Sony on Game Ownership: Taking a Populist Stance

12When the details about the restrictions Microsoft has placed on an end user’s ownership of a game and the need for a persistent connection in order to play games on the Xbox One, the backlash was tremendous.  For those of you unaware, here is what we know about Xbox One’s new take on games and game ownership:

  • Microsoft has left it up to publishers to determine if they want to support used games.
  • Loaning games to friends or renting games is unsupported by the Xbox One (at least at launch; other possibilities and partnerships may be explored/established in the future).
  • Games can be gifted to other Xbox Live users once; however, this can only be done once, and requires that the recipient exist on your friend’s list for at least 30 days.
  • Xbox One needs to communicate with its servers to verify, essentially, what you’ve done with your system (e.g., what games were purchased, what updates are required, who you gave games to, etc).

sony-ps4-playstation-4-logo-official-black-001-630x354Essentially, Microsoft is redefining product ownership; no longer does the purchase of a physical Xbox game afford someone the right to do what they want with it.  While I understand Microsoft’s stance on the issue of used games, game rental and lending; their push to digital distribution; and the benefits of a persistent connection, the requirements and restrictions they’ve implemented on the Xbox One sort of  “punishes” the very people they need to buy and support their system: gamers.  Sony, on the other hand, is singing a completely different tune with the PS4, one contrary to the arrogance they once showed in 2006 (not unlike Microsoft’s current arrogance with Xbox One) when they released the PS4 with a new proprietary format and a price that alienated most gamers.  The dichotomy is clear: Microsoft is trying to convince us to buy into their definition of the future of game ownership; Sony isn’t changing a thing.

In Sony’s mostly underwhelming (from a game’s perspective and not counting the amazing glimpse into Bungie’s Destiny) E3 Press briefing, Jack Tretton stole the show when he announced that the PS4 will support used games, game rentals and game lending.  In addition, he explained that the PS4 will not prevent you from playing games offline if the PS4 doesn’t communicate with Sony servers periodically.  The emphatic applause that followed his statement served as validation of what could potentially be the Xbox One’s biggest misstep with their new console.

xbox-one-logo-wallpaperWhile there is so much to say on the issue (and while much has already been said), Sony – taking this contrarian, populist stance – is disrupting Microsoft’s position on game ownership (and any publisher who supported the idea wholeheartedly) by simply maintaining the status quo.  If Sony, instead, adopted a model even marginally similar to Microsoft in terms of game ownership and the periodic system check-ins, the future of game ownership would move in the direction dictated by Microsoft.  Sony’s “defiance” makes Microsoft vision of the future (in terms of game distribution) a bit more nebulous.

Leaving the briefing, I ran into a gentleman who helps to bring gaming experiences to special needs kids.  He explained to me that their internet connection is inconsistent.  With the Xbox One’s need for a persistent online connection (Let’s be honest, having to login every 24 hours in order to play a game offline is pretty much the same as needing a persistent connection) the special needs kids he works with would never get to play the newest Xbox.  It doesn‘t feel right.  Sony, however, is doing the right thing.   Nothing explains that better than the most powerful statement made in Sony’s Press Briefing on Monday by none other than Sony’s current president and Group CEO, Andrew House: “Concepts like true consumer ownership and consumer trust are central to everything we do.”  If principle, alone, was dictating the winner of this new console generation, my money is on Sony.


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  • E-Stone

    Your opinion is quite understood but another view could be looked upon as Sony placating gamers? Sony use to be the juggernaut who could bully anyone and call the shots, not anymore. Sony’s position now dictates them becoming a ‘counter puncher’ instead of a knockout artist. The PS4 biggest news was a lower price point and being able to play used games which was well received, rightfully so, but is this due to fear of what Microsoft is doing??? If so, then the games are taking a back seat which should be the focus. It’s a move that Sony is betting on to gain market share. Funny how things have changed. Sony tying to be the ‘people’s champ’….. who would’ve thought.

  • It doesn’t matter whether Sony is placating gamers or doing the right thing, the only thing that matter is what Sony is doing for the gamer. There is no denying that Sony’s new approach is far more gamer friendly than Microsoft’s at the moment. Sony is not being a counter puncher they are just offering a different approach to gaming. At the end of the day, where the gamers of the world spend their hard earned gaming cash will be all that matters. Now time will tell…

  • Ian G

    Not to mention the inability for our soldiers overseas to play the new XBox. And what was Microsoft’s response to someone who posed this very question: “we empathize with them.” Cold comfort jerks. I am hungrily looking forward to the XBox One flop, if only because of Microsoft’s unfettered arrogance.

