Earlier this week, Microsoft finally got around to showing off Xbox One, the console some gamers have been waiting for since the Xbox 360 came out eight years ago. The company made sure to highlight all the cool bells and whistles of the upcoming device, but also skipped over a number of issues that are already giving some folks reason for concern.
1. THE USED GAME FEE?
As skeptics predicted when Worst Company In America Electronic Arts seemed to be doing something pro-consumer by getting rid of its annoying Online Pass program that required buyers of pre-owned games to pay extra for access to online play, it was really just because Microsoft is tackling the used game issue at the console level.
On the Xbox 360 users have the option of putting disc-based games on a hard drive, but still require the disk in order to play. This will change with the Xbox One, where games will be automatically installed on the hard drive and you don’t need to put the disk in whenever you want to play that game.
This isn’t a problem for people playing new games. But there is obviously some sort of block on the game software that prevents the user from just copying a game onto the hard drive then giving the disk to all her friends.
On this topic, Microsoft is a bit cagey, but it did tell Wired’s Chris Kohler that when a disc is used with a second account, the user will be given the option to pay a fee to install the game from his hard drive.
But what about users who just want to take a game over to a friend’s house? Or what about pre-owned games — can the buyer simply run the game from the disc without paying a fee? All Microsoft will say at this point is that it does have a plan and details are forthcoming.
The company has since backtracked, telling Polygon the fee idea is just one of many possible scenarios considered in its plan for handling pre-owned games.
2. NO BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY
Many Xbox 360 owners have at least a handful of games in their collections. Even if it’s only five or six games, that means you’ve invested upwards of $300 on just those titles. For people with dozens of games, the investment could be in the thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, those games are being played on consoles that could be nearly a decade old.
So wouldn’t it be awesome if you could take those games and play them on a brand new Xbox One? Alas, Microsoft says the new console will not be backwards compatible:
We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment you have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.
I don’t think those people with aging 360s are concerned about their being new games for the console so much as they care about having to run two consoles if they want to also use the Xbox One — and having to buy a brand-new Xbox 360 if their old ones conk out.
3. ALWAYS CONNECTED?
Microsoft has said that the Xbox One doesn’t require a constant connection to the Internet in order to use the console. But you can’t just take this up to your remote, off-the-grid cabin in the woods and play on your generator-powered 52″ TV, as the Xbox One does require an Internet connection to be set up and for periodic check-ins.
A VP for Microsoft tells Kotaku that he believes it’s once every 24 hours, but that seems to be an up-in-the-air question at this point.
4. ALWAYS KINECT-ED
While many Xbox 360 consoles are being sold in a bundle with the Kinect, you don’t have to buy one, and you certainly don’t have to use it. But all Xbox One consoles will ship with the Kinect, and it appears to be thoroughly integrated into the system so it may be a required part of the installation.
The fact is that some people just don’t like the idea of an Internet-connected camera and microphone being dead-center in their living room. The user can get over that concern by turning the Xbox One off when it’s not in use for gaming, but you’d be losing out on many of the console’s features — the ability to control your cable box, go online, multitask.
You can always fashion a lens cap out of electrical tape.