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Microsoft reversed course with a surprise announcement today on actually backtracking their always-online vision and I’m glad that the pessimist in me was wrong on just how stubborn they might be on changing.
We’ll all get to play our games as we always have — we’ll just need the internet for that initial setup, much like how Microsoft’s software products work now such as Windows or a game on Steam. But in the process, we’re losing the ‘family sharing’ plan that Microsoft envisioned for the console in which you could share games in your library with up to ten family members. Or friends that you thought of as ‘family’ in that group.
The Xbox One is also going region-free just like the PS4 already is. It’s as if Microsoft had decided to finally follow suit on nearly every point by copying Sony’s E3 announcements more than a week later turning the Xbox One into the Xbox 360 2.0.
Whitten also went on to point out that, because the game still needs to be initially installed on the console, friends that you’ve played the game with can opt to purchase it after you’ve taken the disc home. It still needs the disc as a key to all of that data tucked away on the HD waiting for a disc check or a buy-in online if that friend doesn’t have it.
At the same time, this could also open the window on specials such as those which Steam offers PC players with their free weekends through a select number of games. If you have the game on your drive, the multiplayer component could be playable during similar events should Microsoft decide to go that route.
Aside from price, and with what many viewed as a major obstacle to the Xbox One’s approach to living rooms gone, the race is starting to look a little more even between it and the PS4.
Yet the hard-headedness and mixed messages of the past few weeks over trying to sell the public on a DRM-focused console are still worrying. If the raft of negative responses online ranging from articles and outcry weren’t enough to change their minds prior to E3 until Sony’s press conference dramatically showed how much it mattered, it leaves one to wonder if the change was really made in response to gamers’ interests or that they felt they could jettison the DRM flotsam (and not deal with the potential aftermath with those families and customers that have no idea of what the whole online deal was in the first place) to strengthen potential sales as a form of damage control.
Even so, at least it’s one less thing to worry about for anyone buying an Xbox One. And one more shot fired in what is turning out to be an exciting launch season.