DRM-gate: A year later and its Sonys turn

DRM-gate: A year later and its Sonys turn
Editor at TechForge Media. Often sighted at global tech conferences with a coffee in one hand and laptop in the other. If it's geeky, I'm probably into it.

We didn’t even get to E3 last year before Microsoft and Sony both rushed to the stage and displayed the latest versions of their respective Xbox and PlayStation consoles…

Perhaps “rushed” was the key word in that opening sentence; both announcements many would agree felt underprepared and a result of not wanting to allow the rival party to have a head start in an industry where timing can mean make or break.

I’ll get this out the way first – I’m an Xbox person. I’ve always ended up buying all the consoles at some point – yes, even the Wii – but I always end up falling back to the Microsoft camp.

Now that’s clear, I want to admit Microsoft handled the Xbox One launch terribly. It wasn’t the line-up, which, I think was (and continues to be) the strongest… but rather how the company didn’t clearly explain DRM (Digital Rights Management) and why it was needed for key features.

The initial plans meant that the Xbox had to connect to the internet briefly in a 24 hour period to check the user had the rights to use the game. This allowed for gamers to digitally “lend” their games to friends and family in the same respect as you would have given your friends the disc.

We live in a digital age – most of us can get access to that requirement. Relying on physical formats is from the last-generation…

Sony took the outcry regarding this from confused gamers and spun it into a marketing opportunity by releasing a “Used Game Instructional Video” showing one PlayStation gamer passing his (physical) disc to the other.

The outcry caused Microsoft to perform a spectacular “U-Turn” on DRM and scrap their plans along with what was probably the most forward-thinking feature of either console…

This was Microsoft’s second mishandling in my personal opinion – had the company stuck to their guns and explained themselves better then gamers may have come round to the benefits which they could receive. The U-Turn made Microsoft look like they were “caught out” and made the Xbox One launch without key features.

But those cheers could be short-lived…

Here we are a year after the announcements and the dust was just starting to settle before another bomb goes off from a certain executive. Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Worldwide Studios, took to twitter to answer the question of a loyal fan:

The president clarifies that PlayStation has DRM on digital games – exactly what the outcry was around Microsoft’s console.

A video is circulating (below) which displays a PS4 user irritated that his games could not be played without an internet connection. He attempts to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Sound Shapes, and Flower…

Each of the titles refuse to launch, instead displaying a message stating: “Cannot start the application. The PS4 is not connected to the internet and cannot verify the license for the application”

My own experience with the PS4 is similar. A family member has the latest console and has downloaded several digital titles, I assumed I could just login to my account on the device and play – but it refused without said family member being signed-in.

This seems crazy – and being a PlayStation 3 owner I can’t remember having such problems on the last-generation console…

Geek.com has the same experience: “If you purchase a game on PSN right now with your PlayStation 3, anyone with access to the console has access to the game. The purchasing system on the PS3 is fairly open, allowing you to have the game on multiple consoles with your account setup.

This system used to allow for up to five locations for the game to exist, but has since been limited to two. It looks like the PSN on Sony’s next console will decrease that number from two to one, and will also bind the game specifically to your account.”

Certainly on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One others can jump on their own profiles and get playing my games stored on the consoles. I can also play the digitally downloaded games offline regardless of time period.

So there we go –

  • The Xbox has no DRM (and alas, no game sharing)
  • PS4 has no DRM on discs – but it has very strict DRM on downloaded titles.

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