Let's take a trip inside the wild and worried world of next-generation digital rights management (DRM) rumors, where PS4 fans are waging a Twitter campaign for the future of used games and rumors abound, while Sony and Microsoft are keeping relatively quiet on the subject.
It all started back in February, when gaming magazine Edge reported an anonymous tip about the upcoming Xbox One (at that time called the Xbox 720, for lack of a better term). The report said that the new console would require an always-on internet connection and possibly not allow players to play used games. The anonymous account was made more credible because it included some specifications, including correct specs about the 8 GB of DDR3 and eight core processor.
Soon after the leak, GameStop stocks took a hit and its CEO Paul Raines mentioned that their recent survey of the PowerUp community, GameStop's rewards program and a decent barometer of hard core gamers, showed that "a substantial majority of [their] customers are unlikely to purchase a next-generation console that prohibits play of pre-owned games." This was just February, and neither the new Xbox or PS4 consoles had been unveiled, so everyone just crossed their fingers and waited.
DRM On Xbox One
Now, both consoles have been (kind of) unveiled to the public, along with details about specifications, new features, and announcements of some titles that will be available for the next generation of gamers. And still, the exact nature of DRM protections against pre-owned games is still largely unknown.
Rumors have been swirling around about the Xbox One, which definitely seems to be working on some kind of DRM scheme. While the rumored "always on" requirement is no longer a thing with Microsoft, it looked like they would still require players to connect to their account every 24 hours, according to an interview with Kotaku. However, Microsoft then backtracked from that statement, saying to Polygon, "There have been reports of a specific time period - those were discussions of potential scenarios, but we have not confirmed any details today, nor will we be."
In the same time period, rumors were swirling around that the Xbox One would allow the secondhand game trade, but would require a prohibitively expensive activation fee of $52. First it was thought that gamers themselves would have to pay the fee, and then it seemed that resellers, like GameStop, would have to. (GameStop's shares took another hit recently.)
Then, Larry Hryb (Xbox Live's "Major Nelson") made a statement, saying that trading and reselling pre-owned games was important, and that reports of Microsoft prohibiting used game resale were "inaccurate and incomplete." The best reports as of now are that there will be no fee for gamers, but they'll have to go through an online authentication/de-authentication process with their systems, in order to install/uninstall second-hand games. But Microsoft isn't confirming much about the whole situation. This leaves Xbox fans wary that a restrictive system for used games is in the works, it's just that Microsoft hasn't put the nail in the coffin yet.
Uproar Against Possible DRM on PS4
Meanwhile, on the Sony PlayStation side, PS4 fans recently took to Twitter protesting the possible DRM restrictions on their favorite console, after video game pundit Geoff Keighley mentioned on GameTrailers that his sources were telling him that Sony might implement some kind of DRM to restrict the trade of pre-owned games.
The hashtags #PS4NoDRM and #PS4USEDGames have been used to send a message to Sony executives (PlayStation fans are quite passionate and outspoken) that restrictive DRM may be fine for those soft Xbox users, but is not okay with them. And now there are rumors that Sony is worried about the "PR nightmare" that Microsoft has gone through and may not try to take their tact with used games. But besides praising the fervor of PlayStation fans, saying, "we hear you," Sony is mums the word on all of this as well, leaving their fans wary that DRM is on the way as well.
Whether or not Keighley has correct inside information on Sony, he does make a good point about the two major consoles and the game publishing market. On GameTrailers, he said the following:
"The console companies are becoming the bad guys... Sony, I think, has been seen as this kind of white knight so far that's not going to restrict used games... I don't think that's entirely true, because I can't see publishers allowing one system to do one thing and one do another."
In other words, it may be the publishers' desire for a uniform standard across platforms (along with the profit motive of the gaming industry, generally) that pushes DRM on unwilling PS4 fans along with those of the Xbox One.
But, perhaps, if there's enough uproar from gamers, this can be avoided. In any case, with all of the inconsistent and miasmic statements from both console-makers, we'll all have to wait until E3 to really find out what's going on here.