow you access to all your games from any Xb0x One once you logged in and up to 10 “family” members would also have access to your games. That meant that you could have multiple Xbox Ones in your home, your entire family sharing games and content and no more packing up hard drives and discs when you visit friends or relatives. But now that is gone away with the axing of the Online requirement. However, I’m not so certain that Microsoft has given up on their Xbox = PC plans. The following quote makes me think that they are in investor and market appeasement mode for now and are coming up with a hybrid solution until the dust settles and a year or two from now can gradually implement their initial plans:
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that consumers in their desire to keep things as 1990’s as possible, may have staunched innovation and actually set the next generation back a little. Though there’s hope for those of us who imagine a next generation that is digital, it looks like Microsoft may create a separate policy for those who have to have a physical disc verses those that prefer a digital ecosystem. Time will tell. For now, I guess it’s a victory for those who like things the way they are and have been for the last 2-3 decades…