Editorial: With Xbox One, you are the controller (and the DRM)

Does Xbox One require a persistent online connection? Does it play used games? Microsoft has been so coy that anxious gamers are left with no...


Does Xbox One require a persistent online connection? Does it play used games? Microsoft has been so coy that anxious gamers are left with no choice but to assume the worst. Answers to these questions should be clear-cut--a simple "yes" or "no" would suffice, and help us all.

Yet, even Microsoft's so-called "clarifications" do little to ease concern that the next Xbox will be plagued by draconian anti-consumer practices. Major Nelson updated his blog saying "while there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail. Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios."

Okay, that's fine. But here's the kicker: "Should you choose to play your game at your friend's house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile." By mentioning the f-word there, we can only assume that there will be fees to play games in any other scenario.

A console that blocks used games is rather unprecedented. While rumors surrounded PS4, Sony has gone on record saying that PS4 will play used games, noting that the "general expectation by consumers" is that when they "purchase physical form, they want to use it everywhere."

And that's true. There are many expectations we have of console games. Being able to buy, play, sell, trade, and share used retail games is one of those expectations. We expect that when we bring a game home, that we'll be able to play it with our friends and family--is that something we're no longer allowed to take for granted on Xbox One?

My vision of Xbox One's "worst case scenario" sounds a lot like this patent discovered last year. Filed in 2011, the patent "regulates" content by identifying users. "In other words, a content provider could regulate their goods to be doled out on a per-user basis. They could, for example, price tiers of movie rentals based on how many viewers it will have," we wrote back then.

But, wait. The new Xbox comes bundled with a Kinect. In fact, as rumors have suggested, it's required for operation with the system. With Xbox 360, there was no way to really implement a patent like that. Bundling Kinect with Xbox One opens up all sorts of terrifying possibilities.

For example, your Xbox Live profile will likely become permanently tied to whatever biometric data Kinect collects about you. Having Kinect instantly recognize you and sign you on does offer an incredible convenience, but it also has scary ramifications. With your Kinect data stored in the cloud, your Live account will be useless without you physically there. So when Major Nelson says that you can play used games without a fee "while you are signed in," does that mean you will have to physically accompany the disc? Given that Xbox One is smart enough to know who's holding which controller, will the system stop gameplay if you pass the controller onto someone else who doesn't own that content? And even more worrisome: can family members and friends in your own home that have access to your console--will they be able to play the game you've purchased without you signing in? And what if you take a bathroom break? With Kinect's always-on gaze looking for your biometric data, could the system decide to quit your game?

Microsoft hasn't "confirmed any specific scenarios," but they're certainly doing a terrible job of denying what is and isn't possible on Xbox One. For a company that berated Sony for refusing to show off the design of the PS4, I find it even worse that they can't simply answer the question: "can we play the games we paid for?" For the launch of the original Kinect, Microsoft said that "you are the controller." However, for Xbox One, their message appears to be "you are the DRM." And until Microsoft very clearly states their policy on online and used games for Xbox One, it'll be hard to believe otherwise.

Andrew Yoon was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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  • reply
    May 22, 2013 6:30 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Editorial: With Xbox One, you are the controller (and the DRM).

    Does Xbox One require a persistent online connection? Does it play used games? Microsoft has been so coy that anxious gamers are left with no...

    • reply
      May 22, 2013 7:00 AM

      If the XBone won't function unless it has a camera pointed at me, I won't be buying one.

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        May 22, 2013 8:32 AM

        That just wouldn't make any sense at all. I don't think MS is that stupid.

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      May 22, 2013 7:19 AM

      If MS does go full Orwellian Big Brother on their consumers with that bundled Kinect 2 using biometric DRM and the always or sometimes always online connection they won't come clean on, it could be a MASSIVE opening for Sony.

      MS regards consumers for this box as a single pool whether its people just into TV or gamers or both. Which is a mistake I think. They are pushing the TV and other media aspects of this box much more heavily than I expected. No consumer in his right mind looking for an enhanced TV experience that won't even act as or replace your cable/satellite DVR is going to pay $400+ for this box. They failed at this before with WebTV and their Tivo competitor from 10 to 15 yrs ago, UltimateTV (I believe was the name). Now they are back at it again trying to compete with GoogleTV and AppleTV, 2 platforms that consumers could care less about. Only this is in the trojan horse of a game console.

