Xbox One Nerdrage

Since I’m trying to get back onto this whole writing thing, I think I might start on something that’s kinda annoyed me lately. The Xbox One and all the nerd rage involved in it.

Sure, a lot of the public complaints are about privacy – something that would worry a lot of people, while not worrying others (the fact that Kinect has to always be plugged in. This coupled with the evidence that Microsoft offer backdoors into their products to Government agencies for their surveillance activities is a bit scary and Orwellian, but that’s a topic for someone a little more qualified than I). However most of the public outrage I saw on my facebook wall, reddit, tumblr etc wasn’t aimed at this totally valid concern; rather they were hating on the fact that Microsoft were introducing PC style software licenses to the console market.

I don’t make it a secret that I’m no longer a fan of buying used games. I have a few in my collection from the days of being a poor student, but after I realised that the sale of a used game does nothing to benefit the people who made the damned thing I’ve moved to buying new whenever possible (the one exception is if I’m looking for a game that is out of print. If you can’t find a copy new, where are you going to go?). I’d prefer my dollar go in part to the people who made the thing I’m about to enjoy, rather than padding the bottom line of a retailer like Gamestop or Electronics Boutique. It’s not a secret that Gamestop’s business model is based on pushing used games over new so they don’t have to pay wholesale rates, rather paying a pittance in store credit or cash. It’s basically corporate piracy, in my honest opinion (Disclaimer, I support consumer rights in onselling their own property, and I’m a supporter of finding new revenue streams for artists and content creators that bypass traditional publishers when possible).

Of course, when the DRM on the Xbone was announced – console has to check in every 24 hours, can only sell games to selected retailers, can only give a game to someone if they’ve been a proven friend (on friends list) for 30 days or more – the internet blew up. The 24 hour check in limit is a valid gripe; I talk to people on a daily basis through my job who can’t get internet access, or are limited to extremely slow and expensive methods. But the nerdrage against the DRM? Basically a bunch of gamers whining about how things have to change, when all it’s really doing is bringing console gaming closer to how PC gamers have had it for years.

Of course, there was one shining light in the whole DRM fiasco. Family sharing .

It wasn’t really something that was out there in the limelight like it should have been (total PR failure on Microsoft’s part). As far as I understood it, you could pick a group of up to 10 people, call them your family (with no restrictions on where they are, name etc), and you could have full access to each other’s game libraries through the cloud, with the only advertised restriction being that a shared copy could only be played by one person at a time. There was a rumour from someone claiming to be from Microsoft stating that the time a shared copy could be played was going to be limited (basically a demo version), but nothing has come out to corroborate that.

Now this was a feature I was pretty excited about. My flatmate and I both have 360s, and of course we raid each other’s game collections. A lot of criticism aimed at the DRM plan was that people wouldn’t be able to lend their games to friends (a concern lampooned by Sony at E3 with this video). With this, you wouldn’t have to even worry about handing the disc over to someone, and you could even ‘lend’ your digitally purchased games! Sure, there’s a limit to how many people you can share with, but who really has that many friends that they are willing to hand their personal property to? (Don’t answer that. I don’t want to get depressed about having no friends). Also, when handing your discs to people, how often do you really get them back, in the same condition? I’ve had to repurchase plenty of games/dvds/books after lending them to someone and never seeing them again/getting them back torn up to hell.

Of course, the DRM was there to support this kind of function. The checking in every 24 hours was there to make sure that people were playing the games they were licensed to play (since when you buy a game you’re only buying a license to play it. The ownership is still with the publisher. Read an EULA sometime). But after reddit going crazy with a vocal minority saying that this was going to force them over to Playstation (as well as Sony launching at a lower price point), Microsoft had to backtrack or risk being the failure this generation. And of course, with the backtrack to the same old, away go any of the innovations that aren’t compatible with the tradition.

I’m not sure I’m buying a console this generation. I’ve got a PS3 and a 360 hooked up to my TV, as well as a DS and a PSP lying around. But I do most of my gaming on PC (fuck used games, Humble Bundles and Steam Sales are where it’s at yo) or my mobile these days, only really breaking out the console for the exclusives. If I do get a console, it’ll probably be at about the time that the releases for the last gen machines dry up and I can’t bear but play the latest console only releases. And I’ll buy at that time based purely on the games, not on the restrictions the console makers put on me handing them on to others.

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