Xbox One's Offline Pass Is an Ill-Conceived Tax

Tom Mc Shea warns that Microsoft might be killing itself rather than the used-games market.

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Microsoft spent an hour explaining why the Xbox One should be the centerpiece of your living room entertainment experience. However, in just one sentence, it may have destroyed its upcoming console's appeal as a gaming platform. Used games, an aspect of this industry that has thrived for decades, may come with an extra cost in the future. Apparently, you may no longer buy a dust-coated game or lend your favorite offering to a friend without throwing money Microsoft's way. The Xbox One is attempting to squash the pre-owned market, and if such a detrimental tax is implemented, it will have disastrous results for the sustained health of Microsoft's third console.

In a statement to Wired, Microsoft stated that "on the new Xbox, all game discs are installed to the HDD to play." Once the game is tied to an account, if another person wants to play it on their system, they will have to pay an undisclosed fee. Microsoft did say it will reveal its used-games plan in the future, but examining the facts as we now know them, this policy seems inspired by the online passes that some current generation games require for connected play. Microsoft is essentially implementing an offline pass. And how could its unannounced plan alleviate this excessive burden? Maybe Microsoft will let you play off the disc for a limited time before you're forced to shell out money, or maybe every game will be required to have a demo. Either way, the used-game, rental, and lending markets will dry up.

The Xbox One is an entertainment curiosity rather than the next video game revolution.

This draconian policy has been slowly building for the last decade. As digital games have become more prevalent, so too have the measures to limit their post-retail distribution. Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network games are tied to the accounts that purchased them, and Steam users have dealt with a similar barrier for years. And the mobile market, which has been heralded as the future by so many, is in the same situation. The idea of a game being playable only by the person who first spent money on it has existed long enough that such a move on Microsoft's part should be expected. However, this is the first time any company has tried to destroy the resell market for disc-based games, and it's that distinction that's so important.

People have long embraced the used market in all forms of media. Whether we're letting a friend read our copy of The Catcher in the Rye, browsing the used-CD rack for vintage Pearl Jam, or picking up a cheap copy of Jurassic Park III to see raptors talk, we've become accustomed to borrowing or cheaply buying once-loved entertainment. And this has been a core aspect of gaming for longer than most gamers have been alive. We like the idea that once we buy a physical product, we own it. So it's baffling that Microsoft would ignore years of consumer tenancies with this extortionist tax. As long as games are on a disc, people will expect to be able to lend them to friends without having to pay Microsoft for this privilege.

Video games can be expensive, much more so than other media, so shelling out $60 for a dozen hours of entertainment is a tough pill to swallow. We've found ways of enjoying our favorite pastime without going broke. Borrowing some games while purchasing others has been a practice of many people for years, and there's no reason such a philosophy couldn't serve both consumers and publishers going forward. Microsoft is burning bridges if it decides to enact an offline pass. It will create an infrastructure that is even more punishing for new intellectual properties. People will be less likely to try an untested franchise if they have to pay full price for it, so Microsoft is just pushing the industry further into the innovation-be-damned mentality that has been a plague the last few years.

Ultimately, consumers determine the success or failure of any company.The importance of catering to people with money to spend cannot be overstated, and Microsoft is hurting that relationship, possibly irreparably so. There is no way to spin this extra fee so that it's more palatable for the buying public. This is unabashed greed, pure and simple, and the defining aspect of the Xbox One. Microsoft wants to be everything to everyone, your one-stop shop for television, music, movies, Internet access, and video games. However, such integration isn't worth emptying your wallet for. It's not worth giving up your rights as a consumer. A disc or cartridge is ours to do with what we choose, and until Microsoft acknowledges this fact, the Xbox One is an entertainment curiosity rather than the next video game revolution.

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Discussion

1678 comments
jimrhurst
jimrhurst

This will be an interesting test.  A scroll through the last week of articles here on Gamespot shows one headline after another about XBOX One and how it inconveniences the user / player.  (online checkins, used game fees, irreplaceable hard drive, no backwards compatibility for games, for XBLA, or for accessories, and so on.)  My cynical side says that gamers will still gobble it up and all this hand-wringing will mean nothing.  Microsoft is clearly making that bet too.  I'll be interested to see if Tom and the various internet wailers are right that this is a bridge too far.  I'm close to believing there is no bridge too far for this market, sadly.  The same consumers who voted EA the worst company in America continued to hand over piles of money to them.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

So many details about the Xbox One just seem like they were implemented just to purposely alienate the gaming fanbase. Which is crazy since it is the gamers who got the Xbox to where it is today in the first place. They didn't come for ESPN and Pizza Hut apps. They came for Halo, Gears, etc. Funny how quickly MS forgot that.

