Microsoft Officially Answers Xbox One Used Game, Always-On Questions. It's Not Good News

Major questions have been asked about how the Xbone handles user privacy, game authentication, used games, and online check-ins -- questions that you'd think Microsoft would answer directly. Instead, the company has opted to release a new website online, rather than put any particular individual front and center to take fire on the topics. Regardless, these are the answers to the questions we've been asking for nearly a year -- let's dig in.

There's one high note.

Family Gaming:

Discs and downloads are equal partners on Xbox One -- buy either one on launch day, and you're treated identically. Your library will be available on *any* Xbox One -- if you sign into your own gamer profile on your friend's Xbone, your games are available for play / download. Up to 10 members of your family / friends will be able to log in and play games from your shared game library. Microsoft says: "Just like today, a family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend’s house. Only now, they will see not just Forza, but all of your shared games.  You can lways play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time."

This doesn't mean 10 different players can play games from your library at the same time, but it does mean someone could play Forza while someone else plays Gears of War.Here's everything else.

Used Games
We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers.  Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games... Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.

Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers... In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.[Emphasis Added]
We're going to defer comment on this until we've finished the breakdown.


Users will be able to control how Kinect responds to certain actions, including whether the system is "listening" for the 'Xbox On' command when turned off. Microsoft notes that you'll need to turn Kinect back on to use the console, but that's fine. The question of whether or not users can turn Kinect off has been answered -- yes, you can. Furthermore, other modes of using the Xbone (remote controls, the Xbox controller) will still function when Kinect is off. Microsoft notes that you'll have a degree of control over how your data is used, though in practice, this is questionable. Most Windows 8 apps contain notifications on how your data is collected, but offer zero control (beyond uninstalling the application) of whether you agree to that collection or not.

Still, the biggest question has been answered. You can turn Kinect off when not gaming.

24 Hour Check-Ins Required:

Strip away the marketing babble on the "Connectivity" page and here's what's left:  The system ships with a gigabit Ethernet port and 802.11n. Specific reference is made to the 5GHz band and dual-band antennas, which means overall coverage and performance should be superior. 802.11ac isn't supported and you'll need a dual-band 802.11n router to see a benefit from these capabilities, but dual-band support is a good thing. MS recommends a minimal 1.5MBps download speed, which is well within US averages. It states that where Internet is not available, players can connect using mobile broadband. An Xbone that can tether would be interesting, provided that the console has a "Use minimal bandwidth" flag to prevent it from blowing your download limit on cellular data connections.

With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies.
Our Verdict:

Family gaming sounds great. Kinect's privacy options and the ability to turn the camera off will go a long way to soothing user fears. Dual-band 802.11n bandwidth support is solid. 1.5MBps for an always-on connection is low enough to be accessible to most consumers, even if a 24-hour window is far too low, in our opinion. Active military personnel, for example, are actively screwed by this kind of policy. Still, there aren't enough of those to drive MS sales decisions.

But the used game situation? Boy, did we call this.

The entire section of the site reads like Microsoft frantically bending over to ensure customers that it isn't making any money off publisher restrictions. And it isn't. What Microsoft is doing is yielding to the frantic yammering of an industry that sees costs skyrocketing and refuses to engage in the kind of restructuring that will actually save video game development. Kotaku had an excellent write-up on why the video game industry, as a whole, is in such dire straits right now -- a few billion dollars in Gamestop sales, taken and distributed amongst the players, will do precisely nothing to solve the problems.

Why didn't Microsoft stand up and talk about this website? Because while some of the details are good, the overarching picture for gamers is nothing but bad. No loans on launch day. No rentals on launch day. That means none of the publishers working on launch day titles are willing to approve of either. And think about this for a moment -- as of right now, you cannot buy a game, uninstall a game, and give that game to a friend unless given permission to do so.

This has just become Sony's race to win, and I mean that. If Sony reveals a console with similar limitations, it'll put both companies on equally terrible footing. If it doesn't, it could score serious sales from gamers unwilling to agree to these restrictions.