Microsoft has officially reversed two highly controversial Xbox One policies, citing gamer backlash after the E3 conference in California week. Even before its keynote speech at E3, Microsoft had already confirmed that the Xbox One would require a once-every-24-hours check-in and restrict the sale, trading, and lending of used games.
Many people, from casual consumers to industry analysts, took to message boards and blogs to vent their dissatisfaction – some expressing disappointment in Microsoft and others going as far as pledging allegiance to Sony’s rival PlayStation 4.
Don Mattrick, Xbox’s Interactive Entertainment Business President, released a statement on the Xbox website dated June 19, addressing the negative feedback that his company has received. In it, he wrote:
“Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.”
Mattrick went on to assure consumers that the Internet requirement and used game restrictions would be removed. He said that after a “one-time system set-up,” gamers would not be required to use the internet again, an issue that struck a chord with consumers like students and members of the armed forces who might experience spotty internet connections.
Mattrick further stated that trading, lending, re-selling, gifting, and renting Xbox One games would “work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”
Another big win for gamers, especially those who might be expatriates, travelers, or frequent software importers, is that the Xbox One will now be region free. Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 will be region free, as was its predecessor, the PS3. This is groundbreaking news from Microsoft, however, as the previous Xbox 360 was region locked.
But why didn’t Microsoft salvage its E3 appearance by using the expo’s world stage to announce these changes? According to All Things D’s Eric Johnson, who spoke with Xbox’s Chief Product Officer Mark Whitten, the company wanted an opportunity to tell its “complete story” at E3 to really gauge consumer opinion. Backtracking only a week after the event seems like E3 was a lost opportunity. Regardless, the announcement may boost sales figures for the console’s November launch. Johnson explained:
“If this policy change had to happen at some point, it’s probably smarter for Microsoft to pull the trigger and take the hit now, rather than endangering the One’s launch by dawdling as the anti-DRM winds consistently blew in its face.”
The big policy reversal will have some drawbacks. For example, game sharing with up to ten family members is now off the table. Playing disc-based games from hard disk backups is also out. That being said, it is unlikely that gamers will miss these features in light of winning back their rights to used games and choosing when and how often they connect to the Internet.
Even considering the very vocal Xbox One naysayers, the Xbox One appears poised for some level of success. Gamestop, an American video game retailer, is reporting that some stores have already reached pre-order capacity for the new Microsoft console.
The big question now is: Will the Xbox fans who announced that they would jump ship to PlayStation now return to Microsoft? We will have to wait until November to find out.