Xbox One will divide EU into different markets

Microsoft's new XBox One will ship with region-locks that divide the world; yours will only work if it connects to the DRM server from one of 21 selected countries. The countries include some, but not all, EU nations, which is almost certainly illegal under the EU's strict common market rules. Here's hoping that Redmond gets a punitive fine big enough to clobber the program and scare the shit out of any other company contemplating similar idiocy.

Notably this "region coding" splits up the EU - most countries are in but some are out - and it also excludes Poland, the development home of The Witcher game series, a title Microsoft touted in its E3 launch presentation. Yes, that's right, the developers of this Xbox launch title will not be able to play the game they developed. I generally find it wise to assume that Microsoft are not stupid, but whatever their plan is, it's eluding me here. Sony was quick to announce that its competitive product, the PS4, would not be region-locked.

MSFT to Region-Lock Xbox One on Launch [Alan Wexelblat/Copyfight]



  1. Because region-locking works so well for DVDs, and we all love dealing with geoblocked videos online.

  2. So the “only works in 21 US states” report was a scam? darn it.

    I can understand why Microsoft are scaring themselves into insanity over anti-piracy though.

    Games are hugely expensive to make (equivalent to movies, far more than records or books). Pirating them makes no difference to the user experience (unlike movies you could see at the cinema). The physical format has no desirability factor (like books or some music formats) and is destined to disappear into digital-only, which is hugely easy to pirate.

    Added to which, they have to sell the consoles at a loss, so the whole console economy depends on game sales.

    I don’t condone Microsoft’s bizarre actions and revelations in the last couple of weeks, but they are playing with pretty high financial stakes. They really do have a lot to lose if gamers aren’t paying money for copies of their games.

    1. I think the biggest threat to the gaming market is the durability of the product. My son and his friends played Star Wars: The force unleashed for years on our Wii console. It was a great investment for us, but not so great for the producers. OTH once we have seen a movie we might never watch it again.

      1. That’s a pretty good observation. I love the Mass Effect trilogy, and have done multiple playthroughs, and the crappiness of the ending of the third installment only serves to convince me that I shouldn’t get another console just to play their next installment. Microsoft’s efforts to shut down the used game market seem to be aimed at the idea that what they really want is to be able to keep making money of the same old thing, and as it is, if I want to keep playing the multiplayer version of Mass Effect, I have to pay for XBox Live on top of my ISP fees. 

        1. Didn’t they fix the ME3 ending? I played the first two but have held off on 3 because I’d heard a lot of complaints about the ending and some DLC issue.

          1. Well, 1) sort of but not really, and 2) yes, but it’s not really the ending, just closure.

            1) BioWare made and released the Extended Cut ending, a sort of DLC/patch that went into the three choices that you can make in the ending in more detail, explaining what they mean, rather than having pretty much the same ending with different colors for the special effects (the original ending) that doesn’t explain the implications for the galaxy in general and the game’s characters in particular. The problem is that it doesn’t change the basic nature of those three choices, which a lot of people have problems with in terms of how they fit with the continuity and lore of the games. 

            2) However, back in March, BioWare released the Citadel DLC, which while it doesn’t change the ending proper, gives you much more closure in terms of Shepard’s relationships with the supporting cast, and is hugely steeped in game lore and in-jokes, and is just all-around fun. Although you’ve still got quite a few die-hards that can’t wean themselves from the haterade, for a lot of fans it went a long way toward helping them feel better about the game. Some people have even said that they will play through the third-to-last mission in the game, do the Citadel DLC (which includes a big party for the Normandy crew), and then… just stop right there, and never mind beating the Reapers.

