UPDATE: Borrow an Xbox One Game, Pay Full Price to Play?


Update II: In a statement to Polygon, Microsoft representatives have characterized Harrison’s statements (see below) as “potential scenarios.” The company’s response is as follows:

“While Phil [Harrison] discussed many potential scenarios around games on Xbox One, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.”

UPDATE: Two new developments have shed further light on this issue, though the situation is still far from clear. The first is an article posted by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier containing quotes from Microsoft Corporate Vice President Phil Harrison. It explains how the initial game installation process will work:

“Here’s how the system works: when you buy an Xbox One game, you’ll get a unique code that you enter when you install that game. You’ll have to connect to the Internet in order to authorize that code, and the code can only be used once. Once you use it, that game will then be linked to your Xbox Live account.’It sits on your hard-drive and you have permission to play that game as long as you’d like,” Harrison said.”

Other users on the console will be able to play that game as well, Harrison said. So you don’t need to buy multiple games per family. ‘With the built-in parental controls of the system it is shared among the users of the device,’ he said.

So far, so good, though the use of the word “permission” to describe the personal use of a consumer product is certainly problematic. More worrying is Harrison’s description of the system that will govern lending or borrowing games. In a nutshell, Xbox One games — even those that come in a box, on a disc — will work like downloadable titles currently do for the Xbox 360. They will be available to any user on the original console, but only to the original purchaser on any other console. The days of simply swapping discs are over. According to a statement posted by Xbox LIVE Director of Programming Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb on his personal site, “should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile [emphasis mine].”

Should your friend want to play the game while you’re not there, though, there will definitely be a fee: he or she will have to pay full price to unlock the game. Per Harrison: “The bits that are on that disc, you can give it to your friend and they can install it on an Xbox One…they would then have to purchase the right to play that game through Xbox Live…it will be the same price [you paid for the game].”

Harrison and Hyrb also perpetuated the confusion about used games on the Xbox One. According to Harrison, Microsoft “will have a solution — we’re not talking about it today — for you to be able to trade your previously-played games online.” Contrast that with Hyrb’s statement: “today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail [emphasis mine].”

So which is it? Online? Or retail? Or both? And more to the point: how will this system actually work? Schreier speculated that “once you’re done with a game, you can trade the code online and it will be erased from your machine.” Whether or not this is true, his follow-up questions are on point: “But what will you get? Other games? Microsoft Points?” Nobody knows, and, for today, Microsoft isn’t saying.

Microsoft’s big Xbox One reveal wasn’t exactly a smashing success. But despite the tepid reaction to the actual announcement event, there’s one aspect of the new console likely to provoke outrage: the possible inclusion of an built-in “online-pass” system that could have a huge effect on the way games — and especially used games — are played on the machine.

The information was obtained by Wired writer Chris Kohler, who published an analysis of the console on the magazine’s Game Life blog. Here’s the money quote:

“Wired asked Microsoft if installation would be mandatory. ‘On the new Xbox, all game discs are installed to the HDD to play,’ the company responded in an emailed statement. Sounds mandatory to us.

What follows naturally from this is that each disc would have to be tied to a unique Xbox Live account, else you could take a single disc and pass it between everyone you know and copy the game over and over. Since this is clearly not going to happen, each disc must then only install for a single owner.

Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.

But what if a second person simply wanted to put the disc in and play the game without installing – and without paying extra? In other words, what happens to our traditional concept of a “used game”? This is a question for which Microsoft did not yet have an answer, and is surely something that game buyers (as well as renters and lenders) will want to know.”

After Kohler’s story was published by Wired, Microsoft posted an FAQ on the official XBox site that included this exchange:

Q: Will Xbox One allow players to trade in, purchase and play pre-owned games?
A: We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later

One wonders why such a delay is necessary, especially since Matt Hill, deputy editor of the UK magazine T3, claims to have those details, directly from a Microsoft source:

At this point, all we have to go on is a mix of very vague Microsoft statements and conjecture. It’s hard to account for the discrepancy between the Wired story and Hill’s reporting, and it won’t be possible until Microsoft explains exactly how this system works. Is there a fee to add a second licensed user, or not? The cloud-based license transfers that Hill describes will require intense scrutiny; as things stand, they’re a technological convenience tantamount to magic.

