Xbox One: Microsoft's Phil Spencer Talks Used Games, Always-On

Microsoft Game Studios VP Phil Spencer opens up on hot-button issues related to the just-announced next-generation platform.

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After years of secrecy and much speculation, Microsoft laid out its vision for the next-generation of games and entertainment yesterday during a media briefing in Redmond, Washington.

The company claimed the Xbox One will be an all-in-one device, capable of streaming live television, powering next-generation games, and connecting users with friends and family across the world with new video services like integrated Skype calling.

But for as much as Microsoft shared, the company also kept relatively quiet on numerous issues consumers might want more information about.

How much will it cost? Will it play used games? Do I need a constant Internet connection? Will it play Xbox 360 games? Because Kinect 2.0 is always-on, is it snooping on me?

GameSpot caught up with Microsoft Game Studios VP Phil Spencer to get a fuller understanding of the Xbox One feature-set. Below are highlights from our conversation.

Is the console always connected?

So the box was designed as a connected device. We thought about people's worlds today. Whether it's on their phone, their PC, their tablet, people are always connected. And their experiences with it, things like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, [they] rely on a connection to the outside world. We're seeing more and more of that in gaming as well. All that said, we understand sometimes you lose connection. There's certainly functionality that happens in the box that if you lose a connection [it] shouldn't stop whether I'm playing a movie, playing a single-player game. So if you lose your connection, the box will continue to perform and you will be able to watch your movie, play your single-player game. We wanted to build a fault-tolerant system. That said, a lot of experiences are multiplayer in nature. Obviously, your multiplayer experiences aren't going to work if your Internet goes down; Skype stops working, Netflix stops working if the Internet goes down.

I have to ask about used games. Will the box support used games and how is that model going to work?

So we'll talk about some of the 'how' at a later date, but I will say that we understand the importance of the secondary market. The secondary market was important in the current generation. We designed Xbox One understanding secondary market would be important in the new generation as well. We'll share more details, but people should know that it is a design criteria for us on the new box.

I think it was mentioned that all new games have to be installed.

Yes.

Is there any kind of DRM or anything that's happening where you're prevented from playing a game, a single-player game even maybe, if you're offline?

So one of the advantages in the Xbox One generation, the reason we're looking at installing and understanding which games are yours and you own, is the ability for your games to roam with you. And you can go to a box and the box knows which games you have and you can take those games with you and move around. I think that's a real strong component of the platform and it obviously requires some local version of the game because you don't have to carry your disc around with you, as you're kind of bringing your content with you. So I think it's going to unlock a lot of capability for the gamer, much like they walk around with their gamerscore and their Live ID.

Given that all games need to be installed, is a 500GB [hard drive]…that doesn't seem very big. I'm assuming some of the games are going to be pretty huge now coming on Blu-rays.

We did a lot of testing; we looked at the content that's being created today and what our roadmap looked like in terms of content creation. One thing I'd say about content today is you see content being delivered at many different levels. You have big, disc-based games that come out, but you also see games that start more service-related; where they come out small and they grow as the person builds their experience. Our math says that the 500 gigs will be a lot of storage space for the gamer in terms of how much game local data that they will save. Obviously, the game is yours, so if you were to delete something off the hard drive, you could obviously always re-install something if [you] ran into a situation where you were running out of space. But our math, when we look at the number of games that somebody usually owns and the content they consume, we think the hard drive will be a nice hard drive for people.

Do I get to bring [my XBLA games] with me [to the Xbox One]?

Those games will continue to run on your Xbox 360 for as long as your Xbox 360 runs. The box is not backward compatible and we think for somebody who invests in a large digital library that you want to keep your [Xbox 360]. Keep that as a vibrant part of the ecosystem. That's why we've made sure that your identity, your friends, are constant between both platforms. You don't have a separate identity on Xbox One or [Xbox 360]; it's the same, you are you. My friend's network is the same on both boxes, my achievements are the same. So we think that service component is an important component to keep constant across both devices.

So presumably you anticipate there being sort of a lot of support for the [Xbox 360] in terms of new XBLA releases and stuff…

I think the [Xbox 360] is going to be very vibrant for many years. In fact, we have a huge, I think it's huge, [Xbox 360] announcement for E3 that I keep wanting to talk about, but I can't. I think it will surprise people. I loved what we did with Minecraft; bring Minecraft to the box; six million units later it's kind of a beast. I think there's a lot of life in the [Xbox 360] for years to come.

