Xbox One is the always-online, used-game-killing nightmare we feared

Microsoft's public relations team couldn’t have been looking forward to yesterday's reveal. Sure, the console-maker was likely ecstatic about the event it hosted--exactly one hour of focused, buzzword-filled discussion about Kinect, Game of Thrones, and the mysterious Xbox One. But the moment the cameras went off, things were no longer under Microsoft’s control. Microsoft would have to speak to people, not at them. It would have to answer our questions, and come clean about the secrets it has held so closely for the years leading up to May 21, 2013.

Seriously, they couldn’t have been looking forward to it.

And for good reason: Microsoft knows the answers it has aren’t the ones we want to hear. For months, gamers have been talking about this worst-case scenario situation, painting the unannounced Xbox as amalgamation of every forum-goer's worst nightmares. "Could the system prevent used game sales?" they wondered. "Would it require an always-online internet connection?" they asked. Neither of these questions were answered during Microsoft's event for obvious reasons, but once the lights on the stage dimmed, the questions began.

When asked if the system would be always-online, Microsoft flatly said no. Good news! Soon after, an updated Q&A on the Xbox One website said, "No, it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet." Alright, that's confusing, but either way, it's not always online, right? Except it is. In an interview with Kotaku, corporate vice president of Microsoft Phil Harrison said that the Xbox One would require a daily check-in in order to operate. That means if your internet access goes down for more than 24-hours, you won’t be able to play games. That, for all intents and purposes, is only a stone’s throw from always-online. Microsoft is acting that because it’s not literally “always” requiring an internet connection, that it technically isn’t “always” online. It’s just... often online. Usually online. Most of the time online. 

This same spin has been hurdled towards preventing used game sales, another point of gamer contempt. At first, Wired was told that every single game will need to be installed onto the Xbox One, and that installing it onto another system would bring with it a small “Pre-owned fee” of some kind. Later, Harrison clarified this with a caveat: that this fee would be the entire cost of the game. So, in other words, you can put a used game in the system, but if you're not logged in with the account that redeemed the one-time-use code that came with the game you'll need to buy the game again to get it to work. Huh?

I don't know about you, but that sure sounds like a console that doesn't play used games. I mean, technically it can, in that you could spend $40 on a used game at GameStop, and then pay another $60 once you install the game to make it play, but that's not actually how things work. With that act, Microsoft is absolutely attempting to kill the used game market.

But, again, instead of providing additional information, Microsoft thought that changing the question would be a better solution. “While there have been many potential scenarios discussed,” Xbox’s Larry Hryb posted on his blog, “today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.” But that... doesn’t actually say anything. You can try to sell almost anything--no one is going to stop you. Thing is, if the game doesn’t function, no one is going to buy it. Again, Microsoft is playing a semantics game, and acting as though rewording the problem is a solution. It has since confirmed that it'll have some solution in place, possibly by allowing people to buy and sell games through Xbox Live, but the details haven't been fully worked out.

Microsoft is losing control of its message. It went into the May 21 event with hopes of convincing gamers that the Xbox One was the console of the future--the system that the last seven years have been leading up to. It wanted to convince you that your concerns surrounding some sort of mythical "always-on" console were silly, and that your worries about Xbox stopping you from buying and selling games were needless. But now, looking back, that's exactly what we've been given: the Xbox One is a next-gen console that's nearly always-online, with systems in place that will kill used game sales.

If we're wrong on this, and the system isn't everything everyone feared it would be, Microsoft needs to actually say something of substance--something of value. They're saying a lot of things, but there's no direction, and the mixed messages are muddled and hard to follow. Sure, it wants to hold some secrets for E3 so it can have a big, fun show, but it hasn't really afforded itself that option when all indications are that the Xbox One is what everyone was worried about. If nothing else, it needs to reapproach how it sugar coats bad news, because putting things off isn't going to help anyone.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • ZeeCaptain - May 26, 2013 4:59 a.m.

    I'm not going to give my view on MS's decision, enough people already have and they're arguments would be better than mine anyway, but you have to imagine how the board of directors, all in agreance on these new industry shaking ideas, feel right about know, the look of utter disbelief and confusion they must be going through. I wonder if they can wrap their heads around what the issues are, we're all waiting for E3, because supposedly they'll either give us all a talking too and keep what they wrote on the concrete slabs that are the new commandments of gaming, or there going to say "our bad" and it will all be okay here is what we compromised on.... though they only problem that people don't seem to grasp about the second scenario is that there new ideas could always be completely worse.
  • Adi_9194 - May 26, 2013 4:46 a.m.

