Beer flowed, the crowd cheered and the pyrrhic victory hung in the air like the stench of a dead princess’ rotting body. Our voices have been heard, chant the crowd, as they conveniently forget almost everything else that has been promised them.
That Microsoft have abandoned their assault on consumer rights, and the inherent principles of owning the physical products we buy, is absolutely a right and just thing. While there are lots of issues that still need to be worked through regarding digital distribution and the expiration of rights upon death – good luck Mr. Willis – physical ownership has remained relatively untouched. MS’ attempt to change that status-quo is well documented enough that it doesn’t need reinvestigating here, except to say that it was perhaps the most progressive attempt at pure Digital Rights Management we’ve seen yet, coupled to a frankly Orwellian induced nightmare regarding disc based games.
“Family Sharing” – now most notable by its entire absence from MS’ refreshed approach – could have been an amazing selling point for a pure digital system. It offered potentially huge benefit to disparate groups of families, even if it always felt like there was a monster lurking behind the curtain if you tried to look to closely. That was the most notable olive branch of an otherwise alien policy, though. This new approach – just like Sony’s – will continue to bridge the gap between between physical and digital in a relatively awkward fashion. It wouldn’t be surprising if the first revision of either went pure digital completely, but this isn’t about crystal balls.
New approach? Did I just say that? This old approach. There’s no real need to dress it up as something else. But now that the consoles are on an equal footing regarding DRM I find myself re-examining my decision to pre-order a PS4 the day after their conference, abandoning MS after they’ve delivered probably the most exciting console I’ve owned if I consider all elements of it.
Did I rush or jump the boat too soon? They’ve listened. They’ve listened! Well, not really.
DRM is one thing. There are lots of other things they’ve not changed on. The inherent shitness of the dashboard, filled as it is with awkward and annoying adverts. A focus on media facilities that devalue and marginalise the gaming element of the machine at best, that don’t even exist in my part of the world at worst. A Live! service that creates an artificial paywall between me and services or features I am actually interested in, purely to justify its own subscription fee. The force feeding of Kinect 2.0, a device that will do this time what we were told it would do last time and within a smaller space. TV controls and services that won’t work in the UK, if they even exist at all. A system that is £80 more than a PS4. A corporation that has proven itself inherently untrustworthy, detached entirely from my own personal view of gaming and what I want from it, completely in bed with publishers at my personal expense.
No. Sony feel more honest, more straight talking, more capable of engaging me as a gamer and – potentially – as an individual. I’m under no illusions regarding their business goals and objectives, but it feels as though they’re perhaps recognising that they can’t achieve them without taking me into consideration. They have great games – yes, the MS conference was marginally better for exclusives, but they didn’t have 2 free to play MMO’s and another free game included with their Live! subscription on day 1 , while Sony created the best value launch day bundle I’ve ever seen.
I want to go with the platform that feels exciting, not monolithic. I want to feel anticipation at what may come next, not trepidation. I want to be at the centre of my own universe, not the edge of someone else’s.