Gabliaven
Gabliaven

  I stopped gaming mostly on the PC when things moved to steam and I was hurt by activation problems on the few games I did try to buy... I just gave up on digital games, the few games I have bought in the last few years have been DRM free ones or console games for the 360...

I have an Xbox 360... I play it on occasion, I am the casual gamer not a hardcore one... I have never pirated in my life, I have a DVD collection over 800 dvds... I just don't do digital, something about it feels awkward to me... its a personal preference... well I should say that I don't do digital when it requires activation, is streamed... and makes me feel like I am renting something.

I think one of my main concerns is for the far future though... I mean... in the future will the activation for the games on  XBOX ONE still be there? Or will my console and my disc be useless? Because Microsoft got in financial trouble and had to make some cuts?

Will I be able to enjoy what I purchased in 30 years time?

These questions are just making me feel like I should get a PS4, if they don't announce something similar... or build a bigger Xbox 360 library much like I have done with my DVD collection... and just be happy with what is available now.

Dangerous231
Dangerous231

well my friend buy their own games so they can play online with their own big screen

Dangerous231
Dangerous231

damn u all must not have internet even know i have to ask  how the fuck are you on here right now

Dangerous231
Dangerous231

interesting well im always online anyway  with a connection 

June-GS
June-GS

Assuming it's all true, Microsoft, this is just stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid......

instigator81
instigator81

(from another conversation).......

While I am for this policy I disagree with full MSRP.  That is a rip off.  I think $5-15.  My point would be $10.  Then it would be a universal online pass system.  I am ok with that.  I am assuming the full MSRP thing will not come to pass.  Why not just ban used games completely if you are gonna price it that way b/c you know not a single person will do it.  I wouldn't.  Pay $80 for a used game that I can get at retail for $40?  That is another reason this rule doesn't bother me.  It would never affect me.  I get used games once in awhile but usually if you wait a few months the game gets down to $20-30 retail anyhow. 

Also, I am assuming MS is splitting the fee with developers.  They take a small cut and the developer gets the rest just like with a game.  If this isn't the case MS looks greedy and gets sued by developers.

The last thing I am not expecting but would do if I was in MS shoes would lift the restriction on a used game after its retail life span.  Implementation could be tricky but that's why they pay their people the big bucks.

"Checking in" to play an offline game is dumb.  While internet connectivity isn't an issue for me, that would be the reason I don't get the XONE.  You can do activation at install with internet and that should be the one and only time you need it.

This argument is actually pointless b/c the next next gen will be all digital, if there is one, and then used games and requiring internet will be a mute point.

Maybe by clarifying some of the things I am assuming others will understand my stance better.    B  If not.  **** ***  J/k. 

wizemanschaos
wizemanschaos

I am a bit curious where people are getting this information from. I haven't really seen anywhere that mentions the amount of the fee but this is not the first time I have heard it. If anyone can supply me with the source of this that would be great, but this honestly sounds like it is a fabrication by people who are just sour about microsoft.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

So, if all I'm doing is essentially renting a game for $60 and can't sell it, how about we shift to a system wide Gamefly model?  It seems that Micro$haft wants to charge you a full amount to "buy" a game but doesn't want to allow you to actually OWN the game or have the right to sell that product. You are merely RENTING the game for a full purchase price. lol Awesome scam. I'm not sure why people defend this practice, but it's fun to see insanity on the loose at times...very entertaining!

DebutWest
DebutWest

This is not the way of the industry, when so many are resistant. 

EVERY tangible, property i own can be resold or given away at my discretion. 

Micro$oft is trying to govern the ability to control the game industry. EA announces its letting go of the "Online Pass" to embrace this business model.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

*Microsoft boardroom a month ago*

Douchebag: Alright guys, here's the deal.  We need to force people to be online AND ban used games.  What do you think?
Voice of Reason: I, uh, I don't think consumers are gonna really accept both of those things.
Douchebag: You may be right.  Lets start by choosing one... We'll flip a coin
Voice of Reason: No-but, that's not what I-
Douchebag: Heads!  Ok, so we ban used games.
Douchebag 2: You know... We could just charge people to play used games.  That would deter them from buying used but still give the bastards  a choice... and then we could make money 2 or 3 times off the same game.
Douchebag: That's Brilliant!  I like the way you  think Douchebag 2.
Voice of Reason: But- wait, uh, that still wouldn't help 3rd-party-
Jackass: Oh and check this!!  If we tell them they only need to check-in online, then we can say that they don't need to ALWAYS be online, and everyone will eat it up like candy.  2 birds with one stone.
Douchebag: YES! *points to Jackass* That's what I'm talking about.  See boys,  that's how you get it done.
Voice of Reason: *facepalm*

instigator81
instigator81

The more I think about the used game plan, the more I hope they stay with it.  And I hope Sony does it too.  I think it is the direction the industry should head.  Don't care if Nintendo does it or not.  Wouldn't be fair to have that kind of restriction on a last gen system like the WiiU.  Plus they won't feel pressure from developers b/c they will be the only ones developing for it eventually. 

