Xbox One: Used games, Always-On Internet and Always-On Kinect detailed

There's been a lot of unrest over a few of the requirements the shiny new console from Microsoft has, and after a lot of rumours and hearsay, Microsoft has given a concrete word on the matter.

Published Date
07 - Jun - 2013
| Last Updated
07 - Jun - 2013
Xbox One: Used games, Always-On Internet and Always-On Kinect det...

Microsoft recently updated the Xbox One part of its site with some rather interesting information. The company was quite slick about releasing some very important information regarding the online checks, used game policies and the way in which the Kinect would record information. Gamers have been vying for an official word on these aspects of the new console and Microsoft has detailed them rather well on the website, but we’ve got the important bits for you right here.

The “Always-On” Internet Dealio

There was a long standing rumour that the new Xbox would require an always-on internet connection and at the May 21st event, not a lot of details were shared. However, Microsoft representatives later clarified that the console would require to go online at least once every 24 hours. Microsoft has stated a few reasons for this move, and they are listed below:

• Because every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection, developers can create massive, persistent worlds that evolve even when you’re not playing.

• Xbox One is designed to run in a low-powered, connected state. This means your system, games and apps are always current and ready to play—no more waiting for updates.

• Never miss an opportunity to play games with your friends or to catch up with family on Skype. Use Skype in Snap mode to chat while you play games or watch TV. Or enjoy group video Skype calls with people around the world, all from the comfort of your living room.

• After signing in and installing, you can play any of your games from any Xbox One because a digital copy of your game is stored on your console and in the cloud. So, for example, while you are logged in at your friend’s house, you can play your games.

• You’ll be able to buy disc-based games at traditional retailers or online through Xbox Live, on day of release.

From what it looks like, Microsoft has made an assumption that everyone has a broadband connection, which might not necessarily be the case in some parts of the world. This also means that you can game offline, but that period is limited to 24 hours from your console, or one hour from a console that is not yours. The reason for this is that the Xbox One is designed (and required) to verify if your system, application, or games need updates or if you’ve acquired new games. This also allows Microsoft to check if you’ve resold, traded in, or shared a game with a friend.

The Fate of Used Games and Trading

The current gaming community thrives on a healthy exchange of game titles, with friends often loaning out their copies to each other. Many a times, gamers would finish a game and then sell it off for some quick cash, possibly to purchase another game. When the new console was being rumoured, many new that Microsoft was going to make a move to block this particular behaviour. The Xbox event didn’t shed any light on how Microsoft was going to block the sales of used games (whether it was going to at all or not!), but we have a final word on the matter.

• You’ll be able to buy disc-based games at traditional retailers or online through Xbox Live, on day of release. Discs will continue to be a great way to install your games quickly.

• After signing in and installing, you can play any of your games from any Xbox One because a digital copy of your game is stored on your console and in the cloud. So, for example, while you are logged in at your friend’s house, you can play your games.

• Your friends and family, your guests and acquaintances get unlimited access to all of your games. Anyone can play your games on your console--regardless of whether you are logged in or their relationship to you.

• Xbox One will enable new forms of access for families. Up to ten 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.

• Today, some gamers choose to sell their old disc-based games back for cash and credit. 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.

• Xbox One is designed so game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends. There are no fees charged as part of these transfers. There are two requirements: you can only give them to people who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.

A major drawback here happens to be that the developers will have the final discretion on whether to allow the one-time-trade with a friend, or even reselling for that matter. For example, EA might just decide one day that while it’s ok to trade their Madden or NFL games, but the Need for Speed game might be locked out of this feature. Forget the one time trade with a friend, they could even block reselling of the game. Microsoft may be opening the doors to something very dark and Orwellian here.

Kinect: The Big Brother in Your Living Room

Microsoft’s entire demo at the May 21st event revolved heavily around the new Kinect sensor, which the company has improved significantly. The new sensor is almost thrice the resolution, and is fine tuned to the point where it can pick up the rotating motion of your wrists and even measure your heartbeat. It all sounds great till you realize that the new Xbox One requires the Kinect to be always on, though you can turn certain features off. Many people worried about having their private conversations being recorded by the sensor and being uploaded to Microsoft’s Server Farm of Evil, but the company assures that is not the case. Here is what the Redmond crew had to say about the Kinect’s role in the new console:

• By design, you will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded.

• If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say “Xbox Off.” When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command -- “Xbox On,” and you can even turn that feature off too. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you’ll need to turn it back on for these experiences.

• You can play games or enjoy applications that use data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate and more, but this data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission. Here are a few examples of potential future scenarios: A fitness game could measure heart rate data to provide you with improved feedback on your workout, allow you to track your progress, or even measure calories burned. Or a card game could allow you to bluff your virtual opponent using your facial expressions.

• While it’s faster to find what you’re looking for using your voice and gesture commands with Kinect, you can use a controller, your remote controls or your smart devices instead. And you can use all of these devices when Kinect is paused.

This still doesn’t explain whether the Xbox One will work without having the Kinect sensor plugged into the console, but the text does note that certain features of the dashboard and games will require the Kinect sensor, so might as well plug it in and turn all its features off (like microphone and what-not).

So, there you have it. You can trade games, you can play without an internet connection (with a small catch) and the Kinect won’t be uploading your personal conversations onto a server. However, if you’re still paranoid, or not clear about the exact nature of these features, we strongly recommend waiting at least 6 months from the launch of the Xbox One before you pick one up.

Source: Xbox Connection, Xbox Licensing, Xbox Privacy

Swapnil MathurSwapnil Mathur

Digit's resident camera nerd, (un)official product photographer and the Reviews Editor