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War never changes

GamesRadar plays devil’s advocate regarding Microsoft’s reversal of its DRM decisions for the Xbox One.

But, today, Microsoft pulled a 180. Don Mattrick, bless his soul, wrote a heartfelt letter apologizing for misreading the bones Microsoft’s Voodoo Priestesses tossed onto the table of their board room. He told us that our feedback mattered, and that the Xbox One would have an ironic day-one patch to remove all of the features gamers hated. But, in that, gamers struck a deal with the devil. Sure, you’re getting all the stuff you wanted, but you’re also going to be losing things you didn’t even know you could’ve had. Things that could have made the concept of “used games” a thing of the past, and things that may have truly moved the industry forward.

There’s a lot that Microsoft has canned in order to address the negative criticism and it has resulted in a number of features getting cut in order to remove the two biggest concerns: the ability to play and trade used games as well as not requiring an always-on internet connection. Whilst it could be seen as spiteful, it’s more likely that the cutting of the internet connection requirement means the DRM as it has been development can’t function. Because of this, features such as the family sharing and accessing games in the cloud can’t function without a serious rewrite of code.

I’m still on the fence about my next-gen console decision but I’ve been heavily leaning towards the PS4 for some time. Regardless of anyone’s console decision, there’s now very little to differentiate these two competing games systems. Microsoft’s idea for the future of entertainment may have proved unpopular but it had some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, we’ll now never know how these ideas might have developed. It could have lead to the death of the used games market without see a reduction in new game prices, but it could just as easily had the opposite effect. Because of everyone’s (rather understandable) hatred of DRM, this was never given a fair chance.

Watch Dogs, Ubisoft’s open-world game based upon the premise of a protagonist being able to hack into electronic devices, costs £54.99 to pre-order for either next-gen console in the UK. Currently, you’d expect to pay as much as £44.99 for an Xbox 360 game, so publishers are already jacking up the prices. But on the PC? It’s available for £29.99 on PC DVD, almost £30 less since most places don’t deal with used PC games due to piracy and certain DRM restrictions. If trashing the used games market brought the console game price down to the same price point as the PC then that’s a win for everyone involved.

Even though both the Xbox One and PS4 will offer games available for download at the same time as their physical release in stores, chances are the pricing will be the same and there’ll be nothing, apart from the convenience, to tempt people to use downloads. Since used games will then be available, prices will remain high since more people feel getting these expensive games on physical media is more beneficial because they can recoup some of the costs back during trade-in, because the original game’s price was so high in the first place. See the pattern?

Something needs to change regardless of Microsoft’s decision yet, no matter how unpopular, they at least suggested something. I admired Microsoft for what they had planned and, in fact, some of these features that had previously been announced were very appealing to me, but I can’t say I’m not disappointed in their decision to buckle under the criticisms it’s had. Unfortunately, these plans are now on hold, likely for the next-next-generation of gaming consoles next decade.

We might describe the competition between Microsoft and Sony as a war, but with Microsoft backing down on their original plan and offering what is essentially the same console as Sony, it can only mean one thing…

War, war never changes.