Complaining on the internet, I am often told, doesn't amount to much of anything. Clicking "Like" or retweeting for a cause are nothing more than "Slacktivism", a type of problem-solving that only lazy millennials could have come up with.
Maybe that's true of trying to solve problems in Africa; we might need to do a whole lot more than start a Facebook group to do something about that type of stuff. But when it comes to issues around tech companies — or in this specific case, gaming companies — speaking out on social networks and online messaging boards like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, neoGAF and the like can absolutely pave the way for change. That's because the internet provides an easy avenue to keep track of what people are saying about you.
Look no further than the recent surprise reversal on DRM policies on the Xbox One for proof. Prior to today, Microsoft declared that the Xbox One would require players to check in once every 24 hours, you'd need to activate games before playing, and there would be restrictions on how games could be traded, borrowed and shared.
Instant backlash; the Xbox One became the scorn of the internet for what many people deemed anti-consumer practices. Naturally, Microsoft noticed — of course it did. The reception was so bad that it completely drowned out all the cool games it had to show.
It said it itself: it "read your comments and listened to your feedback;" the page with its DRM reversal announcement is titled "Your Feedback Matters". Because of that feedback, the Xbox One now doesn't require a constant internet connection, and you can resell and loan disc-based games to your heart's content. Had people not said anything — had they not taken to forums, to Twitter, to Facebook — I'm doubtful that Microsoft would have changed policies that it was previously banking on. Granted, it probably wasn't all internet-related backlash, especially after Sony took direct swipes at Microsoft, but a good deal of it must have been.
“The beauty of our fans, frankly, is that they tell you exactly what they love, they tell you what they don’t love, and what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years is to give people more of what they love and less of what they decide they don’t want,” VP of Xbox Live Marc Whitten told the Penny Arcade Report while discussing negative feedback. “Today was about giving them choice around how online worked and how physical discs work.”
It's kind of amazing when you think about it, to change such big policies on a system this close to launch. Not unprecedented of course; fan outcry has done things like alter endings to beloved games — and certain campaigns, like the #PS4NoDRM one, definitely get noticed (although in that case, Sony said their policies were in place before the campaign). It's almost like, despite claims that internet activism is useless, we can make gaming companies change their plans with enough outcry.
So don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't speak out and complain about things on the internet. You matter.