What Microsoft should have said about the Xbox One's DRM
Somewhere in the speech Microsoft should have said more or less this:
When we were designing the Xbox One, we knew we were going to be facing some very challenging but hugely important problems. As the detail and polish of games goes up, so does the cost associated with making them.
In the era of PlayStation and N64 virtually every game that came out was an exclusive. Rare was the title that was released for both platforms.
In the next generation with the Xbox and PS2, we started seeing more and more games going cross platform, and an increasing number of "timed exclusives," where after a time a developer would cash in on work already done by releasing it on another console.
The generation after that, Xbox 360 and PS3, saw almost every big-budget third-party title being released as day one cross platform titles. The best that most big budget games get now is some exclusive content. Even the hold outs, like Team Ninja and Square Enix were now making games for all consoles because the costs of making the game in the first place was so high that there was no chance of seeing a return without hitting the biggest audience possible.
There is a disturbing trend here. The big budget games that we all love were going to die because of the rising costs.
When going over possible futures, we saw three potential outcomes: first, the death of the big budget game; second, microtransactions and downloadable content; and third, a DRM solution.
We don't want to see the death of the big budget title any more than you do, and the idea of microtransactions might save games for a while, but then what? So we wanted to see if there was some solution to be found in DRM.
We looked at DRM models that had been put into action already, and we didn't like any of them. We weren't interested in forcing consumers into being online all the times just so the servers could constantly check your copy of a game wasn't pirated. We didn't want to sell "online passes" for everybody who bought the game.
We went into the conversation with a few very specific goals.
The DRM had to make it so that the majority of the playing habits for gamers went unchanged. Over XX% of people with Xbox 360 have their consoles connected to the internet. Even those who are not paying for Xbox Live still connect for the ability to download games and movies from our marketplace. So we decided that we would take advantage of this connection.
The DRM had to be nonintrusive. So rather than forcing you to stay constantly connected to the internet, the Xbox One will simply communicate with our servers once per day to make sure the installed games are still yours. After that it doesn't matter if you lose your internet connection for hours at a time, you can still play your games no problem.
The DRM had to be easy. Every game will come with a codecard that you simply hold in front of the Kinect, and that will activate your copy of the game.
And the DRM had to make sure that if a game was paid for, then the developer would get their share of the profits.
I'm going to show you some information that has so far been quite confidential. Here are the number of copies sold for Gears of War. And here is the number of unique gamertags that have signed onto Xbox Live with Gears of War. The way the market is set up today, Epic didn't see a single penny for over XX% of the people who played their game. So we have made agreements with GameStop and Best Buy in the US and other retailers around the world to make sure that developers are given a percentage of the sale.
By doing these things we think we have found a solution that is amicable for both gamers and developers. It allows gamers to keep playing the way most of them already are, and it ensures that developers can afford to keep making the games we all love to play.
But it doesn't stop there. Once we had a system in place, we started thinking of other cool things that we could do with it. ....
Here they would go on to detail things like Family Sharing, always instant access to your game library, and the ability to sell and trade digital copies of games.
Then, when people would inevitably complain about these things, Microsoft should have shortly after come out with more or less this message:
We have heard your cry. When we were making our DRM system we were thinking about overall majority use cases, but many of you have made us aware that there are some fairly important scenarios we weren't considering. So here is how our DRM has changed.
The console will try and ping our servers once an hour. (Don't worry, the amount of data is only a few dozen kilobytes.) It does this so that it is always as up to date as it can be. If an internet connection is lost, you now have up to 120 hours to find a connection again for it to ping our servers before your installed games will require authentication again in order to be played from the hard drive.
If you are unable to find a connection, your game disc can be used as an authenticator. If you would like to play from your discs primarily, the only time an internet connection will be required is at the initial time of installing and authenticating a game. After that, as long as your disc is in the console, it will work.
And none of this applies to digital downloads, which will only require internet connections to purchase and sell.
This does not change the way the Family Share works, so anybody in your "Family" who is playing your game will still need to maintain an internet connection.
We hope that you will choose to keep your console connected to the internet to take advantage of the awesome cloud features the Xbox One offers. But now we give you the ability to play the way you choose.
Because that first part is the honest reason for the DRM in the first place, and the second part is the correct fix for it. I honestly think this one of the biggest missteps from any company. And it's all because Microsoft sucks at communicating.