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Apr
15
2013

PCs vs. Consoles: New Xbox DRM

The war between consoles and PCs continues, the attitude coming out of Microsoft seems pretty defiant regarding the public rumblings about possible DRM on their new system. Adam Orth, creative director at Microsoft Studios, has expressed (in a tone-deaf way) that he thinks always-online devices are awesome, and he doesnít get why you troglodytes are all up in arms about this completely unnecessary and draconian control mechanism over your own property.

Remember when I was hoisting the SimCity launch debacle as a prime example of how always-online DRM can ruin gaming? Remember my article on why a high-performance gaming PC is far superior to console gaming in almost every way? This new situation looks like the synergy of both issues into one. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for whole new chapter on why PC gaming is the best.

Publishers Keep Pushing DRM

There have been rumors for a while that the new Xbox console, code-named ďDurango,Ē will require you to install games on your machine before you can play them. That means no used games, no borrowing titles from friends, and no playing when your broadband connection goes down (or Microsoftís servers are undergoing maintenance, down unexpectedly or overloaded by a new game launch, etc.). Any way you slice it, a fully DRM-locked console just makes a powerful gaming desktop look better and better.

We know why they want to do this. Console developers and game publishers alike are convinced that the used-game market is sucking money out of their pockets, and they donít really consider that we own the games we pay good money for anyhow. Basically, they want to force you to buy directly from them, stop people from sharing and selling used games with one another (something Iím sure enterprising hackers will find a work-around for within a week of the new Xbox launch), and corner you into a nice little walled garden.

Indie game developers have taken advantage of the marketís dislike for heavy-handed DRM, and that trend is likely to explode the moment the console companies implement an always-online model. And there are anti-DRM movements attempting to raise awareness to fight this trend through consumer activism.

Is DRM an Inevitability?

Still, all that wonít convince the suits who believe that all those used-game dollars should be theirs, and that people who are illegally downloading their products will suddenly fork over their credit card numbers when they canít get them any other way.

Not all the big players are totally convinced itís a great business model, though. Sony apparently wised up and is stating that the PS4 wonít be always-on. Perhaps that fact aloneóor really bad PR from employee gaffes like Orthísó would be enough to scare Microsoft off of this always-online junk before they launch.

The problem is that game-makers have every incentive to make always-online the new paradigm for gaming. Many in the industry are saying that this form of copyright control is an inevitability, but we donítí have to like it, and Iím not quite sure I buy that it is inevitable. The hassle it creates is a competitive disadvantage that savvy gamers are going to get around and which competitors of the big publishers are going to take advantage of.

Whether or not the DRM scourge spreads to other consoles, and even further in PC titles, remains to be seen. All itís going to take is some big player to see big (or lackluster) sales figures on their consoles and game titles to ward off this industry trend; though, doubtless DRM will continue to rear its head every few years. Until then, Iíll stick to PC as my main gaming platform.

Author Info: When Andy Houghton isnít drooling over the Elder Scrolls Online cinematics, you can find him writing for DigitalStormOnline.com about gaming news, PC customization and the latest titles. You can follow the link above to his Google+ profile or read more of his stuff at the DS Unlocked blog.

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