      Polygon posted a Q&A with Phil Harrison after the reveal trying to nail down the always-online rumor and one quote I'll paraphrase that blew me away was: "You SHOULD be able to ACCESS your Blu-Rays when your internet connection is interrupted." Even for something like watching a Blu-Ray movie they won't say that you can 100% watch it while offline? Why would this be? The only thing I can think of is they want to use the Kinect on the Xbox One to collect data about whoever is watching the Blu-Ray so they can sell it back to the studios.

      Finally, the reason I think Sony has an opening is with all the rumors swirling previously about the Xbox One and with MS's reveal of it yesterday, the core gamer appears to not be a priority. Nintendo went down this road by trying to make machines and market them to the mass gamer and after the Wii's inital fad success, the mass gamer didn't care about buying Wii games and now the Wii U hardware. Nintendo is reaping what it sowed with their core audience.

      MS is in danger of that also with the possible draconian DRM tied with the Kinect collecting data about you and restricting your use of your content along with the fact that they push so much emphasis on the TV watching enhancement features of the Xbox One. Core gamers are the ones that spend $400 on a console at launch. Not people only into TV. If they keep this approach at E3 like they did last year, Sony could have a big opening to steal the core gamers back and still leverage other media functions down the line.

      Bottom line, core gamers still matter for a console lauch.

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        May 22, 2013 2:57 PM

        The issue regarding Bluray playback likely speaks more to Bluray's DRM licensing specifications than the Xbox One behaviors.

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      May 22, 2013 8:30 AM

      Scary stuff on the horizon for M$ consumers.

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      May 22, 2013 8:41 AM

      What people don't realize is there already is a camera on them all the f#$%ing time, so who cares?

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        May 22, 2013 9:46 AM

        Well you might care if you had to pay for a camera to watch you, that then makes sure you don't do anything MS doesn't want you to.

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      May 22, 2013 9:56 AM

      way to add fuel to that fire with absolutely no factual information what-so-ever.

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        May 22, 2013 2:02 PM

        1) It's an editorial. AKA, an opinion piece: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=editorial+definition
        2) He has a point about Microsoft and the vagueness. Some clarity is badly needed on the level of pain consumers will have to put up with to buy/trade/sell/share games.

        I think this might be the first generation where I own only one of the consoles... It will be tough decision time when MS/343 get the next Halo ready.

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          May 22, 2013 2:25 PM

          1) your point?
          2) so because nothing was said about a certain topic, that's reason enough to start speculating and on that topic and getting butthurt over nothing? instead of just waiting for factual details to come.

          everyone needs to calm the fuck down and clean the sand out of their pooter. it's ridiculous how upset people are getting over things they know absolutely nothing about.

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            May 22, 2013 7:06 PM

            Seriously? I have to spell point 1 out for you? I'm too tired for that bullshit. See lmgtfy link for further explanation of opinion and editorial.

            Nice with going right to the butthurt comment instead of actually discussing the point. In the same spirit: It's MS, and with their past it's nearly impossible to give the benefit of the doubt on any point.

            Anyway, MS brought this shitstorm about. Being vague on questions like, "will used games work?" and "can I play my games on a console at my friend's place?" is mind boggling short sighted. It seems arrogant. Why shouldn't people be worried?

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            May 22, 2013 7:25 PM

            Hrm. Tried replying reasonably, but shack browse/android/my shitty phone ate it. So, in the spirit of your reply: Derpnderp, MS is everyone's best friend. There's no reason for concern, even after the super vague major nelson post, derp.

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            May 22, 2013 7:27 PM

            3rd try
            Where oh where is shack browse sending my replies.

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      May 22, 2013 2:33 PM

      I heard Kinect 2.0 is always on so Mirco$hit can charge you for movie rentals based on how many people are in the room watching it!!! It's got to be true, it was on Kotaku they were quoting a comment in a Joystiq post. Now where is my pitchfork? AND WHY ARE THEYRE NO GAMES ON THIS "CONSOLE????"

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      May 22, 2013 2:35 PM


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      May 22, 2013 3:02 PM

      Xbox one fucked my wife and murdered my daughter.

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        May 22, 2013 6:06 PM

        Ditto, but also burned my house down.

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