[Update: Here's more on the Xbox One policy change and a poll!]
Sony may have "won" E3 2013 in the eye of the average gamer, but there's still a good five months to go before the Xbox One launches. With the PlayStation 4 estimated to come out at around the same time, the console war is far from over. Since Microsoft isn't the kind of company to take a defeat lying down, many gamers and people in the industry and media were waiting for an official response to what can only be described as a PR disaster - one that has been ongoing since the console was first announced in May.
Many of the widespread and vehement criticisms of the Xbox One have stemmed from its (forced) reliance upon a steady Internet connection (which many people in the world, even in the U.S., still do not have) for game activation and a mandatory daily check-in with the Microsoft servers. This has drawn backlash from as far back as Adam Orth's #DealWithIt controversy, right up until the recent condemnation of the policies by military service members and an entertainment research firm. But that changes today.
Now it appears that Microsoft have given up attempting to defend the Xbox One's highly unpopular anti-consumer limitations and policies, which were threatening to turn video game consumerism into a matter of permission rather than ownership, and are rowing back completely on many of the aspects of the Xbox One that have drawn fire. Here is the company's new position, courtesy of a press release on the official Xbox site:
Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.
So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:
- An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games — After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
- Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today — There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console – there will be no regional restrictions.
These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.
Given the fact that the PS4 is thoroughly whipping the Xbox One in current consumer polls however, this seems like the only logical step that Microsoft could have taken to put themselves back in the running. It's actually something of a relief, since up until this point all news related to the current console war was starting to feel a little bit one-sided. This decision will almost certainly put Microsoft back in the running as a serious contender.
That's not to say that it will guarantee an even match for Microsoft, let alone a victory. The PS4 will retail for $100 less than the Xbox One and does not require a Kinect in order to function, and prior to this emergency change of policies there has been a lot of ill will directed towards Microsoft for what many have felt was a refusal to listen to their consumers' preferences and needs.
Does this decision redeem Microsoft in your eyes? Have you already decided which next-generation console you're going to buy, or has this news blown the competition wide open again? Share your thoughts on this abrupt and dramatic change with us in the comments.
The Xbox One will launch in November 2013. We'll bring you further updates on Microsoft's new Xbox One policies as they are revealed.