I don't for one second believe that people will not buy an XBOX or PS b/c of the used game policy.  This happens when ever something changes.  People get mad, raise their pitchforks, and then eventually realize it is not that big of deal or is just something that was inevitable.

If my system has to check in once every 24 hours, that seems a little dumb but I guess it will be tolerable.

The two things to wait for then is Sony to announce its own used game plan and the price.  Those will be the two factors that decides which console wins.  I don't know if it is even possible for XONE to be lower than PS4 with Kinect bundled.

zzzronin
zzzronin

I don't care if the game will cost less, like $30 or less (and not $60 to $70), just like special prices found on Steam every day for a digital copy.  But Microsoft must pay attention to family bundle : Account tied together so we can play the same copy of a game on any family account and on all Xbox in the same house... Sorry, it's probably just a dream.

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

The speculation is that the PS4 will have a same/similar used game scheme as the Xbox, only they (wisely) aren't saying anything about it yet.  Both console makers are feeling the same unrelenting pressure from the game publishers to crack down on Gamestop. Oh what a surprise that will be for all the PS4 fan boys if so, eh?

new128hits
new128hits

Ready ... That was all I wanted to say ... Microsoft buries the own system ... I am Brazilian and after what I have seen and read ... Alive with your sony playtation 4 and nitendo wii u ... want a game console ... already have TV and movies more ... Our blu-ray took to where we want and when we want to watch unfortunately I have to support Sony and live it!!

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Gabliaven Agreed 100%. And the answer to your questions is: No. Micro$oft's response: "Get used to it". I will simply quit gaming before I'll jump on this type of over-DRMed piece of shit band-wagon. No thank you.

keldarironfist
keldarironfist

@Gabliaven I am on the same page essentially. You don't own your content with digital, and STEAM is just PC DRM. If your gmaes are tied to cloud computing, online checks, or user profiles, than no matter what your console will be useless when the company has moved on for one reason or another. It's one big rental box. Don't support digital distribution or DRM crippled physical games. I sure as hell won't, and anyone else who cares about the health of the industry shouldn't either. 

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Dangerous231 25% of the US doesn't have access to high speed internet. That's roughly 60-70 million people. 10s of millions more do not PAY for high speed internet because they either don't want to or can't afford to. And then there's the principle of it: WHY should I have to be always online in order to make it functional? It's pointlessly restrictive in order for M$ to try to bilk consumers out of more money by preventing them from buying used games. Simple as that. These are serious limitations that effect millions of people in this country alone. Just because it doesnt bother YOU doesnt mean that applies to everyone else.

Xx_Kares_xX
Xx_Kares_xX

@instigator81 The day gaming goes completely digital is the day I quit gaming x.x That or I become a full time pirate.. because I'll be damned if I'm going pay full price to rent a game until they decide I can't have it anymore.

ominous_prime
ominous_prime

@wizemanschaos E3 is when rumors will no longer be rumors. Then you will know if there is a fee, how is it structured. They are also going to cover how used games and trade ins will work with the next gen consoles.

Barazon
Barazon

@instigator81 Umm yeah, with a name like "instigator" you're not a troll or anything!  </sarcasm off>

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@instigator81 Yeah, you're right, 2000 years of economic precedence establishing the need and desire for second hand/after-markets for nearly every conceivable good known to mankind is just a bunch of irrelevant nonsense....:)~

People with your attitude amaze me...if someone hands you a shit-sandwich and says you'll eventually get used to the taste you just drool and nod and say "mmmm kay!" lol [shaking head]

carbonFibreOpti
carbonFibreOpti

@mjswooosh @Dangerous231 Close to 25% of Americans don't have high-speed internet.  Close to 5% with electronics devices don't have internet at all (even though the idea of dial-up even existing today is bizarre as there's no publicized ISPs for that).

The real number that should matter?  Close to 20% of Americans are on government support, and likely can't even afford an Xbox in the first place.  That's most of the non-broadband users so the actual percentage of people planning to buy the console without broadband is quite minimal.  The reality is that statistics lie and the civilized world uses broadband.  Even if you live out in the woods and have a slow connection, you still have enough to keep your console up to date for online checks.

It's a moot point in my opinion to argue that not everyone has good internet, especially when you're using it yourself.  It's not about the people without Internet, but about the ones that can afford to and plan on getting the hardware that needs it.

carbonFibreOpti
carbonFibreOpti

@Xx_Kares_xX Yes, full price to rent a game...  forever...  with a disc in your hands...

