Former EA CEO Has Some Interesting Opinions About Always-On DRM


One of the main concerns that many gamers have had with the recent Xbox One reveal is that the idea of it being a “walled garden”, in which the company uses restrictive DRM to wield total control over your console and what you do with it. For example, Xbox One games will require installation, which on the surface is no big deal — after all, game installation was introduced for the PS3 and Xbox 360 to reduce loading times – but this “ease of use” is conveniently being used to dampening the sale of pre-owned games by requiring users to pay for an activation code to unlock the game.

You’d think that games companies, usually at the forefront of technology, would be more concerned with using that technology to help themselves and users, but no. Even though the used games market has always existed, games companies are increasingly cracking down and trying to get a cut of the money made on pre-owned games, which will inevitably drive up prices. This, when combined with an industry-wide push towards always-online gaming (best exemplified by Diablo 3 and SimCity) and Microsoft saying things like, “No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet,” means that we are getting less say in what we can and can’t do with our own products.

All of this is just something that gamers will have to learn to love, according to Former CEO of Electronic Arts John Riccitiello — who resigned from his post in March, after taking the blame for the “financial shortcomings” his company has suffered in recent years. Writing on Kotaku, Riccitiello says:

“Some gamers fear the new consoles could be more about a DRM-walled garden than about enabling new types of connected gameplay. More about squashing second-sale (used games) than allowing us to play the games we own at our friends houses, in dorms or at home, without having to bring the disk with us. I don’t believe consoles managed as walled-gardens will succeed longer term.”

Sounds good, but if you need to have a user account on every single console you and your friends own to play a game that only you have, that is the literal definition of a walled garden. Riccitiello goes on:

“We will want console games that seamlessly connect with our iPhones. Games that change and update in the background while we’re sleeping, to make tomorrow’s gameplay different and far more dynamic than today’s… It needs to be simple, seamless and without a bunch of headaches with multiple registration, identity and pay gates.”

Do we really want that? Or do we just want to play whatever we’ve paid for on whatever console we (or a friend) has also paid for? He keeps mentioning how much he dislikes walled gardens, pay gates, etc., without denying that it will inevitably continue to happen. “It needs to be,” rather than “It should be,” as ever.

How do you feel about John Riccitiello’s views on DRM? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.