When Microsoft first announced the Xbox One, fans expressed concern that the system might demand unreasonable online requirements or exert draconian influence over the used-games market. Those fans turned out to be entirely right.
Although the next Xbox's policies regarding connectivity and pre-owned games are consumer-unfriendly, to say the least, they may be able to offer some innovative features for those dauntless souls who don't mind their hard-earned games being rendered unplayable from time to time.
In order to play games — even single-player, offline ones — Xbox One users must log into Microsoft servers at least once every 24 hours. Microsoft recommends a minimum speed of 1.5 Mbps, which the system can transmit either via built-in wireless or Ethernet connections.
This requirement presents problems right out of the gate. Leaving aside how common broadband connections are, even in wealthy countries (hint: not as common as you might think), 1.5 Mbps is twice the speed of what most broadband users receive.
In fact, the FCC is trying to change the definition of "broadband" to make 1.5 Mbps the slowest speed allowable. Under current definitions, users with connections of 768 Kbps have a broadband connection: a speed that is insufficient for Microsoft's requirements.
If you visit a friend or family's house, matters get even worse. While you can log into other Xbox Ones and access your entire game library and save files, you can only do so for an hour at a time in between check-ins. If you're traveling somewhere remote, forget about taking your Xbox with you.
Interestingly, although not checking in will prevent you from gaming, it will not cut off your Blu-ray or TV access, which should give you some idea of the Xbox One’s priorities.
The Xbox One’s policy on trading and reselling games is also not encouraging. Users can share games remotely with up to 10 family members (although what distinguishes a “family member” from a “friend” or “random stranger you designate” is not clear).
It's unclear whether they will have to sign into your account to do it. As always, giving away your password, even to a family member, is a potentially enormous security risk. [See also: Not Child’s Play: 6 Kid-Centric Games That Aren’t for Kids ]
If you want to sell a game, Microsoft won’t stop you, although the game’s publisher might. Buying and selling used games is entirely at the publisher’s discretion, and only involves select retailers. Publishers might begin to charge licensing fees for used games, or just block the practice altogether. To be fair, many will not be so restrictive, but this practice takes the rights out of consumers’ hands.
Lending games to friends is also still allowed, although severely kneecapped. Now each game you own can be lent out only once, and your friend must prove his or her worth by having been on your Xbox Live Friends list for more than 30 days.
Benefits of staying connected
Microsoft assures users that this announcement is not all doom and gloom. Since the Xbox One will exist in a kind of perpetual online state, even when powered off, system and game software updates will download and install as soon as they’re available, preventing the user from booting up his or her machine and wasting 30 minutes on a download screen.
With players constantly checking in online, developers may also be able to make semi-persistent online worlds. It’s hard to say exactly what these might entail, but think of them as a cross between “ Dark Souls,” where users can leave hints for one another and team up or play solo at their own discretion, and “World of Warcraft,” where thousands of users coexist and adventure simultaneously.
Whether the Xbox One is worth the price of admission will ultimately boil down to its game selection, but its somewhat Orwellian limitations could drive users right to Sony, Nintendo or the world of gaming PCs.
Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorof. Follow us @TechNewsDaily, on Facebook or on Google+.