Microsoft's Opportunity Lost: Digital Distribution

Posted by padrino (104 posts) -

I think the biggest mistake of Microsoft and the Xbox One, was to focus attention on disc based DRM instead of just focusing on the transition to full digital media. Its like getting into a war when the war is all but won. Sure, used game trading will have an impact for the next few years but all that time, a large percent of gamers, at least the adults who actually pay for the games, could transition to a Steam-like full digital distribution model. Instead of getting into the physical media used game war, they should have gone the Sony route and just left it up to the publishers. Why be the bad guy if its not even your job to do so? Instead, creating a great infrastructure for digital games would have been much more productive. For example they could have presented how much better things will be in this "future" model for both gamers and publishers by providing a digital distribution network that would support amazing features:

  • Fastest way to get games without trucking to the story and putting it in boxes (go green!)
  • Allow publishers s to have sales and specials over time (aka Stream) and create revenue where none existed.
  • Create ways to both "turn in" digital licenses for a discount on your next digital purchase (support used games!)
  • Create ways to "transfer license" to a friend for a discounted "re-activate" price (support game trades!)
  • Support an independent digital store and allow "digital self publish" (support indies!)
  • Plan to provide an "Xbox Classic" service to play 360/Xbox Original games. this could be done with cloud gaming like "On Live" and you could even provide a discount to classic game access if the user had the original disc (future proof compatibility)

All of these things and much, much more could have been done by MS to move to a new age of digital publishing. Instead, all they did was present the negative side of things and explain how they would kill the current one. And all its doing is getting people upset and letting Sony play the innocent and get all the good press. Way to miss a great opportunity :)

#1 Posted by joshwent (2207 posts) -

@padrino said:

And all its doing is getting people upset and letting Sony play the innocent and get all the good press. Way to miss a great opportunity :)

Sony's not just getting props for their inaction, they're actually doing a lot of the things you're suggesting already.

They've set up a system for indies to self publish and (as far as I know) have some control over the sale price.

They're also doing the "classic game support" with Gaikai. Of course, that won't be until 2014 if even that, but at least they're clear that they intend to make old Playstation and other games available through easy downloads.

Not trying to sound like a Sony fanboy, but they just got the jump on all this stuff.

#2 Edited by zFUBARz (627 posts) -

You know that all of the things you mentioned are entirely possible still right? and some are even likely... Hell a couple are happening, like day and date release of digital vs discs.

They can't give up discs yet. Even Steam supports disc based solutions, but the second you install it they're useless and just a collectors item, the game is permanently tied to your steam account. Not everybody is ready to or capable of giving up discs as an option, int 5-7 years at the next generation sure, but in the meantime they're straddling the line, sure it makes things look awkward, but it also means they're prepared for the future when people are ready for it.

#3 Edited by padrino (104 posts) -

@joshwent: Yes, I agree. Sony is doing this much more effectively then MS at the moment. And yes, Sony is planning on doing some of these things. That is the lost opportunity of MS to do the same or even better.

@zfubarz: I am not saying they must "give up discs" they just don't need to change things. That too is exactly what Sony is doing. Main point here is that MS should should have been more proactive and Sony did a better job here by not touching the 3rd rail of gaming "used games" :)

#4 Posted by zFUBARz (627 posts) -

@padrino: lol Sony hooked a fluorescent sign up to the damn rail that flashes hot pink saying "WE'RE BETTER THAN THEM!!!" the validity of that remains to be seen, but yes Sony has usually had better marketing from the start, other than this gen, Honestly I don't think MS has ever had good marketing, in consoles or computing. The original xbox was spectacular for the time, and even watching it boot up felt like the damn future compared to everything else but they had a hell of a hard time selling that to people and so the games came slowly till it was almost too late. On X360 i feel like the marketing was mostly done by the people and Sony's lack of Savvy at the time. Sony sounded like dicks and they had weird essoterric advertising. That and the time advantage made it easy.

#5 Posted by padrino (104 posts) -

Looks like they did a 180 on the Xbox One DRM. Too bad they did not figure this out until after E3.

#6 Posted by padrino (104 posts) -

@zfubarz: Of course. That feeds into my point. My point is that the messaging was bad, not the idea. Including the Blu Ray makes sense to support the old model. What I was saying is that they should have just left the old model in place (physical games) and not touched it and should have put all there messaging into the new model of digital distribution. Then, people may have realized that the new model is pretty good (i.e. Stream) and people would have heard it because they would not be shouting about the old model. So, they had to spend all this time and effort backpedaling instead of getting people exited about digital distribution.

I am sure it will all still happen with both Sony and Microsoft. But Microsoft had a great opportunity to appear as a LEADER in this new model but wound up as a scapegoat for DRM instead.

#7 Edited by Syed117 (387 posts) -

Microsoft is definitely to blame but so are gamers and the games "press"

The reactions people were having were ridiculous. The few people who argued for a digital system were drowned out by all the people screaming their heads off.

Everyone is quick to reference steam now, but where were those people a few months ago when all this was happening?

People tend to be hypocrites and sony absolutely capitalized on Microsoft stumbling to find the right message. It's doesnt actually surprise me considering what both Microsoft and Sony have done as far as platforms. Sony platforms have always had great games, but they've never done anything to push the way we play. The PS4 is no different. Frankly they don't have the resources to take chances after the whole cell processor fiasco. Microsoft tried to use brute force and they failed.

