Copyright

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
always on, broken, connectivity, copyright, drm, xbox

Companies:
microsoft



Remembering That Xbox Wanted Always Online DRM For Its Console In The Wake Of Major Xbox Live Outtage

from the got-lucky dept

Nearly half a decade into the current generation of gaming consoles, you will be forgiven if you don't recall some of the consternation surrounding Microsoft's initial plan to make the Xbox One have an "always online" requirement to play the games customers purchased. Microsoft initially floated this concept ahead of the console's release, perhaps testing the public waters for the requirement. If that was indeed the plan, the instinct to take the public's temperature on it was a good one, as the backlash was both swift and severe, particularly in light on Sony taking every opportunity to remind consumers that the Playstation 4 would have no such requirement. Predictably, at least to this author, Microsoft caved and removed this "feature", even as company employees who should have known better made insulting comments about how always online was the way of not just the future, but the present, and everyone should essentially shut up and get used to it.

Well, as many Xbox users will already know, Xbox Live had a major outtage this week. The service was down for somewhere between five and eight hours, depending on who you ask. And I mean completely down.

Xbox Live is experiencing some serious downtime at the moment, with many owners unable to play games or even sign in.

Microsoft acknowledged that both core services and purchasing was impacted before service was restored somewhere around 1am. Multiplayer games were affected, including major titles like Overwatch and Destiny. This is to be expected for online gaming when the online service is down. Single-player games, however, could still be played by putting the Xbox in "offline mode."

And that's great, except it's worth remembering that offline mode wasn't going to be a thing in Microsoft's initial plans. And, sure, five hours of being separated from a customer's legitimate purchases isn't a major travesty, but this outage demonstrates that even these minor inconveniences can be helpfully avoided by simply not requiring always online DRM. Had Microsoft had its way, paying customers would have been at best annoyed for several hours, unable to play the games they bought and certainly not being offered any recompense for their troubles.

More importantly, this episode should highlight several things. First, this is Microsoft we're talking about, and they were down hard for several hours. Let's acknowledge that it could have been worse. What if the service were down for several days? Second, what if this wasn't Microsoft we were talking about, with all of its riches and resources, but a smaller entity unable to recover so quickly? How long would the service have been down, keeping paying, legitimate customers from their valid purchases? Third, all of this real and potential damage to legitimate customers had been achieved for what? The Playstation, as we've noted, doesn't have this requirement, yet it is making money hand over fist. What good would Microsoft's original plan have done for all of this potential damage?

Those questions aside, Microsoft ought to be writing love letters to the fans that revolted against its always online plan. It's that backlash that helped keep this minor inconvenience for online gamers from being a full-blown PR nightmare.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 7:28pm

    I completely exited the Gaming market because of bullshit like an over-reliance on internet connectivity. Firmware "updates" that actually seemed borderline malicious really drove the decision home.

    With emulation, I don't feel I've missed out on anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:45am

      Re:

      Emulation? Let me guess: on a Windows computer requiring online reactivation for any change of hardware and with a EULA that reserves the right to disable any functionality remotely that it wants to. Because all that is already in XP's EULA if I remember correctly, and they get worse after that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Agammamon, 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:33am

        Re: Re:

        I think you're a bit out of date.

        I haven't had to reactivate Windows when changing hardware config since at least Vista. And the EULA . . . the EULA is a EULA. They're all the same and they're all meaningless.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You find out how meaningless the EULAs are when you are up shit creek and they confiscate your paddle because you agreed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            David, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            By the way: you do remember the various Windows 10 update waves? When people were swapping advice how to avoid Microsoft destroying existing working installations as was its sovereign right as their clicked-through liege lord?

            How meaningless was that?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Then you haven't changed much hardware. It's definitely still there according to a recent upgrade I assisted with where the person I was helping told me after the fact, much to my chagrin, that they ignored my instructions of creating an install media device.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            orbitalinsertion (profile), 26 Aug 2017 @ 12:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Windows was bad enough, but some of the machine vendors were/are far worse. Sometimes it is the OEM install that would require a reactivation where a retail copy of Windows would not.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 25 Aug 2017 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re:

        Emulation? Let me guess: on a Windows computer requiring online reactivation for any change of hardware and with a EULA that reserves the right to disable any functionality remotely that it wants to. Because all that is already in XP's EULA if I remember correctly, and they get worse after that.

        I'm still using XP Pro, SP3. I assume it's a legit copy, it was on the system when I bought it refurbished from Geeks.com. I've changed hardware a couple times and never had to re-activate it. However I also happen to have a pre-activated copy that I can use if necessary. And as far as I know, Microsoft can't remotely disable anything.

        Of course I'm missing out on newer software, so when I eventually get a newer system, I'm not sure I'll even connect it to the net any more than is required to keep it functional. If it's not connected they can't screw with it. I'll have a separate system for going online. Maybe I'll still be using this one.

