Microsoft's Harrison explains Xbox One's online requirements

Corporate vice president explains internet connections, pre-owned and sharing discs

Microsoft's Phil Harrison has attempted to clarify the new Xbox One's online requirements after last night's big console reveal left audiences confused about restrictions on sharing games, pre-owned games and whether or not it requires a constant link to the internet.

"The bits [of a game] that are on the disc, I can give to anybody else, but if we both want to play it at the same time, we both have to own it. That's no different to how discs operate today," the corporate vice president of Microsoft told Eurogamer last night.

"I can come to your house and I can put the disc into your machine and I can sign in as me and we can play the game."

It seems that Microsoft is essentially aiming for a built-in online pass system, but with sharing between profiles on one machine, sharing via a single profile that can be used across different machines, but a charge for a new profile to use it on a new machine.

"The bits are on your hard drive. At the end of the play session, when I take my disc home - or even if I leave it with you - if you want to continue to play that game [on your profile] then you have to pay for it. The bits are already on your hard drive, so it's just a question of going to our [online] store and buying the game, and then it's instantly available to play."

He wouldn't say much about what this will mean for the thriving pre-owned market, only that Microsoft did have a plan for that particular area.

"We will have a system where you can take that digital content and trade a previously played game at a retail store. We're not announcing the details of that today, but we will have announced in due course."

He also attempted to clarify the online requirements of the box itself, dismissing rumours of a need for a constant connection.

"Some bits of the system will work offline. I think the key point to make is that Xbox One requires an internet connection, but it does not need to be connected all the time. We think that most of the biggest games on Xbox One and most of the games and experiences and services you want to use will be internet-connected."

Read full coverage of the Xbox One console reveal here.

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Latest comments (14)

Oh wow. It *really is* as bad as people feared.

I can't see how there can be any form of retail "second-hand" sales for this console. Its all digital.
I bought a 360 because a friend lent/gave me a stack of games he was done with. This is basically impossible on this console.

Also with the system he is describing, I can't see how you can launch any game without being online. So while its not "always connected", it does mean you can't play games without an internet connection (unless I'm missing something....).

I sincerely hope Sony isn't making the same mistake.
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Alex Bunch Proof Reader, ZiCorp Studios7 years ago
They are doing what they and publishers want and completely forgetting it's the consumers that will actual buy this abomination, or not.
It used to be that Sony would do all the PR necessary for people to want to buy a 360. Seems the tide has changed.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
I read this into the comments so far:

(1) Anybody can install a game from any disc. Meaning Microsoft does not require a copy protection for the disc itself.

(2) The game is somehow linked to an account and verified from time to time via Internet. Compare Steam. login and use your games anywhere in the world on any machine.

(3) If you bring your disc to Gamestop, it is worthless. The part which had any worth is now linked to your account. You are not losing that because you give up the disc.

(4) Sure, you can sell a game now. However, not to Gamestop, but only to Microsoft. They need to disable the copy, where before you "disabled" your copy by handing over the disc.

(5) Gamestop can still offer trade-ins, but they need to cooperate with Microsoft. Gamestop no longer has its own used game operation, instead they have become a point of sale for Microsoft's used game scheme.

(6) Steam could do the same. They could offer you store credit and in exchange disable a game on your account. Why would they need Gamestop for that?

In essence, Microsoft has put a nice wall around Gamestop's business model. Gamestop might still earn some money, but the bulk will now go to Microsoft. in long term, Microsoft will ask itself why it would ever buy back something and instead just discount the game directly. Remember, discs are worthless, you can copy them if need be and just buy a Keycard. Microsoft does that aggressively with other of their products, e.g. Office 13.

I live in a city, I do not mind being online. But the idea still goes against the idea of "broadest audience possible". Particularly since Europe has no shortage of teenagers whose parents like to live in suburbs and small villages with bad to non-existing Internet connections. I also see the problem of lending games in such a system. Sure, the backend support me "gifting" a game to you, either permanently or on a timer. But me and you are not the problem. The scary thing for MS is if people start to do this on a Facebook scale. Digital media being lent to each other digitally. That is bad for sales right there.

I also look over to the PS3, where I log onto the machine of a friend, download a game and can then have him play with his account. Sure, it does not maximize profits. Sure, we always hail XBL as the Jesus Christ of online. But kudos to Sony, they figured this one out long ago and with no shitstorm.
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Show all comments (14)
Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 7 years ago
I am a bit sceptical about the consumer rights being even more limited on the next gen consoles. That's what I think is the real issue here.

