The Xbox One - The Machine That Assumes You're A Thief? (Part 4)

8/20/2013 11:20:53 AM

Is This Is A Problem?

Should we be bothered about all of this? Isn't this just progress, that companies are using the technologies available to evolve and improve their products and make sure we're pretty much standardized across them? That's certainly an argument, and it would be remiss to suggest that there aren't benefits we gain from all of this.

“If you don’t hook up your Kinect, your Xbox One won’t work”

Consider the Xbox One again. Its use of cloud services, while inevitably assuming a decent-speed internet connection, means that once a game is installed, you don't have to fumble around for the disc again. You log into your user account and you can play. It sounds all straightforward and hopefully that's just what it'll be. Furthermore, you'll now be able to buy all games to download, and most will be available in physical form as well. You'll still have choice. Furthermore, there's little denying that the console itself is an impressive one on paper. For $637, you're getting an awful lot of processing power and a machine that combines the jobs of several boxes that ordinarily may sit under your television.

“If you don’t hook up your Kinect, your Xbox One won’t work”

“If you don’t hook up your Kinect, your Xbox One won’t work”

That's the thing, though. The features where you get the sense that Microsoft has designed a product for gamers are really very, very welcome. The games themselves that Microsoft is working on look quite impressive too, for the most part. However, where it all stumbles is when you examine where Microsoft's loyalties really lie on this, because it seems as though it's paying as much heed to the big publishers as it is the paying customers. And that it's taking a bullet for said big publishers on their behalf, so that a corporate wish list of technologies that restrict piracy and game trading can be introduced.

Anti-piracy measures are understandable. It's a pain when they're intrusive, but gamers have been battling those ever since the likes of The Secret Of Monkey Island came with a wheel and RoboCop 3 on the Amiga had a hardware dongle with it. Regardless, there's still a sense of how did it come to this? What other consumer electronics would demand a daily check-in just to perform the features that were sold to you in the first place?

A new generation of games with power from the cloud

A new generation of games with power from the cloud

Can you imagine a fridge that refuses to chill your drinks unless you prove it's not a knock-off? A DVD player that says you can't watch Big Momma's House 3 until you can prove it's not pirated? How long before printers will have to check in with a mother ship somewhere to see if the parent company approves of the replacement ink you've brought?

These might all sound like bizarre products of imagination, but maybe we should rewind. Go back to the days of the original Xbox and playing Halo for the first time. How would you have felt if someone had tapped you on the shoulder then and said a decade from now, you'd need to connect to a computer on a daily basis for permission to keep playing? Not happy, we'd suggest.

It doesn’t help that technologies such as the Xbox One and subscription services such as the one Adobe is offering all work on some degree of assumption that you have a fast enough internet connection to back them up. Even if you have, say, a 4Mbps connection, however, which should be just about okay, that's still, in the modern home, got to support more and more products. Tablets, computers, phones, games consoles... there's a growing list of products that want a slice of that web connection.

That's not the biggest problem, though. Again, centering on the Xbox One, the issue here is that Microsoft is introducing technologies that aren't, in many cases, to the benefit of the end user. They're designed to stop things, rather than enable them. They're designed to check on you, rather than encourage you. And, ultimately, they're designed with the core assumption, as you hand over nearly $743 to Microsoft, that you're a potential thief. That may sound harsh, but when the status quo is now up to you to check in on a daily basis and prove otherwise, surely something is very badly wrong. Hopefully, a rethink will happen before the Xbox One finally goes on sale. Sadly, we very much doubt it will.


Just as the magazine was set to go to the printers, we got word that Microsoft was significantly revising its policies where the Xbox One is concerned. To say that this is a major about-turn would be no understatement. This is massive.

 Following weeks of negative publicity, Microsoft has suddenly confirmed that it's dropping the controversial digital rights management system that we've discussed in this article, in particular the restriction requiring you to check in every 24 hours. That it was even considering it so seriously in the first place remains a real bugbear, and the principals of its initial policy remain scary.

The official Microsoft statement said:

"An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games. After a one-time system setup with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc- based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24-hour connection requirement, and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

There is no 24-hour connection requirement, and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360

There is no 24-hour connection requirement, and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360

"Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc-based games just like you do today. There will be no limitations to using and sharing games; it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”

We've left the article intact. For one, we were on deadline. But secondly, what we've talked about remains something that was all set to happen. It's just taken a massive uproar, and the threat to a bottom line, to turn things around. It's still a machine that was designed with the assumption that you were a thief, and the only reason the final product won't work on the original lines is that Microsoft was threatened where it's most vulnerable: in its pocket.

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