The Xbox One will use a stricter DRM scheme than game consoles before it, requiring some manner of Internet authentication to play the games that you purchase for the system on Blu-ray disc, but despite several attempts from Microsoft spokespeople to clarify matters, just how overbearing it will be remains unclear.
An exclusive report that landed just after the reveal on Wired
suggests that a disc-bought game requires Internet activation upon installation:
What follows naturally from this is that each disc would have to be tied to a unique Xbox Live account, else you could take a single disc and pass it between everyone you know and copy the game over and over. Since this is clearly not going to happen, each disc must then only install for a single owner.
Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.
Xbox community figureheard Larry Major Nelson
Hyrb then attempted to clear things up a little:
We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.
Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.
Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.
And speaking to Kotaku
executive Phil Harrison said some words on the subject too:
"There are many devices in your life that require the Internet to function," he said. "Xbox One is no different in that it requires, at some point in the beginning and at various times through its on state, to connect to our cloud and to our Internet. That is to deliver Xbox Live functionality, that is to deliver download content to you, that is to deliver some of the innovations around TV and entertainment that we showed today. But it doesn’t require it to be online all the time."
A separate Kotaku article
, presumably from the same interview goes further to explain that the 'fee' that Wired had described, is actually the full price of purchasing the game from Xbox LIVE:
But what if you want to bring a game disc to a friend's house and play there? You'll have to pay a fee—and not just some sort of activation fee, but the actual price of that game—in order to use a game's code on a friend's account. Think of it like a new game, Harrison said.
"The bits that are on that disc, you can give it to your friend and they can install it on an Xbox One," he said. "They would then have to purchase the right to play that game through Xbox Live."
"They would be paying the same price we paid, or less?" we asked.
"Let’s assume it’s a new game, so the answer is yes, it will be the same price," Harrison said.
But that doesn't mean used games are dead. In fact, Harrison told us, you'll be able to sell your Xbox One games online.
"We will have a solution—we’re not talking about it today—for you to be able to trade your previously-played games online," Harrison said.
Combining these various reports here's our best effort to summarise this whole mess:
The Xbox One will require an Internet connection when you install a game purchased on Blu-ray disc, the game data will be installed from the disc, but that disc's unique identifier (presumably a serial key) will be linked to your Xbox Live account --much like Steamworks games on PC are-- permitting you to reinstall it from your digital locker at any point in the future, without needing the disc, but preventing the same disc activation from being used on another Xbox One console, unless your Xbox Live account is also used.
Activating the same disc in another Xbox One console, with another Xbox Live account, will necessitate the new user to repurchase the game at the current Xbox Marketplace price, however, once they own the digital license to the game, they can use the disc to install the game, rather than having to download the entire game from Internet servers.
A small consolation is that Microsoft are planning to somehow facilitate transfer of the digital ownership for games, online between Xbox Live users. They're "not talking about it yet", but we presume this would function by simply deactivating the game from the first owner's Xbox Live account, and activating the license to download and play that game on the second owners account, with Microsoft taking a percentage cut of the user to user sale price.
It would even be technically possible for Microsoft to allow used game licenses to be digitally traded to the accounts of third party facilitators like GameStop and EB Games, for them to resell to other customers, but that's pure speculation and admittedly, pretty unlikely.
Playing single-player and same-screen multiplayer games offline will be possible, but some manner of authorisation check will prohibit playing for longer than (Phil Harrison "thinks") 24 hours. Additionally, the decision will ultimately be up to individual publishers, as to whether they want online connectivity to be mandatory in their single-player games.
Notably, previous comments from Sony have confirmed none of these measures are required for disc-bought games on the upcoming PlayStation 4 console, which perhaps explains Microsoft's to underplay their significance, but it will no doubt serve as a major point of difference for some consumers.