News Column

Microsoft Comes Clean on Xbox One ... Mostly

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Following the reveal of the Xbox One last month a great many questions were left unanswered. Things didn't improve much over the next few weeks as several Microsoft officials attempted to give varying degrees of answers, almost all of which conflicted with what another exec had said.

Yesterday, Microsoft finally put a great many questions to bed with answers that weren't confused, conflicted and, for the most part, probably true.

Always On: Microsoft confirmed that the Xbox One will require an internet connect at least once every 24 hours. Their reasoning? They say the XBO was designed to run in a low powered state and an always on internet connection allows the console to verify that the system, applications and games are all up to date. If they're not, the system can download and install necessary updates so that a user won't have to sit through them during start up.

What it means is that if your XBO goes 24 hours without connecting to home base you won't be able to continue to game in offline mode until that connection is reestablished. TV, Blu Ray and DVD viewing will be unaffected by this.

While Microsoft's apparent dedication to quality control is commendable, this bit of info strikes both Jason and I as pure spin. We're not totally sure what it is, but Microsoft has an agenda, and this is how they're pushing it.

In Microsoft's ideal world, everyone has access to Google Fiber. Which I wouldn't mind one bit, but I don't really expect it to happen to Mid-Missouri any time soon. Maybe we should send Don Mattick down toMoore,Okla.and ask him if 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to expect an internet connection to be restored.

Used Games/Rentals: Microsoft stated that the company, in acting as a publisher, will enable games to be given to friends or traded in at participating retailers.

So far, so good.

Third party publishers can opt in or out of this and are allowed to establish their own business terms or fees with retailers. They can also decide whether or not to enable you to give games to friends.

Okay, might have to deal with EA slapping a $2.50 used game fee on their titles. Not great, but not end of the world.

When giving physical discs to friends, two restrictions apply:

* That friend must have been on your friends list on Xbox Live for at least 30 days.

* Each copy can only be given once.

Not good. Not good at all.

The lending of games, as well as renting, will not be supported at the launch of the Xbox One. Though Microsoft says they're looking into the possibility.

Doh!

Okay look, the used game restrictions aren't entirely that bad. And I say that mostly because some form of used game restriction has been hinted at for about a year now, so I've grown used to the idea.

It is not ideal from the gamers' perspective, but as a business model it makes a lot of sense.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, making video game consoles does not make you profit. The process of developing and manufacturing them en mass is just too expensive.

The profits come from the software. Microsoft gets a cut of every Xbox game sold for the platform. If a third party publisher, like EA or Activision, is involved, they get a cut too. The developers, the people who actually make the game, get theirs. When you walk into a GameStop and buy a used game, every cent of that purchase goes to GameStop. For businesses like GameStop that rely heavily on used game sales, all Microsoft is basically doing is cutting their stock. So don't be surprised if the price of a used game goes up a few ticks.

But this business about not supporting the lending of games or even rentals is total crap.

Sure, for a business like GameFly to come along, buy X amount of Y titles and start pushing them out on a rental basis isn't exactly how Microsoft sees the money piling up. But it gets their brand out there on a trial basis.

Someone who only has a PlayStation but has a buddy with an Xbox might think, "Gee I wonder just how good Halo actually is?" So they rent it and play it on their buddy's console. He falls in love, buys an Xbox and before you know it you've got babies with the Xbox logo stamped on their heads.

But Microsoft might as well be playing chicken here. GameFly isn't the only company whose entire business model will be effectively shut down by this move.

Somewhere, a corporate lawyer just imagined doing a Scrooge McDuck dive into a big pile of money from the lawsuit that is coming from this policy.

Kinect Privacy: To calm the mass's Orwellian fears, Microsoft also made a few clarifications on the operations of the Kinect.

They emphasized that their priority regarding the Kinect is on privacy and that each user will be able to control what the device sees and hears. During set up of the device, users will be walked through privacy options and there will be clear notifications on how data will be used.

The example they gave is that if you're just simply having a conversation with someone in front of the device, it won't be recording you. When the Kinect is in it's off mode, the only thing it is listening for is the 'Xbox On' prompt that will boot the entire system. And even that can be disabled.

Microsoft lastly stressed that no personal data will leave the console without the user's explicit consent.

Oh and that they reserve the right to change any of these policies as they see fit at any time. But that's just your usual Terms of Service rhetoric.

So what do you think of all this? Has it swayed away from House Gates? Or will their banner be flying in your living room this holiday season? Give us a shout in the comments below.

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