Microsoft’s position on a few key issues regarding used and borrowed games has finally been made clear amid the controversy that arose due to poor messaging surrounding the Xbox One’s reveal.
In a post on Xbox Wire entitled: “How Games Licensing Works on Xbox One”, Microsoft has finally offered a clear response to how their new console plans to deal with used games – publishers. Apparently Microsoft is placing the decision of whether to allow consumers to trade in their games or not in the hands of publishers, who now have the power to “enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers.” No mention of any specific retailers yet, but you can probably bet that the big guys, GameStop, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, will be on that list.
On the lending games front, Microsoft has also offered some clarification. All your games are stored to the cloud and connected to your Xbox LIVE account, after which they can be accessed from any console you are signed into. Lending games to your friends, like trading in used games, is also by publisher approval, with a few caveats. Lending must be done using physical copies of the game, the person you lend it to must have been on your friends list for at least 30 days, and each game can be traded only once.
Microsoft is also letting you share games anywhere with up to 10 members of your “family”. Members of this family will be able to access your entire library of shared games and play them on their own console. No word yet on how users create these families, or whether or not the members actually have to be related to you, but it’s difficult to see how Microsoft could enforce any sort of policy requiring them to actually be related to you. Kinect DNA sampling maybe?
This news comes amid growing concern that the console wouldn’t allow any used games at all, or that those who bought a used game, or even a friend who had borrowed one, might have to pay some sort of “reactivation fee” in order to be able to play.
(In the interest full disclosure, I am not a fan of used games and avoid buying them whenever possible. You can hear me speak a little more about this on Built to Play episode 3. )
That being said, I think this was a smart move by Microsoft. It takes the target off their backs and shifts the pressure onto publishers. It will be interesting to see the number of games publishers allow consumers to trade in. In one scenario, they just might forbid it completely, forcing consumers to buy expensive new games which, with they way publishers have reacted to used games this generation, might just be what ends up happening. Now that publishers have a say in used games, however, there is the potential that they can use this power to cut a deal with the used game retailers, like GameStop, forcing them to give a portion of used game profits to the publishers.
The new families are a point of intrigue. The details are a bit hazy, but if you can share your games with up to ten people that might prove extremely useful. The best application I see of this is allowing people to play a co-op game from different consoles with only one copy of the game. It’s not clear if this library of shared games is also subject to publisher approval, but if it is, we might not get to utilize the feature as much as we would like.
All in all it seems as if Microsoft has cleared up a big portion of the controversy. All though a few details remain hazy, majority of their policy has been adequately explained; a stark contrast to the rather incompetent mixed messaging surrounding the Xbox One’s reveal. This news comes none too soon, with E3 right around the corner, Microsoft can now (hopefully) focus on what the consumers want – games.