If the alleged screenshots from Microsoft’s Xbox Development Kit are to be believed, the next Xbox console (reportedly titled Durango) will not have any support for used games. Through mandatory game installs and constant internet connectivity, the new console may finally end the pre-owned software market.
The Xbox Development Kit is a software program used by developers to create games for Microsoft consoles. According to the instructions provided with Durango’s alleged kit, when a player inserts a disk (reportedly Blu-Ray) into the upcoming system, the product will be installed on and played from the internal hard drive; the inserted disk will not be used in playback.
While this may simply mean that physical disks will no longer be used repeatedly, a trend that is somewhat already present in gaming and even software such as Microsoft Office, the more troublesome element is the requirement for constant internet connection.
While the screenshots don’t clarify what purpose this connectivity curtails, it is somewhat disturbing because continuous internet connections are often a precursor to digital rights management (DRM), a term applied to a variety of techniques through which sellers control what can and cannot be done with software after purchase.
While such a measure has been unpopular amongst and troublesome for gamers, the recent SimCity debacle being an excellent example, developers and publishers embrace it as a means of combating piracy and fruitless second-hand purchases.
If all this is indeed the case, the limited usage for physical disks is both eco-friendly and clutter-reducing because it is perhaps the strongest way to convince gamers to just download directly from the Xbox Live Marketplace instead of buying physical copies at all.
However, what this also means is that if you bought an Xbox Durango for yourself and one for your 7-year old daughter, she can’t take your disk to her room and play Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.
Also, if this is indeed the case, there will be no more taking your disk to a friend’s house, meaning gamers will somehow become even less social than they already are. Of course, the ones to get hurt the most may be companies such as Gamestop, who have built an empire around pre-owned game sales.
Of course, perhaps downloading games isn’t entirely a bad thing. There’s sentimental value to a disk for those who feel more like they actually own something when they hold it, but downloadable deals are almost always the price-friendliest option, even when compared to used games. In fact, looking at some of the deals on Steam and Green Man Gaming makes it really easy to envy PC gamers.
Interestingly, the screenshots also confirm that the presence of strong Kinect integration, although what that offers beyond what is already available on the current system remains to be seen.
Still, nothing changes the fact that sharing games becomes a lot more difficult when downloading and DRM is, at the very least, an inconvenience. That having been said, development kit screenshots don’t equal an official launch, which Microsoft will hopefully provide soon enough.
Until then, let us all have faith in how painless and helpful Microsoft has been in its previous attempts to curtail piracy.