Greetings, Dtoiders. My name's Bob Ellis (hence the clever title lol). I've been frequenting this site for some years now and have been content to sit in the shadows and watch the daily comings and goings, but no longer. I've also been a gamer for nearly thirty years, playing just about anything that has a controller. The years have made me a man of many thoughts about the hobby I love and I think it's time to share some of these observations beyond a simple article comment or forum post.
I'm going to start with the current hot ticket item: Xbox One (XBO).
The story is fairly well known by now, but I shall review. A little over a month ago Microsoft unveiled their newest baby with much fanfare, but without many games. This brought the ire of the gaming masses upon it in minor amounts, but it was what came just after that really kicked up a shit storm. XBO was to have numerous restrictions imposed upon the users, including daily check in and not being able to use your physical media the way you see fit (trade, give, resell etc.). The gaming masses mobilized in a way I've never seen. We took to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc. all voicing our concerns (civilly and uncivilly) to make sure this didn't go down. We won the battle, but have we won the war?
I don't like being told what I can and can't do with a physical product, but I understand that with a digital (as in downloaded) product I'm losing some privilege for some convenience. Where I think MS failed was that they were treating all media as digital even if you purchased a disc. We live in a tangible world and don't view physical objects as intangible.
Hold on to your hats and your pitchforks folks! I'm going to take a some time to talk about what good MAY have come from what MS was trying to do. Lets set aside the parole officer style check ins for a minute and look at this from a perfect world perspective. As I stated before, by buying a digital product you're sacrificing versatility for convenience (and shelf space). The MS plan would bring back some of that versatility by giving you the ability to let friends borrow your digital games or even to give them to someone. Now I'm fully aware of the whole 10 "family member" and 30 day friend restriction, but think about the concept for a moment.
Now lets apply this concept to Steam (yes I'm invoking the Steam defense). How cool would it be to be able to share your Steam library with some of your friends and their's with you? Even if it was only a 10 person restriction, I would only share games with people I know in real life which only accounts 3 of my friends on Steam anyway. Wouldn't it be awesome to just give a game to a friend that you're not playing anymore or they to you? Save some money right? (as of this writing it is rumored that Steam may be preparing such a service)
On the subject of saving money, there's the whole used game debate. Now I'm going to save that for another Bobservation, but I just want to touch on it as it applies to this situation. I hear many arguing that the reason they don't want the restriction their physical discs is so they can be free to trade in their games for store credit. I dig that. I've traded in some games in my time. Saves money on new games. However, think about where this might have taken us. Lets say you and a couple friends are sharing your libraries among yourselves. Jeff buys Dead Rising 3, Jim buys Titanfall and you buy Forza 5. Each of you spent $60 but your shared libraries give each of you access to these games (combined value $180). Now you don't have to trade in Forza 5 to save $5 on Titanfall (assuming you turned it in at Gamestop). Don't like the game and just want to get rid of it? Well no one's thought that far ahead yet, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to revert the game back to the cloud and get some credit towards another game? Or even better, do what Sony is going to do on PS4 and offer demos for all games. There's a ton of possibilities.
This all sounds great on paper, but then there's the ugly monster hiding just around the corner...DRM.
I could write a whole other Bobservation on DRM and it's merits/demerits, but I'll discuss as it applies here. In XBO's case you would have to check in daily from your own console or hourly from a friend's console. This is a bit extreme to say the least, but how could it be done differently?
In this age of technology and digital products, everything is just data being moved and copied from one place to another. It's not like the old days where you just bought a cartridge and that was that. Since games started coming on CDs and with the advent of the CD burner, it has become a constant battle between people just trying to get something for free and the people who just want to be paid for selling their product (corporate greed aside).
This is a classic case of a bad apple ruining things for the rest of us. I would love to be be able to have a digital product and not have some piece of software watch dogging me at every turn, but how do you stop the bad apples?
To invoke the Steam defense again, you're being required to connect to their service in order for your games to work. No one's complaining about it. We just accept that that's the way it works. However, Steam offers an option that's not often brought up: Offline Mode. Using this feature you can play your Steam library offline for up to 30 days. No check ins, no watch dogging. Couldn't MS have implemented such a feature?
I believe that all media is headed for an all digital future and we're going to have to be ready for it. Someday CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray will cease to be. That's not today, however and it will be a long gradual process that will happen when the public can trust it. MS shouldn't have tried to force it. Instead they should show and demonstrate the convenience that can be had. More importantly, they need to show a little more trust in us so that we may be more trusting of the changes to come.