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Could Microsoft have realised that the always-on Xbox 720 is more hassle than it's worth

The backlash around the always-on DRM rumours for the Xbox 720 has snowballed. Adam Orth, now famous for his poor Twitter judgement, is no longer with Microsoft. While this is the consequence of poorly thought-out social media usage, could this be an opportunity for Microsoft to pull the emergency brake on its own poorly thought-out idea?

As we reported yesterday, Adam Orth has split from Microsoft, and it seems likely that it was a voluntary resignation. Even if it wasn’t his choice, it’s not a direct indictment on any criticism of always-on from Microsoft. An employee made some bad decisions about his use of Twitter, and it ended up being something of a PR nightmare. It makes sense that Microsoft would want to distance itself from a source of drama. That said, this uproar might just have a silver lining.

In the gaming industry, there has been substantial anti-Microsoft coverage for the past few months – not just recently. It seems Redmond’s business decisions have angered numerous smaller developers, and pushed them into the arms of Sony and Valve. While Xbox 360 was known for having outstanding indie games, developers like Jonathan Blow (Braid, The Witness) and Phil Fish (Fez) have spoken quite publicly about how their relationships with Microsoft have soured. Dissatisfaction has been building to a head, and now Microsoft is having to deal with it.

Right after the Twitter fiasco hit big on Reddit, Microsoft issued an apology. While it side-stepped the core issue of the always-on rumours, it is the first public acknowledgement of the rumours. Now that the Xbox 720 announcement has been pushed back by a month, this might be evidence that Microsoft is realising that always-on DRM might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 3 both received ending-altering DLC after their respective fan bases voiced how unhappy they were with the original endings. Companies like EA and Ubisoft once had oppressive PC-only DRM that limited the number of game installations, but they backed off after public outrage. Back when Sony unveiled the PS3, it showed an embarrassing boomerang-shaped controller that was dropped soon after for the familiar DualShock design.

Companies, especially ones with public shareholders, will capitulate to high levels of pushback. If it’s going to hurt the bottom line, even deeply-rooted company beliefs can change. Microsoft is clearly aware of how unpopular always-on DRM is, and now all we can do is sit back and wait to see if Redmond is willing to bet against the rage of the Internet.

To keep up to date with all the latest gossip on the Xbox 720, see our article entitled Microsoft Xbox 720: release date, specs and rumours.