We’re finally had time to peruse and digest all the information that’s been made available about the Xbox One and its associated policies and services. There’s a lot to like, but far more to be very, very concerned about. The backlash against this console might resemble the first wave of Windows 8 complaints in its magnitude, but this time there’s some very real cause for concern.
The Used Games Situation
The system itself is about what most people expected. It is basically a digital delivery setup that can also install games from discs. Everything needs to be installed in order to play. That alone would be enough to upset people particularly attached to the used game market. A lot of these moves seem calculated to cut businesses like GameStop down a notch or two.
They are making the transition from games as a tangible object that you can do what you’d like with into a situation where game discs are simply storage for installers and the game itself is treated as licensed software. We’ve seen the same move made successfully in the PC arena by Valve with the Steam platform, but PC games have never really enjoyed a robust secondary market so the blowback here is likely to remain extreme.
Microsoft has tried to cut down on concerns in a couple ways.
Any user can log into their account via any Xbox One and have access to their entire game catalog. There will be no titles that are not available for digital delivery, so instant access any time you want it is assured.
In-home sharing will be allowed. There is some ambiguity on this point, but it seems that either every game will have a home console or a console can be keyed as a particular user’s home device. Whichever it is, any user of that console will be able to access the games installed on it even if that user is just visiting or is not logged in to the game’s associated account.
Family sharing will also be allowed. Up to ten family members can be designated who are able to access your game library. Every title you own will be available to these people, though the wording of the announcement seems to indicate that only one person besides you will be able to access your library at a given time.
Reselling and game gifting will still exist, but they will be drastically altered.
In order to resell a game, retailers must be part of an as-yet undefined program with Microsoft. Participating retailers will be able to pay a fee to unlock games that are traded in so that they are able to be resold. This is basically (though on a larger scale) taking EA’s game codes concept and forcing the GameStop to deal with it instead of leaving the end user to discover extra fees when they get home.
The problems with that are fairly obvious. Retailers will have to opt-in, meaning that many smaller stores will likely have trouble. We don’t know what fees or technology requirements will be in place to participate either. The fees to deactivate used games will themselves drive down the trade-in incentives and drive up used game prices.
More importantly, the ability to resell will be completely at the publisher’s discretion. Microsoft is passing this off as simply enabling the game producers to do whatever they want and therefore tries to miss out on the blame, but there are likely to be whole franchises that are suddenly impossible to find used at any price.
You will, fortunately, be able to pass games around among friends. This will be sharply limited compared to what you’re used to, though.
Each game can only be given away once. The second owner is stuck with it. Presumably they will still be able to sell it to a used game store, if any of them will take it, but that’s the only option when a game is no longer desired.
Gifts can also only be handed out to people who have been a part of your friends list for at least 30 days. Nobody is allowed to be nice to a new friend or somebody who just got their first Xbox.
This just covers the most pressing of the pre-reveal concerns about the Xbox One. In Part 2 we’ll be looking at the interesting and invasive privacy situation. Check back soon.