The Xbox One will require a constant internet connection and you’ll need to pay a fee to play a game disc that somebody’s already played.
Wait, no that’s not right.
The Xbox One will not require a constant connection, but developers will have the option to utilize cloud processing in their software, meaning a constant connection would be required for those games. Also that re-authorization fee is full retail price. Even if you want to play the game on two separate accounts on the same machine, you’ll need to pay for the game twice.
Wait, no. Sorry, I misspoke.
The Xbox One will require a regular internet connection (not constant but regular, how silly of me) to allow for automatic authentications that ensure you’re the only one playing under the licence you bought. The disc will house the game install only and will be played from the hard drive or the cloud. There will apparently be no fee for the disc to work in another console, but it will be deactivated on the original console. Glad we got that straightened out.
The past few days since the reveal of Microsoft’s new console has seen a huge amount of confusion about how the machine will deal with digital rights management, driven primarily by conflicting statements from Microsoft officials themselves. It’s probably the only time I can remember that wild variation in accepted console specifics has actually increased following a reveal.
Perhaps Microsoft is unwilling to be wholly upfront about their (potentially unpopular) online plans for Xbox One. Or perhaps they actually haven’t decided yet what the plan will be. Either way their own confusion has done nothing but damage to the gaming community’s perception of their product.
The proposition of Xbox One being an always-online console, which terminology aside is all-but confirmed at this point, carries with it the threat that gamers would no longer be able to buy and play used games, sell their game discs or share them with friends. Luckily, Larry Hryb is here to set the record straight. He said in a blog bost:
The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.
Now I understand that to some people this is good news. To me however, it sounds an awful lot like reactionism and is probably the most confusing messaging yet.
I fully expected Microsoft to put on a brave face and say “You will not be playing second-hand games on Xbox One. One sale, one licence, it’s the future”. Instead it seems they’re intending to play ball with consumers who want games but want them cheap, and want to be able to get some money back for them after a certain amount of time, just because that’s what they’re accustomed to. These gamers have been all over the web in past few days, sometimes communicating logical and understandable concerns over the Xbox One’s direction, but often just ‘threatening’ to not buy an Xbox One at all.
But here’s the thing. Microsoft does not care about consumers who don’t want to buy games new.
The perception seems to be that by dropping $400 – $600 on a brand new console you’re actually giving money to Microsoft, and that by refusing to do it you’re hurting them in some way. The truth is consoles are almost always sold at a loss. Microsoft will likely lose money with every single Xbox One sold.
The reason they’re okay with this? Because they’ll make a hell of a lot of money every time you buy an Xbox One game. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if you’re the kind of person who would want to buy an Xbox One and then mostly deal in second-hand games Microsoft does not care about making you happy. They do not care if you post on a message board, in comments or through their official channels that you’re boycotting them if they don’t allow used games. You’re costing them money.
Microsoft’s goal right now should be to ensure there are systems in place that encourage hardware owners to buy games brand new or digitally and hang on to those games. Instead Larry Hryb is seen to be reassuring people that reselling will have a legitimate place on the new platform. This claim, like many of the official comments surrounding the Xbox One’s DRM, must be either intentionally obfuscatory or not the whole truth.
Maybe resellers like GameStop will be paying a resell fee to the publisher plus a cut of the sale value so Microsoft and the game makers get their money. Maybe we’ll see a new generation of the hideous online pass, or maybe used games will be locked behind an Xbox-gold-type paywall. In any event Microsoft now has the technology — a constantly connected console — to ensure everybody who is playing the game is paying them money, and so regardless of what they say you can bet they’ll enforce that.
Personally I wish they’d dispense with the pretence and flat out say used games are not happening. Allowing the disc to install a free demo on any account or system would be a good way to preserve sharing and still allow for each person to pay the full price if they want the full game. Many new options are available for exploration, but to cut down on confusion you have to make it as clear as possible. One purchase, one licence, one user.
It’s long been my opinion that games are not like cars. Cars degrade over time and if you buy a new one you can sell it before it’s completely dead and get some of your money back. If you want a slightly crappy car you can get one cheap. Digital goods do not degrade. These games will not be played off physical media but off hard drives and out of the cloud. They will be exactly the same the day after launch as five years after launch. Why should some people pay less and some more, some to the publisher and developer and some solely to GameStop?
Whether or not you agree with me on moral or business grounds isn’t really relevant though. Ensuring user accountability is part of what the online system is designed for, and this generation will be the one where the idea of games as personal, tradeable commodities really starts to disappear. Like it or not having a disc that can install the game on your machine but only once it’s made sure you’ve paid is a great way to straddle the line between a wholly digital future and the tied-to-physical-media past.
And threatening or petitioning Microsoft in the name of being able to buy games from people who are not them will do no good. They simply can not care to pander to consumers not prepared to give them and their partners money for the games they play. Isn’t that right Mr Hryb?