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.