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If the TPP Passes, it Could be Extremely Detrimental to the Modern State of Gaming

Politics are not my favorite thing to write about – far from it. Video games, however, are, and sometimes politics influence the video game industry. At the moment, the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was negotiated behind closed doors, is about to do just that. On the surface, it is a trade agreement between the US and various countries along the Pacific, one of those being Japan. If you look a little deeper, though, you will be able to find out that some clauses of this agreement could very realistically affect the video game industry in such a way that will harm users.

Though Europe is not part of the TPP, this information is relevant for Europeans, since a lot of video games are made in countries that are part of the trade deal.

One of the first problematic aspects of the TPP deal is that, in the chapter on Intellectual Property, it is stated that terms benefiting the rightsholders are binding, but terms benefiting the consumer are not. This means that countries have to abide by the terms regarding the rightsholders, but they have no such obligation regarding consumers. It is stated that they should, not that they must. This principle is applicable to many things mentioned in the document.

For example there is article QQ.G.17, which mentions fair use. Fair use means that users can use copyrighted material to make parodies, write reviews, news, etc. In this article it is stated that countries should try to maintain systems that are fair in the regard of fair use. “Should” is the keyword here, as this benefits users and thus is not binding.

Article QQ.G.6 is an example of a binding aspect of the TPP that is beneficial to rightsholders. It states that all countries will extend their copyright terms to those that the US and EU already have: Life of author + 70 years. It will take that long before IPs will become part of the public domain. Countries do get some time to adjust, but eventually they all need to establish this rule. Though this law exists to protect the rights of authors and their families, it can also be used by companies to prevent the public from using their content for anything.

The next article that is relevant to gamers is QQ.H.8. which mentions the criminal prosecution of people who expose trade secrets. At first it doesn’t look like this has much to do with gaming, but think back to all the leaks of game information that have happened the past couple of years, which are still very common occurrences. The article states that the people who leak such information can be prosecuted, but it doesn’t specify that it only is about the person who grabs the data from a company’s computer. It may very well mean that everyone who posts the leaked data might be criminally prosecuted.

Section I states that there can be legal incentives for internet service providers to take down content. This is an action against piracy, but it can very easily be abused to force providers to take down content that is in nebulous areas and might fall under the fair use principle – but since rules for that principle are not exactly rules, but more like guidelines instead, countries are not obliged to take those into account.

One of the more heavy articles is QQ.G.10. It mandates a full ban on DRM circumvention. This means modding consoles, making ROM hacks, or even modding games can be dangerous. Note that this not only means that the people who make the tools to circumvent DRM are in the wrong, but also the people who use the tools, even if they do not share any material.

Finally there are articles QQ.H.4. and QQ.H.5. Those articles are about the civil and criminal punishments of copyright infringement. To start, there is no financial cap for the fines. It starts at the retail price of the concerning products, but companies can try to squeeze as much money out of the infringer as they can. In addition to that, the device used in the copyright infringement can also be destroyed, which all in all is very excessive. The punishment for infringement can get even higher if it happens on a “commercial scale.” What that exactly means is still vague, but it is specified that this isn’t equal to financial gain. This means that a mod which circumvents DRM and has been downloaded by a lot of people can be considered an infringement on a commercial scale.

You can take a look at the video above for an in-depth explanation, but take it to be very clear that the intellectual property section of the TPP is made to benefit the corporations that worked on establishing the trade deal, and not the consumers.

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News Xbox One

Report: Xbox One Has DRM, Region-Locking in China

Remember last year after the Xbox One announcement, when millions of gamers were in an uproar over planned DRM policies like activation codes that would blocked used games? Microsoft listened to fans and backed down from those plans, but according to a recent report, they’ve kept that idea in place in China.

Apparently all Xbox One games in China will come with a one-use-only activation code required to play the game, eliminating any second-hand market, unless Microsoft works out a deal with approved retailers (as they had planned to do previously in other countries) where new activation codes can be given out. Additionally, Xbox One is apparently region-locked in China. This is less surprising, as the Chinese government has strict rules regarding the content of their games, and allowing people to import games from other countries would render those policies ineffective. Microsoft has not yet commented on these claims.

Source: Gamer Syndrome

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Family Sharing is Still a Possibility for the Xbox One

Do you remember when the Xbox One was first revealed in 2013 with restrictions on used games and required online check-ins? Well, for the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, that reveal is probably a ghost he’d like to put to rest. It was not only heavily scrutinized by both fans of competing consoles, but also by Microsoft fans who felt betrayed. While many of the policies that were met with backlash have been forgotten, it seems some of the more popular ones have a chance at returning.

Specifically, Phil Spencer described the roadmap of actually getting to a point where family sharing could be possible. This was all in a talk with Gamertag Radio.