    Console gamers only hope now is that Sony does not adopt similar draconian methods of control for the PS4. Unless Microsoft can pull a rabbit out of it's ass at E3 they pretty much knocked themselves out of the console race. And no, no amount of Spielburg associated Halo TV series episodes can make up for this nonsense. I urge all Gamers to chose wisely when it comes to their next console purchase. And a note to all reading, if you do not like something, DO NOT BUY IT. While your input on such matters is appreciated, in the end it's your wallets that do the final voting. Have a nice day.
  • Jet - May 25, 2013 4:01 p.m.

    Anybody who buys the Xbox as it stands now is contributing to the dismantling of console gaming. This applies to the ps4 as well should it adopt these anti consumer practices
  • ipaqi - May 25, 2013 9:41 p.m.

    Wow, so where should we game then? You've literally listed all of them. Also you're wrong. And a bit of a hatemonger.
  • Jet - May 25, 2013 10:12 p.m.

    What? You're wrong. Ps4 and Xbox aren't the only options of gaming. Not being able to play offline games is a horrible idea
  • ipaqi - May 25, 2013 10:26 p.m.

    You said "console gaming". Those are literally the only new consoles coming up. Xbox 360 and PS3 are going to dry up in two years at most, no matter what anyone else says. So we should stop gaming then.
  • Jet - May 25, 2013 10:40 p.m.

    The answer is to let console sales dwindle and play through other means. At least until corporate heads understand this isnt what people want in a console. A pc being a popular alternative
  • ZeeCaptain - May 26, 2013 5:01 a.m.

    Theres also mobile gaming and hand held gaming, it's all a bit more casual, i'm not agreeing with this but these are other options, besides PC that is.
  • BladedFalcon - May 26, 2013 11:31 a.m.

    "Wow, so where should we game then? You've literally listed all of them." "You said "console gaming" As loathe as I am at pointing it out. There IS the Wii U, rendering thus both of your statements incorrect. Mind, not that I am suggesting anyone should buy the Wii U. Still, facts are facts.
  • ipaqi - May 26, 2013 11:50 a.m.

    True, you are factually correct. I forgot the WiiU existed. Which is a really bad thing for Nintendo, probably.
  • BladedFalcon - May 26, 2013 12:19 p.m.

    Yup, personally, I dislike the Wii U, which you probably can tell if you've paid any attention to my rants :P And well, i don't honestly consider them true competition, but still, they're there. Anyway, I just want to say, you're a smart guy, and it's fun to argue with you, although I am not sure to which extent you enjoy it rather then being annoyed by it. And know that while we've definitely butted heads with our opinions, I respect you. I'm just someone that likes to argue for the fun of it, and it's nice to see someone that knows how to argue without falling into fallacies often, and even draw the line when a discussion seems to become redundant, something that I often fail do myself XD Anyway, just wanted to say this because you're the kind of people that's good to have around and have discourses with, and I don't want you to feel that everyone, including myself, is attacking, or diving you away ^^; So cheers mate, hope to see you around to disagree with each other some more :P
  • ipaqi - May 26, 2013 1:19 p.m.

    Nah, we're cool, man. I've had good and bad arguments in this very thread, and ours definitely wasn't a bad one.
  • The_Ouroboros - May 27, 2013 6:43 p.m.

    Let's hug it out, guys. As a long time lurker, I appreciate the both of you. Polygon reported that Used Games WILL NOT have an imposed fee as was previously stated. "The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox," says Larry Hryb. "Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future."
  • jameel-aboulhosn - May 25, 2013 10:03 a.m.

    Lol this ignorant fear-mongering article makes me laugh. At least it seems like the discussion here isn't a bunch of Sony fan-tards purposely trying to be as negative as possible.
  • BladedFalcon - May 26, 2013 11:23 a.m.

    Says the guy that in his whole paragraph didn't say a single constructive thing and instead blurted nothing but inane insults. You sir, are truly edifying:P
  • LoboMau - May 24, 2013 3:28 p.m.

    We'll see if the "infinite power of the cloud" will prevent them from DDOS from multiple sources.
  • ipaqi - May 26, 2013 1:21 p.m.

    Well, MS is targeting 100% availability with all of its cloud services, so hopefully they manage to match up to it.
  • ipaqi - May 24, 2013 2:04 p.m.

    Yeah, I'd appreciate if you updated and corrected this article to match this other article you posted:
  • Shinn - May 25, 2013 4:32 a.m.

    It's an editorial, it's meant to reflect Cooper's opinion based on information available at the time of writing. You may have noticed the disclaimer at the end of the text?