Xbox One News, I’m having trouble keeping track of all the Xbox One u-turns. First the DRM, used-game restrictions and always-online requirement disappeared, then it turned out it’ll come with a headset after all, and now new Kinect – that last unpopular stipulation to Xbox One ownership – has apparently been demoted to an optional accessory that doesn’t need to be plugged in at all times after all. The Xbox One at this moment pretty much a totally different console to the one Microsoft announced in May. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they changed the name next.
These reversals range from relatively minor to totally game-changing. Here’s what all of them are, along with their implications.
Does it require an internet connection?
THEN: YES. Originally, though Microsoft executives were saying directly contradictory things straight after the announcement, the Xbox One was going to have to connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours.
NOW: NO. The required Internet connection was done away with after E3.
Why did it change? Always-online was hugely, hugely unpopular with just about everybody, but especially people without reliable Internet connections and servicemen and women. After E3, where former Xbox boss Dom Mattrick infamously said that people who don’t want to deal with an always-online connection could just buy and Xbox 360, this was completely reversed – ostensibly as a direct reaction to the huge popular backlash against the Xbox One’s policies that reverberated through E3.
What does it mean? The official line was that the Xbox One needed a constant/near-constant Internet connection to enable games to use the cloud, whatever that actually means. Now that the Internet connection requirement is gone, though, it begs the question: were most Xbox One games really designed around using the cloud, or was the required Internet connection actually there to enforce the console’s DRM? Some games will still require a connection, like Titanfall, but we’re still not clear on how it will affect other game features like Forza with its Driveatar, if at all.
Can I lend my games to friends and family?
THEN: YES, through a special friends-and-family sharing scheme that was going to let you share everything with up to ten people.
NOW: YES, in the same way as always, by swapping or lending discs, or by a friend playing digital games on your console.
Why did it change? Xbox One’s game-sharing policies were, to say the least, extremely confusing. You could play your games on a friend’s console, but not your friend’s games on your console; Phil Harrison implied that if you wanted to play a friend’s game, you’d have to pay a full-price licensing fee for the privilege. The whole thing was set up around licenses rather than ownership of a disc, and it seems Microsoft eventually decided that the market wasn’t ready for that.
What does it mean? This particular u-turn has divided gamers: where many are much happier now that they’ll be able to do what they want with games they’ve purchased, others are petitioning Microsoft to bring back digital sharing. It should be remembered, though, that anyone can play your digital games on your console.