I never thought I’d see the day that I’d cheer for Sony.

Ok, I’m not a fan of Sony.  Remember the rootkit debacle back in 2005-2007?  Essentially using CDs from Sony would install hidden software on your computer that made it vulnerable to malware.  At worst, it could cause your CD drive to be useless until you formatted your hard drive (all your lovely files?  Bye bye).

How did Sony respond?

Sony’s software installs itself by stealth, conceals itself, then intercepts low level Windows systems calls. Removing it causes the CD drive to be rendered inoperable. The only cure is to reformat the disk and reinstall Windows.

What responsibility did [President of Sony BMG's global digital business division Thomas Hesse] feel for the havoc his CDs had caused?

“Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” he huffed.

Translation: “Fuck you.  We’re Sony.”  Good thing Doctors Without Borders doesn’t adopt Hesse’s outlook.  “Most citizens of [insert poverty-stricken nation] don’t even know what AIDS is, so why should they care about it?”

Then there’s Sony’s tendency to sue small re-sale gaming stores into non-existence.  Long story short: I don’t like Sony.  However, even I can admit that Sony has done better the last few years.  The PS3 was a well-built machine with good titles.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Sony’s main console competitor, Microsoft, is about to release the Xbox One which is their rival to Sony’s Playstation 4.  Microsoft has apparently decided that they have enough money that they can afford to lose shit tons of it by placing a huge list of massivce restrictions on sharing  and reselling games for the Xbox One.  You see, the Xbox One will need to be online for you to use it, and when you buy a game the Xbox One will register it to your particular machine.  Microsoft will then use that unique registration to restrict the CD’s use on other consoles.

On the used game front, Microsoft is punting the issue to publishers. “Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit,” reads Microsoft’s post “We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers.  Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.” Taken at face value, this means that publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft will be allowed to make a decision on a case by case basis about whether used game sales will be allowed for a given game. Publishers could also set up fees for this transfer, but Microsoft claims it will take no part of those fees.

As for game sharing, Microsoft now says that game sharing will be allowed, but in a far more limited fashion than how passing a game to a friend works today. “Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days, and each game can only be given once.” In other words, people who have been newly added to your friends list won’t be allowed to accept game loans, and repeated loans won’t be allowed to the same friend.

Microsoft says they won’t put restrictions on reselling games, but that you can only lend them to one friend – and only if that friend has been on your friends list for 30 days.  How, exactly, will the restrictions on sharing with friends not interfere with the resale of games?  That’s a mystery.

Also, do you like renting games for your console?  “Fuck you.  We’re Microsoft.”

Gamers are outraged about this and they should be.  I honestly don’t know how Microsoft thinks it can compete with the PS4 while shooting themselves in the foot like this.  I’m sure it’s just competent marketing, but Sony had the chance to follow suit and didn’t.

What’s more, at E3 Sony released this video which delivers a swift, emotionless back-hand to Microsoft and the Xbox One:

Don’t blame Sony, Microsoft.  You handed them the metaphorical club and practically begged them to beat you with it.  You can’t complain too much when they oblige.

And on top of all of this, the PS4 is going to cost a full $100 less at launch than the Xbox One ($399 for the PS4, $499 for the XB1).  I suspect that will last until right after Christmas when Microsoft realizes that gamers have standards and they are losing buckets of money for taking an epic two-flush monster shit all over their consumer base.  This is especially true since the specs on the PS4 are slightly better, and since you’ll pay less for those specs and have waaaaaaaay more freedom with your device…

Yeah, Microsoft is boned on this one.  Way to take steps toward redeeming yourself, Sony.  I won’t buy either because I’m a PC gamer, but I’ll sure be rooting against the Xbox One.  If it does poorly enough, this will deliver a powerful message to gaming companies in the future.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • unbound55

    Minor quibble…the PS4 price is without the camera bar. So an apples-to-apples pricing is probably pretty equal (Xbox One includes and requires the Kinect bar).

    Otherwise, I have to agree. In addition to the rootkit, Sony also had the PSN security breaches (I know of others besides the widely published one). But it looks like Sony is getting better whereas MS is diving big time into becoming the problem everyone thought they were.

    This is becoming more and more like elections. I’m not voting for a great candidate anymore, but simply voting for the less noxious one.

    • Rob

      So MS can release one without the bar and have a $399 console.

      • Zinc Avenger

        Microsoft has been pretty explicit that the camera is always on, always connected, and non-negotiable.

        • Rob

          Yup, and I knew that when I posted that. It’s also one of the reasons I don’t want the One.

          They can compete on price, but they’re unwilling to budge. Too bad, so sad.

