Now that Microsoft and Sony are so close to releasing their next console iterations into the wild, we've all seen the stories of a few lucky gamers receiving their Xbox One consoles weeks in advance of the launch date.
Since the beginning of the existence of the gaming industry, we as gamers have always loved to show off the consoles and games we have, especially when they are brand new. It should come to no surprise then that a gamer would post everything they could about a new console (that's not even for sale yet) all over the internet. This is partly to show off, and partly to inform; it also has the added benefit of being free advertisement. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't see it that way and decided to hand the gamer a nice, albeit temporary, console ban for online play. Why take such harsh and drastic measures you might ask? Because the gamer posted information about the console that Microsoft did not want divulged to the public.
Many will make the case that upon agreeing to the Terms of Service, you agree to the condition of NOT posting content online without Microsoft's expressed permission, however there are inherent flaws in that logic. For starters, EULA's and ToS' are rarely enforceable in law due to the fact that they are either far too general in their terminology without any specifics mentioned (which is the case with the Xbox One's ToS), or any aspect of the ToS is deliberately anti-consumer rights and therefore illegal.
Microsoft's ToS for the Xbox One does state that Accepting the Terms means you accept that Microsoft can withhold service or access to the console if you post content online without their permission. The problem is is that it doesn't define what content specifically, or any kind of timeline (which is important to consider for AFTER the console launches), and thus could literally mean any kind of content. Fair Use laws however grant an individual the right to post copyrighted material for the purposes of review, critique, or parody. It could be argued that any users posting early footage/pics of Xbox One content are doing so for public review and critique.
Microsoft seems to think that gamers are bound by the kinds of non-disclosure agreements that developers, publishers, and the gaming media are bound by and they couldn't be more incorrect. No gamer who received their console early ever signed an NDA, nor were terms for such a thing made clear and visible for the gamer to agree to. A ToS is not and NDA, and consumer rights grant any consumer the right to full access and use of a product he/she paid for in full. We're not talking about misuse of licensed software, we're talking about banning a gamer from using half the console he paid for in full because he posted some pictures.
Just because Microsoft weren't ready for certain details to be revealed to the world (and one must wonder what exactly they need to reveal in 2 weeks), doesn't mean that that's the gamer's problem. None of us ever sign an NDA as consumers, and NDA's are contracts that have very specific terminology and rules which must be understood fully before being signed under law.
This is a trend that needs to stop. Microsoft and any other company that prevents the use of a product, and yes it is a product not a service, that was paid for in full are completely in the wrong and could be said to be doing something that is technically illegal.
Punishing gamers for free advertising is a problem that exists in many areas of the gaming industry. Microsoft's issue is with Target, not the gamer who benefited from Target's incompetence. Although the issue with the gamer that posted pics online has been resolved, the mere fact that Microsoft are so swift and arbitrary with banning people is disturbing. It's a tactic they've used several times in the Past and looks to be one that will continue in the Future.
Every day, gamers are being punished more and more just for being gamers and acting the way we all used to back in the old school days. Gamers are being restricted and punished so that corporations can honour their agreements with other corporations. None of us agreed to the terms of a partnership that Microsoft has with any third party source, therefore we are not bound by the terms of those agreements.
It seems like every day, more and more excuses to punish or restrict gamers are invented. It's almost as though being a gamer, in the eyes of corporations, is the wrong demographic to be in and needs to be quashed immediately in favour of drones of the mainstream, pro-corporate, mass consumption variety. We, as gamers, are shown that what we want is wrong, what corporate wants is right, and that really needs to stop.
Author's Note: Due to the power trip, and/or grudge, of a particular individual, I am on day 3 of a 5 day comment restriction for rightfully calling someone who was personally attacking me in my previous blog a "random douchebag." As I serve this punishment of unnecessary severity, I'll not be able to comment in my own blog or make any replies. To the many that are jumping for joy over this, enjoy the reprieve for its duration. To the rest of you, I will reply when I can, or if you'd like I can PM my replies to you directly.