Alright now, I’ll admit that I’m late to this particular party. In more ways than one if you include my lack of a Friday update. However, I still wanted to briefly talk about the relatively recent news of Microsoft reversing their DRM policy on the Xbox One. Now, any readers of this blog probably remember that I was both appalled by and heavily criticized Microsoft on how restrictive the Xbox One seemed at E3. Furthermore, I was quite shocked at just how unprepared Microsoft seemed to be in dealing with the invariable backlash that their announcement would have. It now stands to reason that I have quite a few thoughts on their announcement that the Xbox One will be no more restrictive than the Xbox 360 when it comes to software. So, let’s get into it!
First off, as a few gaming pundits have already put it, this wasn’t some announcement based purely on the backlash from E3. Very few decisions this big with far reaching consequences are planned with so little time. What that means is that Microsoft had this bullet in the salvo ready to fire just in case things didn’t play out the way they probably hoped they would. Now, this isn’t meant to belittle the consumer base that helped push Microsoft into biting the bullet. It’s always a good thing to see a corporation be swift in addressing the concerns of its customers. To be honest, this is actually refreshing in general to now better know why exactly Microsoft kept their mouth shut for the rest of the E3 while Sony was ripping them a new one in the PR realm. More likely than not, they were most likely taking a reading on the general feedback to the announcement and weren’t sure if they were ready to initiate this backup plan of falling back on the same DRM system that the 360 uses. After much time, time used quite well by Sony, Microsoft made their decision and we find ourselves where we are now. Not to sound too cynical, but I do give kudos to Microsoft for not being as thick as they seemed to be during E3 and in still working with the customers to provide a console they actually want.
Alright, what small accolades I have aside, I still take some issue with the announcement. Primarily, it does strike me as somewhat indecisive. I’m glad to see Microsoft try and remedy what bad blood they’ve made with the announcement, but I can’t help but feel like this is the equivalent of a dumb boyfriend saying something stupid that pisses off his girlfriend. He may apologize the next day for what he said and try and makes amends, but dollars to donuts he still probably actually believes what he says. It’s only he doesn’t want to get in trouble for publically thinking it. That’s the feeling I get from Microsoft. They maybe now working to implement a system similar to what customers expected from them in the first place, but you know that they are still thinking in the back of their heads that they were right all along and will make movements, albeit much more subtle, to usher in the future they believe is right.
Which brings me to my next gripe about their backpedaling: what’s wrong with them believing in a future not universally agreed on? It’s like that often attributed quote of Henry Ford’s, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.” If Microsoft truly believes the future is one of always being connected to the internet with only digital media, they should embrace it. If they’re right, they’ll be on the ground floor, at least as far as home consoles go. Furthermore if they’re right, they’ll be fighting up stream. Consumers generally don’t like change, as they are usually quite content consuming what’s in front of them currently. If you want to make it big, you generally are going to be gambling big. Just look at what Nintendo did with the Wii. Among the more core audience that attends E3, it wasn’t received as warmly as it could have been. Although, in all fairness, that was more based on the absurdness of the console back then rather than how generally offensive it was to customers. But if Microsoft wants an always connected living room home entertainment system, I’d prefer them to be up front and honest about it rather than what I suspect is a slight of hand to still take credit for being there first while not assuming any of the risk if they’re wrong. I don’t want them sneaking behind my back trying to do what they said they’d try to do from the get go when they could’ve just had the balls to stick to their guns in the first place is what I’m getting at.
In the end, whether they actually believe they were wrong or if they believe they’ll just wait us out, their decision to backpedal on their announced features at E3 is interesting to say the least. Despite my apprehension regarding this sudden change of heart, I am honestly interested to see how it plays out. Both conclusions have the potential to be interesting. It’s a win/win as far as I’m concerned. Now the only question that remains is if that is also the case for Microsoft.