The battle over our rights to play used games took center stage last night on national television during Jimmy Fallon's Video Game Week, a post-E3 celebration of all things ludic.
Fallon had brought up Mark Cerny, lead designer of the PlayStation 4, to talk about Sony's next gaming console. And inevitably, the conversation turned to DRM.
"And oh, the big story that everyone's talking about is this system is the only one where you can still play used games," Fallon said.
"We support used games," Cerny responded. "We don't require an Internet connection."
But wait. What Fallon said isn't true. The Xbox One can block used games, but that will be on a publisher-by-publisher basis. Yet the message sent to an audience of millions last night—punctuated by thunderous applause—was that one of this fall's next-gen consoles will play used games, and the other won't.
This has been a theme over the past few weeks, since the messy Xbox One reveal in Redmond last month, which was capped off by a trickle of mixed messages from Microsoft executives and Twitter support bots. Then, the Thursday before E3, Microsoft dumped a whole lot of equally confusing policy rhetoric in our laps, which essentially drowned out anything cool they wanted us to see at the show last week, even as they've tried to clarify their positions and emphasize the positives of Xbox One.
Meanwhile, Sony's message has been consistent: the PS4 will do things just like the PS3 did. End of story.
Summed up in bite-sized form for a national audience—on, say, a show like Late Night With Jimmy Fallon—this cavalcade turns into "PS4 can play used games; Xbox One can't." Even if it's not true. Because Microsoft has totally lost control of their messaging, and now it's getting skewed to the audience they need most.