In a move that is already sending shockwaves through the gaming community, Microsoft has reversed course on the ill-advised digital rights management (DRM) and always online policies of its forthcoming Xbox One game console. Microsoft, which had up until earlier this week defended its restrictive policies, suffered what many considered to be an embarrassing defeat at the hands of rival Sony PlayStation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month. Today Don Mattrick, President of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, announced an about-face that will have consumers breathing a sigh of relief.
"Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback," writes Don Mattrick on the official Xbox website. "So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360."
The new policies, as outlined by Mattrick, are as follows:
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
Many gamers and game journalists had taken to Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and a host of gaming forums to voice their complaints about the direction Microsoft was planning to take with its new console. Sony further twisted the knife with a video that poked fun at the Xbox One's game-sharing restrictions, which went viral on YouTube.
The angry mob, and negative comparisons with Sony's PlayStation 4 (which not only sports more sophisticated tech but is priced US$100 cheaper than the Xbox One), caused panic within Microsoft's gaming division. It may be that Microsoft has turned the ship in time to avoid an icy reception come November.
What exactly this means for the "infinite power of the cloud" that was a key selling point of the XBox One remains unclear. If you don't need to be connected to the internet to play your games, they can hardly leverage the added processing power that the cloud servers were supposed to provide. And there is still the issue of its price and the forced inclusion of the Kinect 2 – which several industry watchdogs around the world have labeled a surveillance device – but it appears the upcoming console war won't be as one-sided as many predicted.