Breaking: Microsoft Caves, Xbox One DRM Removed

We’ve known all along that Xbox One’s ridiculous DRM and always-online1 requirement are completely insane. That became especially apparent after the epic pantsing delivered to Microsoft by Sony on the first day of E3 2013. But has the company finally realized its mistake? That’s the gist of a sensational change to Xbox One policies announced by the company just moments ago.

In an update to its infamous Xbox One clarification page, the company has announced the total reversal of the controversial always-online requirement, as well as the equally controversial bans on used games, and lending and trading between friends. Here is that statement in full:

Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.

For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future.

Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.

Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year.

Simply put, this is a spectacular victory for gamers, and for consumers generally. It is also a delicious cap to nearly 3 months of a peculiar marketing strategy that appeared to be based upon outright contempt for the consumer.

In early April, Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth incensed gamers by when he responded to people who objected to the requirement of a persistent Internet connection by crudely mocking rural residents, and by drawing false equivalence between gaming consoles and cellular phones. In the ensuing firestorm of criticism, Orth resigned from his position (almost certainly as an alternative to being fired outright), but the company’s subsequent behavior demonstrates that it hung him out to dry when, in fact, he was expressing something close to the party line.

Perhaps the most notorious example of the company’s consumer-focused misanthropy came the day after E3, when Microsoft President of the Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick gave an interview to Geoff Keighley, during which he delivered this very smug response when asked about people who are simply unable to consistently connect to the internet: “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called xbox 360″.

That he did this less than 24 hours after Sony’s reveal that PS4 would have none of Xbox One’s unpopular features and would be $100 cheaper made his comment seem especially clueless, and in the days after Microsoft essentially stopped talking to the press.

As for why this is happening now, clearly, Sony’s positioning Playstation 4 as the anti-Xbox, along with increasing vitriolic criticism from observers outside of the gore gamer world, played a role in convincing Microsoft that it was making a terrible business decision. I also can’t help but wonder it there has also been a serious drop in Xbox One preorders. But perhaps the coup de grâce was an absolutely scathing editorial by the Navy Times, which called Xbox One “a sin against all service members”.

As our own Phil Hornshaw said on Twitter, “just remember that you are the vocal minority and it doesn’t matter what you think because CoD players.” Indeed.

Congratulations, gamers. You’ve earned yourselves a drink.

1) once every 24 hours is functionally always-online, no matter how you look at it.

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25 Comments on Breaking: Microsoft Caves, Xbox One DRM Removed

Sharkey

On June 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Well this should balance out the next-gen battle now, still the damage by MS’s PR has been done as far as I’m concerned. Drop the Kinect requirement and sell a $399 bundle without it and maybe I’ll get one down the road, but for now I’m sticking with Sony as they didn’t start down a path of ape like MS did.

Mike

On June 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Problem is I still don’t know if I’ll ever trust MS enough to buy an xbone now, they can always re-implement it at a later date…and I already pre-ordered the cheaper PS4.

Kevin

On June 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

If the XBO manages to catch the PS4, it will take awhile. In this case the damage has truly already been done. The big concern I have is Microsoft simply tried to accelerate a trend that is already occuring amongst game companies. Anyone confident that trend will be reversed?

eddie

On June 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm

oh my god I didnt think they were gonna be smart enough to change this until after they got shellacked this christmas by sony. this changes things alot. But I guess it still requires Kinect? That was my smallest complaint of the bunch really

Swcloud99

On June 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Microsoft didn’t do this from the goodness of their hearts.
Everyone knows the PS4 was getting nearly 20 times the pre-orders that the XboxOne was getting. That’s fact and that’s not something a company can ignore.
They were in a corner and did the only thing they could think of to get some heat off of them.
At least now we have proof from all those interviews how those f***ers at microsoft really think of their supporters.
This company needs to burn.

Swcloud99

On June 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

This right here is the truth.
Microsoft didn’t do this from the goodness of their hearts.
Everyone knows the PS4 was getting nearly 20 times the pre-orders that the XboxOne was getting. That’s fact and that’s not something a company can ignore.
They were in a corner and did the only thing they could think of to get some heat off of them.
At least now we have proof from all those interviews how those f***ers at microsoft really think of their supporters.
This company needs to burn.

MPSewell

On June 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

If they really think this is going to cause me to buy their system, now, then they’re delusional. They are almost assuredly going to start going down this road again in the future, after they’ve sold a massive number of their consoles. Then, suddenly, “Oh hey guys, we just realized how awesome it would be for consumers if you had to have DRM…”

Yeah, no thanks, not taking that chance.

R.J.

On June 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I thought they’d reconsider this strategy, but I figured they’d need a few months after the machine released to figure out they were being stupid. Unless MS had a policy of not wanting to sell the One, they couldn’t have been blind to the fact that nobody thought they were making good decisions, and having Sony utterly blast them at E3 seemed like it presented them with the ultimatum of actually listening to what customers were saying, or close their eyes and ears and hope for the best. Of course, now they’ll have to go into another round of marketing because they’ve had months of telling people to “deal with it” followed by an embarrassing E3, so they’ll have to work hard just to get people informed of this change. Given that MS had trouble getting its story straight ever since the One was announced, I wonder how well they’ll be able to manage that. Oh, and now they’ll have to also consider the price difference that is still out there.

