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Thursday August 10, 2006 7:46 pm

The Perils Of DRM: Xbox Live Arcade

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.

Read More | Paraesthesia via Boing Boing

Gallery: The Perils Of DRM: Xbox Live Arcade

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I have go through the same issue.  I’m actually going into the 4th week of phone calls back and forth to MS about this issue.  I have not received a refund yet to repurchase even though that was the fix suggested by the first tech I have spoken to nearly 4 weeks ago.  After numberous phone calls and faxes I still have not been able to resolve this issue.  It seems while they are trying to protect from piracy they are doing so at the expense of legit gamers. 

In my case we are talking roughly $70 worth of DLC; it’s not really the money that bothers me at this point, its the way they tie the game to a serial number.  Attach it to a GT only and you’ll have alot less of these issues.  Until MS decides to fix this so I don’t have to waste a month of my life the next time my 360 breaks [which I suspect it will given it’s previous track record] I’ll not be purchasing anymore DLC from the marketplace.

The problem with attaching it to GamerTag only is that no one else in your household will be able to play purchased games. For example, when I buy a game using my Gamertag, my wife can also play that game when logged in to hers. They need a way for you to transfer ownership from console to console, maybe via serial number, by logging in somewhere and changing it yourself.

Well, for licensing the software to the GT; they’d also have to set it to allow all profiles on the machine to access the content; similarly to how the serial # license works now.  I think that if they were to create a hybrid of both licenses there would be no problem.  For example, make a license that requires your primary profile [the one which downloaded the content] the owner of said DLC; this enables all users who have profiles on your machine, or if you go to a friends house and take your profile with you access to the content.  Whereas you could not copy the data to your PC and distribute over the web as the primary GT to which the DLC was attached would not be present when downloaded to another machine thus making the duplicated and pirated copy worthless. Obviously they would also need to have the system track GT changes etc.  To me it seems like a no brainer; their DRM approach has caused many headaches for more than just a couple gamers; It took me exactly 2 minutes to come up with this idea I’d think a copy with giant think tanks of engineers could come up with a solution that would be suitable for everyone.


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