Is the Xbox One being designed to support things like free-to-play games and maybe like episodic games and stuff like that?

We as a first-party think it's important that we push the boundaries of business models and delivery. We launched free-to-play games on console this fall (Happy Wars), and we've had some success there and we'll continue that flow of content. The business model, the content distribution is an evolution in gaming. People are playing games on all kinds of devices today; on phones, on tablets, on PCs, on consoles. And you see different kinds of business models; games that start small and kind of grow as a service and I think the Xbox One and its capabilities and the strength of Live on the backend will bring the television screen into that same capability that people see on their other devices.

Am I right in saying the Xbox One will only work when the Kinect is attached to it?

Yes.

I had a weird experience with my original Kinect where I was playing Fable II and I had no idea that my Kinect was doing anything at that time. And so I'm in the world; I see one of those little bubbles representing someone I know.

We call them Orbs (laughs).

And I start talking to my girlfriend who was with me at the time and I mention the guy who I'm seeing in the game and he comes out of the speakers and he can hear everything I'm saying because the Kinect is plugged in. Are there going to be options to kind of turn off all of this?

You definitely will have the software capability to turn off all the capabilities of Kinect. We want to put the gamer in control. And privacy. The box data information that collects is your data; it stays with you. You are in control of what you want to be collected. Game developers will obviously enable certain features and you'll be alerted when certain things are happening. Putting the gamer in control is really important.

With the new [Kinect], I had the demo earlier, and it seems like it's tracking an awful lot. While I'm playing a game, you're tracking my heart rate, my attention. Am I looking at the screen? Am I distracted? Am I smiling?

We should be careful in how we characterize those features. Those are features that are available to game developers. You think about emotion or where your head's looking; these are tools that a game designer can use in developing the game and creating more immersion. The amount of capabilities in Kinect has grown tremendously. But the data that it's collecting is really specific to the experience that you're in.

It seems like the kind of data that could be theoretically collected and then used to influence [future developers] for a sequel or something.

I won't just focus on Kinect because I think about how far somebody gets in a game, where the pinch-points are, where do people fail. All those analytic capabilities are really important to us in designing future iterations of games and finding out what people love. That capability to the developer is really important as they try to get better at their craft and make better experience. But we obviously want to put the gamer in control of what data gets shared.

The Xbox One launches later this year. Microsoft will ship 15 exclusive titles for the platform during its first 12 months. Eight of these games will be all-new franchises. For more, check out GameSpot's Xbox One news hub.

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Discussion

7149 comments
Mills99
Mills99

As a person who bought 4 Xbox 360's I'm totally against the dmr setting. I have had two of them break but they where the launch systems. I will never by a gaming system that has to be connected to the Internet. If I'm spending 4 hundred dollars on a system I better be able to use it where ever I'm at and because I'm a traveling salesman the system in nothing more than a 400 dollar price of s$&@

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

I can't wait to do some really advanced things on the XBone, like watch cable TV...that'd be so COOL because cable TV is so new and cutting edge. Even though its 2013 I really love to watch commercials. Who needs streaming services?

benmi
benmi

Great clarification that I definitely own the games.  So why does Microsoft feel entitled to charge the purchaser of my game a fee.  Clearly that must ultimately come out of my pocket b/c it affects the value of it and accordingly what the purchaser of my game will pay me for it.  I see no value being added by Microsoft for the said fee and can only conclude that this an act of greed by Microsoft and game developers who feel that they are losing out in some way when a consumer sell their property.  So all the nice language is simply trying to sugar coat unpleasant medicine.  I understand that the box is a closed system which ultimately gives them a lot of control; but this does not entice me in and offends my concept of property rights; something that Microsoft should understand given its attitude to its own property rights.  The forgoing also applies to Sony.  Both the main console makers (sorry Nintendo) would do well to appreciate that they are facing increasing competition from Apple and others.  I purchased the first xbox b/c of halo and that was basically what I got out of the first box; I found Sony really arrogant at that time a felling that carried over to the PS3 ( although I own one for the Blu ray).  Right now I think Microsoft is being arrogant because of perceived success and that it annoying me now

sorotsorot
sorotsorot

We did not hate you " Microsoft" . We hate the people behind you who are very greedy and try to take an unfair advantage from gamer .  People who treated gamer like we are morons .  You can not just say " COD ,BF ,MADDEN"  ,we will not fall for it .

