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Xbox One may still eventually have ‘Family Sharing’ of digital games

Above: Xbox chief Phil Spencer.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Microsoft gave fans the Xbox One they were asking for, but that meant it had to drop a few new, progressive features. Now, the company’s gaming boss says that his team is still looking at adding some of those capabilities.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer said that the features of the console’s original Family Sharing feature are on the update roadmap for Xbox One. When Microsoft first revealed the Xbox One, the box required players to install every game to the hard drive. Players could then start up each release without a disc. Family Sharing then enabled Xbox One owners to let their friends and family around the world digitally “borrow” their games. Microsoft dropped that feature after fans lashed out against the always-on digital-rights management that would have enabled that sort of technology. Now, in an interview with GamerTag Radio podcast, Spencer revealed that he has his team looking at how to bring back the key aspects of Family Sharing.

“We looked at the digital features that we had talked about last year and, as a gamer, there were a lot of those features that I think really resonated and were smart features for people who really have a lot of games and maybe play on a couple consoles or have bunch of people in the house or want to share with friends,” Spencer said. “As I look at our monthly update roadmap, those kinds of features are in our roadmap, [but] there is a little bit of a challenge now that you’ve got DRM on a disc.”

Spencer said that he hasn’t given up on the Family Sharing idea, but that his team has to think through exactly how to add that now that the Xbox One requires discs for physical games. He said that they could add sharing capabilities to digital games only, but Microsoft doesn’t feel that is ideal.

“You could do that,” said Spencer. “But now you’re in spot where ‘Hey, I bought a Ryse disc from you, and you didn’t tell me that the Ryse disc couldn’t do what Ryse digital was going to do.’ And that’s not an excuse for not doing it, but any of these features — as I work through them with the team — I want to make sure I’m doing it the right way. We’re thinking about these features, and they haven’t gone away.”

Microsoft debuted Xbox One last spring, but many fans were not happy with the box as originally planned. While Family Sharing was a nice feature for many, it came at the expense of trading in or renting physical games. Spencer says that his team listened, and that caused them to drop Family Sharing to re-enable other features that people cared about more.

“We shipped a better product because of the feedback we received from people,” said Spencer.

While Xbox One may have ended up as a better product, that didn’t help it outsell its PlayStation 4 competition. Sony’s box has a lead of over 2 million consoles as of April. That’s due in part to the price disparity, which Microsoft also recently addressed by dropping the Kinect and matching the $400 price tag of the PS4. But it also had to do with the lingering misconception of the system’s online functionality and ability to play used games. Microsoft is still dealing that perception.

Of course, fans are still offering feedback, and Spencer says he is listening.

“We’re still looking at digital distribution, preload, and the things that people are always asking about,” he said.

More about the companies and people from this article:

Microsoft Corporation is a public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through ... read more »

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