Microsoft has finally confirmed that Xbox fans' worst fears are at least partially true: Although the new Xbox One gaming console won't need an always-on internet connection, that connection had better be on pretty often or you can forget about gaming. And don't assume you'll be able to sell or trade your old games, either.
"With Xbox One, we are planning for a connected future," the Xbox team explained in a blog post on Thursday.
What that means is that while offline gaming is technically possible with the Xbox One – as an earlier leaked memo suggested it would be – it will only actually work as long as the console is able to phone home at least once per day.
After that it's kaput, unless all you want is a media player – and customers who don't want to connect their consoles to the internet might as well forget about buying an Xbox One altogether, as the post explains:
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. 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.
What's more, as Redmond notes, even though the console itself doesn't need to be online all the time, some games may not work unless it is.
While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection.
Or, as the Xboxers put it elsewhere in the same post, "Xbox One is designed to run in a low-powered, connected state" – which, in the opinion of this Reg hack, isn't quite the same thing as not needing an always-on internet connection, as Microsoft has previously suggested.
B-but ... but you get the CLOUD!
Part of the reason for these requirements is that gaming on the Xbox One is fully integrated with the cloud. When you install a game for the console, a copy of it is automatically associated with your online account, no matter whether you bought it online through Xbox Live or picked it up on physical disc at a store.
The main benefit of this is that your games can now follow you wherever you are. You can login with your account on your friend's Xbox and play all of your games there. You can even share your games with up to ten members of your family, and they'll be able to play them wherever they go, too.
The main downside, on the other hand, is that this cloud-connected system gives Microsoft and its game-publisher partners ultimate control over when, where, how, and to whom you can sell or trade your used games, even if you bought them on physical disc, as Microsoft explains in a separate blog post.
Although it will be possible to trade in, resell, or give away your disc-based games in some cases, and Redmond won't charge you any fees to do so, it's up to game publishers to decide whether it's allowed for their games – and how much it might cost.
"Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers," the post explains.
Even giving games away is subject to approval. According to Microsoft, you'll only be able to give them to people who have been on your friends list for 30 days, and each game can only be given away in this fashion once. And even then, it's up to game publishers to enable the feature for their games.
Worse still, for now all of this is hypothetical. "Loaning or renting games won't be available at launch," Microsoft writes, "but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners."
On the positive side, Microsoft says gamers will have complete control over when and how the built-in Kinect sensor in the Xbox One operates, collects, and shares data. "When Xbox One is on and you're simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded," Redmond thoughtfully explains.
On the negative side, just about everything you hoped wouldn't be true about the Xbox is essentially true, even if the rumors didn't have it exactly right. Happy now? ®