NooDLES-666
NooDLES-666

I really hope XBone fails... Microsoft is doing everything possible to alienate the core group of gamers, and I hope these messages get out to the general population so they are well informed to not buy this sheeeet either. 

picho86
picho86

How I hope they will crash and burn.

I don't care about any console in particular, but when a company goes out of its way to screw its fanbase, I really want to see them fail.

Edit: I missed the most imprtant thing! They will be collecting data on us. How great!

XxAK47xX
XxAK47xX

am i the only one not affected by any of the news? it seems like everything they say is having catastrophic event in your lives! To be fair, the only thing that is slightly catching my attention is the the fee. Even then majority of my games i buy are new, just like buying PC games. I just want to know who is paying for that. I think it will be a small fee for consumers or it will be a fee for the game stop people. 

RENE4THEWIN
RENE4THEWIN

I'm going to pay ~$500.00 for and ID check-in to play games I own anywhere?  NOPE!

s2i2p2i2o
s2i2p2i2o

He said that if you lose your connection while playing you will still be able to continue, but will we need internet to first start up the game? If so then it's just as sucky as being always on! Guess I will be buying my brother a PS4 instead of an Xbox.

johnny0779
johnny0779

BLURAY IS NOW LOCKED ON XBOX ONE...Well, what else can we expect from the company that is pushing the cloud through your nose. The sad thing is when people think BluRay we think Region Free....but noooo that would be to good to be true with Xbox One. so let's recount the positives and the negatives shall we?:


Pos:

- A semi improved 360 controller.

- A flashy gesture and voice recognition system

Neg:

- A "24 hour internet check" for gaming functionality regarless of multiplayer or NOT.

- Your downloaded games and DLC that you purchased over the years WON'T Play.

- Your Profile would have to be shared if you want to let a friend or family member use your Hard Copy and Downloaded games by doing so the certainty of them ruining your gamer score and gaming library recorded on your profile.

- Your Favorite headset won't work...Microsoft wants you to buy a new one!

- Kinnect is now forced on you on every xbox and you can't deactivate it.

- No way to fully shut off that xbox, unless completely unplugged.

- The Xbox brand represented a Gaming console with multimedia choices, NOW is a Multimedia Box with restricted gaming functionality.

- Indie Developers no longer have the freedom they used to have.

- The box looks like it came through a Time Machine from the 80's and Microsoft wants us to put that in our Living Rooms???

- Microsoft still have the technologically inferior box compared to SONY...might not seem like by much, but faster Memory and Processor equals better games.

- Microsoft putting up restrictions on how you buy and trade your used games...what it used to be a hassle-free process and decision, now it's a nightmare.

- And now for the first time ever, BLURAY IS NOW REGION LOCKED thanks to Microsofts paranoia....so much for the possibility of buying those games that might not make it in your country like we did with the PS3 and most xbox 360 games.


I'm pretty sure the negatives outweigh any positives listed here or the ones you would like to think of....


the choice is clear and your hard earned money will send a message to Microsoft to either support them on a half-ass gaming effort full with restrictions and hassles or if you would want them to know you deserved better as a gamer.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

GS - I have to ask about used games. Will the box support used games and how is that model going to work?

PS - " So we'll talk about some of the 'how' at a later date, but I will say that we understand the importance of the secondary market. The secondary market was important in the current generation."

You mean the secondary market is important to you for lost sales..

This is VERY WISHIE WASHEE....you've got 4 months down the line to have this finished and you've not got a anwser for this, your effectively waiting to see the backlash from it.

and no one likes DRM for used games, its just NOT FUN... and wait ISNT that what games consoles have to be FUN?? I dont know any more people keep calling them TV's or blue ray players or something.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

It seems MS is doing everything they can to make gaming more expensive, restrictive, and intrusive...and less fun. No thanks. 

bluefox755
bluefox755

Notice how question numbers 3 and 9 are one word answers?  No dancing?  What gives?  Can't put a positive spin on those ones?

bluefox755
bluefox755

Ugh, they keep dancing around the questions, why not give us a clear, concise answer????

aleserpinfer
aleserpinfer

This people  just avoiding answering  the real questions by just given us twist and turn words... M$ who u think u are talking to? 6 yr old child?

aleserpinfer
aleserpinfer

Now i feel sad for adam orth, the man was telling us the overcoming truth.

