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Bleszinski: Microsoft Changed DRM Due to Sony, Not Fans

By - Source: Cliff Bleszinski | B 23 comments

Cliff Bleszinski credits Sony for Microsoft change in DRM heart for the Xbox One.

During E3 2013, I got a chance to meet with Microsoft one-on-one and check out the Xbox One in action behind closed doors. It was basically a rehash of what we already know, with Xbox One Engineering Manager Jeff Henshaw and Producer Mike Mahar leading me through the 40,000 asteroids floating around in the cold void above our heads. This was all powered by the local console and Microsoft's cloud.

Eventually I had to ask what the deal was with the console's need to stay connected, and why the policy over used games is/was so damn muddy. I was already whipped by the sticker shock the company pounded us with during the Xbox Media Briefing that Monday. The technology is great yes, but given its price and the fact I can't play used games (which is required when you have a litter of kids) without a fuss, I found my enthusiasm over Xbox One somewhat lacking.

Microsoft really didn't comment on my questions, only saying that, at the time, Xbox One merely "pinged" the company's servers every 24 hours. That instantly told me the console merely checked in for the latest console news, to see if any game updates are available and whatnot. Hell, it seemingly needed to check in just to keep its asteroid demo up-to-date.

But after Microsoft pulled the plug on its DRM scheme on Wednesday, I felt a little better knowing that I personally voiced my concerns to Microsoft in the name of fans worldwide. But former Epic Games designer Cliff Bleszinski, who was knee deep in Xbox and PlayStation console development for years before he ventured out on his own last year, believes fans had nothing to do with Microsoft's turnabout in policy.

"Sony forced Microsoft's hand, not the internet whining," he said via Twitter. "You're going to see digital versions of your favorite games with added 'features' and content to lure you to digital over disc based."

Later he expanded his opinion via his Clifford Unchained blog on Tumblr. "Microsoft tried to and ultimately couldn’t have it both ways," he added. "You can’t still have discs and then expect everyone to embrace digital. And, fundamentally, if you take something away that a consumer has been used to without some seriously smooth handling they’re naturally going to get upset."

He goes on to talk about how used games is affecting the industry even though he himself sold and bought used games before he became highly successful at Epic Games. He also links to this video which points out that used PC games are hard to find, if at all. As it stands now, most PC titles are tied to Steam, Origin or some other digital distribution platform.

Microsoft tried to do the same with Xbox One, but the combination of Sony's seemingly lack of DRM plans for PlayStation 4 and customer feedback nuked those plans. Honestly the only real fear was the inability to play games without an internet connection, and what the third-party publishers planned to do with the new DRM scheme. Microsoft's policy regarding its first-party titles wasn't all that horrible.

"I’ll admit, the once every 24 hour check was pretty silly," he said. "Customers can smell from a mile away when you’re treating them like children, peeking your head into their bedroom on a regular basis in an attempt to catch them doing something. Here’s the thing about Steam. It doesn’t FORCE you to be online. The ecosystem of Steam is so brilliant, from the community, to the summer sales, to the indie games, that you WANT to get online."

Agreed. Read his full blog here.

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  • 0 Hide
    brucek2 , June 21, 2013 2:05 AM
    Seems like splitting hairs to me. Microsoft realized that fan preference for the Sony approach was going to hurt their product sales, and reacted accordingly. If Sony had offered some other random feature that fans didn't have a preference for, then MS would not have felt that pressure.

    Going a step further, let's say there was no Sony at all. I believe it was only a matter of time before some bug or extended network outage would have resulted in millions of effectively bricked XB1s, even if only temporarily. The resulting outcry and/or class action lawsuits would have undone the policy then.
  • 0 Hide
    RazorBurn , June 21, 2013 2:22 AM
    Both Sony and the Fans have nothing on this..

    Its the consumers.. Microsoft thinks that very little interested in buying their console as the pre-order comparison shows ultimately change their opinion on DRM..

