We don’t need no education

GatekeeperThe number of faux-pas and botched damage control attempts from Microsoft around Xbox One has been hard to keep up with these last few days. Microsoft has confirmed shortly before E3 that the rumors about used and loaned games were true: you won’t be able to dispose of your property without Microsoft’s authorization, and various actors are going to get a cut out of all used sales. Some additional restrictions apply.

This is important because it’s more erosion of private property by big corporations. It’s one more way in which you don’t own what you buy, but instead buy a license to use what remains the corporation’s property. In the end, you own nothing, and it’s corporations that own you.

Microsoft defends its decisions by explaining to us that we need to be “educated”, that we are reacting the way we are because we don’t understand the tremendous benefits they are offering consumers:

"This is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand."

Ars Technica further explains that according to Microsoft:

“temporary confusion and discomfort among the audience would be worth it as gamers and consumers adjust to a console world without game discs” and that in “the world of home movie viewing, […] inconvenient trips to Blockbuster Video have been replaced with Netflix streaming.”

Leaving aside the hubris and arrogance, the problem of those explanations is that they are lies. Those features are not being introduced to benefit us, the consumers.

Disk-free playing is perfectly compatible with copy protection, without all the hurdles that Microsoft is introducing with Xbox One. All you have to do is ask for the disk when a new copy of the same game appears on a new console. Microsoft is already doing that today with gamer tags: you can only use them in one place at a time, but the transition from one machine to another is almost painless and transparent. They know how to do it. It’s just that they don’t want to.

Netflix was successful because it was removing obstacles, because it was more convenient than its predecessors. The Xbox One rules on used games are undeniably less convenient, which was beautifully demonstrated by Sony with this little gem of sarcasm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWSIFh8ICaA

The new system only benefits game publishers, and are probably just a way to secure more exclusives for the platform. Pretending that it’s all done to benefit the consumer only adds insult to injury. For me it will be a PS4, thank you very much.