Microsoft's attempt to clarify Xbox One's game ownership and used game policy has left one thing clear - that there are more questions. We've tried to explain the do's and don'ts of Xbox One's policies below, applying the confirmed policies to a variety of real-world scenarios e.g. What exactly do you need to do to buy a new Xbox One game and play it online with your friends?
We also look at potential loopholes, and the key unanswered questions. Microsoft's Xbox One pre-owned policies might present few problems in reality, and their intentions aren't necessarily based on pure greed, but the realities of the AAA game retail market and changing business models. However, it's hard to argue that their confused messaging has been anything short of regrettable, if not disastrous.
All the key details of Microsoft's game ownership policy are outlined below, plus how they relate to a series of real world scenarios.
HOW DO I BUY AND PLAY XBOX ONE GAMES?
1) Buy the game from a traditional retailer - or online via Xbox Live: The official Xbox Wire suggests that every Xbox One release will be available on disc or through digital on the day of release, though this isn't crystal clear.
2) Install the game to your Xbox One hard drive: This is essential. Once the game is installed, you don't need to keep the disc in your drive to play it.
3) Log in and register your game online via Xbox Live: A one off activation is required.
4) Log in online at least once a day: You need to log in once every 24 hours to keep playing your games.
WHAT YOU DON'T NEED TO DO:
1) Keep the disc in your drive once the game is installed: However, you will probably need the physical disc if you want to perform a trade in with a traditional retailer.
2) Stay logged in at all times: Once installed and registered, people can play games on your console whether you're signed in or not. However, you do need to go online once every 24 hours.
3) Be online to watch live TV, Blu-ray or DVD movies: Only games require the once-a-day online connection to work.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
- You don't own your games. You license them.
- Discs are purely for installation purposes and are not a proof of ownership
- You can authorize up to ten people to play these games on a different Xbox One (who can download the game to their hard drive via the cloud) - but they can't play at the same time. Only one user can play your game at any one time, similar to iTunes
- You need to check in online once a day if playing on your console, but this increases to once an hour if you play your game on a friend's console
- It won't be possible to loan or rent games at launch. Microsoft will provide updates on when it becomes available.
- You can give - or gift - a game you own to a friend for free, but you can do this only once. Your friend has to be on your friends list for 30 days for this to work.
- Publishers choose whether you're allowed to give a friend your game as a gift.
- Publishers choose whether you're able to trade in your game for cash or credit at a participating retailer
- Microsoft does not charge a platform fee to retailers, publishers or consumers for performing trade-ins i.e. they're effectively leaving it to those parties to sort it out among themselves.
- Microsoft may change its policies, terms, products and services as Xbox One develops. They may cease to offer certain products or services for similar reasons.
WHAT MICROSOFT NEEDS TO MAKE CLEAR:
- If I buy a game through Xbox Live, do I pay with real money (£ or $ etc), or with MS points?
- Will Xbox One store my card / credit card details permanently, accessed with a password, like on the Apple Store?
- Will I need to manually input, or choose from a list, the ten people who are allowed to play my games on a different Xbox One console via the cloud?
- Which traditional retailers are officially approved to perform trade-ins? E.g. GameStop or GAME
- Will you be able to trade a digital copy for cash or credit? Will this be at the same rates as a disc-based copy?
- How will Microsoft decide to terminate, or alter the terms, of their products and services? For example, EA recently switched off the Skate 3 online servers, but the game is still playable offline. If Microsoft turn off, say, the Skate 4 online servers, will the game still work offline given the need to check in once every 24 hours, or every hour at a friend's house?
- How will my Xbox One remind me if I've forgotten to log in online once a day? Will it force me online? Or suggest that I do via a pop up message?
- How much will Xbox games cost? Will games on physical discs cost the same as buying a game online via Xbox Live?
- How much will I get - in cash or credit - if I trade in an Xbox One game?
- How will the pre-owned market depreciate over time? For example, will shops have the power to reduce the cost of a pre-owned game if it is old and relatively unpopular - or will they require approval from the publisher?
- Will every Xbox One game be available on disc and via digital on Xbox Live on release date? This is implied, but will there be exceptions?
HOW WILL XBOX ONE'S POLICIES WORK IN REAL LIFE?
I want to buy FIFA 14 on Xbox One from my local GAME store, take it home, and play a few games of online multiplayer every few days.
First, you need to buy the game, at a store, or via Xbox Live (price unknown in both channels). You need to install it. You need to register the game online once by logging in to your Xbox Live account. To play the game every day, you need to make sure you log in to your Xbox One account every day. Naturally, you'll need to be connected to play online.
I want to take my copy of FIFA 14 down my mate's house, so we can have a few offline head-to-head matches, and maybe play online together in co-op against other people.
You need to install the game on your mate's Xbox One - either using the disc you bought, or by logging into your account on his console and downloading the game to his hard drive. You need to make sure his console connects online at least once an hour, since you're no longer playing on your console, but on a friend's - and the 24-hour rule no longer applies. Otherwise, playing head-to-head games is as it is on Xbox 360. It's the same playing together in co-op, since you have to be online to connect with other players. What you can't do, is install FIFA 14 on his Xbox One, then go back home and try to play your friend online using the same copy. Only one person can be logged in to use the game at any one time, a bit like iTunes.
I'm bored of FIFA 14, and quite fancy that new Quantum Break game - but only at the right price. Can I trade FIFA 14 in for cash? Or can I use it in part-exchange for Quantum Break and get even more money off?
If EA allow it, you'll be able to trade FIFA 14 at participating retailers (TBC), and receive an unknown cash or part-exchange sum (which may be different values). You should, theoretically, be able to use this sum to reduce the cost of buying Quantum Break. However, this might depend on whether the publisher of Quantum Break has agreed to make it part of the pre-owned scheme. Or it might not. If you bought FIFA 14 from Xbox Live, it isn't clear if your digital version will have the same resale value, or what it means for any subsequent trade in purchase.
I was chatting with friends, and we were thinking of setting up a 'swap club'. We'll all pool together to buy a few games, install them on each of our Xbox One's, and save some cash. Are there any problems with this plan?
Yes. You can authorise up to ten friends to play your copy of a game that they can download on their Xbox One console with a disc, but only one person can play the game at any one time. You could try to navigate this by setting up a form of 'game club' with a maximum of ten people. You'd buy one different game each and agree to only play them at certain times e.g. Dave plays FIFA 14 on a Tuesday, Mike plays FIFA 14 on a Wednesday, constantly rotating between different titles etc
You can't exploit the ability to 'gift' a game to a friend on a grand scale, since you can only give the game away once. However, you could 'buddy up' with a partner, so you buy a different game each and agree to gift swap later on. However, you'd have to be friends for 30 days first. There might be scope for online 'match dating' clubs, where you express an interest in another title, then someone who owns it agrees to swap for one of your games after a 30 day 'friends' period.
All clear? Er, yes.
We welcome your questions about Xbox One's game ownership below, and would love to hear any potential issues we might've missed.