At E3, Microsoft attempted to drag console gamers towards a digital distribution model resembling Valve's Steam service, but players didn't take the bait. A number of PlayStation 4 pre-orders and a substantial #NoDRM campaign later, Microsoft relented on those policies and rolled the Xbox One back to the physical disc model that's the current standard for home consoles. In an interview with CNNMoney, SimCity creator and Syntertainment founder Will Wright applauded the power of the gaming community to institute change in companies as large as Microsoft.
"That's something that I've always believed in -- getting the players very involved not just after the game ships, but even before and try to listen to them," said Wright. "The kind of games I'm interested in, and actually the way games are going, is they're becoming far more baseline communities of people playing the game and doing a lot of cool stuff peer-to-peer, whether it's content sharing or competition or forming social connections. I tend to think of the fan base, especially the hardcore fan base, as co-developers. These people with a passion for your project are going to go out and sell your game to other people and pull other people in. The more they feel like they have some ownership over the process and they're not just kind of customers, the better."
"To see a company like Microsoft actually sit back, listen, and understand the fans and respond to them is impressive. For a company that size to be that responsive is great. These companies are the ones that obviously keep us in business and allow us to make games."
Wright did mention the flip side to that coin: times when the internet outcry may not sync up with the gaming community at large.
"On the other side there's the Internet thing where 5 percent of the people are making all the noise," he explained. "Sometimes they represent the other 95 percent, sometimes they don't. A lot of times the 5 percent are asking for ridiculously elaborate features, and as a game designer you know that's going to make the game inaccessible to everybody else. There are these people that want you to push a franchise in a super hardcore direction, and therefore we're going to close it off to 95 percent of the players, so you have to understand what kind of feedback that they're giving you. But when it's something that's 5 percent representing the other 95 percent that will probably feel the same way, then I think it's really valuable."
Wright also said that DRM is an ongoing discussion for the industry, despite the backlash to Microsoft's policies. He believes that publishers, developers, and platform holders will have to find ways to make the DRM benefit consumers as well.
"From the consumers' point of view, I can really understand a lot of the backlash to DRM. DRM is going to be an ongoing negotiation because there are features to the DRM, or at least Internet connectivity, that is a very attractive solution to the piracy issue. Gaming has had a long history of piracy, but you can't use DRM at the expense of the customers," he said. "
"I'm not really sure I have a clear answer to this except that it's going to be something that we slowly acclimate the player base towards. It's really not a lot different from if you have an MMO or peer-to-peer game that requires connectivity with other players, but a lot of games don't necessarily require that. If you're just going to require it for DRM purposes only that's obviously where it upset the consumers."