Xbox One DRM Reversal Is Proof That Speaking Out Can Get Results

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.

Picture: Shutterstock


    I have to disagree with this. I don't think twitter/facebook ripping etc was the reason, at least the main reason. I think MS started to see the metrics of preorder rates after the conference. I believe this was more a case of people voting with thier wallets which is and always will be a very effective way to get a message across to big business.

      Bingo. They're hearing the loss of money louder, not the fact that they realised that they're screwing their customers up the arse.

      Yeah, but Patricia doesn't write articles to be right or accurate; she writes them to fill her quota and make a quick buck along the side. This means, as long as it causes a stir; as long as it has a flair of sensationalism; as long as she can cause a ruckus and enough controversy to increase hits, she honestly does not care, and neither do Kotaku. If it isn't one-sided sexism, it's just all-round general inaccuracy with her.

      In this instance, Microsoft didn't want to do this this — they didn't. It wasn't because of us, as if it were, we wouldn't have succumbed to this whole ordeal to begin with. They would have come out at E3, like Sony, and announced a DRM-free machine. It wasn't until Sony's severely substantial margin on them that their hand was forced at the very last minute. Here's a theoretical for you: had Sony revealed that the PS4 was to have the same DRM as the Xbox One, Microsoft would not have backed down. It's disappointing that what it really took for us to incite change, wasn't actually us, but simply another powerhouse.

      I also fear that the simplicity of doing 180 so arbitrarily demonstrates that it is just as easy for them to do that same 180 at a later date. If anything, this announcement sounds potentially damaging. It shows that they're not decisive or they are very, very desperate. UK Amazon pre-orders have already surpassed their PS4 pre-orders since this news, but do they deserve that just yet? Why is everybody so keen to jump back into bed with Microsoft after this ongoing series of convoluted circus antics? I would be more weary & vigilant, if anything.

      Finally, there was an interview Angry Joe conducted with Larry Hryb [Major Nelson], director of programming at Microsoft, where Joe made an off-cut comment about how it would be easy to simply turn off DRM, to which Larry then shot him down for making such a bold assumption. The irony is, no more than a few days later, and that's exactly what has happened.

      this is completely correct, If they truly do listen to there customers and fans, none of this would of happened in the first place, they did indeed only go back on there policies due to money, thats all.

    Yeah its the pre order status that spoke to Microsoft.

    speaking out that you dont want to connect and have CDs?????????????????????

      The vocal minority ruin the tech of the future again.

        Love how MS and everyone else are now saying that the limitations were worth the one good thing. People always want what they don't have, especially gamers.

          And those people were conspicuously silent over the last few weeks as well.

      I spoke out once, and all I got was an arrow to the knee.

    Same thing happened when FFXIV bombed. People complained, SE apologised and they have been remaking the entire game from the ground up (and it is indeed better).

      Yeah, I've actually been really looking forward to playing it. You know it’s bad when you’re playing a MMO in beta, you KNOW your character is going to be wiped, and you keep on playing anyway because it’s just plain fun, mechanically. Kinda like how people play TF2 or CS or bejewelled without any promise of progression/development.

      It’s a good sign, far as I’m concerned.

        Yeah... ah well, just means I can start with a different class for a different starting city.

          It's true, the other two will probably be a really nice change of pace after all those woods.

    Irrespective of the reasons for the backflip, I think it was a bad move. Online features were the biggest differentiating factor between XB1 and PS4, and although I personally didn't appreciate the locked-down nature of the console, within what they were trying to do - create a console where the focus on digital took precedence over retail - I thought they actually had some great ideas, poorly implemented. Perhaps it's even, as Serrels said yesterday, as simple as them being poorly presented.
    I think Microsoft should have weathered the early storm, perhaps compromised a little (with the online check-ins, etc) but fundamentally stuck to their guns. I've argued elsewhere that they didn't have a choice about the backflip, but they've come out all the worse. Their entire digital business model has had to be scrapped. And this close to release, that must be a huge concern for their business projections. They're flying blind now, making it up as they go along, and with the amount of money they've invested in online services designed for XB1's original model, the console has some seriously tough times ahead.

      Totally agreed here, this has just made them look like they have absolutely no "balls" to put it crudely. Should have stuck to their guns.. Why peddle all this DRM bullshit that obviously everyone's going to dislike (common sense), only to back out completely when people actually dislike it?


        Agreement goes both ways. I can't help but wonder how this will affect them three years down the track, when all their grand ideas are incompatible with what they're able to offer without harsh DRM measures in place.
        They've spent years conceptualizing the console, designing their business model, projecting sales figures based on features that aren't there any more. The console business has always been defined by the long-game, for lack of a better phrase, and a hasty decision to reverse their policies will hurt them down the line. But, again, there wouldn't be a "down the line" without at least some form of install base, so it's a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't".
        It really is a colossal mess, and one for which there's no quick fix, given the damage they've done to the Xbox brand in the space of two short months.

