If you have checked any gaming website in the past two hours, then you won’t have failed to notice that Microsoft have announced an enormous reversal in their policies regarding online gameplay and digital rights management for the Xbox One. In a nutshell, whereas before the Xbox One required you to connect to the internet every 24 hours in order to authenticate games to play and locked games to a single Xbox Live account, Don Mattrick has now confirmed via the official Xbox News website that this won’t be the case after feedback from consumers. The following is quoted directly from the site:
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.
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.
All good news right? Not exactly – in changing their policies in this matter, it now means that the Xbox One will not offer a consistent access to your full game library, and the chance to share games with up to nine “family members” through one account is now not viable. Otherwise, this frankly sensational u-turn from Microsoft can only be welcomed in the short term. As one of my friends has pointed out, healthy competition is good for the industry, and by removing the stuff that most people were up in arms over, some consumers might now be tempted into buying an Xbox One thus preventing the PS4 from racing off into the sunset as it first appeared it might. I suppose Microsoft are due some credit in actually admitting they were wrong and backtracking on DRM and online gameplay (one wonders what it was that caused them to make the decision – was the backlash from E3 hurting their pride that much?), but you still have to be incredulous at the fact that they didn’t expect a negative reaction when the plans were announced.
Some final food for thought – no-one can confirm for sure how far along development of the console is, but you have to assume that some of the basic systems were designed in tune with the original plans. If Microsoft can remove the policies as easily as they have, is there anything stopping them from popping them back in further on down the line?