But, I still plan on getting a PS4. Sony has the exclusives I want, it’s cheaper, and they didn’t need virtually every gamer telling them that this was a stupid idea in the first place. I’m not rewarding MS any points for “listening” to something that should have been obvious from the start.

fethski

On June 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm

A big thank you should go to Jimmy Fallon as well. In any case I’ll probably buy one in a few years after a price drop or two assuming of course the exclusives are there. Oh and just because you decided to stop ting in my living room because you realized it was a bad idea doesn’t mean I’m just going to forget you were doing it in the first place and that we’ll suddenly be friends again.

R.J.

On June 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm

@Swcloud

You have a point. If MS was really committed to these policies for reasons it considered valid beyond a way to get extra money, they would have tried to explain why things like the check-in system were necessary, but they didn’t. MS probably thought that Sony would be following similar strategies given how similar the consoles themselves are, but when Sony opted to not only go the other way, but make MS look stupid in the process, they had no real choice other than to give up any pretenses and admit they messed up. A company doesn’t just reverse direction like this unless they can see that it is hurting business.

Like I said, while it’s good that MS is dropping these ideas, I’m not going to lavish them with praise when they never should have tried these things in the first place. When your at the biggest marketing event for your industry and your response to criticism is, “Don’t like it? Don’t buy it,” I have to question how you even got your job.

gasmaskangel

On June 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

PS4 is still $100 cheaper, and doesn’t require the kinect.

Michael

On June 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

It’s too late…

Whay should anyone trust Microsoft especially since they said that these features could not be removed in the first place.

Since this reveal I wonder if Sony will step up and announce the release to the PS4 for a September-October release.

Jay

On June 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I’ll take that drink, just need to get to the bar first. :)

Looks like I’ll be buying an Xbox One around the time that next Halo releases.

MIke

On June 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm

They still said that the initial set-up still requires a connection to the next-gen xbox live in order to start the system…a connection to a live system that still only 21 countries will have…add in the fact that their spy cam is still attached and nope no money from me.

Matt

On June 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Wait, let’s recap this.

About two months ago, a Microsoft official “resigned” after tweeting that people who had a problem with the new Xbox being always-online could, paraphrased, go to hell.

About one month ago, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, and gave almost every possible answer to the question of whether the Xbox One would be always-online. They also began discussing their “used games policy,” which was nothing but weasel words designed to pass blame on to publishers (including, presumably, Microsoft) for cracking down on used games.

About a week ago, at E3, Microsoft confirmed their idiotic online and used game policies. They also, to paraphrase Don Mattrick, told people that had a problem with these policies to either stick with an Xbox 360 or just go to hell. At this point, a wary consumer might notice a trend in the mindset of higher-level Microsoft employees and Microsoft’s closest corporate affiliates, to wit: Buy what we tell you to like, or go to hell.

Now after months of complaints, they think that throwing the consumers a bone is going to make everything better? When literally everything they promised could be undone with the press of a button? Is anyone else smelling a bait and switch looming just down the road? Because anything they do at this stage is only going to be a software fix, which can easily be re-patched or even accidentally reverted if someone at Microsoft screws up and resets any of the operating systems (plural) to their old coding.

After twelve years of loyalty I’m not ready to trust Microsoft’s console division with my money this year, and I don’t think I will be ready for a good, long while. Especially after Microsoft spent two months publicly displaying what was clearly an institutional attitude that the customer, and their desires, could go to hell. Saying that they’re sorry doesn’t show me that Microsoft has learned anything, just that they’re trying to con their way into a few more preorders.

If they’re really sincere, then they need to copy Sony’s conduct after the PS3/PSP launches and start cleaning house. Microsoft needs to bring in new people, who can at least pay lip service toward good customer relations while not appearing to be blatant liars. Letting go one scapegoat isnt going to cut it.

That would be a good start, at least.

quicktooth

On June 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm

From the Student Prince- “Here we go, here we go- HERE WE GO- HERE WE GO; for the be-eer. It is de-lightful!” XD. So Micro$oft decided not to cost themselves their console buisness after all. Astonishing! They aren’t remoresful in the slightest for their blatant efforts to attack me, so I still have no reason to trust them and I’m not buying their gadget. It’s Sony for me! Can’t help but add that even if Micro$oft hadn’t disqualified themselves right out of the gate, their Kinect requirement, higher price, and lack of interesting exclusives would ALSO have been deal breakers. Showing that your company really, truly has UTTER CONTEMPT and even *hate* for your own customers is still the most powerful reason those customers shouldn’t ever buy from you. Always was. Still going with Sony. [Wordpress isn't working at the moment- sorry if repost]

quicktooth

On June 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

blarg- have to clarify that it’s the orwellian nightmare future they wanted to bring, and their repeated insults towards their customers, that constitute the attack. Not the price or lack of interesting exclusives.