      No, it was the right thing to do. Like a gangster stealing a car... they shouldn't have done it in the first place, they were warned, they did anyway, they suffered the repercussions for doing so, they returned the car and came clean and now have trust issues from everyone, and people are now glorifying their previous intentions. Just stop. If you want DRM; buy a PC, play Sim City.

      It's still basically the same console as it was before. My opinion of it now has tremendously gone up, and I may pick it up in the future and am not actively boycotting it like I was.

      Last edited 21/06/13 10:31 am

        I don't approve of the online check-in, not playing your games if internet is down blah blah blah blah blah. Everyone knows what sucked about it, there's no point repeating it here. I don't need my console to have that level of connectivity, I was always getting a Playstation 4 first, and even pre-announcement, XB1 was a distant third in terms of priority. So I like to think I'm pretty objective, overall, about Microsoft's approach and their hardware.
        I think it comes down not to what that enforced connectivity means for gamers without internet, but what it could potentially have meant for those that do. Xbox 360 didn't have a mandatory hard drive, so games couldn't be designed with it's use as an integral design feature. Rockstar complained this held them back during the development of GTA4, for example. Blinx the Timesweeper, for Xbox, used the guaranteed presence of a hard drive to build gameplay. The same principle applies to XB1 and the internet -now that it doesn't REQUIRE online (apart from the initial setup), will that stop future games from innovating because not every console will be able to run them?
        I know this is all very generalized, and that the DRM policies in their previous model were draconian and unjustifiable. It's more the concept of differentiation between XB1 and PS4 that I'm getting at. Online functionality was Microsoft's best feature, and it's now gone. If they believed in it so much before E3, I think they should have relaxed their DRM but remained committed to the unified, online platform they envisioned.
        I would, most likely, not have bought one anyway, but more people would. And three, four years from now, I'm guessing Microsoft will sincerely regret this decision once the the short-term hurt has worn off. All they'll be left with is a console with no differentiation from the PS4 apart from a stupid camera, and television features which are even more irrelevant to most customers than they are now.
        edit: accidental post, halfway through writing.

        Last edited 21/06/13 10:54 am

          "Online functionality was Microsoft's best feature, and now it's gone." How exactly is it gone? What EXACTLY have we lost?

          Let's say I bought an XB1 with all of the prior restrictions. I then don't want to play online, and leave it unplugged from the internet... except every 24hrs I'll plug the cable in for 5mins just to verify it and keep it working, then unplug it again. The DRM requirement isn't about always online, it's about a piracy check, maybe a system update. The servers verify that my system is legit, and give it a new lease of life. How then does my GAMEPLAY experience diminish with XB1.1, where I do the same thing, or even leave it plugged in 24/7? What have I lost? The specs are still the same. It still has the 500Gb HDD, standard. The only difference now is that you can CHOOSE how often you want to connect to the internet, if at all... and you can't digitally share games by account... something which seemed suspicious to begin with, and something which I don't care about anyway. I actually prefer disks. Note that this doesn't effect gameplay itself... it is more of an access issue... theoretical convenience or whether your false family(i.e. friend) in Amsterdam could use your game or not.

          Bear in mind that anyone who decides to play online is in the SAME situation regardless of whether they have XB1, or XB1.1. As soon as you connect online to play multiplayer or whatever, the system checks and updates may be performed, and cloud computing is still possible, if it is legit.

          Where is the loss to the consumer that makes this backflip the darkest day in hell, and a crippling of the system to "JUST A PS4"? To me, this is a pure win for gamers everywhere. Feel free to point out anything that I've missed. I for one will not miss the DRM parole officer.

            You've missed my entire point, that's all. Just a trifling, entire point.
            And that point was that required online may affect the platform in the future. I used the example of the 360's hard drive to make that point. An example of a game which used a guaranteed hard drive, a universal feature, to improve gameplay, and an example from a developer which complained of being held back with what they wanted to do because not every 360 was guaranteed to have the required hardware. One of Microsoft's core policies regarding development for the 360 was that it couldn't require a hard drive - will similar policies be introduced for XB1's online? That if your game fundamentally requires an internet connection to function, it can't be made? (Or, at least, can only be sold digitally. A complete ban is unreasonable these days. But the core thinking still applies.)
            My point is that we DON'T, and now WILL NEVER, know what that mandatory online functionality could eventually have meant to the platform. Do you know what Microsoft wanted to do with it? Apart from shitty DRM and cloud potential, that is. Do you know what developers would have done with it? No. And neither do I. I'm just disappointed that now we'll never know - the potential, and core functionailty, of a platform with a mandatory online component is gone.
            I'm lamenting the lack of trust Microsoft had in their original vision more than anything else. They fucked up the delivery of the message, certainly. But it doesn't mean they weren't potentially on to something truly revolutionary. We'll never know.