        "But what about games that require online activation?" I hear you ask. I don't play them. It's why I've never played Half-Life 2.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 10:51pm

        Re: Re:

        I don't use Windows. OS X has had robust emulation for quite a while now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 26 Aug 2017 @ 1:54pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Virtually all emulators are available for linux as well. Open source games as well, including games that were originally closed, but opened later, like most all the Id games. You'll still have to supply the game data, but the game itself is in the distribution repository for one-click installation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:30am

      Re:

      *Firmware updates*?

      The problem isn't the 'gaming market', its the 'console market'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spikerman87, 24 Aug 2017 @ 7:42pm

    Remember when they were down for a day?

    I remember when Lizard Squad took Xbox down for over a day. I also remember as apart of the DRM that Microsoft would require your Xbox to check in every 24 hours or the console would brick itself.

    Hmm...

    Yeah if THAT were in place then every console sold would have been useless. I would of considered that the end of Microsoft's console days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 8:15pm

      Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

      Microsoft would require your Xbox to check in every 24 hours or the console would brick itself.

      No.

      The 24 hour requirement is the one mentioned in the story. If you didn't connect once every 24 hours, you wouldn't be able to play games offline.

      You'd be able to play again once connected. The console was never going to "brick itself", unless you mean "until reconnected."

      Even WITH the DRM in place, the "five and eight hours" outage in the story would have meant that you could still play offline games. In this case removing the DRM made no difference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Unanimous Cow Herd (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 9:13pm

        Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

        Baloney. If my internet went down as it frequently does, then my Xbox would be as useful as a boat anchor as far as gaming goes. What about those who decide their ISP isn't in their budget that month? Or those who have given up on their current ISP and are switching? The last console I bought was the Sega Dreamcast (a truly great system abandoned well before its time) and it required NO connection whatsoever to get the maximum enjoyment. I almost bought a PS3 because I could use it as a computing device running Linux... and we know that Sony "upgraded" that capability right out of it. I'm going to stick with PC gaming. At least there are some titles still left that do not require any connectivity or even digital registration to play in their entirety. A good $60 game should not require an internet connection or DLC to make it worth the price.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 9:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

          Baloney. If my internet went down as it frequently does, then my Xbox would be as useful as a boat anchor as far as gaming goes.

          Your internet would have to be down for 24 hours before you couldn't play offline games.

          That would still be a deal-breaker for me. I just don't see any need to invent claims that it would have been even worse.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 10:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

            The internet only needs to be down for the split-second that the console calls home to be useless for the next 24 hours.

            And what if you take it on holiday with you to a cabin with no internet?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 10:52pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

              The internet only needs to be down for the split-second that the console calls home to be useless for the next 24 hours.

              Not a single retry?

              Citation...?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:45am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

                His ass, because following his logic, he would need to ensure his internet was up at precisely the same exact moment each day to catch that exact 24 hour window. Sorry ma, the mirror was misaligned! We gots to wait for tomorrer to try again!

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:42am

        Re: Re: Remember when they were down for a day?

        What about I play a game Sunday afternoon at 4pm, then quit and turn everything off, go out to dinner, bed. Work on Monday. I get home at 5 pm, dinner etc. Turn on Xbox at 8pm. Servers Down. Unable to check in. Has been 24 hours, offline disabled.

        How is that consumer friendly?

        Not everyone leaves their entertainment center turned on 24hrs a day. You know how much energy an array of devices in standby mode uses? I recall pushes from the previous US admin encouraging people to not leave things plugged in that are not in use, to save energy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James Burkhardt, 24 Aug 2017 @ 8:22pm

    PSN Crash

    Let us all remember the infamous PSN outage that lasted months. What happens when you get that outage with an always on console?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 24 Aug 2017 @ 11:53pm

    Come again?

    And, sure, five hours of being separated from a customer's legitimate purchases isn't a major travesty,

    Uh, if I purchase bottled milk, I don't expect the farmer to come round checking my refrigerator and take the milk away again if I haven't thawed off the ice recently.

    Or was it the refrigerator salesman putting a lock on it?

    There is a difference between adoption and purchase. How come that in the motherland of capitalism it is becoming increasingly harder to actually buy anything in the stores as soon as technology is concerned, another supposed core tenet of the U.S.?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:15am

    At some point this will be the de facto DRM, sadly. If nothing, the games will start adopting this. Until we vote them out with our wallets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:27am

    >This is to be expected for online gaming when the online service is down.

    Well, not for PC games, which would just be using private dedicated servers.

    *An* online PC game might go down if it required a central server (SimCity anyone) but not *all of them at the same time*.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:28am

      Re:

      But I guess this is what you're getting when you pay extra for the XBL 'service'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 25 Aug 2017 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      Well, not for PC games, which would just be using private dedicated servers.

      An online PC game might go down if it required a central server (SimCity anyone) but not all of them at the same time.

      [cough]Steam[cough]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:10am

    When people

    buy DRM products they are enabling and endorsing the concept. The buyers are as much a part of the problem as are the vendors.

    Vote with your dollars!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 10:06am

    Roger Strong: "The 24 hour requirement is the one mentioned in the story. If you didn't connect once every 24 hours, you wouldn't be able to play games offline."

