Microsoft ditches Xbox One DRM and always online policies

Confirmed: Platform holder backtracks on used game control and 24-hour check-ins

Microsoft has officially ditched Xbox One's previously proposed used game DRM policies and the need for the console to log in online once every 24 hours.


"As a result of feedback from the Xbox community, we have changed certain policies for Xbox One," said the firm today before Microsoft's president of interactive entertainment business Don Mattrick updated with the full details.

Here's the important part:

"An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games - After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

"Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today - There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

"In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console -- there will be no regional restrictions.

"These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray."

An unexpected sacrifice of the changes is the the abandoning of plans to introduce a crowd-pleasing 'family sharing' feature, which would have allowed users to share games with up to 10 'family' members. As Mattrick delicately explains above, "The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold."

Marc Whitten, VP of Xbox Live has clarified to Kotaku, "There's a few things we won't be able to deliver as a result of this change. One of the things we were very excited about was 'wherever we go my games are always with me.' Now, of course your physical games won't show up that way. The games you bought digitally will. You'll have to bring your discs with you to have your games with you. Similarly, the sharing library [is something] we won't be able to deliver at launch."

The benefits of the policy revision, however, are arguably more crucial; Xbox One will be playable with or without an internet connection, dispersing the fears of a vocal and outraged crowd who staged a backlash against the orignal online-reliant policy.

The changes also re-open the door to game rental services, the lending of games between friends and the purchase and sale of used games to anyone, anywhere without fear of DRM control.

And a region-free console will mean gamers will be able to import titles from other regions without restriction.

This comes after Sony delighted E3 attendees and the onlooking gaming community with bullish confirmation that its PS4 console would not require an internet connection to be played offline, and would not enforce standard restrictions on the use of second-hand games (unless third-party publishers choose to do so themselves).

Microsoft executive Phil Spencer indicated to CVG last week that the firm would be open to making changes to its Xbox One policies in relation to "consumer demand", but insisted that at the time its DRM policies for the console were "definitive".

The Xbox One's original DRM policies sparked outrage among consumers, and became the subject of much controversy for the firm.

As it previously stood, the Xbox One would have required an internet connection for online licensing checks at least once every 24 hours, without which no gameplay - including offline play - would have been permitted.

The console would have also locked games to a single Xbox Live account, and users would only be allowed to transfer the license for a game to another player (such as in a private sale) a single time. Without the license for a specific game, users would have needed to pay a fee likely close to full price to play said game on their console.

These policies would have seemingly wiped out any possibility for game rental services to operate, made the lending of game discs between friends impossible, and would have restricted the Xbox One used games market to 'participating' retailers with the bespoke infrastructure to support Xbox Live license transfers.

All this, it seemed, came with only one day-to-day benefit for the end user; the ability to play discs-based games on the console without having to insert the actual disc - a small privilege now sacrificed with the abandoning of the DRM measures that would have prevented multiple users installing a game from one disc.

But Microsoft had difficulties not only clearly communicating its policies to the public, but also in justifying them as beneficial to the user.

Don Mattrick last week insisted that the Xbox One's always-online policy was a "good choice".

"Until you use it, it's really hard to understand what all the advantages are," he said. "It's a service-based world, if you think about things and how they get better with an internet connection, [and] that's a design choice that we made. I think people will appreciate it."

Today, Mattrick closed out his policy-change statement by thanking the community for its feedback. "We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds," he said.

"Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year."