A month tomorrow, it’ll be 30 days – that’s one whole month for those not able to keep up – since Microsoft unveiled Xbox One. In that time, the machine has had restrictions on how second-hand games are operated for the system as well as being an always-on system where if the machine wasn’t connected every 24 hours, the machine wouldn’t work until it was connected again.
There were also other things too, but the always-online and second-hand aspects were the massive towering elephants in the room for Microsoft. Its something that’s been ongoing since the system’s reveal last month and even into E3 last week, despite an otherwise fantastic press conference from the first-party. The confusing messaging from word one since the system’s reveal won’t have helped matters.
Having said that those without an online connection have the option of going for an Xbox 360, Don Mattrick will surely be waking up this morning and regretting those comments after a sensational u-turn: Xbox One won’t have second-hand game restrictions. And Xbox One won’t have online DRM.
“We appreciate your passion”
In a stunning set of events last night, Mattrick, Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business president, announced that Xbox One owners would be able to “trade-in, lend, resell, gift and rent disc based games” as it is right now. Furthermore, Mattrick added that “an internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games” besides a one-time connection to set up a system, meaning there won’t be a mandatory 24 hour check-in period for the machine.
Furthermore, the system no has regional restrictions and is region free, meaning almost surely that the countries not part of the initial 21 country launch line-up at E3 (or at least a good majority of them) will get the machine this year. If so, a revised territorial launch list might be published come gamescom or Tokyo Game Show.
This is an absolute win for the consumer. The pro-consumerist crowd who rallied against the old policies got their wish and the passionate #NoDRM campaign that had been instigated on NeoGAF were taking some of the credit that it, frankly, deserved. It was part of that passion – be it good or bad – that Mattrick referred to last night in his blog (and referenced above in the slug). But that said, it probably doesn’t get all the credit. The other half, in all good faith, goes to Sony. It gave Microsoft one of its biggest kickings in games ever last Monday thanks to Jack Tretton with a little help from Shuhei Yoshida and Adam Boyes.
Say what you want about Sony’s messaging of no second-hand restriction or always-on DRM for PS4 being a PR stunt, it was a PR stunt that has surely had some sway in Microsoft, as probably has the pre-order numbers on PS4 over Xbox One (IGN reckons for every two Xbox Ones pre-ordered, three more PS4s have been pre-ordered).
But despite last night’s reversal, there were some actually neat things introduced as part of the previous policies that are no longer possible (at least for now). One of which is the feature to share digital versions of games to a friend or a being able to play a game without a disc, as confirmed by Xbox Live boss Marc Whitten in a Kotaku interview last night.
And even with last night’s dropping of always-on and no second hand restrictions, Xbox One still isn’t perfect. There’s still the mandatory Kinect 2 that I need to have on in order to use the system. There’s still the £429 price-tag for the system, a barrier that might be just too high for some people. And indie developers still won’t be able to self-publish its games on Xbox One.
But otherwise, we now have a semblance of a console war about to kick off when it looked like last week that PlayStation 4 was about to walk away with it. If, somehow through some way, we got a cheaper model without mandatory use of a second-gen Kinect 2 (lets say for the sake of argument it’s priced at £350) and Microsoft removed the self-publishing block its had on indies (FTR, indies have had to reply on publishing agreements to get onto Xbox Live Arcade on 360: Fez, Limbo were published by Microsoft, Supergiant’s Bastion was published through Warner, etc) – though I doubt the latter will happen anytime soon, if at all – we’d have a level playing field.
But for now, as one man once said, “shit just got real“. It’s amazing what can happen in the space of 30 days. Right?