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The real reason Microsoft screwed up its used games strategy so badly

By on June 14, 2013

Microsoft has messed up its DRM strategy. It did so because it thought that getting big publishers on board was more important than impressing customers, and it was prepared to bet that high-quality content would drive purchases, rather than relying on a large user base to attract content makers to its platform. Over on, Rob Fahey has argued that Microsoft has a blind spot too: because users have “technically” not been allowed to trade games for years, according to the EULA, no-one will mind if we *practically* stop them from doing it. Well, I guess they know better now.

I prefer a conspiracy theory. That Microsoft and Sony hatched a scheme to enforce DRM on both consoles. I doubt it happened (it’s probably illegal). But here is how I like to imagine it went down.

Kaz Hirai and Steve Ballmer sit in a room. Dark. Smoky. The men look each other in the eye. “It’s agreed. We’ll kill pre-owned. Both platforms. DRM to the max,” grates Ballmer.
Hirai reaches for his glass. He swirls the liquid. Savours the peaty aroma of an Islay malt. Crosses his fingers. Takes a sip.
“Yes,” he says.

In the Sony boardroom, Andrew House confronts Hirai. “I can’t believe you’re letting Microsoft get a march on us. You’re *letting* them have their press conference first. We should be first. We need to get our message out to consumers.”
Hirai reaches for his cup. He feels the warmth of the sake against his fingers. Takes a sip.
“Wait,” he says.

Hirai sits in a hotel room in Los Angeles. On a 50″ screen, he watches Don Mattrick on stage, presenting the restrictions for Xbox One. He reaches for a pot of tea. He pours the aromatic water into a china cup. Takes a sip.
“Gotcha,” he says.


File:New XBox 360 and XBox One. (9021844483) crop2.jpg

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: