Marc Whitten

Microsoft’s Marc Whitten on removing DRM, the future of online passes, and that $499.99 price point

Microsoft’s Marc Whitten on removing DRM, the future of online passes, and that $499.99 price point

Today Microsoft walked back much of the DRM features that had made the Xbox One such a contentious piece of hardware, including the need to dial in every 24 hours to authenticate your games, and the restrictions on sharing and loaning games to family and friends. This was greeted with enthusiasm. We also lost things like the family share plan, which is not so great. I spoke with Marc Whitten, the chief product officer at Xbox, to get to the heart of these changes.

So after all the negative feedback, was it frustrating to remove the DRM only to have people complain about the lost sharing program? “No, frankly this is what I love about this industry,” Whitten said. “How sad would it be to be part of an industry when you make product plans and don’t hear anything good or bad?

“The beauty of our fans, frankly, is that they tell you exactly what they love, they tell you what they don’t love, and what we’ve been doing for the past ten years is to give people more of what they love and less of what they decide they don’t want,” he continued. “Today was about giving them choice around how online worked and how physical discs work.”

So without the disc checks, without the sharing plan, without all this DRM… will developers still have the ability to create things like online passes? According to Whitten, things will continue on just as they had in this generation.

“I think it works the way it does on the Xbox 360. If a publisher did an online pass they can still do an online pass,” he said. “But just like 360 they couldn’t do that for the whole game, the physical discs work the way they always have. That’s something the publishers would do.”

We’ve been told since the system’s announcement that this DRM is a large part of how the system is structured, that removing it wouldn’t be easy. It turns out… well, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be hard.

“We know how to do this work, we can do this work around how the core system works and make sure that users have the choice to go offline,” Whitten explained. “We already had a window where it could be offline anyway, it’s more about how do we manage that at the system level. It’s not necessarily anything games have to deal with.” He did stress that online games that use the cloud, feature online play, or anything else along those lines, you’ll still need to be online.

My bet? Expect to see future games require an online connection, and more melding of single- and multiplayer elements, such as Destiny. It’s a way to sneak in these restrictions while supporting them via gameplay.

Don’t expect any movement on the price, however, as Whitten said they’re excited about the value they’re delivering at $499.99.