I hope Microsoft figures out a way to bring some of that functionality back. I don't want to spend anther generation doing what we did during the last one. Hopefully some of this cloud stuff they are pushing will pay off in a big way. They have to be the ones to do it. Sony can't.

#8 Edited by EvilNiGHTS (1093 posts) -

@syed117 said:

Microsoft is definitely to blame but so are gamers and the games "press"

The reactions people were having were ridiculous. The few people who argued for a digital system were drowned out by all the people screaming their heads off.

Everyone is quick to reference steam now, but where were those people a few months ago when all this was happening?

People tend to be hypocrites and sony absolutely capitalized on Microsoft stumbling to find the right message. It's doesnt actually surprise me considering what both Microsoft and Sony have done as far as platforms. Sony platforms have always had great games, but they've never done anything to push the way we play. The PS4 is no different. Frankly they don't have the resources to take chances after the whole cell processor fiasco. Microsoft tried to use brute force and they failed.

I hope Microsoft figures out a way to bring some of that functionality back. I don't want to spend anther generation doing what we did during the last one. Hopefully some of this cloud stuff they are pushing will pay off in a big way. They have to be the ones to do it. Sony can't.

No, that actually happened. I saw many a Google+ comment with some guy going "I don't see how this is any different from Steam" to which point I wanted to hang myself rather than type out another lengthy comparison.

Admittedly, I think a lot of the vitriol directed at Microsoft's original plan was by cynical people who had trouble with the idea that distribution through Xbox Live would be any better than it is now (myself included). Maybe it would have been awesome. I guess we'll not know for another five years.

#9 Posted by Syed117 (387 posts) -

@evilnights: distribution wasnt going to be through xbox live alone. You could still go to the store and buy a disc.

#10 Edited by Maddman60620 (130 posts) -

Both companies aren't doing ANYTHNG different from what the 360 and PS3 already do as far as policy wise go, so ppl should really relax on what should, could, or would be better of said company's future gaming portals......

the people of the internet yelled and screamed and got their way and this is what you get.... in this corner you have a lamb up a meaningless sacafice of public mislead dismay of what they think they want vs what they really want..... and in that corner you has a "born again" gaming wolf in sheepskin with a grin waiting to rip the throat out of your wallets..... but hey that's the landscape debate and public opinion today.... PR and talking points... No nothing talking heads of YouTube doing a Old Man Angry Fox News rant on a past time they love sooo much that they are willing to troll or trash it any chance they get to some likes/dislikes/views...

Indie games, do ppl really play them?????? yeah there some hard to find gems out there but like indie music or movies most people do not stray too far away from your Interscope or Miramax offshoots of artist and directors.... For every Binding of Issac, BIT.TRIP, or small studio classic there are tons of poor crap clone copies.... Lets face it, Street of Rage Remix which is a great indepently made game which will never make it on greenlight or self published systems the "next-gen" also available in current gen too(the indies tab in XBM) Soo if I can't get the latest Simpsons vs FamilyGuy vs StreetFighter Alpha vs Ronald McDonald MUGEN then WTF is the big woof when it comes to the Indie game bullet point, cus if you can't play these underground classics then what does the "gaming community" really care about?!?!?!?!

I remember when always online was a dirty word, yet gaikia keeps floating around like a turd in a fat man's toilet.... I hope people do wake up and realize the it is pretty the "cloud" machine playing streamed games online.... we all love old games on past system and it could be cool to be able to play on the next platform but ultimate do people really need to play old games???and will all games be on this magical smoke and mirror online gaming site??? If you have an SNES with Turtles in Time do you really need or want to play TMNT for NES on your SNES????

#11 Posted by EvilNiGHTS (1093 posts) -

@syed117: Yes, but my point was people like Steam because the pricing is flexible, the servers are fast, the catalogue is easily searchable and it doesn't show adverts despite a premium subscription. Xbox Live isn't that right now.

#12 Posted by Marokai (2975 posts) -

Yeah, you're right, this was all a missed opportunity for them on those points, but all of those things are still possible and do not require strict disc-based DRM and crazy, inflexible internet connection requirements. This is the insane trap this debate keeps falling into over and over again and I don't know how it keeps happening. The people who rose up in protest of the Xbox One somehow get typecast as these luddites who oppose the very idea of digital distribution, which is completely bizarre and almost entirely untrue.

Microsoft can still do all these supposedly amazing things on the digital side if they chose to, but they haven't. That's why they're getting shit. And Sony doing things smarter is why they're getting praise. It's not "teh bias," it's just a reflection of their actions in the last year+.

#13 Edited by OurSin_360 (886 posts) -

The reason why they can't go all digital is they need games in stores to push hardware, it's a major concern. If game stores go out of business and you have the xbone and ps4 in the same isle as the cheap blueray players, it becomes a hard thing to market. The reason it works on the pc is most people buy computers for more reasons than gaming. All they need to do is have 2 seperate versions of the games, one disk based and one pure digital and they can implement their draconian..err digital rights platform.

#14 Posted by zeeshanaayan07 (12 posts) -

Microsoft is the best in the world

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