When Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One the reaction was split into two camps due to the details surrounding a new DRM system. The new console would need an “always on” internet connection so that games you owned could be checked to ensure you hadn’t transferred ownership to someone else. Your Xbox One would do a check every 24 hours and if you were playing on another console every hour. It also meant that if you had a physical disc you couldn’t loan, sell or give it away unless the publisher allowed the transfer of that game.
Those that want to buy pre-owned copies or trade-in unwanted games have been very vocal and I have a friend who will be buying a Playstation 4, despite being an Xbox owner since the beginning, because of this. I can certainly understand this opinion but anyone who has moved away from books to a Kindle have had to come to terms with this new digital age. It’s important to note that with these negatives come some very important positives.
With the Xbox One it was going to be possible to play disc based games (which would be automatically copied to the hard drive upon inserting the disc) without ever inserting the disc into the console again unlike you have to do with the Xbox 360 if you had manually copied the game to the hard drive. It also meant that your game library was stored in the “cloud” so you could play a game you owned on disc at a friends house without taking the disc with you. You could also share your digital game library with up to 10 “family” members (they didn’t actually have to be family) and I believe that 2 of those could even play the game on another console while you were also playing it.
Unfortunately Microsoft have heard the negative feedback and today announced a U-turn on this new digital age. Don Mattrick, President, Interactive Entertainment Business, explains the impact in his blog post:
So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:
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.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.
Yes, they are reverting back to the old Xbox 360 system and this has a massive impact on the game sharing as Mattrick goes on to explain (emphasis mine):
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.
While this will be seen as a victory for those who were crying out against this bold new world I am really disappointed because the way the Xbox 360 works is really frustrating. I really dislike that a game I’ve copied to the hard drive I still have to go get the disc off the shelf just to play it. It’s for this reason that I’ve started purchasing games via the Xbox Marketplace and Games-on-Demand but then it means my kids can’t play games round at a friends house unless the friend also owns it.
All this actually makes the Xbox One less appealing for me. I do hope that Microsoft listens to people like me, who where happy with the new DRM limitations because of the benefits, and make one last policy change to allow the digital limitations to be opt-in for people like me.