More Xbox One details emerge: TV integration, Second-hand play, more

xbox-one-allMicrosoft wanted to make today’s Xbox One announcements about “big themes”, but of course, with all the attention of the gaming world focused on a tent in Redmond, that isn’t sitting too well, and bloggers and journalists both in Redmond and beyond are tracking down stories and pushing Microsoft to reveal a bit more than just “big themes”.  In an interview today, XBox CVP Phil Harrison explained to what Microsoft intended to accomplish::

Today is about introducing the platform and it’s about introducing the big themes of what Xbox One is about as a new entertainment device that brings together games, TV and entertainment into one place. I think it’s inappropriate for us to go into every avenue of tiny little detail today, but we will in due course…


Microsoft started out with some lofty promises about live TV integration, and Yusuf Mehdi demoed switching channels and finding content with simple voice commands.  Only it’s not as simple as that, it turns out.  The Verge’s Niley Patel dug a little deeper, and found “a familiar nightmare”:

The problem is that the demoes weren’t real — the Xbox One’s TV integration is the same familiar nightmare we’ve known for nearly 20 years now. Instead of actually integrating with your TV service, the One sits on top of it: you plug your cable box’s HDMI cable into the Xbox, which overlays the signal with its own interface. If you’re lucky enough to own a newer cable box, you’ll get to change channels directly through the HDMI connection, but most people will find themselves using the One’s included IR blaster to control their cable or satellite boxes — a failure-prone one-way communication system that stubbornly refuses to die.

Ever since the very first rumblings about a new Xbox, there have been questions about “backwards compat”, the ability of the new system to play old games, and news quickly filtered out that there would be indeed no backwards compat with the One.  Again, from The Verge:

If you were hoping to play your vast collection of Xbox 360 games on Microsoft’s latest creation, we’ve got a spot of bad news. Microsoft Xbox Live VP Marc Whitten confirmed to The Verge that the new Xbox One console will have no backwards compatibility whatsoever.

“No, there’s not,” said Whitten, when we posed the question. “The system is based on a different core architecture, so back-compat doesn’t really work from that perspective.”

That means that Xbox 360 discs won’t work, but also extends to Xbox Live Arcade downloadable titles. Anything that was designed for the Xbox 360 will have to be rebuilt, and it sounds like Microsoft doesn’t plan to do so.

There’s nothing stopping you from running an Xbox 360 side-by-side with a new Xbox One, of course, and even though The Verge is skeptical, Microsoft did make mention of “re-imagining” at least some current games for the One, most likely the most popular and most recent titles.  However, if you’re hoping for cross platform play capabilities between the One and 360 platforms, the Xbox Support Twitter account has quashed that idea:




Another big topic today is about second hand games – that is, the ability to sell used games, or let your friends play games you own on their systems.  Microsoft explained some of this over at Xbox Wire, the new official Xbox blog:

Q:    Will Xbox One allow players to trade in, purchase and play pre-owned games? A:    We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later.

However, thanks to Eurogamer’s relentless pursuit, some more information has emerged.  Eurogamer interviewed Xbox CVP Phil Harrison, which may or may not have cleared up some of the confusion.  According to Harrison:

…you can buy a game on a disc from a retail store, come home and install it to your Xbox One. The disc contains all the bits and data on that game, which you can then give to your friend, and they can then install it on their Xbox One. No restriction on that, except that the second person obviously has to pay for it.

You can purchase a game in two ways: you can purchase it from a retail store or you can download it. So the act of putting the bits on the hard drive – the Xbox One doesn’t really know or care what method the bits got into the machine, if it was from a disc or downloaded from Xbox Live. But obviously the users will then have to purchase that content.

What I think people are now confusing is the purchasing of content in the first instance with the ability to trade and resell the previously played games. We have a solution for that and we will be announcing exactly how that works in due course.

Unfortunately, the Xbox Support Twitter account re-added some confusion back again by tweeting “You will not have to pay a *fee*, apparently responding mainly to information posted in a Wired article from earlier in the day (emphasis ours):

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.

But what if a second person simply wanted to put the disc in and play the game without installing – and without paying extra? In other words, what happens to our traditional concept of a “used game”? This is a question for which Microsoft did not yet have an answer, and is surely something that game buyers (as well as renters and lenders) will want to know. (Update: Microsoft called Wired after this story was originally published to say that the company did have a plan for used games, and that further details were forthcoming.)

It sounds to us like the various parties are getting caught up in semantics – that while there won’t be a *fee* (as in extra charge) paid to Microsoft for playing a second hand game, you won’t be able to just hand your game disc over to someone and let them play it without a connection to your Xbox Live account (or a secondary purchase of the game), either.

If nothing else, it’s been a busy day for Xbox watchers, and E3 is still nearly 3 weeks away!