          2. Play it. Ending sucks, but the game itself has some great moments. It’s worth it.

          3. The ending was flawed, but no more so than much of the rest of those games. If you were on-board with Mass Effect through the first two games, I don’t think there will be much to object to in the third one.
            Yeah, the ending was a contrived choice with options shoehorned into ill-fitting ‘Paragon’ and ‘Renegade’ categories that don’t really fit the situation, and ultimately connected with the rest of the game in a fairly unsatisfying way. That’s also a fair descriptor of the vast majority of choices throughout the Mass Effect games. It seemed pretty in line with the series’ design ethos.
            The actual outcome of the choices was kind of dumb, but, again, generally on par with the level of writing/thought throughout the games. The synthesis ending (my first ending choice, and arguably the ‘happiest’?) was total handwavey TV-grade sci-fi bullshit that makes zero sense, but so was all the business about ‘Mass Effect’ fields and the fact that all the aliens look like humans wearing masks and prosthetics.
            Basically, if nothing in the first two games struck you as cheesy or lazy or awful, then the ending, which is no more cheesy or lazy or awful than the rest of the series, probably won’t put you off.

      2.  Plus there’s the sheer amount of gaming history out there – if you don’t mind playing stuff that isn’t cutting edge – and I dont – then is a gold mine.

    2. They also have a lot to lose if gamers aren’t keen on the value proposition of   $60 games with no trade-in or resale value.

      I notice Sony aren’t shitting the bed about game piracy, and they have as much to lose.

      You would almost think that most people are honest and pay for legit copies, a few try to cheat, and your overall financial success depended on satisfying the former instead of massively overreacting to the latter.

    3. They don’t have to sell the consoles at a loss. They do, but it’s not that they have to. Nintendo doesn’t.

    4. They don’t have to sell the consoles at a loss. They choose to do so.

      And in my opinion, any business model that requires you to sell anything at a loss is horribly broken and unsustainable.

    1.  Hey man, it’s the future and you better get use to it.
      Just look at how much the world’s changed when they released the Windows Phone…or their game changing windows 8 tablet… well i’m sure windows 8 is doing well on it’s own… any way, this is the one that will sell. I’m sure of it!

  3. To is a bit confused about the situation. The fact is that the Xbox One is LAUNCHING in 21 countries. Poland is not one of those countries. And because the Xbox One will not be on sale in Poland it won’t work there. Presumably it will be on sale in more than 21 countries at a later date. When it is on sale in Poland it will be playable there.

    This sucks and it sucks for people in Poland and the rest of the world that isn’t among those 21 countries where xbone will be launching but it is less about “region coding” and more about where it is on sale and where it isn’t on sale.

    I don’t know anything about law but does the EU really say that if you sell something in one EU country you have to sell it in every EU country?

    1. EU law says that if you sell something in one country you can’t prevent it being resold in another – that’s the whole point of the common market.  There’s not much point in having a single trade market if manufacturers can just opt out of having their stuff traded there.

      Microsoft can, of course, sell in whatever countries they feel like – but it’s illegal for them to prevent it working if you happen to resell it in / move it to / emigrate to another European country.

        1.  Well as Cory noted, the EU isn’t against issuing whopping great fines to companies that take the “pfft you’re just a bunch of Governments, we *run* this joint” approach and ignore the common market rules (or other EU rules).  They have the capacity to make it financially painful enough that Microsoft (‘s shareholders) will care.

    1. …increasingly, no.  Pity; there are some really good ideas in the console itself, and a Kinect that actually works is a brilliant step that I expect game developers will do a lot with.

      1.  A Kinect that must be always on..and microphone that’s always on is a bad idea. Having a video camera microphone in millions of peoples home that’s always on and net connected? I expect hackers will do a lot with that.

      2. On the plus side, epic failure would likely result in a bunch of surplus Kinect hardware getting fleabayed for peanuts, which is always nice…

      3. Its okay to respect the tech but its the wrong tech for this market. If MS gets away with this it will set precedent for other industries and that won’t be good. It could knock the knee caps right out of capitalism. The idea being publishers can always make money off of used games. This could spill over to everything from movies to the guy selling a couch on Craigslist. Final Sale is and should be just that, FINAL!

        M$ should invest this tech in security and surveillance or something because that’s basically what this is. It can recognize everything about you except your DNA (we think). That is way too much power for simply wanting to play a game.

