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Always Online Gaming with Xbox One Will be up to Developers; Used Games Restricted

Two of the most important issues gamers were wondering about for Microsoft's next generation console weren't addressed during their live event this morning: the always-online requirment, and whether or not used games would be allowed.  While the event itself gave us no new information, fortunately interviews with the top Xbox execs gave us those answers...though you may not like them.

First let's talk about needing to be connected online to play games.  Wired managed to get some hands-on time with the Xbox One before this morning's event and spoke with the execs to clarify some lingering questions.  So they're they ones to thank for this info.

In regards to always being online, that's going to boil down to the individual developers' choice.  MS isn't making developers require an online connection to play games, but the technology does allow them that option, where they can utilize the cloud features in order to play (much like SimCity).  So some games might require you to be connected in order to play, while others don't.  Though, Whitten does say that he "hopes" developers choose to be always online.  Here's the quote:

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.

I'm fairly okay with this.  As I've made a point of before, the always-online issue for me is all about choice, which seems to be how MS is handling it.  They're letting developers choose to be always-online, instead of it being a mandatory requirement.  This means that I can also choose to not buy those games which will require me to be online (the main reason I haven't bought SimCity).  It's not exactly the answer every gamer was looking for, but it's a compromise of sorts.

Secondly, the other major concern for gamers dealt with whether or not used-games would be allowed on the new console.  PS4 was quick to let us know that used-games were still very much encouraged, but it looks like Xbox One will be restricting used games in some fashion. 

Basically, all the game discs will install onto the system's hard drive and as such, each game will be tied to an Xbox Live account.  This means that only the machine it's installed on and the account it's connected to can play the game.  If you want to play via a second XBL account, you'll have to pay a small fee in order to do so. 

What follows naturally from this is that each disc would have to be tied to a unique Xbox Live account, else you could take a single disc and pass it between everyone you know and copy the game over and over. Since this is clearly not going to happen, each disc must then only install for a single owner.

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.

But what if a second person simply wanted to put the disc in and play the game without installing – and without paying extra? In other words, what happens to our traditional concept of a “used game”? This is a question for which Microsoft did not yet have an answer, and is surely something that game buyers (as well as renters and lenders) will want to know.

That doesn't really leave much room for used-games to be an option, and I can't see that being beneficial for Xbox.  While I personally don't like used-games, I understand why so many others do, and recognize that it's a big part of the video game industry.  Restricting used games in any fashion could be detrimental to the console. 

Hopefully we'll have more information from E3, but for now, these are the answers we've got.  How do you guys feel about this, and does it change your mind on the console?

-Jordan

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