After much consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to have to buy the next Xbox. It wasn’t really a tough decision, to be honest. CheatCC has no central office, so I’ll need one for work. It also has Forza, which I
want "need". However, at the risk of sounding alarmist and reactionary, as of this moment I can’t, in good conscience, tell anyone to buy Microsoft’s next flagship console.
There has been a fair bit of confusion around the extremely simple concepts of used games and an always-online console. Used games are often cited as the force behind many of the industry’s woes. They’re portrayed as a profit-stealing evil that robs publishers and developers alike of any and all income. In an earlier article, we cited a study conducted by Gameasure that disproves that assertion categorically, but no one wants to hear about that.
Since a certain company may believe used-game sales threaten to bring an end to the video game industry as a whole, Microsoft is keen to put an end to the nuisance. Or it isn’t. We can’t really tell because their inability to answer simple questions directly is worthy of public office. In an interview with Revision3’s Adam Sessler (partially transcribed below), Matt Booty faced questions about always-online and Microsoft’s used-games policy for Xbox One. The amount of positioning and verbal gyration that took place was thoroughly disconcerting:
Adam Sessler (AS)– Now that brings us to what is probably the greater concern for the core gamers out there, which is the notion of always-online. That really wasn't addressed specifically in the presentation today. Is there any sort of clarity as to whether or not you have to have a persistent Internet connection, or just an Internet connection that offers sort of a handshake to just kind of verify that there is something connected to the Internet?
Matt Booty (MB) – Yeah that's another topic where there's been a bunch of stuff flying around and I would probably look to what our official update through the day is. What I'll say is that we definitely designed Xbox One to take advantage of everything that the Internet has to offer. And everything that being ready and connected can bring. So in terms of automatic updates, in terms of expanded content, obviously multiplayer, online play, the power of the Cloud. These are all the great advantages of the Internet. I think we've gotten a little hung up today on some of the details, and is it two minutes or two hours, and I like to think more about all the advantages of that an Internet connected device are going to bring to a console.
AS – I mean so if you are to sort of look at it, in terms of the idea—and I think there was a memo out there maybe a couple of weeks ago—if you have a truly solitary single-player experience, would that require an Internet connection?
MB – …In the absence of any Internet connection you're going to be able to play Blu-ray movies, and there are likely to be some game modes that you'll be able to continue to play. But again, the Xbox One was really designed to take advantage of the modern era where people have got high-speed Internet, where it's just all the advantages it brings in terms of the Cloud, knowing what your friends are doing, online play and everything else that goes along with having an Internet connection.
Always-online, as a concept, is not that complicated. It’s not as if he asked Matt to explain the basics of quantum physics in thirty seconds or less, a great recipe for Beef Wellington, or the firing order of a six-cylinder boxer engine. It’s almost as if Microsoft’s PR team has been taking pointers from the well-oiled PR team over at Nintendo.
During the video, Booty also stumbles his way through the topic of used games. The only proper conclusion that can be drawn from the apparent confusion and clarified statements is this: The Xbox One will not play used games in the same way every other console before it has, and the PR team hasn’t yet come up with a rosy way of saying that. Nor have they figured out how to portray the console’s lack of offline play in a positive light. They’d probably prefer it if we’d just drop the whole subject altogether.
Which is why we won’t.
E3 2013 begins on the 11th of June, a full two weeks from now. Surely that’s more than enough time to offer up a concise answer to a few simple questions: Does Xbox One play used games? Will consumers have to pay an extra fee to have access to pre-owned games, even if borrowed? Will gamers be able to experience single-player games without an Internet connection? It seems we may already have answers to a few of these questions. We can further infer the answers to a few others. Still, there isn’t any reason Microsoft can’t answer these questions clearly themselves.
The questions and the non-answers on offer only give rise to further questions and wild speculations: If used games are out, will Xbox One games be priced competitively? Will I have to pay a penalty for buying a used game? If so, how much will it cost? Will the fee be required for a borrowed game or rental? If I move to an area with little to no Internet connectivity, will I be able to play the games I’ve already purchased?
The Xbox One reveal wasn’t all bad. Nevertheless, these issues encompassing consumer rights and the accepted norms of the entertainment industry, as a whole, should be addressed without fail before a massive fallout of the core audience occurs. Until then, as a gamer and a consumer, I can’t recommend making plans to purchase the Xbox One. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update the article when/if we hear back. Stay tuned to CheatCC for more on Xbox One and all issues next-gen!
Microsoft has just provided the answers we’ve been looking for. Xbox LIVE’s Larry Hryb today posted details on Xbox One’s used games policy as well as its rumored always-online policy. There are many, many paragraphs to be scrutinized but the ones that are interesting in the context of this article are these:
Trade-in and resell your disc-based games: Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit. We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.
Give your games to friends: Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.
While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection.
So there you have it. Xbox One will play used games provided the publisher of said game thinks it’s a good idea, and you only have to be online once every 24 hours if you don’t want your console to self-destruct or something. So, should you purchase the next Xbox? In my opinion, no. Don’t bother with the next PlayStation either if Sony decides to employ anti-consumer tech under the guise of anti-piracy or whatever the next industry scapegoat turns out to be.
As always, stay tuned to CheatCC for all of your next-gen news.