  • 1 Hide
    sbudbud , June 21, 2013 3:05 AM
    If you want to lure customers towards digital downloads make it worth their wild. Make digital copies 49.99 instead of 59.99, bundle 6+ moth old games together for savings like 2 titles for 69.99 while bundling year+ old games for even way cheaper like 5 for 49.99 . Have 24 hour sales where people get 20-50% off digital games and throw in a free Xbox live game too. Give a free month of live for every 2 or 3 games people buy online (games released withing the last 3 months). So many ways to lure people to drop disc based sales and go towards digital download rather than having more restrictive disc based policies... Come on Microsoft you pay people to think of things like this....
  • Display all 23 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Fabel , June 21, 2013 3:19 AM
    Publishers want the biggest slice of the cake, so they better see no used game market.

    Unless titles have very very high replayable value I wan't to buy used and be able to sell without restrictions. If that is not possible... well there is something callled piracy.

    And then there are the low quality and abusive practices issues...For example I purchased Civi V on launch but when I found all what was missing and later all the DLCs and the price of the two expansions which basically are missing features from the base game... Well i'm playing that but no paying for it.

    BTW no way I'll pay for a digital book when I can buy and resale a paper book. Same problem here. So no matter what they say I DON'T LICENSE, I purchase or pirate, their choice.
  • 0 Hide
    demonhorde665 , June 21, 2013 4:46 AM
    "He goes on to talk about how used games is affecting the industry even though he himself sold and bought used games before he became highly successful at Epic Games."

    sounds to me like he drank the kool aid and is now preaching along the choir.

    I'm so sick of hereing people talk aobut how "used games affects the industry" do you see moives , music , or books complaing about "used sales killing our business waaaah". No ? that's what I thought. the game industry is the only industry that thinks their product should be above and beyond consumer law.
  • 0 Hide
    demonhorde665 , June 21, 2013 4:52 AM
    "You're going to see digital versions of your favorite games with added 'features' and content to lure you to digital over disc based."

    translation- many more greedy developers this generation are going to RIP features out of the disc versions of games so they can sell them as digital exclusives or dlc (disc-locked-content).

    note how he sounds so enthusiastic . sounds to me like Epic is going to be riding the curtains of EA and Ubisoft right in to hell.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , June 21, 2013 5:42 AM
    Quote:
    "You're going to see digital versions of your favorite games with added 'features' and content to lure you to digital over disc based."

    translation- many more greedy developers this generation are going to RIP features out of the disc versions of games so they can sell them as digital exclusives or dlc (disc-locked-content).

    note how he sounds so enthusiastic . sounds to me like Epic is going to be riding the curtains of EA and Ubisoft right in to hell.


    This is independent of the console you play on, but it seems everything is heading in this DLC direction.

    Look at all the free-to-play titles for PC that are successful. People are paying dollars at a time and spending well beyond the $50 or $60 they would have paid for the title, but doing so over time. The consumer's perception is they are only spending a couple of bucks here or there for extra or special content.

    There are enough people doing so to make this model succesful and more profitable than a standard software purchase would be for the software companies.
  • 0 Hide
    jack1982 , June 21, 2013 6:42 AM
    "Sony forced Microsoft's hand, not the internet whining," I just love it when guys like this refer to the huge negative backlash to the Xbox One as "whining", it shows what utter contempt these people have for their customers, and how completely dismissive they are of the concerns of what I'm sure they consider to be a horde of filthy peasants.

    And yeah, I don't think anybody is stupid enough to believe that Microsoft changed their policies out of genuine concern over the feedback which they "love" to receive from their fans. They must have taken one look at their Xbox One pre-order numbers and crapped their pants.
  • 0 Hide
    cepheid , June 21, 2013 7:22 AM
    1) Microsoft wanted kick-backs from used game sales. This pretty much indicates their intent.

    2) Microsoft makes it more difficult on Indie developers.

    3) DRM was unnecessary and they tried to feed line after line of BS as to why it was needed.

    4) Microsoft is selling a product that's inferior in regards to hardware specs, we'll say for the same price simply to nullify the Kinect argument.

    5) Microsoft's sales tactics are ridiculously paying Devs so they can have a week or two jump on DLC. To me this shows they don't trust their product enough to hold its own.

