I’ve read more than a few features opining that Microsoft’s decision to strip out its DRM requirements in an effort to make the Xbox One as attractive as Sony’s Playstation 4. Pardon me while I call shenanigans upon those lamenting Microsoft’s reversal. From where I’m sitting, we didn’t lose a damn thing.
When it comes down to it, the main draw of any console is that it isn’t a PC. I can pop a disc into a console without having to take the time to install the game. I don’t have to waste my gaming time tweaking any settings beyond inverting my look and turning on the subtitles because I’m going deaf. I can lean back into my couch’s ample cushions and make use of an input device I haven’t just spent the last eight hours slaving over at my day job. If I want to play a single player game, it doesn’t matter if I’ve got an internet connection or if I’ve dragged my console and my TV out into the woods and hooked them up to a generator–the main parts of that single player game’s going to work.
Microsoft wanted to make the Xbox One more like a PC. It sought to add a layer of complexity that’s wholly unnecessary for the plug-and-play experience most console gamers are looking for. Requiring an internet connection and regular check-ins is, realistically, too much of a hindrance. Why? Because that functionality is going to break. Very few recent games that require an online connection have launched without a hitch. Home networking isn’t perfect. Many ISPs are less than reliable. Your asshole roommate might change the wi-fi password and not tell you. The dog might piss on the cable modem. Some jerk intern might decide it’s time to upgrade Internet Explorer on Microsoft’s authentication servers. There are too many dumb ways for this to go wrong, and not one of them is a legitimately good reason for why I can’t pretend to shoot pretend aliens from my couch all by my antisocial self.
When it comes right down to it, there is nothing more convenient than a game disc. I can put an Xbox 360 disc into any Xbox 360 console I want and it will just work–no activation required. Discs will stay that way until we’ve got a replacement for their simplicity or a new model that adds so many fantastic new things that a little inconvenience is both worth it and a logical part of the proceedings.
And making use of the cloud for single-player games? Oh, please! What buzzword spitting board room jockey demanded that one be put on the feature list? In a purely single player game, there’s no need for cloud processing. None. It’s like pounding wine coolers with the intention of getting bombed when you’ve got a few fingers of Jack Daniels handy. Cloud backups of save files would be nice, but processing? Sounds like an unnecessary, unreliable gimmick. How’d that one work for the latest version of SimCity?
Family share and loaning/gifting to friends were nebulous features never fully explained. They felt more like concessions designed to distract us than fully realized awesome technologies of the future. Given that these are features Microsoft easily could’ve kept as part of the Xbox One for use by downloaded games purchased via Xbox Live, I feel it’s safe to say that the implementations weren’t that great to begin with. If your great new features designed to revolutionize the industry and rock your audience’s world aren’t just smoke and mirrors, why not implement them on a small scale so a portion of your consumer base can come to know them, love them, and brag about them to their disconnected friends?
And so, what did we really lose when Microsoft turned back to the “stone age” of console gaming? Nothing we can’t replace by popping out a disc and handing it to one of our friends.