Microsoft dropped a whole load of news on Thursday evening, the kind worth poring over every word of twice, sometimes backwards. One big topic Microsoft clarified is that of sharing and selling games, though they introduced almost as many questions as answers.
Will you be able to resell your Xbox One discs? Absolutely, according to Microsoft.
Trade-in and resell your disc-based games: 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.
There are two important parts to that paragraph. The first is that “publishers can enable you” to trade in games. Xbox One games are not, as an overall product, forbidden from resale, but publishers can make it so. I wouldn’t expect to see this with most games. I could see games with a particularly long tail, like Call of Duty, coming with this caveat.
The other important part is that Microsoft won’t be charging anyone – publishers, retailers, or consumers – for enabling transfer of those games. My assumption is that retailers will be able to get some sort of delicensing device from Microsoft to participate in this, and hopefully the not-charging-a-fee thing includes that, or smaller used game retailers will be out in the cold.
With this info from Microsoft, I’d call the used game sales aspect of the doctine of first sale pretty much closed.
Things get a bit less clear with lending and sharing games.
From Microsoft’s page:
Give your games to friends: 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.
Right there, the question of a fee for loaning a game is right out the window. That’s not happening, so we can forget about that. The rest is pretty confusing.
First is the requirement that you can only give games to people who have been on your friends list for 30 days or more. It’s like Microsoft wants to make sure we’re really friends. I thought at first that there was a benefit to this with regard to theft; if someone stole your game, they couldn’t play it. But then can’t they sell it? Or will the used game sales path have something in place to determine whether the seller is also the owner? We’ll need to hear more from Microsoft about both aspects to this to really understand it. It doesn’t seem bad as much as it does weirdly specific.
If you like to sell your own games through Amazon or Craigslist, however, that is out the window…unless you friend your buyers for a full month beforehand.
And then there’s the wording “each game can only be given once.” What does that mean? By the current owner? Bill to Steve, Steve to Sarah, and so forth? Or does it mean that once Bill gives it to Steve, that all ownership transfer options are gone? And then what about selling it? Does the buyer of used game get to give it once, too? The spiderweb of possible scenarios for this is mind-boggling, and the more confusing it is for consumers, the angrier consumers will get. This definitely requires further clarification from Microsoft in the coming months.
Jason Schreier of Kotaku had an interesting take on the subject. After detailing the above information, he compared it to the lending policies of Amazon’s Kindle service, Steam, and iOS. All three are, by all accounts, wildly successful digital media platforms, and the comparison is warranted, to varying degrees. Kindle books, for example, can be loaned out once, for 14 days. Steam has no lending option in place, but allows users to buy games as gifts and then gift it to someone else or themselves at a later date (Side note: You should be buying all your Steam games as gifts unless you’re planning to play them right away; if you never play them, someone else might be able to.). Of course, you can lend out your username if you really trust the person. Apple’s policy states that a certain number of devices can be authorized using the same Apple ID. So there’s not really any sharing of any kind unless you’re willing to lend out your username as well.
The Kindle service’s lend-once policy sounds similar to the Xbox One, but without the benefit of having a physical device to resell. Apple’s policy is hard to apply because so few of the products on Apple’s service reach the $10 mark and even fewer surpassing it. Steam is really the only directly comparable service just by virtue of the value of the products. PC users have long since gotten used to not being able to resell games, and those that have fully embraced Steam have been purchasing full price games without any ability option to lend them either.
The rub there is that for most Steam users, the only kind of Steam game that warrants purchasing is the kind that has a 75% off badge on it, and those people are, like I mentioned in an earlier article, okay with paying a price for access that’s so low that ownership is unnecessary.
Give your family access to your entire games library anytime, anywhere: 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.
This is the most interesting and most perplexing section of Microsoft’s game transfer policies. What does it all mean? How does Microsoft know who my family is? Can I set certain friends as family? How often can I change them out? As long as people aren’t trying to play the game at the same time, this could potentially be a great way to save on games. There’s also some confusing wording with regard to what exactly you can share. The header refers to “your entire games library,” but the text refers to a shared games library. Will there be a limit to how many games can be shared? At the very least, I assume we’ll be able to choose which games are and aren’t shared, but I hope we’ll be able to share any games we have.
Microsoft has done an admirable job trying to clarify all this information regarding game transfer policies, but the number of possible situations is so vast that it’s hard to imagine right now how it’ll all work. Give us a diagram or a flowchart, you guys. Then we’ll know whether or not to be ticked off.
As it stands right now, Microsoft is not taking our requests for an appointment at E3. Even further, fellow game writers have said the Microsoft is cancelling their already arranged appointments.