Yesterday, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One, an all-in-one gaming, er, entertainment console that brings together television, sports, and Call of Duty. Once the announcements were made and the dust had settled, people started getting angry. Why would Microsoft court the enthusiast press — the people whose job it is to inform those who are most likely to be early adopters — for days prior to the event, then only barely mention video games in the reveal of a gaming console?
I’m sure Microsoft wanted to get the business stuff out of the way so they could save the exiciting video game reveals for E3, and I understand that, but their confusing presentation was a very public — and rather spectacular — stumble that’s going to be difficult to recover from.
When asked about the console’s online requirements or the ability to share games with friends, Microsoft’s been dodgy with their answers.
Will it require an Internet connection? Sort of.
From Wired: And what of the persistent rumors that Xbox One games will be “always online” – that is, that single-player games would require a constant online connection to function? As it turns out, those rumors were not unfounded, but the reality is not so draconian. Xbox One will give game developers the ability to create games that use Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, which means that they might be able to offload certain computing tasks to the cloud rather than process them on the Xbox One hardware itself. This would necessitate the game requiring a connection.
Are developers forced to create games that have these online features, and are thus not playable offline? They are not, Xbox exec Whitten said to Wired — but “I hope they do.” So the always-online future may come in incremental steps.”
So it’s essentially up to the developers whether they want their game to require an online connection.
What about blocking used games or sharing games with your friends?
Regarding the former, “We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later.” is all Microsoft has to say on the matter right now.
As for sharing games, we know a manual install is required, and once the game is installed you’ll be able to play that game even if the disc isn’t in the console. To keep people from buying a game and sharing it with all their friends, once you install a game it’s tied to your Xbox Live account.
From the same Wired report, “Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.”
Yes, you can share games, but not for free, unless you use your account. If you want to play your game on your friend’s console, you can do that, so long as your profile is on their console. Otherwise, you’ll have to lay down some money.
Yesterday, when the live stream of the Xbox One reveal had ended, I realized I had more questions than answers. I knew more about the console, but when it came to the things I, as a gamer, really cared about, I was left bewildered.
No backwards compatibility, a Kinect that’s now required for the console to function — that’s especially scary, seeing as it’s a camera that’s always on and connected to the Internet — the conflicting reports on what type of connection the console requires… it was a muddled, frustrating presentation. Looking at Sony’s reveal of the PS4, where they greeted developers big and small to create games on their platform, which they’ve made easier to develop for, I think Sony may have won this round.
Obviously, E3 is everything. Microsoft has fifteen exclusives they’ll reveal next month, including eight new IPs. Hopefully by then we’ll have solid answers for our lingering questions, too, because right now you can be sure Sony’s working on finding a way to benefit from this debacle.