“We looked at the digital features that we had talked about last year and as a gamer, there were a lot of those features that I think really resonated and were smart features for people who really have a lot of games and maybe play on a couple consoles or have bunch of people in the house or want to share with friends. As I look at our monthly update roadmap, those kind of features are in our roadmap. There is a little bit of a challenge now that you’ve got DRM on a disc.” — Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox Division at Microsoft

Pretty interesting… Spencer is confirming that he’d like to bring family sharing to the connected user. Whatever DRM snags they might encounter, I hope Microsoft is able to get this functionality to the public. What do you think about family sharing, or Phil Spencer’s comment? Let us know!

Source: IGN

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Articles Columns

Five Inventions That Changed Gaming For Better or Worse

The past week I’ve found myself caught in several discussions about innovation in gaming, and it’s left me thinking about what innovation really is. We’ve seen countless franchises end up re-using the same content over and over, and many criticize Sony’s and Microsoft’s current-gen consoles for simply being more powerful versions of their predecessors. However, every once in a while there comes an invention that changes everything. Developers have to start thinking differently and develop their games accordingly, and in my thinking, I’ve come up with five such inventions. Check them out below right now!

The Analog Stick

I don’t think anyone’s surprised to see that the analog stick made the list. The idea of an analog stick has existed as early as 1976, but for whatever reason, the analog stick never quite kicked off. It wasn’t until 1996, when the Nintendo 64 and its thumb-maneuvered control stick made their way to the market that people would begin seeing the analog stick in a different light. Ironically, the stick itself was digitally controlled, but it did the job to convince people that it allowed for 360-degree control. Two years later, Sony answered Nintendo’s challenge with its Dual Analog controller, which featured —you guessed it —two analog sticks. This solved many problems that game designers had to face; the left stick was used to control the main character while the right stick became the undisputed camera control. First-person shooters like Halo were designed with this control scheme in mind, and it has become the console standard since then. Needless to say, both Nintendo and Microsoft have come up with their own dual analog-stick controllers in response, and thusly the analog stick can be considered an invention that has completely changed gaming.

Downloadable Content

Like it or not, DLC’s a huge part of gaming now. Whether it’s in the form of an indie title on Steam, a new quest in Skyrim, or an absurdly overpriced micro-transaction in Angry Birds Go!, DLC’s wide-spread on PC and console. One of the earliest adopters of this business model was Microsoft; the Xbox Live Marketplace for the original Xbox (not the Xbox One, pardon the confusion) allowed players to access additional content for titles, including Splinter Cell and Halo 2. However, this was but an hors d’oeuvre for what was about to come. The Xbox 360 came with its own currency, Microsoft Points, which lessened the need for direct credit card transactions, a strategy adopted by competitors Nintendo and Sony when they launched the Wii and the PlayStation 3, respectively.

Naturally, no recount of DLC history would be complete without mentioning the Horse Armor Pack. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Horse Armor Pack was the first DLC for Bethesda’s 2006 action RPG
The Elder Scrolls IV:Oblivion. For $2.50, players could upgrade their characters’ horses with armor, which was purely cosmetic. Fans were unsurprisingly outraged and subsequent Oblivion DLC was much more substantial, Bethesda having learned their lesson. Fast-forward seven years to the present day, and a triple-A release without day one DLC might as well still be in closed beta. Used responsibly, DLC allows for gamers who’re craving an extra Skyrim fix to satisfy their needs, but used irresponsibly, it quickly becomes a painfully obvious grab for money (see Dead Space 3 if you need an example).

Digital Rights Management

DRM’s going to be contested for years to come, as no one seems to have any clue what it’s supposed to do. Some of it only allows a disc to be used a certain amount of times, something Maxis attempted with 2008’s Spore, a decision they probably rue to this day as the game became the most torrented file of the year. There’s also the online authentication, and the more venomous always-online DRM. If you bought Assassin’s Creed II at launch, chances are you were unable to play it whenever Ubisoft’s servers went down. However, those who pirated the game could continue enjoying it with no penalty. Since then, there have been various attempts to redesign games to include DRM, such as Blizzard’s Diablo III and Maxis’ SimCity (the new one), both of which feature server-side calculations in the respective forms of the real-money auction house and whatever the SimCity servers do (it’s a bit unclear even to EA). All of this is going to demand that the user stay connected to the servers, meaning that it is enforced DRM; if you’re not allowed to connect to the servers, you can’t play it. After the SimCity disaster, Microsoft tried its luck with the Xbox One (not the original Xbox, pardon the confusion), which originally required a broadband connection and restricted sales of used games, then it needed to connect to the Microsoft servers once every 24 hours, and now it simply requires a one-time update before usage. We all remember how that went down. In the end, we’re going to have to contend with DRM, and trust me when I say that the form DRM takes in the coming years will have a significant stake in how we experiences our games.