    I'm a PC gamer and haven't owned a console for +10 years.
  • 0 Hide
    cepheid , June 21, 2013 7:26 AM
    1) Microsoft wanted kick-backs from used game sales. This pretty much indicates their intent.

    2) Microsoft makes it more difficult on Indie developers.

    3) DRM was unnecessary and they tried to feed line after line of BS as to why it was needed.

    4) Microsoft is selling a product that's inferior in regards to hardware specs, we'll say for the same price simply to nullify the Kinect argument.

    5) Microsoft's sales tactics are ridiculously paying Devs so they can have a week or two jump on DLC. To me this shows they don't trust their product enough to hold its own.

    I'm a PC gamer and haven't owned a console for +10 years.
  • 0 Hide
    gnarr , June 21, 2013 7:44 AM
    "You're going to see digital versions of your favorite games with added 'features' and content to lure you to digital over disc based."

    Digital over disc based? All computer games that run on the Xbox One are digital, whether they are disc based or a download. There are almost no analog video games in existence except maybe a few pinball games at some pubs and alike.

    Also, saying "digital download" is kind of redundant as there are no analog downloads.
  • 0 Hide
    mcd023 , June 21, 2013 8:10 AM
    Well, I seem to be the only one who was liking the idea of not having to have a disk.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , June 21, 2013 8:15 AM
    Quote:
    Well, I seem to be the only one who was liking the idea of not having to have a disk.


    I like it too. I have quite a few steam games that were digital downloads. They work just fine and don't take up space on a shelf, but I can't re-sell them.

    People want to be able to re-sell their console games which makes sense. Gamestop and places like that are businesses that do a high volume of used sales.
  • 0 Hide
    PedanticNo1 , June 21, 2013 9:38 AM
    Wait . . . so, the fact that Xbox One was going to see hugely reduced sales volume as a result of the PS4 catering to consumer desires, means that Microsoft DIDN'T cave due to the consumers?

    I'm no economics major, but I'd say this guy is utterly incorrect. Consumer demand prompted Sony- or did he think these companies only design things because they find it fun to do so? The PS3 generated huge levels of backlash, as have many other attempts at DRM in the video games industry. Sony saw this and had the foresight to design a console that would minimize that aspect (relative to whats around today).

  • 0 Hide
    belardo , June 21, 2013 9:51 AM
    "You're going to see digital versions of your favorite games with added 'features' and content to lure you to digital over disc based."

    Added levels or story is fine.... but adding characters/content to the "core" game for the Online version is BS.

    That would be like watching a movie, lets say Star Wars... but if you buy it online, you get Jar Jar Binks and the Ewoks.
  • 0 Hide
    d_kuhn , June 21, 2013 12:27 PM
    Steam is able to tie games to users because they give you OPTIONS on the purchasing end. Want a game on release date then you'll pay list, but if you're patient you will almost always get a nice discount by waiting. I can count on one hand the number of steam games I've paid over 50 bucks for, and I've got a LOT of games that listed for more than that.

    If Microsoft has a digital media marketing plan that includes that type of tiered discount structure then I'll use it quite a lot... but if the price is the same as the disk version I'll buy that instead.
  • 0 Hide
    efeat , June 21, 2013 1:21 PM
    "...fundamentally, if you take something away that a consumer has been used to without some seriously smooth handling they’re naturally going to get upset."

    Microsoft should've learned this from windows 8. Even if you're changing something for the better, it needs to be handled carefully.
  • 0 Hide
    funguseater , June 21, 2013 2:08 PM
    No respect for XB1 after the fiasco of using an HP PC with NVIDIA GTX780 for the demos at E3. Now we know the XB1 games play just as well if not better on PC so WHY buy this consumer bull someone write us a wrapper.
  • 0 Hide
    SirGCal , June 21, 2013 2:20 PM
    But Microsoft told Indie developers to get lost... Twice... so... how to they WANT that? That's probably their biggest miss right now. Thomas Was Alone. Massively great game. Can get it everywhere but XBox. Another reason I'm not even considering the XBone
  • 0 Hide
    coladict , June 22, 2013 5:09 AM
    It definitely wasn't the whining that made them do it. We've been doing that for weeks. It was the low pre-order numbers! That is all.
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