        • Drakk

          Can it not be unplugged, or at least pointed at a wall?

          • Rob

            No.

            Definitely no on the unplugged, and patents imply the pointed at a wall won’t work either.

    • The_L1985

      True, but you don’t have to give Sony your card info. I have only ever bought PSN downloads using those $20 points cards at Target.

      Xbox One, on the other hand, is literally inseparable from the biggest privacy-intrusion in video game history.

    • Cylon

      That’s true about the camera, but I’m not sure how relevant it will be. The new Kinect looks like it has some big improvements over the current one, but there are still a ton of people out there (especially among hardcore gamers) who just don’t give a shit about motion and voice control. For them the mandatory Kinect will be an unnecessary expense.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Another factoid worth noting…Did you hear how often the words “tv” and “television” were repeated during the announcement and the hype-ups? It seems their big sell is that you can buy the thing to use it as something you already had to have to use it in the first place.

    The Xbone isn’t impressing thus far. So saith my Xbox loving roommate, anyway. I am of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    Also, Kinect is used to spy on users are target ads to them based on their biometrics.

  • Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    I left PC gaming and jumped over to consoles years back because PC
    gaming was a mess. Constant driver issues, networking being all but
    impossible, the introduction and growth of insane DRM, and a host of
    other problems. I’ve been an Xbox gamer since the original Xbox was
    born. But now… I think its about time to go back. I find myself using
    my 360 only when the internet is down and I can’t get on EVE or Guild
    Wars 2.

    Not to mention that despite living in Calgary, my
    internet craps out regularly enough that the Xbox One’s daily phone home
    bug, ahem sorry feature, would be a real pain in the ass.

    So
    Microsoft, you lost a loyal customer. 3 Xbox 360s I’ve bought from you
    (one red ring of death, one harddrive upgrade), but no way in hell will I
    be getting the One. Not sure if I’ll be getting a PS4 or not, but I’ll
    definitely be giving it a closer look.

    • Jayn

      Yeah, the trend towards online DRM in PC gaming is one thing that has always bugged me (though I’ve never been much of a PC gamer, so it doesn’t affect me much) and I’m frustrated to see the Xbox follow suit, although it’s not remotely surprising. There’s too many possible points of failure, and it’s messed up that offline games can be blocked by lack of an internet connection or a server failure on the other end.

      It kind of sucks that Microsoft is going this way, because in addition to what JT mentioned above about Sony, I’ve never liked how they won the high-def format war. That wasn’t the only reason I went with MS this generation, but it was a consideration.

      • Rob

        The trend in DRM is why I moved to the console around 2000 or so.

        I’ve gone back somewhat, and every single PC purchase has been Humble Bundle or GoG

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Well, objectively, Blu-Ray was the superior format. And given how Sony got burned in the Betamax/VCR war in the 1980s, you can’t blame them for going all out on that format fight.

    • invivoMark

      PC seems to be getting better lately. Almost everything can be bought through Steam, DRM is less intrusive and subversive to legitimate purchasers, and the independent developers are seeing a lot of success.

  • Ignatius Cheezburger

    The only reason I would consider purchasing an Xbox One would be to finish the second Halo trilogy, and though I thought #4 was a worthy successor to #3, it’s not enough to tempt me. Plus, most of the titles I like, if not all of them, were released for PC as well. Goodbye, Xbox; hello, Alienware.

  • baal

    To be overly fair to Sony, the DMCA (copyright on steroids and just as ugly) US LAW passed by the US Congress authorized foreign corps and foreign nations to install the rootkits (back doors that allow external users full access to your system if they want it) on your pc so long as they suggested it was to find illegal copies once you caught them.

  • invivoMark

    Around the same time that it comes out that the US government is tapping massive stores of data on its citizens taken from private companies, Microsoft tries to sell everyone a box that is always online, always connected to a Kinect with a camera that watches your every move in your own home.

    Yeah, good luck with that, Microsoft.

    • John H

      There’s a brilliant hack I read about to prevent webcam capturing with 100% certainty: opaque tape.

      • invivoMark

        I was going to go with the other clever hack of not buying one, but I guess yours could work too.

      • Rob

        From the sound of it that won’t work.

        Or rather, it will count as a camera malfunction and the One will fail to work.

  • Loqi

    Microsoft has the uncanny ability to make almost any other corporation look virtuous by comparison.

    • Zinc Avenger

      So you’re saying they’re the Catholic Church of the corporate world?

      • Loqi

        Nah. The Catholic Church is the Catholic Church of the corporate world. It’s also a big reason I had to include the word “almost.”

