Weeks after first revealing the Xbox One to the world and days before its follow-up events at E3 next week, Microsoft has finally broken its silence on a number of important and, until now, confusing Xbox One issues. Today, the company published a post spanning topics from used games and disc lending to online connections and Kinect-based privacy concerns.
First off—the big questions about used games and game licensing. "Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit," Microsoft wrote. "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."
Microsoft didn't go into detail on exactly how this resale process would work, but we can glean a bit from the language they did use. For instance, the "games publishers can enable you" bit heavily implies that those publishers can also decide not to allow for used discs to be resold at all. In fact, later in the announcement, they confirm that "third-party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers."
The "participating retailers" phrasing implies that not just any store will be able to accept your trades. Rather, the retailer will probably have to sign on to some sort of online system to confirm that the game is no longer associated with your Xbox Live account (more on that account linkage is described below). Microsoft for its part "does not receive any compensation as part of this used game sales process" and "does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games."
What if you don't want to go through a retailer to sell your disc or give it to a friend? Microsoft has you covered there to some extent. The company writes that "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."
Again, publishers can block the ability to give away games if they choose. The limit on giving each game disc only once also severely limits how freely discs can be passed around among Xbox One owners. Many games on trading services get passed around multiple times before reaching their final owners.
The Xbox One licensing system means an end to game rentals as we know them, at least at launch. "Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners," Microsoft announced bluntly.
All games for Xbox One will be available the same day on discs or as downloads. Even if you buy the disc, though, the game will be playable without it after being installed on any Xbox One system. That is, as long as you log in to the associated Xbox Live account. You'll be able to download the digital version of the game to any system too, even if you originally bought it on disc.
That should handle the problem of bringing games over to a friend's house (though loaning a disc to a friend long-term could be a different matter). Family members won't have to log in as you in order to play games on your own personal system, though; those games will be playable by anyone using that primary system. You can "share" access to your games with up to 10 family members, giving them the added ability to bring those games over to a friend's house for instance.
All of this, of course, is not set in stone. "As we move into this new generation of games and entertainment, from time to time, Microsoft may change its policies, terms, products and services to reflect modifications and improvements to our services, feedback from customers and our business partners, or changes in our business priorities and business models or for other reasons," the company writes. "We may also cease to offer certain services or products for similar reasons."
Always Online? Always watching?
Apparently, Microsoft doesn't see the Xbox One as a system intended for people who don't have broadband in the home at all. "Because every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection, developers can create massive, persistent worlds that evolve even when you’re not playing," the company writes. Microsoft recommends a connection of at least 1.5Mbps, or using mobile broadband "in areas where an Ethernet connection is not available."
While the broadband connection doesn't have to be "persistent" to use the Xbox One, Microsoft says the console is "designed to verify if system, application, or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend." Your primary console can be offline for up to 24 hours without this online check-in, while a secondary console (i.e. one accessing your library/account at a friend's house) can only be offline for an hour at a time.
While gaming is not possible if these online check-in times are not met, you'll still be able to watch TV or DVD movies without a connection. In addition, "games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection."
In response to privacy concerns raised by the "always on" description of the Xbox One and its attached Kinect, Microsoft has clarified that "you are in control of when Kinect sensing is On, Off or Paused." When the system is "off," the Kinect will only listen for a single phrase—"Xbox On"— and even that feature can be turned off.
Microsoft stresses that the Xbox One will "navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used" when it is first set up. The Kinect will not record or upload "simply having a conversation," Microsoft says, and it will not send data "such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate, and more... without your explicit permission." In addition, navigation for the Xbox One UI can be controlled with a regular controller as well as voice and gesture commands.
There's a lot of information in this afternoon data dump from Microsoft, and we're still sifting through and processing it all. Expect more analysis and opinion about the system's unique features soon.