Following the official Xbox One reveal last month, there was a very disconcerting period where every Microsoft exec seemed to have a very different idea about the Xbox One’s “always on” status. Eventually, Microsoft PR took over and told us that the company was still trying to hammer out the details.
However, in a blog post on Thursday, Microsoft finally confirmed that the Xbox One requires a persistent Internet connection for playing games. Furthermore, the same blog post told us that publishers will have the power to disable trade-ins of their games, potentially decimating the second-hand games market.
This is the official line: With the Xbox One, you must connect to the Internet every 24 hours; if you don’t, it will refuse to play any games, irrespective of whether they’re single or multiplayer. You can still use your Xbox One to watch Blu-ray movies after the 24 hour grace period expires, though. Hooray.
Here’s how it works: Microsoft has confirmed that game discs are purely a way of getting games onto your Xbox One’s hard drive. Once they’re on your hard drive, you never need the disc again, which is nice. This also means that every game will also be available for digital download, if you don’t want to buy the disc, just like Steam – and you’ll be able to play your games from a friend’s console.
Without the physical security/DRM of the disc, however, your Xbox One now needs to connect to Microsoft’s servers every 24 hours to make sure you have a license to run that game – or every hour, if you play your games on a friend’s console. Then, if you trade in the game disc, Microsoft revokes your license and automatically deletes the game from your hard drive. This is why the Xbox One is always on, even for single player games.
So far, so good (or bad, depending on your point of view). This is where things get a bit more complicated. Basically, Microsoft is giving publishers full control over game trade-ins. “Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers,” the blog post reads.
In short, you might not be able to resell your next Call of Duty disc, and even if you do, publishers might take such a large cut that the trade-in business suddenly becomes untenable for retailers. Microsoft also notes that it doesn’t take a cut of second-hand game sales, and that loaning and renting games to friends is potentially on the cards – but won’t be available at launch.
All in all, if you want to take your Xbox One to your cabin in the woods for the weekend, you’ll probably want to pick up a PS4 instead. It’s also probably bad news for people who want to play with their Xbox One while on the move, such as lorry drivers – though, in that case, they probably have a mobile Internet connection at their disposal. For “normal” gamers, though, who do most of their gaming in their own or a friend’s living room, the always on thing probably won’t be an issue, and the cloud-based features will actually be a nice added bonus – as long as their broadband doesn’t go down for more than 24 hours…