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Microsoft Announces Game Licensing Information for Xbox One

on Thursday, Jun. 6th

Check out the full anouncement here.

The first three clauses are pretty straighforward, and it will be hard for anyone to spin these as negative:

  • Same day brick & mortar and digital sales.
  • Game library access from any system when signed into an account.
  • All games in a library are accesable on the primary system to anyone with access to that console.

I focus in on a few details after the jump.

Here are the first of two clauses that are going to cause a hue & cry:

  • 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. 

The trade-in clause puts used game sales at the discretion of the publishers. From later in the press release:

Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. 

One can presume that all of the shared copies will be de-authorized on the various systems they have been spread to via the "give your games to friends" and "access your entire games library from any Xbox One" clauses.

Let's look at that "give your games to friends" clause in depth:

  • 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.

This is going to freak a lot of people out. The 30 day limit is somewhat arbitrary: I get that Microsoft doesn't want to foster a community of "fake friends illicitly sharing games"… but that feels like lawyer paranoia that just gave a whole bunch of devious miscreants ideas.

The "only given once" rule feels even stranger. Why not just put a loan time-limit of 15 or 30 days on a loaned game without access to the disc? How will they know that a game is on loan without the disc being present in the loaned-to console? Can a game's owner still play that game while it is loaned to a friend?

Remember that a lot of this stems from the fact that you won't need to have a disc in a machine in order to play the game. Which means you could have two copies running simultaneously if the underlying network archtecture doesn't ban this.

One last clause shows a way around some of the "problems":

  • 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.

Okay. Define "family".

I'm being serious. I'm an only child, with a self-made "family" of close friends. Does "family" refer to an XBox Live Gold family account? Is it a collection of gamertags that someone defines? Do these have to be symetrical relationships? Can I designate my S.O. as family? My best friends?

There's a lot of unanswered questions in this set-up, and it appears that Microsoft is attempting to straddle two eras: the physical media based console past, and the cloud based, Steam/iTunes present.

Good luck, guys. (Don't think for a second Sony isn't going to do the exact same thing.)

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)

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