The fact about pre-owned on Xbox One

And no, that’s not us mixing up our plurals and our singulars.

Now the dust has settled a little on a confusing 14 hours or so that’s what we’re left with. One fact. And that is this:

Yes, you will be able to play pre-owned games on Xbox One.

The problems arise when you try to expand that single statement to any substantial degree. Microsoft itself has issued so many contrary statements that we’re beginning to wonder if even it knows what the real answer is.

Interviews published overnight by CVG and Eurogamer both tend to suggest that yes, a gamer can lend a game to a friend and said friend can install and play it without paying a fee.

However, that situation changes in the following scenarios:

A) They give the disc back

B) The disc owner is no longer signed into the machine OR Kinect can no longer detect the presence of the disc owner – we just don’t know

When the first scenario kicks in, and possibly the second, the user trying to play the game (which by this stage will be installed on the console) will be prompted to pay a fee to continue. The fee being the full price of the game.

Kotaku was also told that as long as the disc owner stays signed in there will be no charges.

Here’s another complication. In CVG’s article Phil Harrison claims to have worked closely with retail on all of this, and in Eurogamer’s piece Harrison says there will be a facility to trade-in games at retail. Kotaku, however, was told that the new trade-in system would actually function online.

Not confused enough? Try this – Engadget was told that if you go to a friend’s house without the disc you’ll actually be able to download the whole thing over Xbox Live and continue playing! Will that cost anything? That’s not explored.

Add to that the likes of T3’s Matt Hill, who was told that licenses for used games are automatically transferred over the cloud and you’re left in a right old pickle”.

Oh, and don’t forget that Xbox customer support was telling people last night that talk of a fee was incorrect.

Still, at least Major Nelson has released an official statement clearing everything up:

We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today.

While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail. Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.

Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”

And if you missed it last night, when MCV spoke to Microsoft we were told nothing other than the fact that yes, pre-owned games will work on Xbox One. They are NOT blocked. That was repeated more than once.

However, the company is currently unwilling to answer direct questions about whether users will ever be charged a fee to play pre-owned games and how much that fee will be. Instead, we’re being fobbed off and told that further details will be announced later.

And that’s the really annoying thing. Forget what we said earlier – Microsoft does know exactly what its plans are. It’s just choosing not to tell us.

And as a result we’re rightly predicting that’s because they’ve got what they know we will perceive as bad news and they’re scared of telling us. Please Microsoft, we’d love you to prove us wrong.

Sadly the overarching conclusion is that the Xbox One launch is one that has been irrevocably sullied by an ill-advised employment of the oldest of old school PR tactics. Blair-era question blanking. And that just doesn’t cut it in today’s digital age. It hasn’t since the turn of the century.

When will companies learn this? There were lots of questions leading into the Xbox One reveal last night but there were undoubtedly two that stood out above the rest: Will it require a permanent online connection and will it block pre-owned? The answers to both questions have been absurdly confusing and for that Microsoft has absolutely zero excuse.

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