UPDATE: Xbox One Revealed: Confused, Conflicted Talk About DRM


For complete Xbox One coverage today: follow Game Front on Twitter for live-tweets during the reveal, and stay tuned to gamefront.com for full coverage and analysis.


UPDATE 4:20 PM: Confused and conflicted statements keep coming out of Microsoft concerning always-on DRM and sharing of games. See below for more.

After more than seven years (not to mention many long months of clumsy teasing), we have at long last come to the end of the Xbox 360 era. Today Microsoft officially unveiled their new Xbox console, a device the Redmond, Washington Giant has opted to call Xbox One, putting to rest “Xbox” and “Xbox Infinity” rumors while managing to leave observers feeling much like they’d eaten at a banquet and still came away hungry.

Questions Unanswered, Rumors Stoked

The culmination of weeks of overwrought promotion cleverly parodied by this fake twitter account, today’s presentation was widely mocked for its lack of substantial information and a heavy reliance on a constant stream of marketing-speak. No launch date was given aside from “later this year”, and once again nothing was said about how much the thing will cost. But particularly glaring was the total failure by Microsoft to address the biggest controversies surrounding the new system: the rumored always-on connectivity requirement, and the rumored requirement that every game must be installed to the system’s hard drive.

Those omissions came as a surprise given the public relations black eye Microsoft endured weeks ago, when the rumors first arose. But if Microsoft was mum during the presentation, it was likely because it hoped the truth would be obscured by a cacophony of PR jargon. The company’s official Xbox One Q&A offers this tortured response to the question:

Q: Does Xbox One require an “always on” Internet connection?
A: No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet. We’re designing Xbox One to be your all-in-one entertainment system that is connected to the cloud and always ready. We are also designing it so you can play games and watch Blu-ray movies and live TV if you lose your connection.

I’m not going to lie: This response is functionally nonsense. But if we had to guess, it probably means you’ll have to perform some kind of online verification, but won’t lose your game if the internet goes out. This is, of course, still bullshit, but a far less noxious form of it. What makes things weird, however, is that Microsoft granted both Wired and The Verge access to Xbox One prior to the start of this morning’s event. Wired is reporting the system will not require a persistent Internet connection, without the caveat in Microsoft’s answer above. Consider this mystery still firmly unsolved.

Microsoft has at least confirmed the rumor that Xbox One does require full installation of each game. This requirement has some troubling implications: while an individual copy of a given game can be installed for free one time, players must apparently pay to install that copy on any additional system. This explains why Electronic Arts recently announced an end to its unpopular online pass system – Microsoft is going to do it for them.

Microsoft has said outright that the system will not prevent used games from being played, welcome news for cash-strapped gamers in a rough economy. But multiple details about this aspect of the system are in need of serious clarification. For example, OXM is reporting that once you sell a copy of a game, by unspecified means Microsoft will deactivate it from your system so that the used purchaser won’t have to pay to unlock it. At the same time, so they say, games will be locked to a single user, and that you will have to pay a fee to lend the game to someone else. This suggests Xbox One might require people in the same household, using the same device, to pay extra to use the same copy of a game. That such disrespect for the consumer would be built into a sure-to-be expensive system sounds absurd, so much so that until Microsoft issues official clarification, we have to assume they can’t possibly be that stupid.

UPDATE 3:57 PM: Microsoft is that stupid, apparently. Kotaku is reporting that Microsoft Corporate VP Phil Harrison has told them this is worse than we thought. You cannot lend a game to anyone. In fact, well, this is so crazy we will quote Kotaku in full:

The bits that are on that disc, you can give it to your friend and they can install it on an Xbox One,” he said. “They would then have to purchase the right to play that game through Xbox Live.”

“They would be paying the same price we paid, or less?” we asked.

“Let’s assume it’s a new game, so the answer is yes, it will be the same price,” Harrison said.

If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is crazy. But it gets worse. Harrison also confirmed that Xbox does require a persistent Internet connection. The device must, according to Harrison, connect to the internet at least once a day or it will stop working. Essentially, if your internet goes out you get one day to play until the device is bricked. And if you don’t have Internet access – let’s say you live in a rural area or are in the military – the device will never work for you.

I am still finding it difficult to believe Microsoft could be this stupid. But Harrison’s clarification speaks for itself.

UPDATE 4:20 PM: Microsoft needs to get a f*cking handle on their public comments immediately. Now, Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry Hryb (AKA Major Nelson) has issued the following statement on his professional blog:

We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.

Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.

Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – 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.

See Ben Richardson’s breakdown of the confusion here.

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19 Comments on UPDATE: Xbox One Revealed: Confused, Conflicted Talk About DRM

Lee

On May 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm

After the show, Game Trailers ask about the all online rumor. Guess what, you can play games offline.

Swcloud99

On May 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Am I in some sort of bizaro world where Playstation’s marketing is good and Xbox’s completely misguided?

lol

On May 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

“I’m not going to lie: This is functionally nonsense”

But it works for Steam right? lolol.

Huntsman06

On May 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Giving that there is no “xbox” button on the new controller, it seems safe to say that Microsoft is going for the same touchpad idea that sony came up with.

Also, props to microsoft for actually showing WHAT the console looks like.

