There is one thing that consoles have always done much better than PCs; they don’t make their players deal with ridiculous amounts of copyright protection. Edge magazine posted an article today that according to “sources with first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console,” the next Xbox is going to have always-online DRM (Digital Rights Management), meaning while you’re playing a game you will have to be online at all times. It is believed that similar to PC games, next gen Xbox games will also come with a product key that you will then have to register to your Xbox Live account as well, which will do away with the ability to sell your used games or let a friend borrow them.
This is something new for console gaming, where there is a very large used game market. Companies like GameStop or Gamefly rely a lot on selling or renting of used games, and a change like this would require every person to buy a copy of the game that is then permanently linked to their account, and effectively kill a large portion of their business.
PC gamers are currently going through a very big debate over always online DRM, with new games like Sim City getting a lot of backlash over requiring people to be online to play a single player game. It’s understandable that companies want to make sure that their game does not get pirated because they put a lot of time and money into developing the product. But at what point does adding more DRM upset the community enough that you actually make less money from selling fewer copies than you would have lost from people pirating the game?
Last year Ubisoft dropped their always online DRM, which they announced in an interview on Rock Paper Shotgun. They received a lot of flack from their fans after having the DRM in some of their titles on PC, where you could be playing the single player portion of a game, and if your Internet connection dropped at all, the game would immediately stop running and you would lose any progress since the previous save. Ubisoft is just one developer though, and if a company such as Microsoft forces this for an entire console cycle, which could last 7-10 years like this current one, they will definitely hear about it from the players. For now, the debate is continuing, and we’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft says when they officially announce the next Xbox, which is speculated to happen in the next couple months.