  • Rob

    I don’t think you can call Lik Sang simply a small resale store. They were big on mod chips. Do you have a small resale store they sued that was simply reselling?

  • Grey Nichols

    This is the first time I have ever posted on the blogs that I read (I have been reading the atheist blogs for well over two years now). What Microsoft and Sony have been doing with consoles lately is pretty much the reason why I am walking away from consoles altogether. It was a tough decision to make since I like many exclusive series. Unless something changes (which I doubt there will be any), I will stick with the consoles that I do have (X-Box 360, PS 3 and PS 2), PC and emulators.

    • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

      What is Sony doing?

  • b33bl3br0x

    I’m a PC gamer myself.

    As others have noted the push toward DRM is one that I, like others, have really hated. As such, though I buy the games that I play, I almost entirely play cracked versions of the games. Of course this is also another reason why DRM is useless, there are cracks available for every game on the release date (exception of D3). I should also note that I principally play single player games since I quit WoW.

    I will absolutely never install steam or origin on my machines.

    Of course there is also the problem now that a lot of games are being written for the consoles and the PC versions are becoming ports. One of the consequences of this is that quality of graphics is suffering in a lot of games. The high end graphic cards aren’t being utilized to their full extents because developers are lazy and unwilling to bother improving the graphics above what they are for consoles.

    • Rob

      Glad to see I’m not the only one who refuses to use Steam

    • John H

      Yeah, it’s pretty weird running a new game on max settings without a (single) six-month-old video card breaking 50% utilization. At this rate, I won’t have to upgrade for a decade.

  • Park James

    I’ve got a 360 and have generally been happy with Xbox, but I cannot get behind this shit. Im predicting that microsoft is going to backpedal faster than Darrelle Revis on their always online requirements and their shit policy for used games. Until they do im not giving them any mone.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    One correction. Microsoft hasn’t commented on lending yet. Giving a game to a friend who has been on your friends list for 30 days is a permanent sale.

    This whole issue arises because of physical media. If they didn’t have it we wouldn’t see any of this because digital already has DRM built into it. In fact based on everything we know right now if you were to go all digital the Xbone probably has the best digital service. They let your family members play any game you own for example. That being said all this talk of physical media DRM that has Sony winning the war of the minute is ignoring the very real possibility that Sony’s DRM for digital versions of games is going to be just as garbage as many other digital stores.

    People complained about physical media DRM because it was a change of policy, and no one is going to complain about digital DRM because the shitty policies aren’t changing. People might want to start when over the next 10 years you’re not going to be buying discs anymore. The PC is already at that point. Every major PC game has DRM. Steam itself is DRM. Every video download/streaming service is DRM. I don’t have a huge problem with that, but the restrictions are going to seem much more obvious over the coming years.

    • Rob

      Yes, they have commented on lending. “We’ll have a solution sometime after launch”

      • Zinc Avenger

        I thought it was “We’ve decided not to be the lending bad guys, so we’ve decided to leave the decision to disable or enable lending up to the ones who scream loudest for restrictive lending controls: The publishers.”

        • Rob

          From http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/license

          “Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.”

          • Zinc Avenger

            I stand corrected. Thanks for the link and the information.

    • unbound55

      Furthermore, Sony has also not closed the door to the software publishers being able to lock down games if they are 3rd party. Sony definitely has a better PR team:

      http://www.slashgear.com/ps4-used-games-policy-to-be-determined-by-publishers-11286065/

      “Sony CEO Jack Tretton revealed the bit of news on an episode of GameTrailers, where he noted that the company just wants to “give the consumer flexibility,” and while Sony won’t be implementing any kind of strict DRM on their own games, Tretton says that Sony simply gives publishers “a platform to publish on,” and they’ll be able to bring over their own business models.

      Tretton continues by saying that “there’s going to be every potential business model on [the PS4] and again that’s up to [the publisher's] relationship with the consumer and what they think is going to put them in the best stead. So essentially, Sony won’t be policing publishers and making sure all games have the same used game policy — the PS4 will be more open to whatever the game publishers want to do.”

      • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

        Sony quickly clarified this. They said Tretton was referring to things like online passes. So if you buy a used game someone like Ubisoft could make you buy a code to play the multiplayer mode. Like they’ve been doing for a couple years now.

      • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

        Just heard an interview from the horses mouth where he said online passes will not be on the platform. He admitted that there are cases where there isn’t much Sony as a business can do to prevent certain business models. They want to support the third parties as much as possible etc. But he was very clear that there were no online passes support because they are charging for multiplayer now.

  • John H

    I bought Ben Cousins’s argument that consoles were dying when it was published, and nothing in the intervening months has changed my opinion.


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