Game Front has reached out to Microsoft for comment on this developing story, in the hopes of getting clarification that goes beyond the answer posted in the FAQ. Given the events of the day, further comment might be long in coming, but this article will be updated as soon as new information becomes available.

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20 Comments on UPDATE: Borrow an Xbox One Game, Pay Full Price to Play?


On May 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

This is certainly the most confusing part since it seems that the idea of paying to add a second user runs contrary to being able to maintain the traditional used game market. Like Ben said, there would need to be a lot of scrutiny if used games continue because I can imagine a lot of people reselling a new game quickly, and not self-reporting that they no longer owned it. I would guess that the second purchaser would get a message that the copy is already registered and they will either have to pay the extra fee to be another user, or file a report with MS to try to force the other person to deactivate it. I would guess that MS would then threaten to suspend that person’s Live account if they didn’t comply. Of course, this assumes that the second person legitimately bought the used copy and isn’t simply trying to get out of the fee. And even if it was legitimately purchased, that second person would have to wait however long it takes for the game to be made available. That person could end up sitting on an unplayable game for quite some time.

Mr Flibble

On May 21, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Aside from the issue this brings with used games, I can see the requirement to install games being a hindrance for the player.

Moving up to Blu ray technology Xbox One games will be able to be larger, about 5x larger. Having a single game take up as much as 50gb, and only having a 500gb HD to work with, that means players would only be able to have ten games installed on their system at any one time. Want to play another game? Well, you’ll have to decide which of your games you want to delete and then wait for the new game to install.

This was one of the major complaints players had with the PS3 (having to sit through a 10-15 minute install process before being able to play their newly purchased games) and so for Microsoft to make this already-proven-to-annoy-players process a necessity on their next-gen system really doesn’t make much sense.


On May 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

RJ, you’re completely right. It seems like they should either just leave the 2nd hand games market alone, or risk a ton of self-inflicted injury (losing customers to PC or Sony) or burdens. I, for one, see this as the biggest make or break deal now that it seems like “Always-Online” won’t be as big of an issue as previously thought… And hopefully it stays that way.
Microsoft seems to be walking a pretty thin line right now, and they’re playing it with the classic marketing strategies now.


On May 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

And what if someone doesn’t have an internet connection? They can’t do everything via cloud…


On May 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

The way I see it, “always online” may not be a huge issue for much of the developed world but systems like these are not just for these markets. The internet does is not available for instance in Canada there’s a very large amount of territory that can not get internet service is any capacity. Purchasing an “always online” system for people who are in this boat or countries with heavily capped internet usage will be very slow adopters or simply avoid the purchase all together. It’s a slipper slope once you take into account some of the broader based issues, including server vulnerability.

Mr Flibble

On May 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Ahh looks like we can play a game while it’s installing, so forget that bit.

The whole thing seems odd. What if you install a game and give it to your friend then don’t go back online? Will they be prevented from playing the game until your system goes online to disable it on yours?


On May 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Microsoft is bringing their experience with convoluted enterprise licensing to video games? Prepare for mass consumer revolt.


On May 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Too confusing, too stupid. I was considering an Xbox this time around but this is all just dumb. I’ll stick with my PC and skip this whole console generation if they’re both doing this as stupid as this.


On May 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Nice way to encourage mod chipping.


On May 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Five bucks says FutureShop/EB Games/GameStop will not be accepting Xbox One games for trade-in because of this.

I would not be surprised if retailers also treat them like PC game, a Final Sale with no return of refund.


On May 21, 2013 at 10:58 pm

In my country, it’s illegal for someone to steal the use of a product you bought legitemately. Microsoft, were I do buy your console, and with your anti-consumer condescending bullsh!t that will not happen, if you denied me the use of a product I bought I would sue you. And win. Because the law. This is what it’s come to Microsoft, you think you are able to dictate terms to your customers; the source of your livelihood. It is not so. I’ll go with Sony (or skip this console generation entirely, of course).


On May 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Note: In my post above I refer to Microsoft’s claim that it has the right to give me “permission” to use a product I bought. This implies it can take it away. That isn’t the case in Australia, and if it were, I would simply buy any PC game or perhaps Sony game. That way I actually get what the h3ll I paid for. See Microsoft? You’ve made yourselves impossible to purchase from. Know what that means?