    2. No room for Xbones at our house.  We already have TVTVSportsTVMoviesTVTVTVSportsTV.

    3. Nooooooope. 

      Even if they dropped the game price so low that a second hand market would be un-needed, there’s no way I’ll ever let a camera, mic and 3d seeing machine into my house, with or without a persistent internet connection. I even have tape over my ipad and isight cameras.

    4. I really wish that the answer were “no”, but for everyone who is as disturbed about the implications of this thing as I am, there’s probably at least one person who’s indifferent or even eager to expose themselves online, physically or otherwise. 

  4. Yes, that’s right, the developers of this Xbox launch title will not be able to play the game they developed.

    I doubt the folks at CD Projekt would ever WANT to play a game on a console; especially not the XBone, which is even more DRM-laden than other consoles.  They are, after all, “leading the DRM-free revolution” on their PC gaming distribution platform, 

    Developing for the XBone is an act of self-interested mercy directed at gamers who can’t afford a gaming PC, but still want to buy Witcher 3. 

    1. Because developers rush out and purchase a game that they created.  The entire point of the article flew straight over your head.  Obviously, in an ideal world, all developers own their own distribution platform, and the unwashed console plebes should realize this… therefore PC gaming wins.  Is that your point?  Because it seems to be the point you are trying to make, and it’s pretty far away from the topic we are discussing.

  5. Between this ongoing fiasco and Windows 8, I have to wonder if someone in Redmond just has a big deathwish. Sony is widely believed to have won the next-gen console wars by the simple expedient of not being quite as evil as the other guy. 

  6. Services like Netflix and Spotify only being available in some european countries doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    As long as the hardware boots to the main menu it’s probably working good enough to be sold while games there are considered a service like the previous examples.

    1. That’s because they’re services delivered online, not physical goods sold in shops. And no, if the device doesn’t perform the main role it was sold for, then it’s not ‘working good enough’.

    2. Those are services. If you open a pizza parlour in Berlin, it doesn’t mean you must open one in Paris. What it does mean, is that once someone buys a pizza from your Berlin pizzeria, they have full rights to take it to Paris and eat it there.

      This gets me metabolising… Egad… if only there was a pizza place open at 2:56am within 100km of here…

      1. How about for example a subscription code for Spotify then? That’s all discs for Xbox One are going to be. Tokens for use with Microsofts games on Xbox One SERVICE that you no longer need once they’re been attached to your account.

        Edit: Should probably mention I’m not trying to defend this, I think locking away anything from certain regions is terrible. Just saying they are going to be able to talk their way around it.

      2. The EULA plainly states that you can move said pizza from Berlin to Paris. It grants you a license to metabolise.  The exchange rate will apply to location data balanced with the amount you eat vs. the amount you secrete, in accordance with your monthly subscription fees.

  7. remember when the xbox was released and it was doomed because of it’s huge incredibly stupidly designed controller, and then the xbox 360 came out and it was doomed because it continually red-ringed (to such an extent microsoft wouldn’t honor warrentees for red rings) and had a tendency to scratch discs and was generally horrible, and now this.
    it’s clear microsoft has a positive correlation between number of consoles released and the extremeness of their failures.

    why do people still buy xboxes…i mean halo is on PC too…

      1.  which thing exactly? 360’s various problems?
        people not liking the the original xbox’s controller design?
        game informer gave it “the blunder of the year” award (game informer magazine January 2002)
        halo being on pc as well?
        that one might be incorrect, i know halo 1 and 2 were but i don’t see anything about 3 and up. but in my defense they are terrible games and not worth keeping up to date on their development.

        1. Specifically regarding your comment that “microsoft wouldn’t honour warrentees for red rings”. You might want to re-read that wikipedia article yourself.

        2. Yeah the red ring of death thing is not true.. if your box was within warranty then they would fix it.

          The other issues you raised were all a matter of preference and drunk idiots leaving their call of duty disc in a pool of energy drink + vodka, not legitimate concerns over privacy which is why this case is different IMO.

          I cannot disagree more about Halo and you seem to have very strong opinions on the topic for someone who clearly isn’t very aware of the series.

