Monday, 17 June 2013

Lucy's View: Clash of the Titans- Sony vs. Microsoft E3 showdown

The claws were out at E3 last week when Sony released this very tongue in cheek response to Microsoft's Xbox One announcement, which explained that new DRM (digital rights management) restrictions will result in harsher controls on lending, sharing and trading games:

Microsoft claim that the new restrictions will actually improve the gaming market. With a new cloud-based system, Microsoft explained how a user will simply be able to log onto any Xbox One console and access their full games library, and that up to 10 family and friends can have accounts on the same console, and access all content stored on there. Furthermore, this system will allow downloads of new releases at the same time as the disc version enters the shops, so no more late night queuing. And really, what would be the point now that a disc will only be needed once to install the game, then it becomes surplus to requirement. (Anyone else think this screams of PC gaming?)

However, there is a downside to all this. Get banned from Xbox Live and you lose all your game licences, oh, and you can't play offline, and the console has to connect to the internet once every 24 hours if you're playing on your own console, once an hour if you're playing your games on a friend's console.
New Microsoft XBox One
The Xbox One- someone commented it looks like a VCR,
I can't help but agree.

As far as trading goes, you can digitally give your games to your friends if you no longer want them, as long as they have been your friend on your Xbox account for more than 30 days, and you can only give your game away to one person. As far as I can tell you will be able to trade games developed by Microsoft through traditional means, for example CEX in the UK, but the retailers must pay a fee to be able to resell.

Trying to clear up the confusion

I must state at this point that there is an awful lot of confusion over what these restrictions mean / don't mean for the average gamer. I have done my best to decipher the endless rants (there are literally hundreds), and the occasional bit of praise for the new system. The general consensus though, is that Microsoft brought nothing but bad, and confusing, news to the E3 table.

But before we take our hats off to Sony and claim, as others put it, that they 'won' E3, I decided to have a deeper look into what Microsoft are trying to do, and why.

Under the surface of what seems like a power trip from Microsoft, it appears that the Xbox One, and its new restrictions, are designed to sustain / encourage, (depending on your opinion of the gaming world), social gaming. At the same time Microsoft are handing power back to the publishers and developers, allowing them to opt in to allowing re-sales of their games, and in turn giving them control of the distribution of their products. In fact, this guy argues a pretty good case as to why the new DRM restrictions are not all doom and gloom, and raises the point that developers have to make a living too!

I'm still not convinced...
Sony's new Play Station 4
The Play Station 4- definitely smarter looking in my opinion.
Others have also argued an excellent point though: would this set up work in any other market? Look at books for example. Do I have to have known someone 30 days before I can give them a book? The same goes for DVDs, pens, or anything tangible really. If I have bought a disc, surely that is my copy to do with as I please (within the constraints of the law of course). And this is where Sony's argument sits, they are quite realistic about the fact that people may want to lend or even pass / sell games on. It could be argued that lending leads to more sales, in a 'try before you buy' sense.

Maybe, like hundreds of others out there, I have got the wrong end of the stick. What worries me more is the hundreds that have no idea about any of this, and who's brand-loyal children will be going crazy for the £429 Xbox One this Christmas (it's due for release in November). Yes, that's how much it's going to be. The Play Station 4 undercuts it by £80, at £349, but does not include their camera add on. So there is a lot of money to be invested here. And as a friend rightly pointed out, he is a lot less inclined to spend another £50 on a game, that after a period of time, (either after completion or out of boredom), he cannot sell on to get a bit of money towards their next purchase.

Here at the studio we would love to hear your thoughts on this. I may have opened a can of worms, but who doesn't love a good debate? Leave us a comment or tweet us @ubd_studio

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