Microsoft manages to be worse than iTunes with Xbox One restrictions and hastens the end of game ownership
There’s a lot online today about the Xbox One, with Microsoft clarifying a few points about the system’s restrictions. Everything’s outlined in a Eurogamer piece by Tom Bramwell, and the short of it is you don’t own content (you license it, even if it’s bought on optical media), publishers decide whether resale is allowed, the Xbox One must connect every 24 hours or you can’t play games (live TV and optical media playback are exempt from this rule), and loaning/renting is still being figured out.
Bramwell also notes:
10 people can be authorised to play these games on a different Xbox One via the cloud, but not at the same time, similar to iTunes authorised devices.
I’ve also seen other articles comparing Xbox One to iTunes, but I don’t think the comparisons hold up. First, iTunes was always a digital system, whereas Microsoft’s still juggling digital and optical media; secondly, iTunes content is a hell of a lot cheaper than the games that will be sold for the Xbox One, which perhaps makes Apple’s restrictions more palatable; thirdly, I can play my games on all authorised iOS devices simultaneously if I like; and finally, I only ever have to go online to download updates or for game-specific functionality (Game Center, online multiplayer, and so on).
By contrast, Xbox One is a system that matches iTunes in you never really owning a physical thing, but the games are pricier, and cannot be played across multiple devices on one account at the same time. Additionally, you’re forced online daily or your games simply don’t work. That is truly astonishing.
If anything, Microsoft’s managed to out-Apple Apple in terms of creating a closed, user-hostile gaming experience. (As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of iOS gaming, but I’m not blind to its shortcomings regarding ownership and restrictions.) However, there’s also another angle to this, in that Microsoft’s also increasingly joining Apple in eradicating huge chunks of gaming’s history. As games designer and developer Ste Pickford said on Twitter earlier today:
I think that’s my main problem (with iOS too), that we’re losing the ability to archive our culture—games aren’t valued.
Some people will argue that Microsoft had no choice—that to continue funding triple-A games, further restrictions were necessary. No doubt there will be claims that the Xbox One is a win for gamers. But all I see is the hope of a win for deluded publishers, a probable win for Microsoft in terms of console sales (which will inevitably be high—at least in the short term—because most people will give in and buy the Xbox One regardless of their distaste for its restrictions) and a loss for gaming as a whole.