Always On DRM Could Sink Microsoft’s Xbox 720 Quickly

Fans around the world are waiting for the unveiling from Microsoft of their upcoming console, known as the Xbox 720 or the Durango, with not as much as a peep coming out of them yet. In a way, it is a brilliant marketing strategy as everyone is talking about the Xbox 720 and anxiously awaiting its unveiling and release, but it has also led to a lot of rumors about the upcoming device, everything from the specifications to the features, and some of them are not lining up with consumers’ expectations.

The biggest one that I can think of is this rumor of always on DRM for the Xbox 720, where users will be forced to always have an internet connection on their device, otherwise it will be virtually unusable. The reports that have come out have gone into detail, explaining that to the best of their knowledge, consumer versions of the Xbox 720 will feature this always on DRM. To as much as launch an app or game the user will be required to have an active internet connection at that time and if they lose their connection the game or app will continue running for three minutes before prompting them to restore their internet connection.

Now, at its core, this is a harmless feature which is intended to protect the intellectual properties of the content creators. We all understand this. Games, videos and music all are someone’s creation and are intended to be used within the intended license for each piece of media. DRM has existed for a long time now and has taken on different shapes and forms, from CD keys to online passes and requiring that a disc be inserted into the tray while it is played. This is the next generation of DRM on the Xbox 720 and somehow feels a lot more invasive and demanding.

An internet connection is something that most of us enjoy — or even require — in our day-to-day lives. The internet has become an integral part of our modern society and just about every consumer electronic device available now has some sort of features that require an internet connection. Forcing an internet connection is a whole different thing, though. Not everyone lives in a part of the world where a steady internet connection is available, nor can everyone afford a high speed internet connection. To top it off, the user’s internet connection is sometimes out of their hands and at the whims of large telecom companies and their shoddy customer service.

Just a few weeks ago I had to spend an entire week with a flickering internet connection after I moved. Our new house was simply not wired correctly to handle a steady DSL connection and after three service calls we had to switch providers. It was a long, frustrating week, especially for me who uses the internet connection for work, and highlights why forcing an internet connection is a bad idea for gaming consoles. I was able to at least play single player games during that week, but with the new Xbox 720 there is no way that I would have been able to, so I would have had a very expensive paperweight on my hands.

Reports are that the PlayStation 4 (PS4) will not require an always on connection to play games or use apps, which seems like the smart move right now. While next generation consoles will no doubt make copious use of the internet, it is still presumptuous and invasive to require a user to subscribe to a service outside of what is offered to use a system. This could be one of the big features that pushes some into the open arms of Sony or Nintendo as opposed to Microsoft’s Xbox 720 for the next generation of consoles.