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DRM. Digital Rights Management. The lockdown gate. The walled garden. Chastity's digital playpen. The bane of every gamer's existence. DRM stands for something that no gamer wants to hear in association with used games, lending or renting, and yet that's what happened last year.
It was wrong the way Microsoft handled that situation during the unveiling of the Xbox One as the DRM Box One. Thankfully, after a lot of linguistic skiddle-daddling and skip-hopping, the new head of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, has finally acknowledged that Microsoft was wrong. Thank you, Phil.
The interview comes courtesy of Larry “Major 'Flip Switcher' Nelson” Hryb, who posted the video interview on his blog. Within the interview, the new head of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, talks candidly (or as candid as a professional in marketing speak will talk) about the direction of the brand, where it stands with gamers, what they have planned for E3 and the future of the games division.
Most notably, however, is what Phil says about the prior year of the Xbox, after Larry asks him how he viewed the brand coming out of 2013. I was shocked that Spencer didn't backhand the gaming community about a “confused message” or displacing blame on the gamers. Instead, Spencer said the following...
“There's a lot of learning that I did as a leader in the organization. When I heard how our message resonated with people, some of the decisions that were made – that I actually think were the wrong decisions – we had to revisit those decisions.”
Is that... is that humility I smell? It's an ever-so-light whiff that seems to be fleeting from my nostrils, but it's there, oh it's there.
Spencer also talks about Microsoft's plans for E3. Last year the company went the “Games, games, games” route, even flying in the face of the obvious DRM scandal that rocked the gaming nation, choosing to opt out of roundtable discussions and canceling executive interviews, save for the one interview that Geoff Keighley managed to slip in with the former Microsoft executive, Don Mattrick, where he said the following...
I guess it's no surprise that shortly thereafter Mattrick jumped ship to Zynga.
Anyway, Spencer's pre-E3 promotion for the biggest event of the year in the world of digital interactive entertainment was the same as it was last year: Games, games, games.
Given that there's no looming discussion of DRM hanging over the heads of gamers and platform holders alike, I imagine hearing that the whole affair will be about games is probably a sigh of relief for most gamers.
And despite dodging an insinuated question by that sly silver-dog known as Major Nelson about a possible price cut for the Xbox One, Spencer tried going out of his way to justify the Xbox One's price by relating to it as an “investment” that Microsoft will need to commit to with the promise of great software, extolling the company's upcoming line-up of software with the following remarks...
“People invest a lot of money into Xbox. That money is invested so that they know that they have the best place to play games, and that that's where their friends will be playing. It's our responsibility to stand up on stage and give them the promise of the games that are coming.”
Well that's comforting... right?
I feel that Spencer was Microsoft's perfect man to put into place to say everything the community wants to hear and, in some way, needs to hear. Whether or not the company can match – in practice – the same level of commitment to the brand that Spencer talks up in the interview remains to be seen, but at least they have a mouthpiece in place to give the brand a bit of luster that was almost completely sucked out of it following the Summer of DRM.