Microsoft blinks on used games. Good.

So there’s reports floating around that the MS is saying that Xbox One will not charge a fee when you sell a game on.

Instead, what it seems to do is use the physical disc as a bit of a “key”. You pass the physical disc on, and the disc installs the game and then “activates” it on the Xbox One in question, deactivating it on systems elsewhere. I suppose you can “activate” elsewhere using Xbox Live, too; if you have it installed elsewhere and then log into your account, you’ll have the option to activate where you are and then deactivate elsewhere. Hence the “checking in” aspect; it needs to do that in order to make the system work.

Meanwhile, the system will give MS the ability to give publishers (and themselves) a cut of used games sales by big retailers, and (I suppose?) to allow for permanent ownership transfers from one person to another as a part of that. Gamestop et al will be able to get “reset codes”.

Do I like this? Not completely, but it’s sure-as-hell better than how it looked in Wired. This still plays hell with anybody with Internet connection problems, and still means that the console’s useless if the servers go down at some point in the future. If this is how the scheme works, though, then it DOES open up the possibility of digital resale of game licenses. That’s really, really overdue, even if publishers probably hate the idea. I still think it’ll be Steam that opens that door, not Microsoft.

Funny thing is, I still think the Wired article was right. This stinks of damage control. Microsoft knows that they’ve got a PR nightmare on their hands, and that the whole idea of leading off with the TVish stuff and putting the games on display at E3 was a TERRIBLE idea made worse by their decision not to even tease the E3 game roster. The presentation itself should have had lots of fun teasers for games that they’ll be revealing at E3, in order to keep the gamers onside while they rolled out all this set-top box nonsense.

They didn’t, and so gamers’ attention is caught up completely in this half-baked and clearly unfinished DRM scheme. I doubt MS has thought it through enough and I’m SURE that it isn’t finalized yet. The Wired version was probably where they were last week, and now they’re hurriedly revising things to make it less objectionable and even, dare I say it, consumer-friendly.

You know what? That’s a good thing. I like that. It shows that they’re paying attention. It shows that they’re listening. Everybody makes mistakes, especially MS. Where MS excels is in taking a flawed product and iterating on it until it’s good. Windows XP had a lot of problems out of the gate, and it wasn’t until the second or third service pack that it became the OS that people are loathe to give up. Vista was terrible, and it wasn’t until Windows 7 refined Vista that we learned that MS had actually built something really, really great. Iteration, iteration, iteration. It’s why I still think the Surface is going to be a huge deal in a hardware generation or two.

Consoles are no different. The first Xbox was a neat entrant, but it wasn’t until the 360 that they got it right, and the 360 itself had hardware issues until later revisions. Xbox One is an extension of the UI concepts that they’re using on the 360 and in Windows 8, and certainly the Kinect being heavily improved.

It’s when MS thinks that they’ll pull it off all in one go, that they’re an Apple that releases a polished product right out of the gate, that they screw up. They aren’t Apple, or Google, or Samsung. They’re MS. They’ve got inertia. They need to listen, learn, and improve. They do that, and the Xbox One might well become something worth owning.

Edit: Or maybe not? I’m re-reading that Harrison interview and it seems to suggest that you can’t just pass the disc on.

MS, let’s be straight on this. Allowing for store-mediated resale is not enough. If you don’t have a mechanism for users, actual users, to transfer ownership either permanently or temporarily, people are going to be pissed off beyond all reason. It’s perfectly fair to block people from playing games that they’ve lent or given to friends. Each purchase should mean only one user playing at a time. But blocking the ability to lend/sell/borrow/give at ALL is over the line.

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One thought on “Microsoft blinks on used games. Good.

  1. […] Microsoft blinks on used games. Good.. […]

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