With modern consoles, be it digital or not, you’re not only buying into an access to the library of games, but also to all the services it offers. It doesn’t matter if you use them or create an account for them, they’re there for you from the get go and are an integral part of the offered system. Both SONY and Microsoft have a high level of access to the machines that are online. I don’t know about Wii U, I haven’t looked into how tightly they want to keep an eye on their customers.
With the recent news of Microsoft banning all the suspected accounts related to the Gears of War remake leaks shouldn’t come with any surprises. It’s a dick move with a very gray zone, but it’s a the every single Xbone user signs up to with the purchase.
On one hand the consumer should have every right to do whatever they want with their consoles, with the purchased product they rightfully and legally own. On the other hand, leaking information on a product you are testing is a dick move too, a highly unprofessional and more often than not absolutely against the signed contract.
With Xbone being a console that relies on pretty much all of its functions on online connectivity, the leaker or leakers have willingly played their chances and lost all those functionalities. I’m not sure how much functions an offline Xbone has, but there are games that require online functionality, like Destiny. Those already had some problems running due to connection errors and problems with servers, and will become completely unplayable when the servers are taken down, unless they patch a proper offline functionality to them.
We can discuss whether or not Microsoft has the right to do this sort of banning. In all seriousness, they have. While EULA doesn’t stand a chance if taken to court, it is the guidelines Microsoft has used since the beginning to encourage and enforce good and proper behaviour with their products and other people online. We can always argue to what extent they’ve succeeded, as we all have seen and heard stories how people are abusing each other online in various ways, or just acting generally like bunch of dicks.
As with any other company that essentially has an EULA that states Whatever we deem as misconduct will bring the banhammer down, like Valve’s Steam, will employ it whenever they see it fit. The consumers know this, if you’re going to do something that would violate the EULA, you better be sure you can’t be traced.
This is a sort of result of video game consoles turning into dumbed down PCs and the whole mess that has brought in. While it is true that the online functionality in the early consoles generations were highly limited with Famicom having a modem for few functions and SEGA delivering SEGA Channel, the mindset was different from those in comparison to modern consoles. While PC gaming and console gaming being different coins altogether, the multiplayer function and how they use online functions have become more or less the same. However, the sensibilities of console games have been lost with the PC-fication of consoles.
PC has a long record with online gaming in the form we take granted nowadays. With consoles it has always been more limited, with Nintendo’s Satellaview offering products that we don’t really see nowadays anymore. Then again, timed playing in certain time of the day and voice acting can be seen as an element that has lost its place in modern world with everyone wanting to do their entertainment at whatever time they wish and voice acting being a standard in modern gaming. With consoles more or less being multimedia entertainment terminals than boxes to play games, the companies had to broaden their control over what the consumer can do. Well up to sixth generation you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to your console and still be able to do online.
Online is not the end of all things on consoles. They should always be able to be their standalone products, allowing the consumer to play the games however they want to. With the multimedia nature in there, both Microsoft and SONY have put emphasize on these functionalities that are irrelevant to console gaming. This is of course far more apparent with the Xbone, especially so if we are to take John Riccitello’s words as true.
Riccitiello claims that Microsoft tried to compete with Apple’s products with the Xbone, that Microsoft didn’t feel that games would be big enough for whatever reason. This is, of course, absolutely asinine. It takes a large leap in logic to say that a home console would be in competition with Apple’s pads and Macs. That’s like taking part in a horserace with a motorbike; they both get you from point A to point B, but are different in their very nature. Smartphones and tablets have made screens available everywhere. Most people have one in their pockets right now, and some may read this post on one. If you’re going to compete in the field of multimedia streaming with a game console is absolutely stupid. If game industry is not big enough for your competition, you might as well drop the games from the equation and concentrate on producing multimedia terminals only. Would be cheaper too. Games have become far too expensive to produce nowadays, and one could argue that the inflation in game development costs has dropped the variety in games as well as dropped their value as games.
To end that tangent and returning to the main issue. As long as consumers are willingly giving all these controls to the companies, things won’t change. On the other hand, as long as there are those who would intentionally break the consoles for their own ends, certain level of control needs to be kept in the hands of the companies.
There’s no real discussion whether or not Microsoft had the right to ban these accounts. The discussion should be aimed at what nature of service necessitates near total control over the consumers’ machines.