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.