Ever since the Xbox One was announced, I've been one of its most vocal detractors in the office. Its always-on Kinect and daily online requirement seemed, to me, like chains wrapped around gamers' arms. That's why I was so surprised earlier this week when Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will not have a daily online requirement for single player games.
I will give credit where credit is due. Microsoft did the right thing when I had little faith it would. It listened to customer concerns and ultimately fixed the Xbox One's problems.
The Xbox One won't go online every day to make sure you still own the games you buy. That was the biggest problem most gamers had with the system, and Microsoft fixed it. Yes, you'll still need to go online once to set up the Xbox One, and while it's inconvenient, it's not too unfair and isn't nearly as offensive as calling home once a day. Once that's done, you can use it offline for any single player game.
This also means that used games will remain available to anyone who owns the disc, and that like the PS4, the Xbox One will keep the same status quo as the Xbox 360. Sell, trade, or keep: The disc with the game on it will remain a disc with a game on it even if Microsoft authentication servers go down or you can't access the Internet.
This goes a long way towards regaining the trust of gamers who were offended by the Xbox One's original policies. It also means that Microsoft's other statements regarding the Kinect and privacy rights are much easier to believe, without the greater cloud of the 24-hour online requirement. It's now easier to resist kneejerk scepticism.
The Kinect is still a mandatory part of the Xbox One, but Microsoft has said that you can disable it by "pausing" it. It's easy to be suspicious about this, but paused or disabled it should be no more a privacy concern than any webcam built into a notebook, tablet, or smartphone. Despite the recent Prism controversy and government privacy concerns over in the US, there is no realistic reason to think the Xbox One will be lying if it indicates that the Kinect is turned off.
The Xbox One still doesn't look like a perfect game system, but no system is. It still needs to be connected to the Internet once and the Kinect is still included whether you like it or not (contributing to the £100 higher price tag than the PlayStation 4), but these are all reasonable concerns that you can get past if you're enthusiastic about the games.
With Wednesday's update, the Xbox One stands on fairly even ground with the PlayStation 4, which itself got a seeming downgrade over the PlayStation 3 with the announcement that most online multiplayer games would require a paid PS Plus membership when it previously wasn't necessary.
Microsoft made the right call, listened to its customers, and knocked down the biggest problems the Xbox One has had since it was announced. Well done, Microsoft.
This doesn't mean the gaming community should become complacent, though. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance (and in the case of the Xbox One, months of whining), and the threat of increasingly unnecessary DRM measures and online requirements looms over the industry. Microsoft changed its decision at least partially because there was such a massive outcry from fans. We need to keep our eyes open for any other move that deserves a similarly massive outcry.
After all, the Xbox One may be fixed, but SimCity still requires an online connection for seemingly no reason. Constant and strong pressure against these measures is necessary, without letting these issues fizzle out or become the status quo. We've already been nudged too far towards complacency and willingness to accept online passes and DRM as standard. The Xbox One proves our concerns can be heard. We just need to be more prepared to loudly and massively push back when the situation warrants it.
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