StealthHimself
StealthHimself

Anyone with a mind can see the ultimate reason for an always on webcam..

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

Why am I getting weird Skynet vibes when it mentions that kinect will be tracking my heart rate,movement and what my mood is?.

Aristowi
Aristowi

No used games, forced to use kinect, no offline, not being able to take my games or my console to a friends house or on vacation... I won't get that fucking console, even if I never play good exclusives (which don't seem to come out yet). PS4 here I go, don't disappoint like these bastards.

aleserpinfer
aleserpinfer

I love to play naked...so m$ can wacth me playing anytime

Subterfuge71
Subterfuge71

@johnny0779 If that will be the first time ever that Blu-Ray discs are region locked. then why do I have discs in my collection that have a Region B icon on them?

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@cousinmerl There's a separate interview on Wired and another on Kotaku in which he is quoted as saying the always on check is a definite...AND the "used games fee" will be equivalent to the cost of a new game, which will effectively END the used games market for the XBone if implemented.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@bluefox755 The answer is simple. They are gauging public response to DRM they have planned to include. We have a MS VP on the record saying that 24 checkin DRM and anti-used game fees/taxes are real. This is FACT. If Microsoft decides to back-pedal and remove already planned DRM it is because they now realize it is highly unpopular and they don't want to get their asses handed to them by Sony when they launch. 

However, given MS's recent history of being completely tone-deaf to the desires/needs of consumers (Windows 8, anyone?), it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they simply shrug and decide to release the XBone "as is" and ram all the DRM/anti-used game stuff down gamers' throats at launch in an attempt to see if people will buy it anyway. If they get enough DudeBros and Soccer moms to buy this thing and get them installed in a few million living rooms they won't care that they alienate the core gamer audience. 

At least not at first. Where that will definitely bite them in the ass is long-term sales, since after the launch hype dies down they will need a passionate group of gamers to evangelize the One to family and friends in order to keep pace with the PS4's sales. How do you think the 360 sold so well? Word of mouth. So far MS is fucking that up big time...and if they piss off the core gamer it's not going to go well long term, even if they fool a lot of non-gamers at launch.

Radnen
Radnen

@JimmyJimJim It can do those, doesn't mean it is doing them. Those are examples of what developers can do with the Kinect. Not that it would be doing it 24/7 like the telescreens in 1984.

Radnen
Radnen

@Aristowi Everything you said so far is a lie. It will support used games, with care! Kinect is optional even though it comes with it... That's like saying "forced to use Wii's sensor bar". About the portable games thing, that is what gets me worried, but we don't know anything on this until E3, and better yet: until you've tried doing just that with the console.

Radnen
Radnen

@aleserpinfer They cannot do that. It's not for them to use the Kinect in that manner. The sensor isn't always tracking you... It just can not that it will. 

Celtic_34
Celtic_34

@mjswooosh It's the same with kinect imo.  Why it's separate.  They want to guage how many stupid people actually plug it in and leave it plugged in.  My opinion is any intelligent person who has done any research will not go near this thing.  It's hideous.  But there are a lot of stupid people out there and MS preys off these type of people.  People want convenience and speed.  They will sell their souls to get their jones if MS starts buying up exclusive content and has it at the push of a button.  Sad really.  People need to shut off the idiot box and go outside.  

aleserpinfer
aleserpinfer

@Vegeta-sama @StealthHimself Or just face it to the wall, right?... oh no wait then the game wouldn´t continue working because it will need scan your reactions in certains levels of the game.

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

@Radnen @JimmyJimJim fucking george orwell, mans a genius.


