There's no feeling of relief like a rumor proven wrong, and I hope to hell that the latest rumors on the next-generation Xbox are completely off the mark. If they are true, they are a bad sign for the industry.
EDGE Online has the rumored details and specs on the next-generation console, which some fans call the Xbox 720. The specs look great and rumors of a Blu-ray player are excellent news.
But one thing gives me major pause: a persistent Internet connection is required and the console will not allow for users to play second-hand games. EDGE went on to say that all disc-based games for the new console will include one-time-use online activation codes.
As it is, activation codes are used on PC games, and gamers hate it. However, the PC market is small compared to consoles. This attempt at gaining control over buying and play habits of consoles is far more significant and needs to be pushed back.
From attempts by the record companies to tax blank tapes back in the 1980s to record labels attacking used record stores to Circuit City's epic failure with Divx, content owners have barely masked their greed and desire to control your consumption habits over the years.
Now Microsoft is basically attempting to put an entire industry out of business. Game Stop's stock took a pounding on this rumor because so much of its business relies on buying and reselling used games.
There is a case before the Supreme Court, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, arguing on the right of first ownership. We won't know for a few months how the court decides, but judging by the questions in the court as reported by the New York Times, the judges weren't having it.
Generally speaking, when you buy something, you have a right to do what you want with it. The record industry tried to stop used CD sales and failed. Back in 1993, Garth Brooks (at the height of his popularity) attempted to refuse selling an album in stores that also sold used CDs, and it blew up in his face. Not only that, but the major labels wound up under an FTC antitrust investigation for their attempts to stunt used CD sales.
But the tech industry is doing a better job of eroding that right. Yes, Divx failed. But there's the DMCA that makes almost everyone a criminal, whether they know it or not. Last year, I wrote for another publication about how you don't really own the books on your Kindle.
One thing you have to remember about anyone trying to take away your rights is they never go for it in one bite. It's always incremental. There needs to be major push-back on this move or you will all find yourselves in an environment where any and all content and IP merchants can reach into your home and take everything you own.
As I said, I really hope this rumor is wrong.