We didn’t expect Microsoft to stick with its digital rights management policies after the mauling that it faced from consumers and the media at E3 2013 last week, but even we’re a little stunned by the swiftness and scale of its turnaround. If you’ve been living under a rock, the Redmond-based firm has just revealed that its next generation console will no longer need to be connected to the Internet every 24 hours. Furthermore, the system will allow you to trade and resell games as you do on current generation platforms such as the PlayStation 3. In essence, the Xbox One now boasts the same policies as the PlayStation 4.
There are some caveats to the turnaround. The ‘family share’ functionality that it had previously touted is now totally off the cards. You’ll be able to loan your physical discs to friends, but you won’t be able to access your library anywhere like the platform holder had previously promised. On the plus side, regional restrictions are now off the cards – again, much like Sony already confirmed for the PS4. So, what impact does this have on the Japanese giant and its own impending console?
Microsoft was racing down a highway of public relations hiccups faster than Sony in 2006 with the Xbox One – and it's not surprising that something had to change
Well, let’s be honest, it changes the narrative immensely. There’s absolutely no denying that Sony profited from Microsoft’s fumbling last week. In terms of software, the Redmond-based firm actually put up a fairly strong showing, and we suspect that should it have levelled the playing field seven days ago, the positivity surrounding the PS4 would have been slightly more subdued than it has been over the past few days.
But let’s be realistic: this is the way it should have been. Microsoft was racing down a highway of public relations hiccups faster than Sony in 2006 – and something had to change. The platform holder deserves kudos for reversing direction at the last minute, even if it was adamant just five days ago that it wasn’t going to alter anything at all.
The problem for the PS4 is that this will temporarily swing the pendulum out of its grasp. The platform holder had its big moment last week, and now Microsoft has struck back decisively. All of a sudden it’s the Redmond-based firm that will push its nose back in front, and with no immediate means of response, the PlayStation maker will be forced to simply ride out this wave of renewed anticipation for the Xbox One.
Alas, when the dust settles, there are still a number of meaningful advantages still within Sony’s hands. For starters, the PS4 is still a significantly cheaper option than its competitor’s console, and still boasts those inherent hardware advantages that we’ve heard so much about. It may not have a camera in its box, but those looking for a system this Christmas will still see a system with a similar library and a more affordable figure attached to it. That’s huge.
Furthermore, for as much as Microsoft deserves credit for changing its stance, such a monumental backtrack – particularly after it spent much of E3 2013 vehemently defending its policies – shows a company that’s clearly out of touch and totally lost. That the firm spent upwards of two years devising these systems for them to be thrown out in a matter of days is borderline incomprehensible. An admission of error is good, but it’s clear that the organisation thought that it could get away with this one.
And that’s probably the unspoken sentiment in gaffer Don Mattrick’s clarification post. This is not a direct response to the feedback of its fans like the message is framed; this is a reaction to unsavoury pre-order numbers, best-sellers lists, and damning projections. The company knew that it was on the verge of getting stomped, and it had to do something about it. Making the change shows good business acumen, for sure, but we wouldn’t be typing this article at all if it thought that its original policies would fly.
At the end of the day, though, it sparks a positive move for the industry – and gaming as a whole. Things are back to where they should be, and now we have an honest console war on our hands. A non-fumbling Microsoft not only means good things for Xbox fans, but also for PlayStation fans, too. Whatever your opinion of the brand in green, there’s no denying that its success over the past eight years has forced Sony to step up its game. Now there’s no danger of the Japanese giant getting complacent, because the fight is well and truly back on. It’s going to be a fascinating six months.
Has Microsoft’s change in policies affected your anticipation for the PS4? Are you still planning to pick up Sony’s machine, or are you considering switching to the Xbox One? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
How have Microsoft's policy changes affected your enthusiasm for PS4? (88 votes)
Not at all, I'm still super excited for Sony's machine
Hmm, I'm not sure, this is happening too fast
Quite a lot, I'm now considering buying an Xbox One
Please login to vote in this poll.