Microsoft said Thursday that gamers who buy the company's Xbox One console will be able to share and sell games--but only if third-party publishers agree. And forget about rentals--at least at launch.
However, rather than simply handing games off to a friend, Microsoft's cloud will oversee the transaction. If you want to sell or give away an older Xbox One game, you'll only be able to do it if your pal has been your Xbox Live "friend" for more than 30 days. And a game will only be able to be transferred once.
That, as well as more revelations about Microsoft's DRM strategy regarding the Xbox One. were posted to a licensing FAQ that Microsoft posted Thursday afternoon.
Although Microsoft executives had indicated that Xbox One owners would be able to buy and sell used games, even game retailers were unable to describe how the process would work. Larry Hyrb, the director of programming for Xbox Live, promised more details at a later date. That date was apparently today.
The cloud: savior and destroyer
Microsoft appears to be tapping into its cloud services both to facilitiate Xbox One gameplay, but also to impose restrictions that wil surely frustrate some users.
Microsoft begins by noting that the users will be able to buy either a physical copy of an Xbox One game or else an electronic copy on the date of the game's release.
In a positive step, users will automatically store a copy of their game via the cloud. That means if a player wants to visit a friend's house and logs in, he or she will be able to play any of the game that player owns, no matter if the person has the game's disc with them or not.
Likewise, anyone who is in your home will get access to your games, Microsoft said. (It's unclear whether that means that the Xbox One owner will have to be logged in or not; Microsoft probably is locking the feature to the owner's IP address.)
Users also will be allowed to grant ten family and friends access to a player's Xbox One library.
"Up to ten members of your family can log in and play from your shared games library on any Xbox One," the company said in the FAQ. "Just like today, a family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend's house. Only now, they will see not just Forza, but all of your shared games. You can always play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time."
Who's going to allow games to be sold--and who won't?
Microsoft also said that gamers would be allowed to sell their games back to retailers without Microsoft charging any fees. But forget about rentals: "Loaning or renting games won't be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners," Microsoft said.
That means companies like Redbox and Gamefly, among others, won't be allowed to participate in Xbox One game rentals.
And Microsoft also gave the option to third-party publishers to quash game resales, which means that there will undoubtedly be a list of companies who will be identified as blocking games sales.
Xbox One owners will need to be connected to play games, although not at all times.
Microsoft recommended either using a mobile broadband connection or a wired ethernet connection with a minimum speed of 1.5 Mbit/s. However, you won't be able to take your One away to a cabin in the woods without logging in at least once.
"With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library," Microsoft said. "Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies. "
Microsoft also said that users can turn on, off, or even "pause" the associated Kinect sensor, so users can watch what they want without fear of Microsoft's Kinect watching you.
Microsoft also said that its sensor won't "listen" to users when not in use. Even the voice control ("Xbox On") can be turned off, the company said.