Here come the rumors…. the flood gates are flowing strong now that the NeXt-Box (Xbox 720) event is being scheduled for May 21st, even more-so than before the console reveal was announced tidbits were swirling about. Today, Polygon, who’s said to have sources close to the next project from Microsoft reported that the newest Digital Rights Management software that has set the internet ablaze over the last month or so has been reported to end up in the hands of the developers. The rumor of an always-on functionality was cleared by their sources saying that the next console would indeed feature a function like this, though the details were still being worked out, to ensure that a verification of the game could be completed to lessen the number of pirated titles. While that might not seem like a big riff to the average gamer, the underlying information found is that it is possible that developers may choose at their own free will to make verification a one-time authentication which would render the game unplayable on other consoles; in other words you’re stuck with that title once you pop it into the system. Microsoft, in essence, is saying that they don’t want gamers to be mad at them for such functions, but instead tosses the grenade back into the court of the developers behind the titles. This is a dangerous game that developers are possibly going to be thrown into and when creating a game will have been given a choice that could have catastrophic backlash; developers must tread lightly, but also are not the only ones that stand the chance of losing something in the end.
The risks of making a game that only allows one-time verification and renders that game unplayable on any other system could open Pandora’s Box as gamers would be outraged especially if not given the information before their initial purchase and play through. The chain reaction could be huge, should gamers not stay informed about what games do indeed use such functions. Take for instance your average store, like Walmart, that does offer the option of purchasing games, but doesn’t necessarily feature the most informed employees when it comes to gaming. Let’s take a gamer that enjoys games, but isn’t able to do as much internet perusing as most, purchases a game that features such software to limit the number of activated consoles, winds up not being as fond of that title as they thought they would be, and takes it into Gamestop to trade it in. At that point they are given the information about the game and that it isn’t able to be traded in because the developer chose to implement DRM features and that game is locked to his or her console. Not only does this put a sour taste in their mouth for Gamestop, and I know many do already, but it also hurts Walmart, the Developer, and the Hardware Manufacturer, in this case Microsoft.
Just because Microsoft isn’t the one to implement the features doesn’t mean they are free from scrutiny, but it does lift some of the weight from their shoulders. Instead the brunt of the weight is shifted to developers, but in-turn also affects retailers as well. Developers do have to think about this for a couple of reasons. Should they not be forced to label the packaging with such information and big-box retailers aren’t given the information before hand, it could damage their creditability with that store that is selling their product. We have seen crazier bans on merchandise than not giving the information before the products were sold to the public for misleading them and making the retailer look bad. Think I’m kidding, take Monkey Nuts that were banned in the U.K. from Booth’s, a major retailer for groceries, because it didn’t say it contained nuts…. they were PEANUTS for goodness sake!
Not only does it hurt a potential relationship with retailers, but should they so choose to protect their digital media with such software, imagine the ramifications should their be another product on the market just like it. Look at Call of Duty and Battlefield, while we are more likely to see electronic Arts do something such as this than Activision, it wouldn’t be out of the question for either because of the popularity of their games. What if one does it and the other doesn’t though? Imagine the corporate flop that would happen should they make such a decision. There would more than likely be a good majority of people who make the jump from one to the other and leave, even Call of Duty, in the dust attempting to patch the misguided step they made. It would be a tough sell, but this is one of the major reasons that developers must consider all of the issues with using such a software.
It all comes down to money in the end. Should you own an exclusive right to make a game like EA did with Madden and the NFL, then implicating such a feature might not be a bad idea, but if there is competition that lies in waiting do you think they are going to tell you whether they are going to implement such features into their game? Nope, it’s all about positioning yourself to make the sales, even if it means more buy initially and then allow those to trade them in, creating used games.
Not only do the developers and retailers have something to worry about, Microsoft would not be free from the punishment… but maybe not from who you would think. The public would be frustrated more with the developers that chose to use these functions more-so than at Microsoft for even giving them the opportunity. In the eyes of consumers it would be more the fault of the company that made the game, than the hardware manufacturer. The potential damage that could be seen by Microsoft could lie on the side of the fence with the developers more than those purchasing the system. There is no doubt, Microsoft giving the developers the right to do what they please with a title would put more pressure on the developer, but don’t think for a minute that developers wouldn’t start to point the finger at Microsoft for the features. The upheaval that could be caused if Microsoft tarnishes the reputation of a developer by trying to convince them to use the DRM features or should the dev’s just be looking to point the blame at someone else could even limit future titles from that creator winding up on the NeXt-Box. Again, it is business and all parties are about making money, even if it is at the expense of others.
It is an exciting time, but that excitement and joy could turn to remorse in the future with such possibilities. Microsoft, developers, retailers, and consumers must all proceed with caution with such software. All parties have a stake, whether it is losing money that the consumer worked hard to spend, or the company that created the ability for developers to use the DRM software and the potential relationship damage that could come between them, everyone has a place and stands the chance of losing something. It is a rumor at this point, but a situation such as this could get really ugly; it will be Microsoft and the developers, however, that have the most to lose in the end.