Internet, I know you’re very upset with Microsoft at the moment. And you have every right to be. They’ve half-not-really-kind-of-explained their used games or 24-hour check-in policies for Xbox One. We don’t know the full details. Are there fees to activate a used game? Are you telling me the system has to check in every. 24. Hours? It’s infuriating.
But we do know two things that I think are important:
1) “Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games.” – Official statement, posted by Major Nelson
2) “with the disc, it’s just a repository for “the bits”.” – Phil Harrison’s interview w/Wired
At least, I think we can say these are things we know for sure. With how contradictory reports have been streaming out lately who knows. Just for a quick second, let’s look at potential positives for consumers through these two things.
The physical disc no longer matters, and that is awesome. A disc just installs the bits (as Phil Harrison said) on the HDD Microsoft already knows you have since it’s standard on the One. You never need it again. This didn’t happen in this generation and hasn’t happened with console/handheld games yet. If I have a physical copy of a game for 3DS, I can’t install it on the large SD card I have. If I have a PS3/Wii U game I can’t install it on the drive. If I have a 360 I had the option—but this didn’t provide many positives because if I wanted to play, the game disc needed to be in the drive for authentication. With the Xbox One a license key attached to my account does that. Having it on the drive and never needing the disc means I could be watching a TV show or movie on Netflix, get a game invite from a friend and be in that game in seconds without needing to get up and grab a disc. That is a huge benefit. But for it to work that authentication portion has to be via key, has to have a regular check-in and therefore has to “not work like it always has in the past.” I’m willing to make that sacrifice.
Going all-digital kinda sucked this generation, and it needs to be better. Towards the end of this generation Sony and Microsoft opened the door to full digital releases of retail games but the big compromise was paying full (or very near) retail price with no ability to trade or resell. That has been a bitter pill to swallow. It kept me from buying more games digitally except for the ones I already knew I wanted to keep. And even then, there’ve been a couple situations where I would’ve loved the option later on.
With Xbox One that digital copy I have is basically just like a retail one except I don’t have a disc. I have a license. Why shouldn’t I be able to resell or trade-back that license just like the retail buyer can? If that’s digitally through the Xbox Live Marketplace or at GameStop or wherever else for credit on my account, then that barrier or concern I’d have about buying a $60 or $70 game digitally would be significantly reduced.
That kind of system opens plenty of complications and questions. And, yes, also likely needs those license check-ins to be functional and not “gamed” like game sharing and family plans were. Maybe Microsoft has tried to tackle that, maybe they haven’t and it’s just retail discs that’ll get the resale/trade-in benefit. As someone who wants to go all-digital next-gen, that’s not what I want to hear.
Where’s that leave game rentals? Lastly, something I’d love to see them address at E3 is game demos. If rentals are not going to be a thing because of license keys, then what alternative is going to be offered that would effectively replace it for consumers. There needs to be one. Timed full-game trials for Gold members? Online game rentals? Sony did full-game trials on PS3 though I’m not sure what sort of success they had with them since you couldn’t buy and continue playing right from the stop-point. A rental system might be an interesting idea as well, especially if I’d like to immediately rent a game I see a friend playing but I’m not sure I want to buy yet.
I want to think there are some positives to whatever system Microsoft has going that we haven’t considered because of their inability to just lay all the cards out on the table. Am I wrong? If they opened trades/resale to digital purchasers does that make you more open to the idea of a more Microsoft-mediated system?
UPDATE: One thing I just thought of – make it work like it does now discs and all unless you opt in to register the license key to your account. Then you get the installing and no disc swap, downloading at a friend’s just from your live profile (or allow them to purchase a license if you’d brought over your disc), and license check every 24 hours. And if they really want to get me to do it still allow me to sell or trade my license key later – but of course they’d have to check my licenses with a check-in every 24 hours, whatever. I think I would be OK with that. I don’t mind some restrictions that’d give me the experience I want in next-gen and let me re-sell or trade-in digital downloads which I cannot do this gen but would surely appreciate next-gen.