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Microsoft has just released an update on its Xbox.com website that explains how games licensing will work for its Xbox One next-gen console. The company officially denied that it will have any fee to trade or resell games, but it will permit third-party publishers to charge one if they want.

Microsoft will also permit players to loan games, but the process is laced with restrictions. Renting games is also out, but Microsoft claims it wants to work with partners to potentially offer that in the future.

“Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit,” reads the Xbox Wire website. “We designed Xbox One so game publishers can enable you to trade in your games at participating retailers. Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers, or consumers for enabling transfer of these games.”

That’s Microsoft’s position, but third parties are free to do whatever they want.

“Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers,” reads the website. “Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.”

That last part about loaning and renting games applies only to companies like GameFly. Friends can loan their games to one another, according to Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft is actually making it very easy to share digital games with your family.

“Xbox One will enable new forms of access for families,” reads the post. “Up to 10 members of your family can log in and play from your shared games library on any Xbox One. Just like today, a family member can play your copy of Forza Motorsport at a friend’s house. Only now, they will see not just Forza but all of your shared games. You can always play your games, and any one of your family members can be playing from your shared library at a given time.”

As open as that seems, the company has other restrictions for loaning games. For example, you can only give games to people who have been on your Xbox Live friends list for at least 30 days, and each game can only be given once. (We don’t know if this applies to all Xbox Live members or just Gold members with paid Xbox Live subscriptions.)

Also, the aforementioned trade-ins only work at “participating retailers.” That could cut out independent game stores or Craigslist and eBay sellers.

That is not the equivalent of a physical game.

Also, Microsoft warns that it could start charging a fee at some point in the future … if it feels like it:

As we move into this new generation of games and entertainment, from time to time, Microsoft may change its policies, terms, products and services to reflect modifications and improvements to our services, feedback from customers and our business partners or changes in our business priorities and business models or for other reasons.  We may also cease to offer certain services or products for similar reasons.

In the months ahead, we will continue to listen to your feedback as we meet with our partners in the ecosystem to bring additional detail about our policies.

We are excited about this new generation of games and entertainment and look forward to sharing more news with our fans.

Microsoft is obviously attempting to clarify a very confusing new model for acquiring and “owning” games. The company answered a lot of the lingering questions, but this is a situation where we’re gonna have to live through it to really understand how it works in the real world (that is, until Microsoft faces the press to answer questions).

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