Microsoft talks game-sharing, 'always-on' Xbox One

Microsoft is trying to address gamer concerns about the Xbox One in advance of next week's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles.

Story highlights

  • Ahead of E3, Microsoft answers questions about Xbox One rules
  • Up to 10 family members will be able to access a game anywhere
  • Rules on sharing, reselling will be up to game publishers
  • "Always-on" Internet is preferable, but not required, for the Xbox One
With lingering questions about privacy, game trading and selling, and an "always-on" Kinect device, Microsoft has released new details about the new Xbox One console, hoping to address issues that have had some fans in an uproar.
The details come a week before the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next week in Los Angeles and, presumably, are meant to free up the company to focus on games and features, not consumer concerns, during its major showcase there.
Among the new details: Up to 10 family members will be able to log in and play purchased Xbox One games from anywhere. The unique proposition addresses concerns from fans about being able to play where they want, and when they want, in an era when game companies worry about protecting digital rights.
The games also will be playable by anyone who uses the console at the buyer's house.
But what about used games?
One blog post emphasizes there will be no fee for transferring or selling games back for cash and credit on Microsoft's part. However, the wording suggests that restrictions could come from game publishers themselves.
"Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit. We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers," the post reads. "Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games."
Microsoft uses the same "game publisher can enable" language when talking about trading or giving games to your friends. There are two requirements on trading from Microsoft: the recipient must be on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given away once.
What will game publishers do with this new control over used games and trading? And how will retailers, who rely on game trades as part of their business, react? That remains to be seen.
In releasing the new details, Microsoft seeks to take the spotlight off of itself and aim it at third-party publishers.
At the end of the day, it's those publishers who have the most to lose if games on new consoles like the Xbox One, and Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4, don't have built-in protections that keep them from being resold or shared. But digital-rights management and other protections are unpopular with many gamers, who argue they should be able to do what they like with a game once they've paid for it.
It's unclear how Microsoft's own Microsoft Games Studios will address those issues. Sony has been less open about how rights issues will be managed on its own new console.
On the Xbox, offline gaming or use of a constant Internet connection has also been an issue for fans.
According to another post, while the Xbox One is designed to work best with a constant broadband connection, it is not required. However, the console will need to be connected at least once every 24 hours, or once an hour if you're logged onto a friend's console to access your own game library.
A separate blog post addressed the privacy concerns raised by an always-watching Kinect device, which is connected to the Xbox One. Gamers will be able to tailor how responsive the sensor will be and how much or little data gets transferred.
The Kinect device can be paused if you don't want to use it. Also, while the Kinect can indeed read your heart rate, facial expressions and more, none of that data leaves the console without explicit permission.
The post goes on to say that Microsoft is listening to fan feedback as they refine and develop new policies for the Xbox One.
Microsoft's E3 presentation is scheduled for Monday at 12:30p.m. ET.