Today, Microsoft tried to get past the thorniest consumer issues related to the Xbox One video game console before its big press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on Monday in Los Angeles. Otherwise, it might have to spend two hours explaining why its policies related to used video games, online connection requirements, and privacy are fair to consumers at gaming’s biggest event of the year.
It isn’t clear if the announcements today will defuse the issues or not. But Microsoft’s hope is that gamers wring their hands and complain about their rights being trampled over the next few days before the show starts. That would leave Microsoft’s executives free to talk about the benefits of its console and its games at its press conference.
After the May 21 announcement of the Xbox One console, Microsoft was clearly taken by surprise by stronger consumer reaction about the potential for no used games and always-online connections, and some spokespeople gave conflicting answers to the questions. Here’s what they have now said to clarify its positions in a question-and-answer format. Using a FAQ format, We have posed the questions and we have created the answers based on the information Microsoft released today.
Q: Can I played used games on my Xbox One?
A: Yes. But there are restrictions. Microsoft said it will not charge any fee to trade or resell games, but it will permit third-party game publishers to charge a fee for used game transactions if they want. You can trade in games for cash and credit with participating retailers. Microsoft reserved the right to charge a fee in the future.
Q: Can I play rented games on the Xbox One?
A: No. But Microsoft says it may work with partners to allow that sometime in the future. Loaning or renting games will not be available at launch through companies such as GameFly.
Q: Can I share games with friends or family?
A: Yes, but with restrictions. Friends can loan games for on another. Up to 10 members of your family can log in and play from your shared game library on any Xbox One. A family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend’s house. Any one of your family members can play from your shared library at a given moment.
You can only give games to friends who have been on your Xbox Live friends list for at least 30 days. Each game can only be given once.
What we don’t know is if this applies to all Xbox Live members or just paid subscribers (aka Xbox Live Gold).
Q: Will my Xbox One have to be always connected to the Internet?
A: No. But Microsoft says it will have to connect once a day to the Xbox Live online gaming service or your games may suffer degradation in performance. Part of the reason for this is that Xbox One games can use processing power in the cloud.
Q: How fast does my Internet connection have to be?
A: Microsoft recommends that it be 1.5 megabits a second. At this time, we don’t know how slower connections will affect Xbox One performance — or the performance of its games.
Q: Are there risks for requiring the connection?
A: Some games may be so popular that they may overwhelm servers, like when the always-connected SimCity and Diablo III games went down for days due to excessive demand just after their launches. Gamers who are concerned about privacy also may not want their machines connecting to the Internet, and those with just dial-up connections may have issues as well.
Q: What benefits does Microsoft tout for requiring the online connection?
A: It says that your games and apps will be easy to start again. You won’t have to wait for updates before being able to use your machine. You can stay connected with friends, who can call and interrupt your game or movie if you give them permission to do so.
Players will be able to access their entire games library from Xbox One, with no disc required. You sign in and install a game once, and then a digital copy of your game is stored both on your console and in the cloud. You can buy a game either as a disc or a downloadable online product.
Q: If I watch a movie, do I have to be connected?
A: No. You can watch DVD or Blu-ray movies offline.
Q: What is Microsoft’s stance on privacy related to its Kinect motion-sensing system, which can collect data, including pictures and videos, of what you do in the living room?
A: The new version coming this fall has a built-in high-definition video camera that can capture everything going on in your living room. The 3D depth camera technology can also detect your movements with a much wider viewing angle, enabling Kinect to capture the movements and facial expressions of six people at the same time. The technology can also recognize faces and voices for login purposes. It can even detect your heart rate.
Microsoft says that you can turn off the new Kinect system. Microsoft says, “By design, you will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded.”
Microsoft says you can set the Kinect sensing to “on,” “off,” or “paused.” When a system is off, it is only listening for a single voice command, “Xbox on.” You can turn off that feature too.
However, Microsoft said it wasn’t part of the FBI’s and the National Security Agency’s alleged secret data-mining program, PRISM, today despite a report stating that it was, so you might want to think about that whenever Microsoft says anything about how it deals with privacy issues.
Q: Are regulators concerned about Kinect 2?
A: German authorities opened an investigation into privacy issues upon hearing of the system’s capabilities. But thus far, U.S. regulators haven’t initiated any investigations.
Q: Will games require Kinect to be on?
A: Microsoft says, “Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you’ll need to turn it back on for these experiences.” For instance, a fitness game could measure your heart rate data to provide you with better feedback on your workout.
But Microsoft said you are in control of your personal data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate, and more. This data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission, the company said. Again, Microsoft allegedly provides a path for FBI and NSA data-mining, so take Microsoft’s statement with that report in mind.