Microsoft backtracks on next-gen vision

03:03, Jun 21 2013

Yesterday Microsoft made perhaps one of the biggest backdowns in video game history by announcing that its next-generation console the Xbox One would now no longer ''phone home'' every 24 hours and that the company had revamped the console's game sharing features.

Microsoft's Don Mattrick made the announcement yesterday on the Xbox Wire, saying, ''Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.

"You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

"So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360."

The key points from Mattrick were that after a one-time system set-up, Xbox One owners could play any disc-based game without needing to connect it online, meaning you can play Xbox One games anywhere without needing an internet connection; Xbox One owners will be able to trade-in, lend, resell, gift and rent disc-based games just like they can today and there will be no limitations to using and sharing games; Digital download games will be available from Xbox Live on day of release; and there will be no regional restrictions on games: Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console.

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In relation to the console's sharing features, Xbox said sharing of Xbox One games will work like it does today: Gamers simply share the disc but playing disc-based games will still require the disc to be in the tray. Microsoft had talked about how it would use "the cloud" so gamers could play their games anywhere but now that feature has been shelved. Also, the Family Sharing feature - where people could share their games with up to 10 family and friends - has been cut.

Was this backtrack by Microsoft solely the result of the outcry by gamers at its policy or because of how Sony was handling its PlayStation 4? I sort of think that it had a great deal to do with Sony's strategy over the issue and Microsoft suddenly realised that it was going to lose thousands of console sales because of its game sharing policy and ''online check-in'' requirement and was forced to change, whether it wanted to or not. Clearly regaining lost sales was more important for Microsoft than sticking to the company's planned vision for the next generation.

Mattrick said that Microsoft had imagined a new set of benefits for being online such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try to buy games, and believed in ''benefits of a connected, digital future''. I'm sure, though, once the Xbox One has been launched Microsoft will revisit some of its original vision.

Personally, I still haven't decided which next-generation console I'm going to buy - I'm weighing up the pros and cons of each console (though last week I was contemplating pre-ordering a PlayStation 4) - but who knows? I might just skip this generation all together and stick with my PC, which is where I've been doing most of my gaming lately - and get most of my games digitally. The only console game I've played extensively is - you've guessed it - The Last of Us on PlayStation 3.

So, what do you think of Microsoft backing down on its originally announced game sharing and online checks policy? Does it please you and was it the right decision? Or should the company have stuck with its vision for the future of gaming, no matter what its competition was doing?

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