Sony's Triumphant Night

Why embracing consumer rights has thrust the PlayStation 4 ahead in the early stages of the next-generation console war.


A cheer erupted through the GameSpot war room. The topic of so many raging debates the last month--strict digital rights management, Internet requirements, used game sales--had pitted Microsoft clearly against the consumer. Team Xbox seemingly took every opportunity to punish their loyal customers, and those who were scared of having such tight restrictions on all of their gaming systems were terrified that Sony would follow suit. And then, with just a few words, all of those fears were eliminated. Sony proved that abject greed is not a curse that all companies are afflicted with. By saying no to the used game restrictions and always-online that Microsoft is so happily implementing on the Xbox One, Sony has elevated the PlayStation 4 as the console to grab this holiday season.

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This is not a small issue. Consumers have been seeing their rights slowly siphoned away as companies have realized that our weakness for entertainment has caused us to accept even unsavory policies. We've complained on message boards that online passes are an unfair punishment for used game buyers. We've cried out on twitter that downloadable content often feels like pieces of the game have been removed from the core experience and then sold for a high price later on. We've stomached season passes that urge us to shell out money for content that hasn't even been announced. And through it all, we still bought games, because we love losing ourselves in digital entertainment for a few hours.

When Microsoft hinted that they would enact draconian policies on the Xbox One, it was clear that they had finally crossed the line. An Internet-wide campaign was created to pester Sony executives to do everything in their power to avoid a similar mistake on the PlayStation 4. This topic united players together into a rabid army intent on having their voices heard. We would not be shut out. We would not be shut up. And we would not relent. Loud and long we yelled for weeks, making sure that Sony understood the power of those who pay their bills. We had consented to the gaming companies' demands for too long. Our rights would not be taken away.

Microsoft is trying to change the definition of ownership on the Xbox One and it's failing miserably. Purchasing a physical product is not the same as a digital download. Microsoft is taking advantage of the technology inherent to video games because they can, but that doesn't make it right. Contrary to what those in Redmond claim, once we buy a game, we own it, and we can do what we want with it. Whether we resell it to a willing retailer, lend it indefinitely to a friend, or keep it in our permanent collection is our choice and ours alone.

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We will not be punished for the sins committed by so many companies. The industry has been losing money the last few years, but that dip into the red is not because we have the freedom to buy and sell whatever game we desire. No, it's the reckless spending so many companies are guilty of, pouring millions upon millions of dollars into a budget when there is no chance the market will buy enough copies to support that investment. It's the deluge of soulless sequels that have been churned out and die on the shelf because consumers can see through their brown and grey façade. We are not the cause of these problems and should not be punished for them. Microsoft hasn't learned this simple rule. Sony has. And that's the biggest difference heading into the next generation.

The most important thing we should take with us is that our voice is important. We screamed and yelled and Sony listened. But the fight is not over yet. We need to continue to voice our dissent whenever publishers attempt to take away our consumer rights without offering any benefits in return. Remember always that these companies are nothing without our money funding them, so we ultimately have the power over their every action. If we don't like something, let them know, because the smart companies will listen to those that pay the bills. Today has been both a great and terrible day for the industry. Sony has proven that not every company has a dark side, but Microsoft's descent into anti-consumerism is a sad setback for those who have enjoyed their consoles for so long.

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