The Wii Remote

I don’t yet know if motion controls are fad or not, but if they aren’t, the Wii Remote is the archetype for all modern motion controls. Granted, the Kinect takes a radically different approach, but it likely would never have been developed had it not been for the success of the Wii. When the Wii was still known as “Revolution,” we were all hoping to swing our controllers around like light sabers, pretending we were Darth Vader (because who would want to be Luke Skywalker?), but in the end, many of us were left a bit disappointed, and the controller was met with mixed reception. At times the Wii Remote was unresponsive, and the Wii failed to become a go-to platform for shooters and action games despite the possibility of 1:1 motion gameplay. Motion controls were relegated to the sidelines, acting as a supporting input at best, gimmicky and underwhelming at worst. However, the Wii turned out to be a tremendous and wide-spread success as families across the world hooked up a Wii of their own into the living room TV. In 2009, the MotionPlus add-on was released, and Nintendo’s competitors could not ignore this ongoing trend forever. One year later, Sony’s PlayStation Move controller and Microsoft’s infamous Kinect hit the market, the latter coming bundled with the Xbox One (not the original Xbox, pardon the confusion). While it’s unclear if motion controls are here to stay, they’ve had a significant impact on gaming in the short term.

The iPhone

Do you know what Angry Birds is? Better yet, do you not know what Angry Birds is? Tech giant Apple made their move into the mobile market back in 2007 with the 2G-enabled first generation iPhone, and the result? It sparked the smartphone market into life, spawning an arms race of phones competing with better screens, faster processors and cameras with more pixels in them. The iPhone is the reason why pretty much everyone you see out on the street carries a mobile device, and that mobile device is powerful to play games on. And play games on it they will. Hundreds of millions of smartphones are sold each year, and people want software on their smartphones and tablets. These games might not be as deep or complex as conventional ‘hardcore’ games, but they provide some quick and easy fun. Enter the casual market. Since the release of the iPhone, the casual market has grown to such a proportion that developers have to think more than once before dismissing it.

Ultimately, I believe that all of these inventions have been complete game changers, and the playing field looks radically different because of them. One can argue how successful each invention has been on its own, but it’s hard to deny that developers and publishers haven’t taken note of their potential. Is there anything on this list you would change? We want to hear it in the comments!

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News Xbox One

Xbox One Dev Was Surprised by the Speed of DRM Reversal

The reaction to the Xbox One reveal was… less than great, to say the least. Fans were in an uproar. The Xbox One’s controversial DRM policies and used game restrictions brought a ton of negative baggage with them. Some contradicting PR statements and surprising stories about applause did not help the situation. After a devastating E3 (and a firm spanking by Sony), Microsoft backtracked on their decisions, creating a radically different Xbox One.

Consumers wanted the DRM reversal, but many were surprised to see Microsoft cave in to the demands. The backtrack came just after the Electronic Entertainment Expo. What about the creators of the Xbox One? Did they get a heads-up?

“Personally I was a little surprised at the timeframe which we decided on the DRM reversal. I thought we didn’t push on [DRM] benefits enough.” — Anonymous Xbox One Dev

It was something people wanted, yet something no one expected. Were you surprised? Sound off in the comments.

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News Xbox One

Microsoft Responds to the Xbox One’s PR Nightmare

You’ve probably heard of the Xbox One’s controversial policies. 24 hour check-ins, region lock, restrictions on used games. Well there’s some good news! All of those policies have been removed! Wait… you want them back? The Xbox One you were promised should be on the market?

The public response to the Xbox One has been extremely scattered, and a scattered PR routine by Microsoft is to blame. Contradictions and apologies galore. Fans have recently created a petition, demanding the original Xbox One be brought back, DRM and all. As of this writing, it has garnered 21,477 supporters. Microsoft has responded to what the demand for a 180 following a 180 (So an Xbox 360?). The company has also elaborated on the Xbox One’s PR mess, and the feedback of the gaming community.

“What it tells me is we need to do more work to talk about what we’re doing because I think that we did something different than maybe how people are perceiving it. When I read some of the things like that petition, from my perspective we took a lot of the feedback and, while Xbox One is built to be digital native, to have this amazing online experience, we realized people wanted some choice. They wanted what I like to call a bridge, sort of how they think about the world today using more digital stuff. What we did, we added to what the console can do by providing physical and offline modes in the console. It isn’t about moving away from what that digital vision is for the platform. It’s about adding that choice. Frankly, I think we need to just do more to let people see how the console works, what they’re going to be able to do for it. I think a lot of the things they’re wishing for are frankly there.

“I probably should have been more clear. We took some feedback and realized there was some stuff we needed to add to the program. To add it to the program, we had to make room, just from a pure engineering perspective, to be able to get that work done. So taking Family Sharing out of the launch window was not about ‘we’re going to take our toys and go home’ or something like that. It was just sort of the logistics of ‘how do we get this very, very clear request that people really want, that choice, and how do we make sure we can do an excellent job of that, get to launch, and then be able to build a bunch of great features?’ In the future I think you’re going to see the ways that we change how you discover, how you consume, share, play. To me, this is the magic of digital. You know, if there’s anything I think that Xbox 360 has proven, it’s that we’re super committed to this constant cycle of improving the experience and the software, and it’s what we’ve been doing for 360 for the past seven years, and it’s certainly where we’re going to go with Xbox One.”