              And it seems that you've missed mine! The original police state model ONLY required a brief "check in", NOT perma-online while you play. Like now instead of "you must say hi to the bouncer at 10pm or we're kicking you out of the nightclub", it's "you can say hi to the bouncer if you want". A game company may still make an online-only game, or a game with both modes. If it is truly revolutionary, it may be sold as such(like if the Diablo 3 port doesn't have an offline mode, which is the same as PC).

              So I do in fact know, it is logic.

              Player A: Plugs XB1 in for 5min for the verification to prevent bricking. Unplugs and continues to play game as is until the next day.
              Player B: Plugs XB1 in 24/7. Should have the same playing experience as Player A. Possible dynamic or improved experience due to cloud computing.

              Player A: Doesn't need to plug XB1.1 online. Plays game as is. May or may not plug in ever. Any updates may be applied if they do plug in. If they do, play experience is the same as Player A with XB1"Before".
              Player B: Plugs XB1.1 in 24/7. May have a different playing experience as Player A. Possible dynamic or improved experience due to cloud computing. Same play experience as Player B with XB1"Before"

                No, I get it. The online, in its current form, has no effect on gameplay. The 24 hr online check, which I completely understand, is unrelated to a console with "always on" capabilities. What they've announced, and since withdrawn, has no bearing on the overall experience as we understand it now. It doesn't affect cloud, it doesn't affect multiplayer; people either play online or they don't. People either utilize cloud processing, or they don't The DRM is there to prevent piracy. I know. I see the point.
                However! What was, previously, a uniform feature, isn't any more. You can choose "offline" mode, authenticate your console, patch it up, and put a screwdriver through the ethernet port and wireless card. Your ability to play XB1 games won't be affected.
                But it could have been! That's what I'm saying! Knowing every single XB1 has internet, or does not necessarily have internet, will affect the way the platform grows. It's on this basis that I argue Microsoft should have kept mandatory online, if not draconian DRM.
                Not because of what the platform is now, but what it could potentially have evolved into.

                  The thing I don't get is how you expect it to grow better with the original model than it will now. I guess I'm looking for something tangible. If you said cheaper(due to low piracy/lower production costs) or more accessible games I could say maybe. But Microsoft are definitely there to make money. If you said better games I would say no. I just have a hard time seeing this Utopia from a police state model. PC gaming is already pretty much this Utopia with almost everyone online, but it's voluntary.

                  As the previous model was nothing more than a census/verification check while homogenizing all the systems, I can find no compelling evidence that any evolution would have been positive.

                  It may not have any direct effect at all. There's no compelling evidence, whatsoever. And I know that. In it's rawest form, I just want to say it's bad to segment a market. If Microsoft's next-gen business plan had mandatory internet as a core feature, the fact that it's now gone has got to damage their vision for the platform. Whether it was ever going to evolve past DRM restrictions isn't a question it's possible to answer.
                  They've bet heavily on their online requirement and have been forced to abandon those plans. That's all we know.
                  And in my opinion, it would have been better for Microsoft to remain committed to an online future, and drop the DRM. Hell, extend the 24 hour check in. Do whatever it took to placate gamers while sticking with what they'd developed as the future of the Xbox brand.
                  For no other reason than that I think it's what they should have done. Because I think a "connected" console is a better option than "some connected, some not"; particularly with the potential of the cloud, and of streaming. You don't agree. Can we just leave it at that?

                  Last edited 21/06/13 4:32 pm

    It is proof of one thing, gaming is filled with whinging kids and useless bloggers and websites that are unwilling to try new things.

    God some people talk crap. You lost 3 pissy features in favour of a region free console, no 24hr checkins and the right to trade/sell games etc. Why are you people whining? It's laughable that you think it was a vocal minority that caused this, Absolutely delusional thought simply because you didn't get your way. No one ruined the future of tech, don't be so melodramatic. If anything it's been saved from heavy handed, arbitrary DRM ever seen on a console. You're going to have to accept that unlike you the vast majority of informed consumers wanted none of this rubbish just so they didnt have to get off their butts to put a disc in the console.

    Seriously, stop shaping this as though anything they took away was innovative or exciting. Reality check: you folks ARE the minority here. Multi billion dollar companies don't make decisions for a select few people. They do whatever gets them the best return and clearly, they figured out that their current policies simply weren't going to get them the return.