Headdesk

On May 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Oh dear, lol. Resorting to saying your ‘name’ twice in order to try and “win” something you clearly don’t understand properly. Please, crawl back to Kotaku.

Ross Lincoln

On May 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Sorry Lol, I meant microsoft’s response. I’ve corrected for clarity.

R.J.

On May 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

@Swcloud

I think that might be the case. At least so far Sony hasn’t said anything that makes me say, “Wait a minute.”

Michael

On May 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm

There is a slight mistake at the end of this article: Microsoft said that there would be 15 exclusive titles WITHIN the first year of its launch, not at the time it comes out.

Anyways, this presentation really didn’t do anything for me. Sony is looking much better this time around in my opinion.

Michael

On May 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

@michael
15 exclusive mean sports games and kinect games mostly.

Xbox Toaster
Xbox Blender
Xbox Toilet
Xbox Coffee
XBox games-?
X-box…Games-Catastrophic Failure

Matt

On May 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Wow, I guess im gonna have to switch back to Sony, how can Microsoft be this stupid?

Axetwin

On May 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I got up about 20 minutes ago and this was practically my first stop because I wanted to know all about the Xbox reveal. I seriously cannot believe Microsoft is going to shoot themselves in the foot like this. This is a MASSIVE mistake.

Now, off to IGN to see how they spin all this as if MS is doing us a favor and all these features are the greatest thing ever.

R.J.

On May 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Note to MS: if you don’t have actual details on a specific aspect of your machine to share, don’t discuss them at all. Potential scenario or not, there is now a decent amount of rather bad sounding information floating out there, and having to do damage control for an executive on announcement day just makes things look worse. It’s not like there wouldn’t have been time to rehearse what was going to be discussed and what was not. People might get frustrated about a lack of information, but saying, “We’re not ready to talk about that” is a lot better than saying something and then trying to take it back.

tinaesmith@teleworm.us

On May 22, 2013 at 12:14 am

LOL…that first guy is screwed, dropping a bomb like that, hope he’s got an updated resume! They aren’t going to say it if they can help it. It sounds like PC DRM, the disk is just the install medium, a key will be tied to an account, the account can move to any device. The real question is how screwed is Gamestop’s business? Microsoft is just the messenger, its the dev/publishers that want this. Will they try and implement some kind of online auth/deauth of keys with fees to make the used game market work? Who takes the hit…gamestop, lol! I can see how trading a game with your buddy works, but $5 or $10 off a used game at Gamestop isn’t going to cut it with activation fees.

jlkawaii

On May 22, 2013 at 2:33 am

WARNING! A “potential” scenario just mean that the feature exist and will (surely) depend of the publisher side. We all already knows the decision from EA….
What we’ll see, i think, is that beetween game wich won’t need the “one by day connection” and those who’ll need “always on connection”, the consumer ‘ll need to be really attentive (just a microscopic line on the box ?)…

jlkawaii

On May 22, 2013 at 2:38 am

Oh and i forgot : with all this, it’s sure i won’t be buying a xbox one. at all. Even if it’s offer to me, i’ll resell it asap.
so in the future console :
.Ps4? i’m waiting at least one year after launch to see where it’ll be gone (remember the discripancy beetween PS3 at launch, and PS3 now…)
.Steam Box ? I already have a pc (midly one) so no.
.Other ? mmmm….

Children of Ben

On May 22, 2013 at 4:05 am

@Ross – why are you apologising to lol the troll? Have you somehow missed his infinite body of other comments that play devil’s advocate for the sake of attention-seeking and winding people up? He’s not a legitimate commenter. I appreciate you’re trying to be diplomatic but all you’re doing is giving him more incentive to continue spamming the site with BS. You should be actively looking to remove his invalid contributions from the site instead of reinforcing them like this.

Matt

On May 22, 2013 at 7:20 am

Whoever’s leading the Xbox One project at Microsoft needs to issue an immediate gag order, and make sure no one (and I mean no one, regardless of their position in the company) speaks to the press or the public about the system until they actually know what they’re talking about. Because otherwise you get situations like this, where Microsoft now has to devote resources to damage control rather than pumping up their new system in the lead up to E3, because even they have no idea what their new system can and cannot do. After twelve years in the home console market, this level of ineptitude is inexcusable.

quicktooth

On May 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Gamefront, I salute your Journalism. THIS is the high quality hard hitting conveying of truths I come here for. I won’t insult myself by commenting on Microsoft any further, though. And why do it! You all are saying everything I could possibly add! I wish every news site was like Gamefront :) .

Dratkin124

On May 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I have always been a huge fan of Microsoft, Xbox, Windows, the whole nine yards. I still to this day play my original Xbox. I am playing Knights of the Old Republic right now. That said I just cannot see me buying this system. It breaks my heart to say this but I am unlikely at least in the near future to buy this thing.
It is funny. I use my 360 almost exclusively for games and the PS3 for entertainment and some games.
This generation they are going to flip flop. PS4 mostly games Xbox One mostly TV.
Don’t get me wrong the “ONE” is cool for controlling all of your TV channels but a console for me should be centered at least 90% around games and games only. I think that to me the PS2/Original Xbox generation are and will likely always be the greatest Console generation of all time.