With E3 2013 looming, Microsoft has finally given clearer answers to those questions -- though they're not going to make everyone happy.
In a wide ranging series of posts last Thursday, the company confronted the issues that have been dogging it for the past two weeks. Here's what we can now confirm:
Does the Xbox require an online connection?
Short answer: Yes.
While you won't need to be constantly connected to the Internet, Xbox One will check every 24 hours if you're playing on your primary console or every one hour if you're accessing your shared game library from another. If you're offline for longer than these periods, your game will be paused and you won't be able to play until you reconnect. You will, however, be able to watch TV or Blu-ray/DVD content.
Microsoft explains this check-in is required to "verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection."
Will you have to pay a fee for used games?
Despite worries that Microsoft would prohibit or charge a fee to play used games, the company says that won't be the case.
"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," Microsoft said.
That’s good news for gamers, but it doesn't completely rule out fees. Here’s the sticky part:
“In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this.”
In other words, game publishers could require extra fees for playing used or traded games, if they so choose. And considering that many game publishers have issues with the used games market (they currently don’t get a cut of those sales), it’s a safe bet that many publishers will take advantage of this to get a piece of the action -- and that could mean higher prices at retail.
Can I share games with friends?
In a somewhat upbeat note, Microsoft announced that Xbox One owners will not only be able to share disc-based games with friends, they'll also be able to share any digital downloaded titles.
In the house, up to 10 people can log in to play any title in a shared game library. If you (or a family member) heads to someone else's house, you'll still be able to access the game through the Xbox One's cloud server.
There are a couple of restrictions: Games can only be shared with someone who has been on your friend's list for 30 days or more, and, most notably, each game can only be shared once.
Can I turn Kinect off so it doesn't 'spy' on me?
Given the disclosure of the government's controversial Prism program, people have become increasingly wary of a home console that can monitor your speech and movements at any given time -- even when it's turned off.
Microsoft sought to calm those fears, noting that players are in control of when Kinect sensing is on, off or paused.
"If you don't want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say 'Xbox Off.' When the system is off, it's only listening for the single voice command -- 'Xbox On,' and you can even turn that feature off too," the company said.
"You will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you're simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded."
Do I have to talk to my game console to get it to work?
Microsoft cleared up this mystery as well, saying players can still use a controller, remote control or smart device to navigate the dashboard. However, it noted it's faster to do so using the Kinect functionality.
Microsoft's will undoubtedly be discussing these issues and more at the E3 conference in Los Angeles next week.
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