XBox One Eighty

So news here, here and here.

Before I get into what this means, let’s refresh our memories a bit here.

Can’t get online?  Too bad, buy a 360.

We can’t just flip a switch to turn off DRM.

This is the same company that said we had to live with the fact that there was a new paradigm and no amount of complaining by the public would make it change course…

And here we are.  Today’s announcement that the XBONE has removed nearly every single DRM function from their system.  There is but a fraction of a degree between what they’ve done and a true 180.  To summarize:

  • No need to be always online
  • You DO need to be online to register the game initially
  • No check-ins every 24 hours
  • Discs work similar to the 360, in that they need to be in the console to play
  • Downloaded games work offline or off
  • You can rent, trade, exchange games as you do today
  • Works in all regions (AUS games in US)

What are you exchanging for this?  The ability to play games wholely from the cloud, meaning you didn’t need a disc in the console.

So after taking what by most accounts is the most massive pounding in gaming history, completing denying reality, telling gamers to basically smeg-off, flipping the bird to the used game industry (GameFly & Gamestop), losing a VP for trying to push always online and still selling games for the same price as the PS4 they decided to turn tail.

Can you imagine being inside the Microsoft offices the past few weeks? It must have been like a madhouse of scrambling from a PR side, trying to spin the “future” of gaming.  Even Major Nelson had a hell of a time trying to pitch it.

Still, this is good for Microsoft.  With ~4 months to go, they’ve removed a massive barrier to sales.  Sure, you still have a camera that’s always one.  Sure you still need to have internet access to initially launch a game.  Sure, it’s still $100 more than the PS4.

At least the playing field is a bit more equal.

The Wonders

So we’re about into week 2 of SimCity, a game I haven’t played but feel like I have.  The stories coming out are pointing more and more towards Accident-Lawyer on the truthiness scale.

Recently we learned that “offline mode” is more than feasible from the same guy that was able to mod away regional boundaries (make the map bigger essentially).  The servers apparently are only used for resource relay from nearby regions and to save your game.  Given that resources in regions only update if there’s an ACTIVE player in those regions, when you’re playing  private region, it never updates.  This means that the “cloud” does one thing and one thing only for single-player online games, it saves.  And does a poor job at it too, since you can’t access your saves from a different server.  Not too cloud-like to me!

Today we find out that the game has a line of code to disconnect you after 20 minutes of no-interweb.  Code it out, and you can play offline as much as you want, you just can’t save.  Seems rather DRM-ish to me.

All this while, the Maxis boss has been claiming the cloud off-loads computation.  Mind you, they’ve now opened the can of worms by alluding to the game as an MMO.  You know, an MMO where you actively play with other people and don’t have any single player options?

It just seems unfortunate that a series with as much history as SimCity would want to go down this path.  Are there still pirates?  Yes, and I would bet dollars to donuts there are more pirates that don’t want to play your game than do.  I also bet that online stores without DRM would have sold you more copies.  There are simply too many DRM alternatives out there to go down this ridiculous route.  It’s 2013, we can do better.