Van Binger

On June 20, 2013 at 12:45 am

What this comes down to is the executives at Microsoft got played by some guys on the financial/software end that had done some math on lost sales vs. lost revenue when you cut out all the xbox users who weren’t online. The equation said, the people who buy DLC, buy Live, etc. made them money whereas they lost money selling to the offline people. They knew they would lose console sales from this move and told the execs it would all wash out and they’d end up with more money from emphasizing their real customer, the online gamer and getting rid of the baggage.

The project leads true to form acted like God had entrusted them with some kind of secret after they saw these graphs and told the execs this would be amazing who then told everyone who disagreed to shove off. After all the research said they could right? Well turns out people got way more pissed than they equated. They run the numbers again and, wait a second, were losing money because we alienated EVERYONE.

Software guys with the big ideas call another meeting to say, ‘yeah, so I think we should just stick with what works, you know, undo all that DRM we thought was such a good idea, but we’ll make it only activate under Live so that we can still maintain some of the margin gains we wanted.’ This was a total failure to screen ideas, whoever was project lead should have asked questions, whoever was that guys boss should have asked questions. This was something that should have been handled WITHIN FIFTEEN MINUTES IN A MEETING! Not over months and months where for the longest time no one aside from the guys who pitched the idea even knew exactly what the policy was.

Haaaate

On June 20, 2013 at 3:46 am

This is damage limitation, no more and no less. And it won’t work, because the same people who were turned off by DRM and always-online to begin with will also be aware that Microsoft can (and probably will) just implement it a few months after the console’s been launched anyway. Bill Gates must be devastated at what’s happened to his company, he wasn’t a perfect owner by any means and he could be ruthless but he did at least appear to understand what customers wanted and how to communicate his ideas to them while listening to theirs. Microsoft’s gone completely down the tubes since he left the helm.

Jimenez

On June 20, 2013 at 5:31 am

This was inevitable. They need to examine the events that brought them here and figure out how to avoid repeating this mess.
Microsoft wants an app market like Apple’s cash cow sooooooooo badly that they are trying to change all their products to force one into being. That was certainly the case with Windows 8 and I’m wondering if there are elements of that in their new console…

Jimenez

On June 20, 2013 at 5:38 am

I also wonder if Microsoft was watching the competition. You can’t compete if you don’t know what your chief rival is doing. Couldn’t they see the Sony press conference coming? They made it so easy for Sony to win. I watched the Sony conference fully expecting exactly the announcements that they made. There’s just so much that doesn’t make sense about the whole situation. I have to assume that someone really high up made up their mind about this and wouldn’t listen to anyone until the numbers came in. I can’t imagine so many people were oblivious in the same organization.

Kazoo

On June 20, 2013 at 7:38 am

I’m mixed. I didn’t like the DRM requirements, but I *did* like some of the family/friend sharing features.

I like that my son could go play my game on his friend’s XB1 without having to physically take my disc. (You’d be surprised how often discs get damaged when kids are involved).

I think I’d like enough DRM to allow the sharing across consoles, but not limit me from selling the game to someone else.

Take Me

On June 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

@Kazoo: Exactly. It’s not ‘either or.’ Sony have been nailing this for years with cross-platform support and cloud gaming via multiple consoles, yet at no point has the idea of limiting who plays their disk games ever cropped up. The closest you can come up with is the Vita which admittedly does require a new owner of certain pre-owned games to confirm that they are the new owner and transfer the license to their system, but as far as I know it’s not for every game and it doesn’t prevent you either from selling your games after you’ve completed them or from lending them to friends, since you can just transfer the license back to your Vita after they’ve used it and there’s no restriction on how many times you can do this. Not to mention Vita has probably the best cloud support of any system released thus far, so there’s no real need to physically lend your game to someone else. But if you do want to, you can.

Microsoft were ONLY doing this for money and to kill the used games industry that worries them so much. The idea of customers actually having power and responsibility over their own property scares the bejesus out of them.

Axetwin

On June 20, 2013 at 9:56 am

Microsoft removing family share and the trading of digital games not only shows off they just didn’t get it, but it also seems like they did it out of spite. Right now Microsoft is that kid that gets in trouble for playing too rough, but instead of playing nicer, they just take their ball (the only ball the kids have to play with) and just goes home. Then is later forced to apologize by their mother.

Back when MS announced that XBL was going to be a broadband only service, they got so much praise for “dragging gamers kicking and screaming into the present era of gaming”. I’ve seen a lot of people say the same about the policies about the X1. Again it was “dragging gamers kicking and screaming into the present era of gaming”. Well, here’s the thing about dragging someone kicking and screaming, sometimes, it really is what it appears to be. A form of abuse and someone needs to step in and put a stop ot it.

Joe Bunn

On June 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

@Axetwin: Not to mention that it assumes that a) the present is reflected in the policies, and b) these policies represent a present and future that is actually beneficial to its customers. It’s pretty obvious that neither of these statements are true regarding the Xbox One.