Microsoft needs to talk Xbox One DRM right the hell now if the company hopes for a good E3
Microsoft suffered from inconsistent, often completely contradictory messaging on things like the use of used games and authentication during the reveal event for the Xbox One. Plenty of reporters asked plenty of questions, but we were often told different things, and the main message now is simple: More information is coming later.
Now Microsoft has reportedly cancelled a planned question and answer session at E3 after their press conference, and questions about DRM have come to dominate the conversation about the Xbox One. Microsoft has repeatedly said that E3 is going to be about the games, but that can’t happen unless they put this issue to bed.
It’s time to talk
There is a possibility that even Microsoft doesn’t know the answers to these questions, and the specifics could be changing during negotiations with publishers and retailers. It’s hard to give details about your position when you don’t know what that final position will be, but shouldn’t this have been worked out before the system was announced?
If Microsoft simply stated that yes, you’ll need to pay a license fee to play every game, or whatever the final system will be, the discussion would likely be over by now. Some people would hate it, others wouldn’t care, but if Microsoft clearly stated what would happen, explained why they felt this was a good move for both publishers and consumers, and then answered questions… that would be it. A clear explanation of things, and then sticking to that message is much better for everyone than ducking questions and promising details down the road.
This lack of information means everyone is speculating, assuming the worst, and talking about this one issue to the exclusive of nearly everything else. This is a massive win for Sony, whose own developer- and gamer-centered messaging has been strong and effective. The perception is that the PS4 is going to be the system for games, and the Xbox One is going to be the system of Big Brother. That’s not a good place to be.
Microsoft wants to focus on games during E3, and I would love to focus on games as well. I have huge swaths of time set aside for Microsoft’s selection of unannounced titles, and I can’t wait to dig in to see what they have planned. But the reality is every executive placed in front of a reporter is going to face questions about DRM. Every conversation is going to revolve around used games. Microsoft has made this the only subject everyone is talking about, and the lack of solid information is only making things worse.
My advice? Tell us what’s up right the hell now
It’s not too late for Microsoft to talk to the press and fans frankly and openly about used games, DRM, authentication, and everything else. Tell us exactly how it’s going to work, and explain in concrete terms how they’ll handle families with multiple systems, friends who want to loan games to each other, and games being resold or purchased used. If we can’t do these things, this is the time to let us know so the editorials and posts can go up before E3. Don't let bad news overshadow the good news coming next week.
E3 is going to be a much more positive show if Microsoft can get this situation off their plate and allow the press and the fans to get back to caring about the games. When we see the new Halo, and that’s just a guess, I want to be able to focus on the game, not wonder if my son is going to be able to play it under his account.
Silence and corporate non-speak is the absolute worst way to deal with the fears of gamers, and if there’s bad news it’s time to rip the bandaid off. If there’s good news, people will be glad to hear it. But everyone knows that there is news, and it’s dominating the conversation around the Xbox One.
The only way to fix that problem is to explain exactly what’s going on, and to have the conversation before E3. You can't focus on the games if everyone is focused on the rights you may be removing.