All of the previous week, nothing has come close to the level of response and hype generated by the biggest gaming news to come post E3; Microsoft’s big announcement to take back their online DRM and allow used games.
What that means is that Microsoft has decided to do a total 180 degree turn in its Xbox One policies and decided to do away with its restrictive DRMs and anti-used games dogma. No longer will Xbox One users be required to connect online once a day to play offline component of their games and they will be able to gift and sell their games as they are able to do with their current gen games.
Whereas majority of gamers where vocally against the initial policies, there was some division on the matter as there were few who were indifferent or, in some circumstances, actually liked these policies.
My opinion on the matter is quite straight forward and certainly more in tune with the former, rather than latter camp. Instead of retreading old grounds, if you would like detailed view of my perspective, you can get it by clicking here.
In a few words; the Xbox One’s policies came of like Microsoft implementing draconian big-brother measures on its prospective consumers, treating them like criminals or children who don’t know what is best for them.
Instead of offering new features in addition to the current standard; the policies focused on taking away established game console and disk features that most consumers have come to rely on.
The consumers were asked to forego the way they used games for the mere promise of the small amount of features, which were not related to the restrictions imposed, that were promised to arrive sometime in the future with a discretionary “We may also cease to offer certain services or products”
Not only was this aggressively restrictive policy measures a blow to the consumers but the way Microsoft chose to convey this message also came off as egotistical and arrogant. The stench of hubris was evident in each and every one of their press releases and interviews.
After failing to convince the audience about the merits of its restrictions and a very conceited PR campaign it comes as a pleasant surprise that the company has now decided to listen to the fan feedback instead of ignoring it or dismissing it as drivel coming from people who do not know what they want.
This is a very welcoming sign as the company has shown its willingness to not just listen to its potential consumers but also respond in their favor. It shows that Microsoft is learning from the mistakes it made in the recent past and has recognized that consumer wants are important for a service based industry like Video Games.
Not only will this enable Microsoft to act competitively in face of Sony and Nintendo but the gaming console consumers can also expect the company to provide the nature of services they want out of the machine they are producing, not just at launch but also throughout the many years of the next-gen console cycle.
The gamers are also released from a prospective obligation of changing their habits and way of living in order to participate in next-gen console gaming. Now the gaming community does not have to worry about dealing with institutionalized always online DRMs and disk-based used games restrictions as an industry standard for the foreseeable future.
While Microsoft’s new consumer centric sentiment is commendable, let’s not forget that it was only after the company was given no quarter that it decided to surrender to the whims of the target audience rather than drown in its follies.
The company was brought down to its knees by a Competitor that did not play ball, by comparatively low pre-order numbers and the most important of all; the vocal anger and disagreement of the gamers over their policies.
The core point to take away from all this is not that Sony is better or more consumer-oriented than Microsoft, no, not at all.
The key lesson to remember is that we, as consumers, have the knowledge and understanding over our likes and dislikes. We have the power of collective action that prevents us from compromising on our rights as consumers.
This is a fine example of how voicing our opinions and speaking our minds actually bring about change that matters. It goes a long way in validating consumer involvement and internet activism in face of people who dismiss such expression as either “pointless complaining” or “slacktivism”.
It is important for all of us to recognize the power of consumer feedback, especially in a service based industry like the videogame business.
No matter what media outlets, producers and publishers might claim; videogame industry is a service industry that runs on a volume business and by that account, consumer wants, likes and dislikes are of prime importance to these businesses.
While some of these companies might look into bulldozing their business models in the market, none of such measures can survive if the consumer base rejects them.
A vocal consumer base can prevent such models from ever entering the market; not only saving companies from making huge loses but also ensuring good competition in the market which translates to competitive prices and greater variety for the consumers themselves.
Therefore we as consumers have to be vocal with our concerns of producer and publisher polices that do not sit well with us.
Take for example the online pass strategy which has been dropped by EA. We can also extend that to frivolous DLCs that make the non-DLC portion of the game incomplete without its inclusion, or game breaking “free-to-play” game transactions.
The same thing goes for console producers like Sony and Microsoft.
Take Microsoft as an example. While they have reversed their restrictive DRM and used game policies, they have also backtracked on new service features like game sharing with 10 “family members”. This has been labeled as a give and take due to online check-ins and used games policies.
Now just to be clear about this situation; the online DRM and Used game policies were an issue for the Disk-Based Games. Why can the sharing aspect not be implemented for downloaded games? How does allowing disk based used games prevent sharing of downloadable titles?
This issue can be taken up by Xbox One fans and compel Microsoft to either bring back that feature or at least explain the full context behind annulment of an advertised system service.
Similarly, fans of the PlayStation4 system should also be uphold Sony to their word and be vocal with their words and money if the company ever backtracks on their promise of consumer freedom as well as the advertised availability of backwards game library through their upcoming Gaikai service.
However, those are issues for the future. Right now, we can take solace in the fact that the gaming community has won a round, and the next-gen consoles are finally on a level playing field.
The focus of next-gen gaming and consoles can finally move away from corporate policies and shift to the thing that matters most; the games.
With the change bought forward through Microsoft’s Xbox One reversal, one thing is crystal clear; no matter which company wins the upcoming next-gen console war, the true victor will be us; the gamers.