“I feel like we have the best online gaming story that’s ever existed. When I look at how we built a system that’s built from the ground up to be amazing from a digital perspective, from being able to get updates and what we can do with the cloud and the cloud powering the experiences, to the way that you can switch between experiences, the way you can snap things together, what we’re doing with cloud achievements and challenges, I think people are going to really enjoy the experience. For us, with Xbox Live, we’ve spent the last more than a decade now really obsessing about what that play experience is. You look at things like how we’re thinking about reputation and how it impacts matchmaking or who gets into sessions, or how we’ve thought about things like Party Mode. For me that’s what makes Xbox special and that’s what’s really great about where we are with Xbox One.”

“There’s nothing like being able to get so much feedback from the things people like and the things people don’t like. It’s, to me, what makes this special. I just don’t even there’s a type of product or anything out there that’s like video games that generates this, and I love it. I think the key for us is, we love core gamers. They’re the people that have built Xbox and Xbox Live. That’s the place where we need to do a better job showing up, and we need to engage more. In fact, that’s what I love about things like the petition. It makes me want to put stuff like that up on our website and just engage much more directly in how do we have these more direct kinds of conversations with people. I think it makes us build better products. I think that’s the key in the end.” — Marc Whitten, Xbox One Chief Product Officer

Quite the read, eh?

What do you think? Should the old Xbox One come back? Would a family plan still function well? Does Microsoft have the best online gaming history in the industry?

Thoughts go in the comments below.

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Third Parties Unsure on Used Game Policies for the Future

IGN recently contacted a number of third party game publishers in an attempt to ascertain their future plans regarding used games. In the past, we’ve seen different sorts of DRM pop up to try and deal with used games such as online passes, which EA has confirmed they will no longer be using. But going forward, apparently many third party publishers simply don’t know what they’ll be doing about used games or DRM.

It looks like Activision, Ubisoft, and Bethesda are just as confused as all of us, as all three companies expressed that they simply don’t have enough information to give a real answer.

Activision’s Eric Hirshberg explained that the company can only reflect on what they’ve done in the past. Hirshberg explains that Activision has been a company that worked on a policy similar to that expressed by Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime, “Make great content that people will want to buy and that they hopefully don’t want to sell:”

“We don’t have any announcements today. We’re finding out about the first-party policies in real time along with everyone else. Forgive us if we haven’t worked through all the details yet. The only way I can answer your question is by looking at history. Historically Activision is one of the companies that hasn’t charged for used games and hasn’t done things like online passes and whatnot. Our strategy as a company has been to try to make great content that people will want to buy and that they hopefully don’t want to sell. But that’s not an announcement or a future-facing statement. That’s just an articulation of how we’ve approached it in the past.” — Eric Hirshberg

Ubisoft’s Tony Key says that the company is learning about the new consoles and their policies right along side us, so they don’t yet know what they’ll be doing in the future regarding used games:

“We understand that used games provide a value to the person that’s buying this disc. For us, we just want to figure out how we all can participate in making that a good thing for everybody. When we have another person with a game from one of our brands, what we have to figure out is, how do we bring them into our family? We have nothing to announce about used games right now. We’re still trying to get our heads around what the first parties are really saying and what they’re going to do. There’s a lot of new information out there. We knew maybe a little bit more than you did [before E3], but we learned a lot of new things as well. We understand that it’s a passionate issue and it’s a big decision. We see both sides of the argument. We’re going to tread carefully before we make a decision that so many people want to know about.” — Tony Key

Bethesda gives off vibes similar to the other two, saying, “We need to ask more questions about what they mean by this and how that works:”

“It’s one of those things where we just need a minute to figure it out before we dive into what these policies are and how they’ll work and what both of the consoles will do. What I would say is that we’ll absolutely chime in once we’ve had a chance to wrap our heads around it. We need to ask more questions about what they mean by this and how that works and whose relationship is with whom. It’s more just like we want to make sure we know what we’re talking about before we start making statements like, ‘oh, we’re absolutely doing this or that.’ That’s the main thing. Ultimately I think that the answers are probably pretty simple, but it’s a matter of thinking before you speak.” — Pete Hines

It’s almost comical how confusing this next generation is turning out to be. Microsoft repeals their Xbox One DRM, and Sony’s makes a PlayStation 3-2 but with some ambiguous sort of “cloud-streaming thing.” Odd times are afoot, so tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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Jimquisition: Why PC Games Get Away With It

While Microsoft was busy getting shot down and murdered by fans (and a fair amount of the media as well), a few people were asking the question: “why can’t Microsoft have DRM if Steam can?” Well, in this weeks episode of Jimquisition, host Jim Sterling makes an attempt to answer that question. The through-line of his argument is that consoles were made for convenience that PCs couldn’t offer but at the cost of features only PC could offer, so adding the inconvenience of PC-like DRM to console games would entirely defeat the purpose of console’s existence in the first place.

