Games

Microsoft clarifies Xbox One's always-online, used game requirements

Microsoft clarifies Xbox One's...
Microsoft finally stated the Xbox One's policies towards always-online and used games. (Wi-Fi image: Shutterstock)
Microsoft finally stated the Xbox One's policies towards always-online and used games. (Wi-Fi image: Shutterstock)
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Microsoft finally stated the Xbox One's policies towards always-online and used games. (Wi-Fi image: Shutterstock)
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Microsoft finally stated the Xbox One's policies towards always-online and used games. (Wi-Fi image: Shutterstock)

In the weeks leading up to Microsoft's Xbox One announcement, there was a lot of chatter about the system requiring an always-online internet connection. And there was at least as much speculation about the system possibly blocking used games. Though Microsoft was pretty vague on the subjects when it announced the console, we finally have some solid info.

Update: Gamers rebelled, Microsoft listened, and the Xbox One's DRM is no more. Check out our full coverage for the details.

In short, the Xbox One will have to connect to the internet once every 24 hours. Well, that's if you're at home. If you sign into a friend's Xbox One somewhere else, it will need to go online once an hour.

Here's the more official wording, straight from the horse's mouth:

    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.

As for used games, Microsoft is passing the buck to game publishers. The company isn't enacting a widespread ban on the transfers of used games, but it sounds like companies such as EA and Activision will have that option. Another option would be for publishers to charge fees for license transfers.
In Microsoft's words:

    Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit. 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.

What does it mean?

So basically we're looking at the possibility of some or all used Xbox One games being blocked. It's going to be on a game-by-game basis. And the console is essentially always-online. Sure, you can enjoy 23 hours of offline gaming, but we don't see many critics of always-online gaming celebrating that one.Microsoft can get away with the always-online part because few gamers lack home internet connections. I'd guess that Microsoft wants to get away with it a) as a piracy deterrent, b) as that potential used game deterrent, and c) because many of the Xbox One's non-gaming features (TV integration, Skype, etc.) are tied to the internet.

But gamers who live in extremely rural areas – or those who are against things like this on matters of principle or privacy – will want to look elsewhere. Fortunately, that shouldn't be too hard to do. Sony has definitely stated that the PS4 will not require a constant internet connection.

As for the used game issue, well, I suppose passing it off to publishers is better than Microsoft outright banning all license transfers. But leaving the door open to publishers doing so is hardly reassuring for used game shoppers. It sounds like Redmond wants to keep publishers happy, without having its console branded as "the one that blocks used games." Those expecting a strong, customer-friendly stance from Microsoft have little to be happy about here.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the market. Microsoft might have more buzz heading into E3, but will these policies push some customers in Sony's direction?

We'll be spending some time with Microsoft next week during E3, and will let you know what we find out.

Sources: Xbox Wire [1] [2], via Joystiq, Game Informer

17 comments
Mikey T
The fact that Microsoft isn't making any of their previous generation Xbox games backward compatible with their new Xbox One suggests in itself what their stance is on used games. I thought it sounded odd at first but now it's all starting to make sense. I can't imagine it would have been difficult to do from a technical viewpoint as they did it for a lot of Xbox games on the Xbox 360. As you say most people will have an online connection so physically doing it won't be an issue for "most". However, it is the principle behind it that is going to annoy people. I think Microsoft's arrogant attitude towards users is dispicable. The only ones to gain anything from this are the likes of Sony and Nintendo. Hopefully, they'll change their minds before go live but I wouldn't be betting on it.
The Skud
Sounds like a cop-out to me! "Let the game publishers decide"? Naturally they are going to end up blocking them, it increases their sales. Why can't the Xbox just link up to the net when that feature is needed? Single-gamer players may not care to use the other features every day, they already have TVs, iPhones etc.
Abdul Hameed
Microsoft's move will clearly damage sales on the console in Asian and middle east market...Average internet connection in my country is 1 Mb and that is not enough for Xbox ONe according to microsoft
Scion
They are going to have to remove that phone home feature or something. I can see people blindly buying the console for their kids / themselves / as a present and then not being able to use it. I have my current xbox 360 in my living room with my TV where it is not connected to the internet. I don't have a net connection there and wireless doesn't reach there because of obstructing stuff between my office and my living room. Previously not a problem. But it means I can't buy a new Xbox without modifying my home or getting a range extender or what have you. Imagine buying this for the kids and putting it in the rumpus / garage and finding out they can't play it until you jump through more hoops than you are willing to? Maybe you don't want your kids having unsupervised internet? Sounds like they are asking for trouble.
Adrien
I think phone home like this is foolhardy. It assumes the back-end is always accessible. Wait till somone DOSes the MS servers, and then everyone with one of those things will be cut off. Or someone digs up the cable in your street. there are so many potential problems with this, it's really surprising they took this step. It's going to bite them in the ar$e
VirtualGathis
I can see this escalating into a war between the hackers and MS. Those who don't mind skirting the law or outright violating it will still get to use their used games and play offline, while the rest of the users would get stuck with this ridiculous model. Personally I was thinking about buying an X-box as I like some of the titles they have extorted exclusivity contracts with. Due simply to these to moronic choices I will not be buying their hardware. MS when you watch this console roll out and sales tank compared to your overblown expectations please look at the list of every executive and PM that approved this model and return them to the wild as they have absolutly no common sense.
Jason Falconer
These restrictions will have a hugely detrimental impact on the average consumer. You can only sell games privately to friends who have been on your "friend list" for at least 30 days, and once the game has been transferred once it cannot be transferred again. That means no used game sales on eBay and no game rentals. They can say it is up to publishers to enact these DRM schemes, but it is Microsoft that is building the platform that makes it possible. They can't pass the buck to EA, Ubisoft, and Activision (the major publishers pushing for this) because ultimately they could maintain the status quo if they wanted to. The idea that your game console becomes a door stop when you lose your internet connection for more than 1 day is not appealing. The idea that, once this console generation is over Microsoft can simply turn off the servers and leave you with a door stop is not reassuring either. They have already disabled Xbox Live services for original Xbox games, what is to stop them from doing that with Xbox One after the Xbox Two? Furthermore, in countries like Japan where renting games is prohibited by law, gamers often buy games new and quickly trade them in to purchase their next game. That won't be possible under this scheme. Microsoft already had problems with the Japanese game market, and this will likely kill them outright in that region.
Cyberxbx
My 11-yo son asked for an Xbox ONE for his next birthday (or Christmas if its out by then). I had to carefully explain to him how the amazing progress Microsoft, the company he sees as "inventing computers", made was all for nothing when they wipe out any resemblance of respect for their product consumers. Show me ONE consumer that is for this! Microsoft.... I hope you are reading this. Because of this decision, my son no longer thinks you are a good company. He thinks its unfair and "Stupid" what you are doing. So heres the deal.... if you are going to INNOVATE something new, DO NOT REMOVE FEATURES! People want more not less. My PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 both go in the car with us on trips....an Xbox ONE cannot.
RikJamez
Time to count out the MS Xbox One ( and Two, Three, etc.,. ) and move to Sony, Ouya and / or other innovative new console makers without draconian and restrictive impositions for me and hundreds of my fellow gamers ! On to the blogosphere ...., R J
Adrien
actually doesn't this count as Electronic Self-Help? Apart from being completely stupid, it may even be illegal in some states.