    No. This isn't true. It was never true. It will never be true. No matter how much gamers want to believe it.

    The E3 PR was a nightmare. Microsoft's PR dept was stating one thing (which lead to the infamous "get over it" by an employee no longer with the company - what was his name again?) while the gaming division was stating another.

    Here's the official statement released: "It does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet."

    So how did this go from "not always connected" to the infamous DRM bullshit?

    Gamers. That's who. People who heard what they wanted to hear, not what was actually said.

    The "24" came from one of the benefits Microsoft was working to deliver to XBox One owners: the ability to share FULL games with friends for a 24 hour period without an additional purchase. The only requirement was the friend had to be on the sender's list for at least 30 days.

    Of course, an internet connection was necessary for the friend to download the game.

    So what was this "phone home" issue about anyway? Let's get to the parts (intentionally?) left out of the article.

    The connection requirement was only for those who shared a game -OR- sold a digital game.

    Read that last part again: For the FIRST TIME EVER, Microsoft was going to allow people to sell back digital games.

    They even mentioned working with retailers and setting up kiosks to make this possible.

    Under no circumstance was it ever announced a lack of communication in 24 hours would block all games.

    ONLY THOSE GAMES DOWNLOADED AS SHARED OR SOLD WOULD HAVE BEEN LOCKED IF AN INTERNET CONNECTION WAS NOT AVAILABLE - ALL OTHER GAMES WOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED, CONNECTED OR NOT

    This teeny, tiny bit of information was lost due to the "OMFG! DRM! DRM! NO! NO!" hyperbole following the E3 presentation.

    To be (marginally) fair to the audience, this fiasco was the result of Microsoft's poor information delivery, given its own staff had no clue what was going on.

    At launch, it wouldn't be possible to sell digital games, because the negotiations were still being worked out. At press, and this is confirmed, a connection was needed to start the console.

    This, of itself, was more of a "try to please the majority, than cater to the minority" and it's okay to have a negative opinion about the attempt.

    The online registration was to benefit those who had an XBox 360, making it much easier to port over the account information.

    Those who own(ed) an XBox 360 fondly remember all digital games used to be tied to the console, not the account. If the console had to be replaced, all the digital downloads were lost (and had to be repurchased).

    This was fixed with the largest update the XBox 360 ever received, which removed the console+game relationship and restored it to an account+game+entertainment relationship.

    The other proof the audience wigged out and didn't listen was when they accused Microsoft of charging a fee to install used games onto the console, which Microsoft stated they would receive no money from this fee.

    Now, can anyone here think of any particular publisher who'd demand a fee to install a used game? Shouldn't take hard to think of the company, given they've been very vocal about second hand sales of "their" games. I'll give the answer below to those truly stumped by this publisher.

    People also forgot how this fee was in addition to a purchase license one would have to acquire to install it, which did make its way into physical games, but briefly before the backlash forced the publisher to remove this ridiculous cash grab.

    I should also point out the XBox Live service has no relationship to the games outside of the purchase (an XBox Live account is required to purchase a digital game, hence the account+game relationship).

    Once purchased, all that's needed to perform patch/updates is an internet connection, provided Microsoft's patch servers weren't affected by the same issue affecting its Live service.

    Timothy's assertion that XBox Live going down would result in games being unplayable, but this isn't accurate at all.

    Microsoft doesn't require people to have an XBox Live subscription.

    It never has.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 11:54am

      Re:

      None of what you've said is anything more than some semantics argument while also saying the original wasn't true.

      "The other proof the audience wigged out and didn't listen was when they accused Microsoft of charging a fee to install used games onto the console, which Microsoft stated they would receive no money from this fee."

      So is the audience wrong about the fee? No one gives a flying fuck who gets the money. Microsoft had no problem with it, considering they were going to just pass it on to the consumer. No way this will backfire on us!

      "The "24" came from one of the benefits Microsoft was working to deliver to XBox One owners: the ability to share FULL games with friends for a 24 hour period without an additional purchase. The only requirement was the friend had to be on the sender's list for at least 30 days."

      And it was a stupid implementation of an idea (again, no one gives a damn who's fault it ultimately was. MS thought it was good enough for market, so they can take the blame.), and they were rightly mocked for it with the infamous Sony video.

      "Here's the official statement released: "It does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet.""

      Oh yeah, BIG mystery why those disgusting *gamers* thought the worst about this not-at-all nebulous statement. Case closed!

      I'd congratulate you on your paycheck, but I don't think this was well thought out enough to be a shill job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:08pm

        Re: Re:

        On a lighter note, that guy was Don Mattrick, who hastily departed to become CEO of Zynga...before he was ousted by the board and replaced by the old CEO he himself had replaced.

        No idea what he's up to now, but whatever it is he's probably no good at it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 1:29pm

    Then MSFT shutdown Windows Live

    Which was exactly the same functionality (or less) than the Xbox proposed solution. And as games are often moving targets for developers that routinely move on to other games/markets/companies many of those games require circumventing their DRM to even play.

    Who woulda thunk it?

    Freaking every single gamer that had to use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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