  • Of course Sony is placating gamers. Microsoft isn’t, and instead, is inciting gamers. Microsoft set the tone of the conversation regarding the consoles by placing these restrictions and, ultimately, limiting a consumer’s ownership over a physical product, namely a game disc. Obviously, Microsoft is trying to push people towards digital downloads, but the way they are going about it is wrong. It think this is a serious issue to gamers and their rights as consumers.

    In regards to Sony’s announcement at the Press Conference, they needed to make it clear to gamers, media, etc., that they weren’t changing a thing. If not, gamers would speculate and assume that Sony would follow suit, thus receiving negative press reflected from Microsoft. By making that announcement, Sony was able to separate itself from Microsoft while ensuring that gamers were aware of where Sony stood on these concepts of game ownership and persistent online connectivity.

  • E-Stone

    I still feel people need to put their biases in the back seat especially if you are reporting on the industry, everything must have both sides of the coin exposed. From my experience, the first thing that came to my mind when reading about Microsoft’s restrictions was Steam on the PC and the pawn shop called GameStop.
    The restrictions were not restrictions per say but more about people not wanting to be told what to do. You must be online at all times. You can’t sale used games. The Kinect must be connected. I get it, but at the same time I get what Microsoft was trying to do even though it was haphazard but it seems no one on our crew nor the industry took the time to venture in that direction ( a few publications did).
    I have no problem with people not liking something AFTER they took the time to really analyze everything in play but to come to conclusion in just one day tells me most people let their biases creep in a little too much, especially with Sony and Xbox showcasing their machines head to head, perfect breeding grounds for fanboys.

    Again, I wish someone would’ve shown the similarities of Steam and Xbox One and how Steam eventually became an amazing ecosystem for PC gamers who benefit from great savings on their purchases.

    Also, no one took the time to really explain how this move would relieve gamers of the rapist known as GameStop. People really don’t understand the power GameStop possess over the gaming industry. They don’t understand how when GameStop says jump the industry says how high. Microsoft was taking a step forward into creating an online eco system that would finally rid us of GameStop which would lead to lower priced games as it did on Steam for PC gamers.

    If these are not valid points then I guess i’m an idiot but if they are we failed to mention any of it in our articles.

  • This first thing that should come to any gamer or game journalist’s mind is what those restrictions mean for the end user (for the game journalist’s audience), regardless of any bias towards one particular system over another or the benefits of Microsoft restrictive policies. And let’s be clear: when a system prevents you from doing basics things such as lending games and playing game offline indefinitely, these are restrictions. It’s easy to come to a conclusion on what these restrictions mean for the status quo, even without playing either system, especially since both are not fully-playable to the public.

    That being said, both systems play amazingly. Specs for both are comparable and won’t be a relevant point of discussion now since developers are years away from tapping into the full potential of both. The Xbox One has an edge over the PS3 in terms of technology (Kinect sensor); since every Xbox One has the Kinect built in, developer can develop for the peripheral feely without fear of only reaching a small, niche market.

    I have been an advocate for the Xbox’s vision for the majority of its existence and hearing about these restrictions (restriction that would have little effect on me directly) completely turned me off to the Xbox One. The sentiment was so jarring that it was hard for me to find a platform for Microsoft on which to comfortably advocate the system to potential buyers. There is doubt that there are benefits to a persistent online connection and cloud-based gaming (in fact, many of my favorite games at E3, namely The Division and Destiny, require a persistent connection), however, Microsoft should not have forced people into this new vision of the future through restrictive policies. It’s like Microsoft called Martial law on Xbox, promising a brighter future at the expense of your current freedoms.

    There can be a huge dichotomy between a company’s vision and the implementation of that vision. Microsoft has the right vision but tried implementing it too soon and with too many restrictions to the consumer. If they, instead, encouraged (not forced) a persistent online connection and incentivized those who were always connected (with rewards points, etc.), and encouraged digital downloads with lower costs than if purchasing a physical disc, they could still see their vision of the future while slowly changing the status quo instead of completely forgoing it.

    While your Steam comparison is sound, the average console gamer is not an avid Steam user, so Microsoft marketing Xbox One as similar to Steam, would have had little effect on the sentiments of these gamers. You know what would resonate with these gamers and call their attention? Restrictions on their gaming…and that’s exactly why Microsoft changed their tune.

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