    I'm not even buying the damn console, but take a step back into reality. Anyone who honestly thought ANY of that rubbish was going to fly isn't living in reality.

    Where you before, when every man and his dog told MS to nick off, under a rock?

    Here was Microsoft's chance to come out and show that the Xbox would do everything the PS4 could do, as well as doing disc-less gaming and digital sharing. But, no...they fucked that up too.

    Samsung didn't become the dominant player in the mobile market by play catch-up with Apple - they did it because they included features that that Apple didn't have, Sony understand this - Microsoft doesn't seem to.

    Last edited 21/06/13 12:11 pm

    Yep, and great result too!

    So the new rumour going around is the Family sharing was really just sharing the game for 60 minutes and that's it.

    Makes more sense as I couldn't see pubs/devs being ok with being able to share whole games.

    What's going to happen to the Forza 5 driveatar that could only happen because of a mandatory once every 24 hour connection?

      Perhaps they will still release the odd game that would require a regular internet connection. As long as it is labelled appropriately I don't see the problem with it, people without an internet connection would know to avoid it.

      The cloud is still there is they want to use it, You're just not forced to use it when you don't need too.

    INTERNET: With great power comes great abuse of responsibility.

    Edit: I think the real winners out of this, marketing/PR-wise, are the used-game-traders.

    They've been quiet since day one, non-committal, neither complaining nor pontificating... they've just sat there quietly and folded their arms, balls of steel like someone who just bet everything on red and is waiting for the wheel to stop spinning. Now they don't have any harsh words to justify, apologise for or backpedal from.

    Played cool. Very cool. I reckon they were pretty confident this is how things were going to go, and they've bought some breathing room for negotiations on the next generation - which, if it's another damn-near-decade away, will likely not have disc drives.

    Last edited 21/06/13 10:42 am

    Well done team.

    Now do you want to start on trying to get Apu out of jail?

      Sorry Bert and Liza already did that

        Then get to restocking the Bort license plates!

    Personally I don't think the masses contributed to this about face as much as the PS4 did. I mean seriously, Xbox were championing their system for a whole 4 weeks of wasteful and dreadful PR. They knew that people would eventually buy the Xbox for their fix of Halo and the like, I mean why worry when the PS4 would surely work the same?

    Then bam! The PS4 is applauded for simply not doing what Xbox did and Xbox did not improve in any ones eyes after that. Every single piece of major press about Sony from that point on was a punch in the face.

    Microsoft had more than enough time and evidence to find that this DRM system would not fly with consumers and they banked on it anyway. Their market analysts would have been tasked with making it sell with the DRM, not without it; they couldn't rely on public outcry for the DRM to promote sales of the Xbone. Instead they would focus on the 'benefits' and claim they are moving towards the future and hope that the consumers would see it their way.


    Just how is draconian DRM "moving towards the future?" Stop blaming people who just didn't want MS taking total control of their gaming device and implementing the most heavy handed, arbitrary DRM ever conceived for a console. News flash: clearly the majority of gamers had no interest in this stupid family sharing rubbish and diskless gaming. Are you people just whining for the sake of it or do you truly believe your precious three missing features couldn't be done without having MS control your every move?

    People seriously, do you actually think all of their bizarre DRM was going to actually BENEFIT you? Lolz brainwashed much?

    Region free gaming, no 24hr check in and actually being able to sell & buy used games IS FAR better than diskless gaming or some pointless family sharing feature. Do you truly believe MS was ever going to allow you to install one game across 10 consoles for FREE? Please, that could amount to $1000 of lost sales per game. Don't be silly, it was never going to work like that. Get your facts right.

    I'm astounded that there are people out there who actually believe the people who DIDN'T want any of the DRM rubbish, were actually in the minority. Were you living under a rock when the entire gaming segment of the internet exploded with negative feedback, or are you in denial because common sense prevailed and you're missing out on a few pointless features? Please, get real.

    Stop behaving like children. I firmly believe the features gained such as region free games, are much more beneficial to the future of tech. What MS was going to do is disgusting and archaic. Some of you are VERY clearly irrational, fanboy teenagers & extremely ignorant if you seriously thought ANYTHING MS was going to do would have been new or innovative.

    All they were doing is seeing how far you'd bend over for their piss poor exclusives. Ahhhh fanboys & delusional gamers are always good for a laugh.

    Man, the public had nothing to do with it other than be unwitting pawns in a game of marketing.

    They said all that stuff about DRM and online jargon to create a whirlwind of attention. Then after E3 when people were in a frenzy of MS hatin' they do a complete backflip.

    It's kinda like how governments work, first you create a perceived problem, then you offer a solution and win the people over.

    "Xbox One DRM Reversal Is Proof That Speaking Out Can Get Results".....temporary.

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