On May 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm


You might be right. Until we hear more, it sure sounds like a scenario where the used games stores could be sitting on a bunch of discs that can’t really be used. Would they need to keep track of who sells a game to them in case the next person can’t use the disc? Would they have to somehow verify each trade in to make sure it was properly deactivated? I could easily see stores deciding it is simply too much of a hassle to potentially get wrapped up in a bunch of customer complaints resulting from unusable discs.

A lot of what I’m reading about this machine doesn’t sound good, and now MS is backpedaling by saying the statements were potential scenarios. Even if that is the case, it looks bad to have an executive saying things on announcement day, and then immediately having to enter damage control mode. Either have firm details to share, or don’t say anything until you have those details. Sony might not have said very much about the PS4, but that also meant that there wasn’t much reason for anyone to be worried.


On May 22, 2013 at 3:58 am

PSVita has a similar sort of ‘remove license from one console, put it on another’ thing for pre-owned games, so that in itself isn’t too bad. However, you’re unlikely to lend someone a Vita game anyway since you can play it across consoles via Wifi/3G. You’re far more likely to lend a game to someone for a home console, so the idea of losing the license to that game just because a friend wants to play it is frankly scary. Even worse is the idea of having to pay a fee to play it on another console – Vita doesn’t do that.

But don’t worry, I’m sure ‘lol’ will arrive soon to tell us that we’re idiots for expecting ethics and pointing to some vague terms on an instruction booklet somewhere as evidence that we “have” to do as we’re told.


On May 22, 2013 at 6:08 am

Profit through obscurity! My five cents? Microsoft will continue to vomit forth hundreds of contradicting statements on the really important stuff until right before or until launch. Why? Because it’s going to be as bad as we expected, this generation will fully bastardize the gaming industry and the hobby. They’ll keep consumers in the dark and aim for a RE: Rac City sales victory. Even though it’s AWFUL, millions will go out and buy it day one either because they don’t know due to the time it takes for knowledge of a bad product to disperse among the population or because they lack an understanding of the value of money and don’t care.


On May 22, 2013 at 8:06 am

What a comedy of errors from Microsoft and this whole launch of the One (or is it Xbox One…?). Seriously, Sony must be either watching from the curtains laughing or dreading their own launch having made the same mistakes (and thats what they are) that Microsoft has made here.

We wanted a games console that will take gaming into the next generation and will look amazing and play amazing. MS wants to give us a jack-of-all-trades VHS box that is part games console and a combination of everything thats wrong with the games industry in the present.

Looks like i’m sticking with my old, noisy and a little ropey Xbox 360 lol.

Mr Glassback

On May 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Another thing confuses me, from what’s been said I understand that if you buy a game, install it to your xbox one, then give the disc to a friend, he will then be able to install it for an online fee equivalent to the retail price of the game. So not only is the used games market taking a hit, normal retailers are too. Theoretically, you could pass one game disc between all your mates with only one retail sale occurring. So why would retail outlets even bother using shelf space?
None of anything makes sense and I’m starting to wonder if that was the plan.


On May 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm

For the first time in my life I really do not see me getting the new Xbox console.
With the train wreck that is Windows 8, The crappy Windows Phones and now a new console that isn’t even appealing I am starting to wonder if Microsoft even has a future.


On May 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

@Mr Glassback

I don’t get that part, either. About all I can figure is maybe they think people will want to get their own copies just in case, or if it costs full price anyway, people might decide that they’d rather have their own copy since MS is striking a blow against the idea of even borrowing a game. But yeah, if MS is going to possibly cut into sales like this, I don’t know why a retailer would stock as many copies as they have before.


On May 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

This marks the end of XBox. Its a damn stupid idea. The Xbox One is going to be an Epic Failure. They will sell a few at first, and then they won’t be able to give the damn things away. If Sony is smart, they won’t pull this same B.S. with the PS 4, and they can own the console gaming market. I know I won’t but one. From the reaction I am seeing about 1 out of 10 gamer’s will buy a XBox One, and that is a conservative estimate.
Damn Microsoft, did you bother to do any market research on this at all?