Thursday August 10, 2006 5:46 pm
The Perils Of DRM: Xbox Live Arcade
By this time next year, all the major console manufacturers will have some kind of online marketplace for downloadable content. Both the Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii will have something similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace so that gamers can download (and pay for) additional content and games. Microsoft, of course, led the way with the Xbox Live Arcade, where gamers can purchase inexpensive downloadable games for the Xbox 360. Like most digital download services, content comes with some kind of digital rights management (DRM) attached.
The goal of DRM is to allow legitimate users access to their content, but prevent “unauthorized” use, like copying or hacking. However, one gamer recently got bit by this when he had to send his Xbox 360 in for repair, as reported on the Paraesthesia blog. Travis Illig used the Xbox Live Arcade service like many users might. There were two profiles on his machine, one for him and one for a friend. Both would buy different Xbox Live Arcade games, and both could play each other’s downloaded content.
Eventually, he had to get his Xbox 360 repaired, and when the new machine came back, Travis could play his downloaded games, but not those purchased with the other profile, unless the other profile was signed in first (we talked about this month’s ago on The Bleeding Edge.) Xbox Live Arcade games apparently are tied to both the console and the profile in use when the game was authorized; this wouldn’t be that much of a problem in normal use. Since the “repaired” Xbox 360 was effectively a new machine, this changed things. Microsoft also locks people from re-purchasing games through a profile if it detects that the user has played the game before, so a simple repurchase wouldn’t fix things. One would guess that this would be in place to prevent duplicating authorized game content, but the net effect is that to re-authorize the content for all users on the machine, a user has to create a new profile and then re-buy the content.
Microsoft was at least willing to give Travis a credit to repurchase the games, but issues like these highlight some of the problems users will encounter as publishers push the consumer to pure downloaded content.
Update: Microsoft’s Ben Salem from the Xbox Dev Team discusses the issue here.
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