Alleged “Disgruntled Microsoft Employee” Says Used Games are Killing Industry

First Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) let the rumor mill buzz.  Then it came clean — it was going to let third parties ban used games on the upcoming Xbox One and institute an “always on” requirement that forced the console to “phone home” to check digital rights management permissions, making it unplayable offline.  Then amid a public backlash Microsoft abruptly dropped most of those plans, earning its upcoming console the humorous nickname “Xbox One Eighty”.

I. Policy Changes are a BIG Mistake, Says Alleged “Microsoft Engineer”

But did Microsoft make a mistake?

That’s what a self-purported “Heartbroken MS employee” (apparently an Xbox engineer) is claiming in a post to PasteBin, an anonymous document-posting site.  The document, first spotted by The Verge, starts with a diatribe on how he blamed the loss of “great” always on features he worked on his coworkers, and secondly on the media.

He comments, “Being part of the team that created the entire infrastructure to include the POS (point of sale) mechanisms I must say that I am extremely sad to see it removed.  But the consumer knows what is best, I can place the blame on no one but us here at Microsoft.  We didn’t do a good enough job explaining all the benefits that came with this new model.  We spent too much of our time fighting against the negative impressions that many people in the media formed.”

An alleged “Microsoft employee” isn’t happy with the reversals. [Image Source: Imgur]
Going on, he bemoans the “evils” of used games, stating:
While publishers have never come right out to us at MS and say “We want you to do something about used gaming” we could hear it in their voices and read it in their numerous public statements.  The used gaming industry is slowly killing them and every attempt to slow down the bleeding was met with much resistance from the gaming community. 

I will admit that online passes were not well received nor were they well implemented, but I felt given time to mature it could have turned into something worth having as a gamer much like DLC (we went from pointless horse armor to amazing season passes like Borderlands 2!).  Videogame development is a loss leader by definition and unlike other forms of media videogames only have one revenue stream and that is selling to you the gamer.  So when you buy a game used you’re hurting developers much more than say a movie studio.  Many gamers fail to realize this when they purchase these preowned games.

It is impossible to continue to deliver movie like experiences at the current costs without giving up something in return.  It’s what gamers want and expect, the best selling games are blockbusters, the highest rated are blockbusters, the most loved are blockbusters.  How can developers continue to create these experiences if consumers refuse to support them?  Many will argue the development system is broken, and I disagree.  The development system is near broken, it’s used gaming that is broken, but regardless I think more emphasis on this from both us at Microsoft and publishers would have gone a long way in helping educate the gamer, but again it is us who dropped the ball in this regard for that we’re sorry.
In other words, he’s arguing that games are too expensive to develop these days to allow customers to resell them at third-party marketplaces that don’t give developers a cut.

II. Family Sharing Demos and “Natural Social Network”

He then goes on to leak details of two key programs he fears are scrapped — or may be scrapped — in light of the policy reversals.

First he describes family sharing plans.  He says the plan was to give gamers a “shared” library that they could put their games in.  Gamers could then self-identify their family members.  Those members would have access to the game “regardless of where they are in the world.”  

Oh but there was one tiny catch he admits — “When your family member accesses any of your games, they’re placed into a special demo mode. This demo mode in most cases would be the full game with a 15-45 minute timer and in some cases an hour.  This allowed the person to play the game, get familiar with it then make a purchase if they wanted to.  When the time limit was up they would automatically be prompted to the Marketplace so that they may order it if liked the game.”

Microsoft thought family (demo) sharing was caring. [Image Source: Amazon]
In other words, he’s claiming that Microsoft wanted your family members to have to repurchase games (enforced by DRM) in order to play them (you couldn’t just bring the disc to their house and leave it with them anymore).  But he argues this is a good thing — he says that a store demo wouldn’t save your progress, but the family share demo did, in case you chose to buy it.

Regardless of the authenticity of the broader document, The Verge confirms that their sources at Microsoft say a family sharing feature limited to one hour was discussed.

He also writes about an undisclosed “Home space” in a user’s Xbox Live account that would have (or will?) act as a “natural social network”, complete with “robust voice to text capabilities” via the Kinect 2.0 sensor.  He said the Xbox One social network would free the gamers from the “difficulties” of having to use their PC or tablet to access their social network, eliminating the need to “wrestle with keyboard add-ons.”

Microsoft was reportedly planning a “natural” social network. [Image Source: Columbia]
He concludes:
We at Microsoft have amazing plans for Xbox One that will make it an amazing experience for both gamers and entertainment consumers alike.  I stand by the belief that Playstation 4 is Xbox 360 part 2, while Xbox One is trying to revolutionize entertainment consumption.  For people who don’t want these amazing additions, like Don said we have a console for that and it’s called Xbox 360.
The entire account is worded in a way that makes us a bit suspicious we may be being trolled.  But if it is someone trolling, whoever wrote it was someone who had access to inside details on how some rumored programs like family sharing worked.  And the statements in the file don’t sound that much different from those of folks like Xbox chief (Microsoft President of Interactive Entertainment Business) Don Mattrick — so it’s entirely possible the document is indeed a disgruntled Microsoft engineer.