One of the most popular talking points to come out of the Xbox One’s reveal involved our old friend DRM. This time around it was presented partially as a way to restrict the selling of used games. Games would be installed to the system’s hard drive, and would then be tied to a single account. The future Microsoft discussed is one in which playing a disc-based game on another account would require a fee amounting to roughly that of the original purchase.
People screamed, twitter exploded, and everyone seemed to agree that this was a bad idea. Microsoft then proceeded to handle the situation as poorly as possible. Buried in the sea of double-speak and contradictory messages post-reveal, we lost track of any concrete details. What we did learn was one of Microsoft’s goals; to restrict used game sales and change the way we view used games in general.
This also served as a boon to many Sony fans, thinking that the upcoming PlayStation 4 would have the advantage. Sony said nothing of plans like this during its reveal, so obviously they weren’t working on something similar. This thinking, however, doesn’t really hold up. A few relevant quotes from Geoff Keighley have been circulating around the internet lately, most importantly involving the following, “I can’t see publishers allowing one system to do one thing and one to another.”
Because the reality is, if Microsoft goes down this road, Sony will as well. They may not offer the exact same “trade-in” services or license fees, but both will implement similar policies. One may look to Nintendo as an example to the contrary, but Nintendo has been in its own league for years now. The Wii U isn’t competing with the PS4 and Xbox One the way they are with each other. Those two are largely fighting over the same dollars. There’s more of a one-to-one comparison between Sony and Microsoft. If the Xbox One has some form of the feared DRM we keep hearing about, large publishers aren’t just going to keep releasing the same games on the PS4 without hesitation.
Think of how many larger publishers view the PC now. Years ago there was very little support because of the dreaded boogie man that is piracy. Publishers avoided the platform for many of the same reasons they’d avoid the PS4 if the Xbox One utilized this used game DRM. Steam, however, has seen an unprecedented amount of console game releases over the past generation, and why is that? Because of its closed nature; because publishers can release these games on a platform similar to a console. Everything is tied to one account, and some sort of verification is needed. This pie in the sky fantasy where Sony stands as a bastion against any anti-consumer policies just won’t happen.
This is why we need to not give Sony our support simply because they haven’t broached the topic yet. We need to be vocal about our feelings concerning the idea itself. Let Sony and Microsoft know what the issue is and why we don’t like it. It’s not about Sony vs. Microsoft, it’s about the community vs. DRM. And most importantly, if you’re so opposed to this DRM, at the very least don’t pre-order a console yet. Many Sony reps have responded to the growing outcry, now also directed at the PS4, but we need to not be coddled by a few bits of corporate pandering. A few people saying “we hear what you’re saying,” doesn’t change anything. It’s nice to hear, but we need to remember the situation is still the same. We know what both companies want to do now, and if we don’t want that to happen, we shouldn’t just roll over and take whatever is thrown our way.