          FWIW Halo was a PC game in development, M$ saw its potential and paid Bungee to release it as an Xbox exclusive for their ‘new’ console (at the time the original xbox). A while after it was released on xbox they released a PC version but the console version was always the one to have. Halo 4 is awesome and the only reason I ever turn on my Xbox360.

          1. “and paid Bungee to release it as an Xbox exclusive for their ‘new’ console ” 

            Actually, I remember they bought Bungie outright. Which was too bad because Halo was supposed (rumoured?) to be a Mac game – which never happened of course.

          2. Hm.. you are right, apparently Jobs talked about it at Macworld in 1999. It was due to be a PC/mac game until M$ bought them but I strongly suspect that Halo wouldn’t have been the incredible success it was unless it had some cashola thrown at it. For its time (and even my modern standards) its physics were amazingly accurate.


    1. I liked those big old controllers. They were the best size for me. These little ones cramp my ring and pinky fingers.

      1. lol… me too man. Now I’m used to it though. During the dying days of my original xbox there was always a rush on to be the one to score the big controller and they were beaten to all hell!

    1. I hope so. It’s such a bad idea on so many fronts. But then they have a lot of money to throw at it. But then that didn’t help the Zune.

  8. I think the new Xbox has some cool ideas about building a system that has some amount of future-proofing, built not into the console itself; but accessible through the huge banks of servers set up to boost system performance and memory.

    The flexible multi-layered OS that allows really fast switching between apps, movies, tv, and games looks like something that, if it works as demonstrated, could really cut down on the waiting that the current consoles are plagued with.

    The controller looks to be as comfortable and user-friendly as the 360 controller, and if the Kinect is better this time, the Xbox One could be an entertainment juggernaut.

    It is a shame then, that Microsoft has saddled this fantastic-looking system with such draconian DRM.  

    Instead of looking forward to the next-generation experiences that the Xbox One would offer, people are flocking to the PS4, which looks to be a similarly great system to play games on.

    I hope that Microsoft is able to rally support back, in order to provide a balanced competition with Sony.  A one-sided route by either system would result in a monopoly of the video game industry that would stifle future innovations.

    It is only due to the pressure that Microsoft put on Sony last generation with the Xbox 360 vs the PS3 that gives us the PS4 that was just introduced.  Xbox Live was such a great service that Sony had to develop the Playstation Network and Playstation Plus to try to woo gamers back to their system.

    PS3 was confusing and needlessly to develop games for, when compared to the Xbox 360, leading to poor versions of ported games.

    Now, Sony is trying everything in its power to regain the supremacy they enjoyed during the PS2 generation, by making the PS4 easy to develop for and releasing the console at an attractive price point.

    Hopefully Microsoft will follow suit and gamers will have multiple good options in the next generation of entertainment.
    P. S. I LUV GAMEZ :)

  9. It’s sad that the PS4 is winning the “console war” not for what it gives gamers, but that it takes the least away from them. This is what it’s coming to.

  10. I start to wonder if this whole XBone PR debacle is some sort of elaborate tax evasion scheme.

  11. This is the same xbox which will count up the number of people watching a movie to make sure it charges appropriately?

  12. Does anyone else remember all the bright futurists at the dawn of personal computing and the Internet happily opining that the personal computer would help do away with the artificial boundaries of politics and region?

    I can’t even buy a Kindle book on Amazon.UK instead of regular Amazon unless I tell the system I knbow live in the UK and the **** book doesn’t have a Kindle version int he U.S. (They’ll gladly take my money for a physical copy though, British made hard-bounds are usually higher quality in terms of manufacture so I buy a small but steady stream of books from across the pond. 

    I can’t easily buy DVDs of British or Australian videos for shows that never made it here. (Anyone else remember the Goodies show?  :))

    Sigh.  Amazing how many companies seem to prefer zero revenue in order to protect some “market region” that only exists in their head.

  13. I’m just waiting for the backlash when people *do* buy this for their kids, and then the inevitable result of millions of always-on cameras in kids bedrooms eventually surfaces on the internet.

    It just needs one hack.

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