Opinion: Xbox ONE, Borrowing, and Selling Used Games

Opinion: Xbox ONE, Borrowing, and Selling Used Games

Microsoft moves away from one controversial subject of functionality to another in regards to their new entertainment system: Xbox ONE. With mandatory “always connected online” being highly suggested “always connected online”. With that cleared up, now there’s a new issue of the fees for allowing someone to borrow a game as well as the idea of used games…or rather Microsoft’s idea of used games. Needless to say there was confusion among readers and reports on these two areas which are still pretty significant parts of gaming.

In an attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions and vagueness of the issue, Microsoft VP Phil Harrison explained the pricing and fees to Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell. Essentially, you can take the game over someone’s house and play it on your account, free of charge since the game is linked to your account. Where the “Microsoft’s definition” of borrowing comes in is if you leave your game over a friend house for them to play on their own account, they will have to pay to play it.

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Apparently the “bits” and information will still be on their console from your play session with them, but to actually play the game they’ll need to buy it at full price. Note there’s nothing about keeping their money in holding, holding a certain amount, paying for a certain amount of time (rental), or anything. They pay the full thing.

From the interview with Tom Bramwell Harrison gave an example of how their “digital permissions” system would allow for “borrowing

“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. 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 (using 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.”

On that part of the topic, he closed with, “The bits 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.”

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The thing here is that disc based media—music CDs, books on CDs, movie DVDs, other games on disc—don’t work like that without a system in place. If you choose to let someone borrow a disc then they can get it, pop it into whatever player or system, and play it. They don’t have to buy the whole album, purchase the movie, or purchase the book. You had the media, you just played it.

This kind of system works well for PC games, but with console gaming it’s foreign and when you have to implement a system that needs to be clarified to allow for borrowing. If this an attempt to saw off used games as we know them, force people to buy the full game, and halt piracy then just say so. No need to come with a system that pretty much eliminates a working—though unorganized—system of borrowing and trading among gamers—not between gamers and retail shops—that has worked since games got actual graphics. The more it has to be explained, the more uncomfortable the customer base will become with it.

Since the game has to have a code to link it to your console; that means it has to be validated online. This is a minor thing since you don’t have to be online all the time. Going to the subject of retail, Harrison mentioned that Microsoft would have a system in place for that. This system allows for players to trade the digital content of a title at a retail store as well as their own store.

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It’s expected that Microsoft will clear everything up on the games side at their E3 presentation. As a matter of fact, they will have to. There are questions and concerns floating about and things get a bit vague and cryptic at the mention of having to pay for the used game and paying to activate the game. It doesn’t sound like it should be an issue at all if Xbox ONE’s title will be sold in game retailers anyway. If it ended up that players would just buy their games through digital means and cut out the middle man that would really do a job on a store like GameStop—especially if this new system allowed for players to set their own prices for used content and how they wished to be paid through Microsoft.

The whole thing is very murky even with the issue of “borrowing” being explained. It’s something that still doesn’t sit well with many gamers at the moment—including those who have been long time Xbox supporters—as it changes some elements that have worked for the most part for decades. Outside of the issue of the triangle with gamers, game retailers, and game developers where the money from used game purchases go to the retailer only, the system never needed any interference or “fixing” when it came to letting your sister or brother play the game in the same house on their console or letting a friend borrow it.

What do you think of Xbox ONE’s borrowing practices? Thumbs up or thumbs down on it? What did you think of the reveal overall?


Starting with Kabir News in 2013, James has focused on tech, gaming, and entertainment. When not writing, he enjoys catching up on sci-fi and horror shows and comics. He can be followed on Twitter @MetalSwift.

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