However, I am not that sorry for the used games retail market taking a hit if MS can still find a reasonable way to trade old games/content with new games/content. I haven't done any trade-ins since I traded in The Neverhood and some other game for a new game back in the day (I still had to pay for the damn game). I've regretted that ever since.

My point is, why should Gamestop be able to sell the same product twice at the consumer's expense? Those trades are not consumer-friendly. Yes, the industry still need stores to sell their games, but consumers are rarely rewarded for their loyalty.

I think one of the things MS and Sony need to work on, is creating not just more value for money in the short term, but also give value in the long term. And I'm not just talking dlc's or in-game items here.

With all the limitations connected to software, games and films today, ownership is really only an extended rental period. For how long are consumers willing to pay a premium for a rental? I've seen people go from playing good games to playing shitty games just because they are free. If people are willing to waste their time on a bad quality product just because they are fed up with all the arrogance and complexity that comes with owning a high-quality product, how's that going to affect the industry? Are we really going back to the future on this one?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Petter Solberg on 22nd May 2013 5:24pm

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Mariusz Szlanta Senior Producer, Natural Motion7 years ago
I'm all for digital 2nd-hand market operated by platform holder as long as it's flexible and allows for easy sell/buy transactions between end-users. It will essentially be license transferring.

Having said that, is MSFT going to share rather significant profits with 3rd parties and developers?

Nothing can replace volume and activity of people trading freely even Steam heavy discounts but how disappointing it would be if MSFT would just try to take place of retailers rather than build healthy relation with content providers.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises7 years ago
That's slightly re-assuring, but doesn't answer everything.

Say you've brought your Xbox One to the cottage, and don't have an internet connection. Will it let you play your currently installed games? Will it also let you play a brand new game?

I like that you can play your games on other consoles if you login with your profile. I don't really care if GameStop gets hurt, their business model is pretty shady anyway...
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
So an online connection is required? Seriously.... the more i hear about this system the more I dislike it.
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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 7 years ago
Say you've brought your Xbox One to the cottage, and don't have an internet connection. Will it let you play your currently installed games? Will it also let you play a brand new game?
Good point. Because bringing your console to the cottage is really the only way to play a horror game. Unless, of course, your cottage happens to be a mansion with 50 servants. In which case you would probably have internet access anyway.
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@klaus: i believe you have it.

And i think a web connection is always needed to start any game. Without one there is no logging into an account. Then anyone could install a game, kill the web and run it.

The simplest way for Ms to make all this work is to include in each retail box a one-off activation code. However if they can some how make every disc unique. .. this could actually be a cool
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... system. But there would be no easy way to know if a disc is active or not.. .

Some other thoughts:
- npd struggles to accurate tracking of sales but this will make it impossible. Only a fraction of normal units now need to be shipped as physical copies are shared. Ms will know exactly how many activations there have been of course.

- account security will be more important than ever. If an account gets hacked not only can someone play your games.. . They could sell them!

Really the XO is a digital only console. Like the PSPGo but linked to an account and requiring a web connection. And allowing installation from physical media.
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I like it! It means a more constant revenue stream to us game devs. Can also guarantee a better resale value at the end.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 7 years ago
@ Tamas - It'll be interesting to see if these measures actually result in an increased revenue for developers or not. That's been one of the arguments surrounding used-games retailing for a long time now. If this is implemented in 100% of game releases on XBox One then we can see whether people will still be able to buy more copies as well.... Not to mention that if PS4 doesn't go down the same path we'll get to see whether the market prefers one implementation over the other or not and revenues based on % console install base.

We'll also get to see resale value offered to customers as well as movement on the average game price for customers as well...

It's potentially a very interesting experiment - depending on how things shake out.

I'm not on board myself but I've seen people who already are chomping at the bit for the One.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 23rd May 2013 1:35pm

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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
You can dress it up as much as you want... ITS DRM ... ITS DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGMENT full swing.... ITS DEEE ARRREEE EEEMMMM!!!! Its not anything else!!!!
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game7 years ago
They could look at the Kindle lending approach, where (publisher allowing for Kindle) you can lend a game for a fixed time period, once to any one person, in which time you can't use it. This seemed genius to me. I can still lend a book, a quick reader may finish it in 2 weeks, anyone else knows that if they are still interested after 2 weeks, it is good enough to buy. And I can get it back without them sticking it in a cupboard for 3 years.

Microsoft really need to approach this the way Amazon do, put the consumer first.
If I get someone elses disc, and activate it, technically that is a digital sale (with download time reduced), with Microsoft's track record on Xbox or PC (check Age of Empires 3 pricing on GFWL), this means they will charge you more to do this than to go and buy another disc.
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