Just a week after Microsoft announced that it would aggressively move to change the nature of gaming with the Xbox One, essentially pushing both publishers and users to create next generation, albeit DRM laden games, the company is completely reneging on the deal and the things that made the console unique.
To recap, as part of the Xbox One console and its software, Microsoft previously announced that it would essentially treat games as digital works. Though users would still be able to buy Xbox One titles in store, whenever they brought that disc home, it would be installed on their console and treated as digital goods. Users would be able to share and lend titles to other users on their friends list as well as gift those games to other users permanently.
In exchange for these features the Xbox One would require console to games to validate once every twenty-four hours so that it could check to see if users still owned their games. In my opinion, that was a fair trade. I would get to build gaming libraries with my friends and family no matter where they were in the world and pool our resources to buy the latest titles to share. I’d be able to buy those titles on day one from the comfort of my home and essentially get rid of the disc, or at least not have to use it as the game would be installed.
With today’s announcements that sharing will work the same as it does on the Xbox 360, that’s all in the air.
Instead, we’ll be treated to the same half-step that the company took with the Xbox 360’s approach to digital games. Users will likely continue buying games from GameStop and reselling them while Games on Demand titles will be an afterthought. Even after users have installed games to their hard drives, they will be required to put that disc inside their Xbox One to play the game. Even digital titles won’t be allowed to be shared.
Another casualty of this will be the enhanced worlds that Microsoft spent most of its time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. As game developers will not have to program for users who are offline, it’s likely that we’ll see worlds that aren’t nearly as great as the ones Microsoft showed.
There won’t even be any sharing of games. Period. No matter if it’s digital or otherwise. No cloud sharing, and possibly no ability to play your titles from any Xbox.
So at the end of this, after all the pain of negotiating deals with development studios, after all of things that would have made the Xbox One unique, Microsoft is essentially taking the “me too” approach to next generation gaming. In exchange for $500 users will be treated too much of the same experience as they can get on the PlayStation 4 for $100 less.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying because of these changes users shouldn’t buy an Xbox 360. I’m asking a simple question. If being able to plug the Xbox One into a cable box and play Kinect titles and the Halo franchise is the only difference between it and the PlayStation 4, why would I buy one?