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Microsoft Removes Xbox One Online Requirements, Used Game Restrictions

Call it the Xbox One Eighty. Microsoft, in a clearly stated press release, has decided to reverse its positions and strip nearly all of its online requirements for single player, offline games and restrictions on used games sales. I wrote earlier on its draconian DRM, telling you not to buy it until they radically revamped its infrastructure and licensing design. I’m not necessarily suggesting you go out and pre-order the Xbox One, I’m just not telling you not to. Yeah… moving on!

Basically, it’s a good ol’ console again, just like it should have been in the first place. Here’s the facts, straight from Microsoft’s Xbox website:

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  • An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
  • Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

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Xbox One will also no longer be region-locked, which means The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Polish-based team CD Projekt RED can actually play their game in their home country. Military personnel and those abroad will not be restricted from playing the Xbox One at all. Also, you can still purchase all retail games digitally, and after install, play them without an internet connection, on their launch day.

Wow.

This is a stunning about-face based solely on the flood of bad press, Tweets, comments, and confusion about how the Xbox One was essentially trying to demolish disc-based game ownership and usher in the Dark Lords of Always-Online. After their humiliation at E3, the lackluster pre-order numbers, and the cold facts staring them in the face, Microsoft has bowed to the will of its fan base. It looked at its bottom line and saw an ocean of red waiting for them. Pretty existential huh, kids?! Poetry stuff!

What’s not changing is that you’ll still need to have a Gold membership to access multiplayer, streaming services, and other internet content. Used game DRM is still left up to publishers, but I doubt any will go for it. Kinect is still required, but since you don’t have to be online, I’m less concerned about privacy. Also, dev still can’t self-publish. It’s not all gravy.

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What We Lose

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Since Microsoft is demolishing its licensing model in favor of disc ownership, you can no longer do the following:

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

The “family sharing” policy previously allowed you to add 10 people to a special list where they could access your entire Xbox One library at no cost. That was a genuinely progressive feature, not shared by any other digital service. That’s gone now. Also, as you can see, no digital resales. No more digital resales is a bummer, but I’ll happily trade that small caveat for the convenience of being able to play a disc-less game anywhere I want. The family sharing was a cool idea though, and I’d like to see Microsoft revisit the idea in a happy medium. Say, for any new game purchased digitally. The person can still be required to be your friend for 30 days, and I’d be okay with less friends on your list (like 5 instead of 10). Just because this isn’t going to be at launch, doesn’t mean it’s not going to resurface. Rumors have stated digital resales are coming to Steam, which would provide a valuable test-bed for consoles to copy.

There’s also going to be a day-one patch for the system. No word on how big this patch will be. You’ll still need to connect your Xbox One to the internet once anywhere to register it with Microsoft. All of the development work done for Xbox One’s DRM infrastructure, potentially thousands of work-hours, has now gone to waste.

Big whoop. Good riddance. They flushed a gigantic turd down the toilet, and I’m expected to be sad about the lingering smell? Sorry, not going to happen.

Microsoft took a hard slap, and we delivered that hit nice and clean across their smug face. The message was loud and clear: “If I buy a physical disc, I own it. Period.” For all my raving and ranting about how shitty the Xbox One licensing model was here at ScreenInvasion.com and on Twitter, I’m actually genuinely glad Microsoft actually listened to their fans. Repeat, a multi-billion dollar company reversed their entire flagship product infrastructure because we said in a big, loud, angry voice: “no.” The original Xbox One licensing policy was an insanely anti-consumer Frankenstein, shambling along desperately grasping at anything to justify its abomination of an existence. We lost some nice perks, but gained back something much more fundamental.

This wasn’t because Microsoft felt forced because Sony won the PR pissing contest at E3. That’s a small part of it, and I’m not spreading that narrative at all. They did this because of the fans. Because of you. Thumbs up, Internet.

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The Author

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte is the Video Games Editor of ScreenInvasion.com: a class warrior poet who writes about all things video games. He's sure everything is not under control and is not going to be okay. For a good time, follow his angry rants and smart thoughts on Twitter: @carlwilhoyte.