I get what your saying though, and I figured that. I think it's pretty cool that it's able to track that stuff, could lead to some interesting gameplay mechanics.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Radnen "With care"? LOL WTF does that mean? You sound like a MS PR guy. "With care." Give me a fuckin break. They are going to charge a USED GAMES FEE which so far has been verified by a top level MS Executive to essentially EQUAL the cost of the game new. For all practical purposes that means USED GAMES ARE BANNED on the XBone. Go tell lies somewhere else meat puppet.

karin_2049
karin_2049

@Radnen @Aristowi Used games with care? Dude... they will charge a fee for using 2nd hand games (on top of the price you have to pay for the disc) that is what Aristowi was talking about and about Kinect, dude! Kinect is not optional, this piece of shit console won't work without Kinect attached to it, you can turn off its functionalities (mic, camera, etc), but it needs to be pluged-in, which is like the worst crap ever. I think SONY will have to try really really REALLYYYY hard to screw up things like M$ and their SHITBOX-ONE. PS4, here we go!

s2i2p2i2o
s2i2p2i2o

@Celtic_34 Go outside? Are you f-ing crazy?!?!?! There's dogs, elks, sunrays and OTHER PEOPLE outside!!! That shit is scary! 

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Celtic_34Agreed 100%. It seems MS is doing everything they can to make gaming more expensive and less fun. No thanks. 

I'm a life-long gamer of 20+ years and now that I think about it, if Sony is stupid enough to follow MS down this path I will have no problem simply giving up next-gen console gaming altogether. I'll stick with my PC/360/PS3/Wii...and probably buy a Wii U when a few exclusives hit and there's a price drop. My back-log on current gen is 15 feet high and should last me another 5 yrs anyway. lol So, no big loss. And...like you said...it might be time to hit the gym and get on the bicycle a little more. ;) 

Still, even with that sense of resolve...its frustrating watching the big publishers and now MS destroy the hobby I've loved for so long. It really is like Wall Street has pretty much taken over gaming, which is really sad. The XBone is less a gaming console designed to bring fun experiences to gamers than a "money vacuum" designed to deliver earnings per share and executive bonuses. When its this obvious before the product even launches, I honestly fear the already ailing video game market is indeed ripe for a 2nd big collapse hearkening to the one in the 80s. The conditions are eerily similar.

Radnen
Radnen

@JimmyJimJim Detecting gamer rage! Imagine it saying in a popup: "I see, please don't throw that control- oh damn, you threw it".

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Radnen Stop talking out of your ass. What you are talking about is UNCONFIRMED RUMOR by Polygon with no direct confirmation from MS. 

On the other hand, Phil Harrison CONFIRMED USED GAMES FEES that EQUAL THE COST OF THE NEW GAME. He's a Vice President at MS. You're going to accept back-pedaling RUMORS over the words coming right out an MS Veeps mouth? lol Apologists make me laugh.

Until we have ACTUAL CONFIRMATION FROM HARRISON HIMSELF OR SOMEONE WHO OUTRANKS HIM AT MICROSOFT, the current word is USED GAME FEES ARE REAL. Stop spreading lies d-bag and #dealwithit

EDIT: "SOURCES" doesn't mean shit. Why do you think MS has DONE NOTHING to directly address all of the the information out there about used games, always on, kinect always on, small/irreplaceable hard drives, memory bandwidth/shader specs that the PS4 blows away, etc.... The reason they can't and won't address any of this stuff directly yet is because it is ALL TRUE and they are trying to figure out how to deal with the PR shit-storm. It will be interesting to see if they back-pedal and reverse course or simply try to ram this unwanted crap down gamers' throats. But, in either case, you don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

Radnen
Radnen

@mjswooosh No they will not. They said so in an update. READ the stories damn it. "Sources have told Polygon that the Xbox One will not require gamers pay an activation fee to play used games"

s2i2p2i2o
s2i2p2i2o

@karin_2049 @Radnen @Aristowi I understand every complaint about Xbox One, except for the Kinect complaints. So it needs to be plugged in? Plug that shit in and stash it behind the tv/table.... It's not the end of the world.

Not going to buy an Xbox anyways because of all the other shit they're doing, but to be honest I am pretty sure Sony will do similar things down the road.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@XTwilightThornX We have a MS Vice President on the record verifying used game fees. This is a FACT. If Microsoft decides to back-pedal and remove already planned DRM it is because they realize it is highly unpopular and they don't want to get their asses handed to them by Sony when they launch. 

Radnen
Radnen

@StealthHimself @Radnen @aleserpinfer No, that takes too much power to always "search you" like Big Brother. It's in the API. Developers choose to use the functionality in games when you are playing them. You are sounding like it thinks for itself!