The aftermath of the Xbox One unveiling has been dogged by confusion about what degree of DRM or pre-owned game restrictions it will impose on consumers.
Immediately after the announcement, Microsoft executive Don Mattrick said the new Xbox would not be ‘always-on’. Only hours later however, it transpired that the Xbox One may in fact need to connect to the internet at least once per day.
Seeking to clear up the mess, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of interactive entertainment Phil Harrison told Eurogamer that game discs can still be run on different consoles, but the system’s built-in profile and installation structure means you may not be able to play them without playing a fee.
“The bits [of a game] that are on the disc, I can give to anybody else, but if we both want to play it at the same time, we both have to own it. That's no different to how discs operate today,” he said.
“I can come to your house and I can put the disc into your machine and I can sign in as me and we can play the game.”
So far, it appears that Microsoft has implemented an internal digital rights management system tied to Xbox profiles. The original owner of a game can play that title on their console and a friend’s consoles console – provided they sign in. But that same friend will be charged to play that game if the original owner’s profile is not present.
“The bits are on your hard drive. At the end of the play session, when I take my disc home - or even if I leave it with you - if you want to continue to play that game [on your profile] then you have to pay for it. The bits are already on your hard drive, so it's just a question of going to our [online] store and buying the game, and then it's instantly available to play.”
What this will mean for the pre-owned games market – which has fiercely divided the publishing and retail communities – Harrison woud not say. But Microsoft has a some kind of plan in store.
“We will have a system where you can take that digital content and trade a previously played game at a retail store. We’re not announcing the details of that today, but we will have announced in due course.”
Harrison also tried to explain the online requirements of the box itself, rejecting rumours of a need for a constant connection.
“Some bits of the system will work offline. I think the key point to make is that Xbox One requires an internet connection, but it does not need to be connected all the time. We think that most of the biggest games on Xbox One and most of the games and experiences and services you want to use will be internet-connected.”