Open letter to Microsoft re: Xbox One

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 10, 2013

For those who come here for politics, sorry, but this one is videogame related.

Originally posted at

When I saw Microsoft's announcement of "no rentals, you can lend a game to a friend only once, no private party transfers" I thought surely the only reason they're doing this is because Sony's worked out a deal with EA, Ubisoft, etc. to require the exact same restrictions on the PS4. I thought: "We're moving closer to a PC gaming model where new game prices drop relatively quickly and there are frequent, deep-discount sales."

And today we found out that I was wrong.

I pre-ordered a console from Amazon after Microsoft's press briefing this morning. I won't be cancelling the pre-order just yet. I may be able to flip it for some more $ around the Christmas season if there appears to be a shortage. Or, I can cancel it the week before it ships.

I wasn't really bothered by the new kinect sensor—if they ever did anything nefarious with the microphone and cameras, people would go to jail and users would have some extra money in their pockets. I was only mildly annoyed by the 24-hour check-in. I figured that was part and parcel with the new DRM model and Sony would have something similar.

Wrong again.

If the situation sits as it is today. At launch I'll be switching from the Xbox with my 10-year gold live membership over to the Sony PlayStation. The "wow" TV integration, skype, etc. aren't nearly enough to keep me on your platform—and at a $100 premium (though I'm well enough off that the extra cash isn't in and of itself a dealbreaker).

I'll miss Forza and Halo, but few other exclusives.

Frankly, I'm a little bit dumbfounded by how all of you in Redmond thought this would fly without Sony on board. I thought: "They've got to have Sony on the same page, don't they? They couldn't possibly think this sea-change would be a good idea unless it was a fait accompli because gamers would have no other choice. This wouldn't be a differentiator between the two products. Right?"


Over the next few days, Microsoft is going to get a well-deserved dressing down by the gaming press. You've seen a lot of that here on the comment thread of your own blog and I suspect that the only major difference between those articles on Joystiq, Kotaku, Polygon, etc. is going to be that the latter will use fewer cuss words.

I doubt you'll take my advice, though it is offered in good faith, but there's still time to fix this—and the fix is pretty easy.

1. For the tinfoil hat wearers, provide a nice heavy sock they can put the kinect sensor in when not in use. They could order it online.

2. You need to lose your DRM scheme.

Publishers have been complaining for years about the used games market, but you can't go it alone. You could only have done this in conjunction with Sony and the other publishers. That didn't happen. Publishers will continue to battle the used game market as they have for several years—frequent updates and add-ons that keep the original games in customers' hands.

I like that you can install games to the hard drive and not need the disc in the console. I don't know the specifics of how your DRM works. I don't know if the disc itself has some sort of unique identifier or whether publishers need to print a unique code in the game box to identify the particular purchaser. Whatever it is, allow it to be traded or sold freely.

3. Always-on connection not required for single-player. I realize a substantial part of this is required for your DRM scheme. Let it go. If someone wants to sell a single-player version of the game, but then keep their console offline so they can still play a game they've sold, just ... let ... it ... go. The number of people who would do this is such a small number, you'll lose more money in potential sales to people annoyed by the brick-like qualities of their console if their internet connection goes down for a week in the middle of nowhere than you gain thwarting  those thieves.

If you "fix" your DRM, a lot of other issues go away. Game rentals are back—yay! You can give a game away, trade it, sell it without having to use one of your pre-approved middlemen.

There is a way back. Take the path I've laid out.

In short:


This complaint was resolved (not really!) in mere hours!

Seriously, this is crazy, @factchecknet. Your transparency on this craziness is long overdue. @baybarsorsek @Ferdi_Ozsoy

It was a weak field for @PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" readers' poll this year, so I wrote in a suggestion.

The suggestion may not be original with me, so apologies to anyone who specifically suggested this one before.

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June 2013



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