Sterling also talks a fair amount on a topic with which viewers of Jimquisition will be familiar, that of the distrust between gamers and most game publishers as well as Microsoft, which is in stark contrast to the strong trust built between popular PC gaming software Steam and Good Old Games with their consumers.

So what did you think? Does Jim Sterling make a valid point?

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Cliff Bleszinski Against Xbox One Backtrack; Believes Sony is the Cause

The gaming audience is rejoicing at the news of Microsoft removing their Xbox One policies involving DRM and used games. Every gamer down in Xbox loved Microsoft a lot, but Bleszinski, who lived north of Xbox – did not. Bleszinski hated Xbox – the whole Xbox rewind. Now please don’t ask why; no one quite thinks he’s behind.

Yes, all us Whos in Whoville may feel that we were able to convince Microsoft to reverse their policies, but one man thinks otherwise. Cliff Bleszinski, the creator of Gears of War, says it wasn’t the gamers voting with their wallets that changed the Xbox One. Instead, Sony was responsible for forcing Microsoft’s hand.

Here’s what he said.

“At the end of the day many hardcore dislike what was attempted. You can’t do well in that space with many of your core unhappy. Especially when users have a choice. The nature of capitalism encourages competition and Sony played into that. Sony forced Microsoft’s hand, not the internet whining.”

Bleszinski is also against the changes to the Xbox One console. He believes Microsoft’s initial strategy would remove DLC and microtransactions from the game industry, as publishers would have made more money:

“Brace yourselves. More tacked on multiplayer and DLC are coming. You’re also about to see available microtransactions skyrocket. HATS FOR EVERYONE. I want *developers* who worked their asses off to see money on every copy of their game that is sold instead of Gamestop. Fuck me, right? You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people.”

He voices a valid concern. However, until I see the DLC increase, I don’t buy it. And a simple solution is to not support the downloadable content. We can vote with our wallets, which is something Cliffy B thinks we didn’t do with the Xbox One.

What do you think of his opinion? Is this the truth? Who made Microsoft budge? Sound off in the comments.

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News Xbox One

Microsoft Employee Relents Failure to Communicate Xbox One

An anonymous Microsoft employee has written a lengthy blog post regarding Microsoft’s announcement of plans to revoke many of the Xbox One’s controversial policies. The employee is sad to see them go, as he was excited about many of the features that such measures would allow Microsoft to implement into Xbox One.

From the time of its announcement, it was obvious that gamers were not pleased with any of Xbox One’s new features. Particularly publisher’s ability to block resale of their games, the requirement to connect your Xbox One to the internet once a day, and the difficulty Xbox One’s policies would bring to lending games to your friends had the public up in arms. However, this employee believes, given a proper understanding, gamers would have eventually embraced these policies due to the extra features they were going to allow the console to provide.

Here’s what he had to say:

“It’s 4am and I’m still up, some hours ago, we at Microsoft had to basically redact on our Always Online infrastructure and dream. Being part of the team that created the entire infrastructure to include the POS (point of sale) mechanisms I must say that I am extremely sad to see it removed. But the consumer knows what is best, I can place the blame on no one but us here at Microsoft. We didn’t do a good enough job explaining all the benefits that came with this new model. We spent too much of our time fighting against the negative impressions that many people in the media formed. I feel that if we spent less time on them and more time explaining the great features we had lined up and the ones in the pipes gamers and media alike would have aligned to our vision. That stated, we felt the people we would have loss would have been made up by the people we would have gained. We have 48 million Xbox 360 users connected online nearly 24 hours a day. That is much more than any of our closet competitors and vastly more than Steam. The people that we would have left behind I feel would have eventually come around as they saw what advantages the platform had to offer. But as I previously stated we at Microsoft have no one to blame other than ourselves for failing to convince those hesitant to believe in our new system. Microsoft might be a big company, but we at the Xbox division have always been for the gamer. Everything we’ve done has always been for them, we have butt heads with the executives many times on what we’ve wanted to, some times we lost (removing the onboard processor from Kinect 1.0) and other times we’ve won (keeping Gears of War as an exclusive).

While publishers have never come right out to us at MS and say “We want you to do something about used gaming” we could hear it in their voices and read it in their numerous public statements. The used gaming industry is slowly killing them and every attempt to slow down the bleeding was met with much resistance from the gaming community. I will admit that online passes were not well received nor were they well implemented, but I felt given time to mature it could have turned into something worth having as a gamer much like DLC (we went from pointless horse armor to amazing season passes like Borderlands 2!). Videogame development is a loss leader by definition and unlike other forms of media videogames only have one revenue stream and that is selling to you the gamer. So when you buy a game used you’re hurting developers much more than say a movie studio. Many gamers fail to realize this when they purchase these preowned games. It is impossible to continue to deliver movie like experiences at the current costs without giving up something in return. It’s what gamers want and expect, the best selling games are blockbusters, the highest rated are blockbusters, the most loved are blockbusters. How can developers continue to create these experiences if consumers refuse to support them? Many will argue the development system is broken, and I disagree. The development system is near broken, it’s used gaming that is broken, but regardless I think more emphasis on this from both us at Microsoft and publishers would have gone a long way in helping educate the gamer, but again it is us who dropped the ball in this regard for that we’re sorry.

Going back to Xbox One’s feature set, one of the features I was most proud of was Family Sharing. I’ve browsed many gaming forums and saw that many people were excited about it as well! That made my day the first time I saw gamers start to think of amazing experiences that could come from game sharing. It showed that my work resonated with the group for which I helped create it for. I will admit that I was not happy with how some of my fellow colleagues handled explaining the systems and many times pulled my hair out as I felt I could have done a better job explaining and selling the ideas to the press and public at large. I’m writing this for that reason, to explain to gamers how many of the features would have worked and how many of them will still work.

First is family sharing, this feature is near and dear to me and I truly felt it would have helped the industry grow and make both gamers and developers happy. The premise is simple and elegant, when you buy your games for Xbox One, you can set any of them to be part of your shared library. Anyone who you deem to be family had access to these games regardless of where they are in the world. There was never any catch to that, they didn’t have to share the same billing address or physical address it could be anyone. When your family member accesses any of your games, they’re placed into a special demo mode. This demo mode in most cases would be the full game with a 15-45 minute timer and in some cases an hour. This allowed the person to play the game, get familiar with it then make a purchase if they wanted to. When the time limit was up they would automatically be prompted to the Marketplace so that they may order it if liked the game. We were toying around with a limit on the number of times members could access the shared game (as to discourage gamers from simply beating the game by doing multiple playthroughs). but we had not settled on an appropriate way of handling it. One thing we knew is that we wanted the experience to be seamless for both the person sharing and the family member benefiting. There weren’t many models of this system already in the wild other than Sony’s horrendous game sharing implementation, but it was clear their approach (if one could call it that) was not the way to go. Developers complained about the lost sales and gamers complained about overbearing DRM that punished those who didn’t share that implemented by publishers to quell gamers from taking advantage of a poorly thought out system. We wanted our family sharing plan to be something that was talked about and genuinely enjoyed by the masses as a way of inciting gamers to try new games.

The motto around the offices for the family plan was “It’s the console gaming equivalent to spotify and pandora” it was a social network within itself! The difference between the family sharing and the typical store demo is that your progress is saved as if it was the full game, and the data that was installed for that shared game doesn’t need to be erased when they purchase the full game! It gave incentive to share your games among your peers, it gave games exposure, it allowed old games to still generate revenue for publishers. At the present time we’re no longer going forward with it, but it is not completely off the table. It is still possible to implement this with the digital downloaded versions of games, and in fact that’s the plan still as far as I’m aware.

Another feature that we didn’t speak out about was the fact we were building a natural social network with Xbox One in itself that didn’t require gamers to open their laptops/tablets to post to their other friends nor did they need to wrestle with keyboard add-ons. Each Xbox Live account would have a full “home space” in which they could post their highest scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, what they’ve watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond to. Kinect 2.0 and Xbox One work together and has robust voice to text capabilities. The entire notion of communicating with friends you met online would have been natural and seamless. No reliance on Facebook, or Twitter (though those are optional for those who want them). Everything is perfectly crafted for the Xbox One controller and Kinect 2.0 and given that shine that only Microsoft can provide.

We at Microsoft have amazing plans for Xbox One that will make it an amazing experience for both gamers and entertainment consumers alike. I stand by the belief that Playstation 4 is Xbox 360 part 2, while Xbox One is trying to revolutionize entertainment consumption. For people who don’t want these amazing additions, like Don said we have a console for that and it’s called Xbox 360.”

Make of that what you will.

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Xbox 180: Microsoft Backtracks on DRM and Used Game Policies

UPDATED: The news is official! Check out the Xbox website. Don Mattrick has released a statement detailing the changes to the Xbox One right here.

In what may be one of gaming’s biggest backtracks in recent history, Microsoft has removed many of the negatively received policies on the Xbox One. After a public humiliation by Sony and a PR nightmare, the company is pulling a complete U-turn.

The Xbox One will no longer require an internet connection. The console does not check in every twenty-four hours, and will function without any web interaction. The Xbox One only needs to be connected to the internet when setting up the system, but does not require any sort of interactivity after that.

In addition, the used game restriction has been removed. Disc-based titles can now be exchanged just like the Xbox 360, with no special restrictions. Trading in, renting, and lending are all available to the Xbox One without any complications. A region lock is no longer part of the hardware, and downloadable games will function normally without an internet connection. Games aren’t installed into the Xbox One from discs either.

Since the unveiling of the Xbox One, Microsoft has faced endless criticism for questionable policies such as restrictions on used games and required online. Removing these hardware requirements may ease the negativity in the public’s eye.

This change also begs a question. What will become of Xbox One’s family sharing plan? Can publishers find loopholes to block used games? Is Kinect still always watching?

Stay tuned for an official statement from Microsoft soon.

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Fears Of Losing Xbox One Games if Banned From Online Services

Once again, the Xbox One has stirred up a mess of confusion and loads of anger for the masses, this time about what happens to banned Xbox Live accounts and the games on the Xbox One.

Twitter has been blowing up these past few days on the Microsoft account, as gamers have been frantically asking what the result would be to getting one Xbox Live account banned on the Xbox One. Since the games for the upcoming console will be download only, disc or otherwise and the console itself must check in every 24 hours to allow players to play their games, there have been concerns that getting banned from the online service would also mean losing all the games and data on the console.

Microsoft escalated the concerns and confusion when they released this Twitter response, with pictures of the tweets from PixelEnemy:

“If your account is banned, you also forfeit the licenses to any games
that have licenses tied to it as listed in the [Terms of Use]. ^AC”

Further confusion arose when Microsoft sent another tweet out, saying that the info was mistaken and that the original answer was supposed to mention the 360:

“We have no info on the Xbox One ban situation. That tweet that is being referenced was a mistake, it was about the Xbox 360”

This made little sense since the Xbox 360 is disc-based and it is obvious that one can play their game offline should their account be banned. Many others understood this as well and continued to bombard the Microsoft twitter account with question after question, but they were only met with a link that sent them to the official page explaining how the Xbox One licensing works. This was an issue as the page does not answer the question of losing your games when banned from the Xbox Live service.

The issue was not put to rest until Director of Programming of Xbox Live Larry Hryb, also known as Major Nelson, answered a similar question in an interview with Chloe Dykstra.

“Absolutely not,” Hryb said. “You will always have access to the games you purchased.” Hryb did not go into details over how players would be able to keep their games; instead he continually jumped to talking about the family sharing service the Xbox One will have, feeling that few people are talking enough about the feature.

Players simply need to avoid causing issues with Microsoft so they will not be banned from Xbox Live, but even though Major Nelson assures us that we can keep our games, the confusion remains as to why the company could not simply say what their Xbox Live Director so easily put into words.

Did Nelson tell the truth? Is there no fear of losing your games if you get banned? Is that a fitting punishment should you get banned? Let us know in the comments below.

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UPDATED: No Used Games or DRM Restrictions on PS4, Online Functions Discussed

UPDATE: Sony has posted a tutorial on how to share games with your friends!

At their E3 briefing today, Sony slammed Microsoft’s Xbox One into the ground with the announcement of its used games and online policies. The PlayStation 4 is said to not devalue your purchases; you can buy, sell, trade, loan, or do whatever with your games. Additionally, the PS4 does not require your system to check in to the Internet periodically for single player experiences!

Sony also confirmed that PlayStation Network membership will continue to be free on PS4, and PlayStation Plus will also be returning to the system. Additionally, current PlayStation Plus members will be able to transfer their membership from PlayStation 3 to PS4, allowing members to retain their hard-earned cash. Also,
Driveclub will be a PlayStation Plus exclusive launch title!

How do you feel about these announcements? Personally, I’m pumped!

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Features News PlayStation 4

Sony Confirms: No DRM for PlayStation 4

Ever since the reveal of the Xbox One about two weeks ago, the media, gaming journalists, gamers, and angry forum goers have been up in arms about Microsoft’s fumbled debut, canned applause, and, most of all, Microsoft’s controversial Digital Rights Management policy. Digital Rights Management, or “DRM,” is, paraphrased from Wikipedia, a registering system used by hardware manufacturers and game publishers in order to control the usage of digital media and devices after their sale. The system goes so far as to prevent copying of save files and to control the viewing, copying, and altering of works or devices. Essentially, it is a set of access control technologies that specifically register a game to only one account on one console and prevent others from accessing it.

DRM policies are in use by such companies as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Sony, and have been an issue of heated debate since the inception of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. There have been worries that DRM policies might also be featured in the PlayStation 4.

However, there has been an incredible update to this ongoing story. Today, Sony made it clear where they stand on DRM and used games blocking:

“At a roundtable this morning, Sony’s game studios chief, Shuhei Yoshida, told reporters that any requirement for users to register a game online in order to play it would be left to game publishers. Sony won’t require that.”
(Quote pulled from an article on Cinemablend by William Usher)

Apparently this question had already been answered, but due to all the controversy surrounding Microsoft’s and Sony’s online policies, this news was, according to Gameranx, “lost in translation.” So, in addition to Sony, unlike Microsoft, not requiring an internet connection for its console, we can now sleep comfortably at night knowing that Sony will not be utilizing DRM. However, the usage of DRM isn’t totally eliminated. Sony has stated that it will not use DRM on their first party games, and will not require the usage of DRM. But if a publisher chooses to, they can still use DRM for their titles. So the threat isn’t completely gone, and it’s smart business move on Sony’s side, regardless of whether we agree with it or not — you wouldn’t want to anger a company who you want to produce games for you, as they might become exclusive for your competitors.

These recent developments clear up a few things regarding the PlayStation 4 and their policies:

1.) The PlayStation 4 can play games offline without having to be online. This was clarified the day of the PS4’s reveal back on February 20th.
2.) Sony will not have any mandatory DRM for used games. You can buy, play, trade used games on the PlayStation 4 just as usual. No additional registration fees, pay-walls or  internet registration required.
3.) If you so choose, you can play games from disc, download them from the digital store or remote load them. Sony doesn’t mandate any method over the other for multi-format titles.
4.) Just for extra clarification the PlayStation 4 does not and will not require a constant always-on internet connection
(Information pulled from a report on Cinemablend by William Usher)

The news regarding Sony’s DRM policy comes to us today in response to a Twitter campaign made in order to grab Sony’s attention and get some answers on the issue. Jacob Saylor of Gameranx had this to say regarding the matter:

“Still, we are not out of the frying pan. There is still plenty of time left for third-party publishers to announce their usage of DRM. With Electronic Arts [EA] recently kicking their support of DRM in the form of Online Passes, it may be a bit harder for companies to justify its use. In a way, EA has done some good for the next-generation, even if some of their actions during this console cycle have been a bit lackluster.” Jacob Saylor
(Quote pulled from a report on Gameranx by Jacob Saylor)

What Mr. Saylor says is true. Recently, EA announced plans to discontinue use of their Online Pass system. This is a huge step taken by one of the biggest and most hated names in video games to give power over games back to the gamers. It’s almost universally accepted that the current video game market is broken and heading in the wrong direction, and it’s becoming clear that what Microsoft is trying to do isn’t going to fix it. However, Nintendo, apparently Electronic Arts, and now Sony have thrown their hats in with the gamers this time around, rather than the publishers. And remember, E3 is only a few days away, and all of our burning questions will hopefully be answered then.

So, what do you lot think? Is this upcoming generation going to be different than the last? Is this a sign of better things to come? Or will Microsoft’s vision of a corporate controlled, dystopian gamer future come to fruition? I now give you permission to comment below.

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Features News PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4 May Also Feature Used Game DRM

We found out just yesterday that initial reports on used game DRM for the Xbox One have been dropped,
and we will essentially be able to borrow, trade, and sell games just
like we always have. While watching many debates around the net, mostly
favoring the PlayStation 4 ever since the Xbox One reveal, I’ve
internally debated this topic. I personally feel that the PlayStation 4
will essentially do many of the same things the Xbox One does — it will
just be marketed differently. Now we have our first signs that this is
happening, albeit with the most controversial element of all. This comes
from Geoff Keighley:

“…The one thing that is amazing to me is that right now we’re not hearing a lot from the game publishers about what their view is on this. The console companies are becoming the bad guys. And, you know, Microsoft is getting beaten up a lot on it. Sony, I think, has been seen as this kind of white knight so far that’s not going to restrict used games. Based on some of the things I’m hearing, I don’t think that’s entirely true, because I can’t see publishers allowing one system to do one thing and one do another.”

While we can debate whether or not yesterday’s Xbox One report is
accurate (you know, that Microsoft really is dropping the used game fee
stuff), what isn’t debatable is that there will still be a validation
system in place that creates a Steam-like DRM — we just might be able
to trade our game purchases is all — while still requiring internet for
validation purposes. Apparently, the debate about this can now spread
to the PlayStation 4.

I personally don’t think that the PlayStation 4 is going to try to compete on the Live TV front (or necessarily directly with Kinect), but most of the base entertainment box functionality of the Xbox One is likely to be just as prevalent in the PlayStation 4 — possibly even more so than the Xbox One, since Sony already owns the living room. In the end, Geoff and his sources are probably spot on: there is no way this DRM activation stuff is going to only be present on one console. It’s also interesting because Microsoft and Sony probably didn’t want it to begin with. It’s well documented publishers want DRM systems, so in earnest, they are the ones to blame. Wii U may be the only DRM free (no activation requirement) console out there in Generation 8. Is it no surprise then that the Wii U already is on pace to have the worst third party support?

For those wondering, users at NeoGAF have put together a social network movement (namely Twitter) to try and make sure the “people” are heard by Sony. Time will tell if it will make a lick of difference.

UPDATE: Check out the responses to this outcry from Sony’s top dogs.

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