It's not renting.  It's preventing people from making a cheap buck without permission from the publisher (like GameStop).

instigator81
instigator81

@Xx_Kares_xX I wouldn't quit but two things about all digital would be sad.  One, I like my physical disc,  and two, years later when the company stops supporting that system all games are dead for that system.  But that is kind of a necessary evil of software.  You can't support it forever and if you go digital then POOOF its gone. 

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@Xx_Kares_xX Exactly. People don't seem to understand what publishers/MS are trying to do here. They are essentially saying gamers have to pay a BUY price for a fucking RENTAL. lol Da fuq? I don't think so...homey don't play that....

lbryson8
lbryson8

Next time you look at your Iphone. Punch yourself

instigator81
instigator81

@mjswooosh You can't compare history.  This is digital IP.  Selling some clothes on a rummage sale is not comparable, as is selling a house, a car.  Everyone wants to compare this to something it isn't.

My attitude is that everyone has rights and those rights don't just have to benefit me.  The right for a company to enforce its license on a product supersedes my want to buy or sell something.  Things like this might suck for the individual but in the long run are better for the whole.

instigator81
instigator81

@mjswooosh @Xx_Kares_xX I don't total see it as a rental.  Through Gamefly can you rent 20 games at once or only one at a time?  Do you pay a monthly fee to gamefly or a onetime fee?  If you keep a game for a year from gamefly assuming $10 a month, cuz I don't know what it is, that is $120 a game.  So you pay double the price to have a game for a year and it is the only game you can play in that time.  And I know a lot of people that have a game they really like,  play it off and on for more than a year. 

It is more like full price for a 15 year rental when they no longer support the platform and the game is worthless.  That is one evil of it I don't like but all software is slowly going digital.  There may be a day when you can't buy a physical book.  That could be awhile but I see that happening too.  I prefer physical books so that will suck too.  It is just how life is.  Things change.  And usually we as humans go kicking and screaming but eventually we accept it and then it doesn't turn out to be as bad as we thought.

The people who should be upset are ones with ties to GameStop and Gamefly b/c your companies are eventually going to be in trouble unless you make drastic business changes that involve contractual partnerships with game/console makers.

jmace1
jmace1

Price gouging only exist as long as people are willing to pay "said" price. When Netflix attempted to raise prices 60%, Consumers cancelled their subscriptions in the hundreds of thousands. Stocks decreased 50%. The CEO apologized subsequently resigned. Prices went back to normal. Don't lie back and accept this bullshit as inevitable. Organize and spend your money with companies that don't trample the consumer.

instigator81
instigator81

@jmace1 I just noticed your pic.  Those dogs are so damn ugly.  Chinese Crested?  Anyhow, I don't really mean I don't care, but it upsets me when people get upset that people get mad when a privilege they have gets taken away and then the cry like they are victims of genocide.  Their is no god given right to a "fair" market except there are laws protecting essentials like food, resources ect.  Basically price gouging of items that have been deemed necessities of life.  Video games are an excess, so any money you spend on them is throwing money away. 

Would I like it if I got a free console and every game free too?  Sure.  But that isn't realistic.  And it isn't reality.

jmace1
jmace1

You just noted that it hurts the consumer. You seem to be incapable of understanding your fellow gamers by stating " I have enough money", "I don't care if it hurts you." News flash!!! You are the consumer. This hurts you! I'm glad you have extra discretionary income by why are you so willing to throw it away by implementing a policy that's only helpful giant software corporations.. So naive

instigator81
instigator81

@jmace1 How does it hurt the industry.  I'm not talking about paying $60 bucks for a crappy game.  Maybe it hurts the consumer, but I have enough money and ability to make money that it doesn't hurt me.  And news flash...I don't care if it hurts you.  Why is everyone so mad.  In the end Sony will do this too and the world will go on and I will have been right.

jmace1
jmace1

I just hope you realize that your blatantly ignorant purchases and those with your mindset are hurting the industry.

mjswooosh
mjswooosh

@instigator81 @genjuroT @jmace1 LOL @ Instigator81...You've cupped and stroked Don Mattrick, gargled and sucked down his man-gravy kool-aid. You are truly beyond hope man. lol I was going to respond and explain economics 101 and even a little fair use law and 1st sale doctrine policy to you...but, what the fuck is the point? You're all googly eyed in love with the idea of getting fucked in the ass by policies that are clearly at odds with pretty much all established case-law...not to mention common sense. lol You don't have a fuckin clue to put it mildly, but you seem to enjoy it that way...so carry on mate! :-)~

instigator81
instigator81

@genjuroT @instigator81 @jmace1 I had to make one more little clarification.  To your point they aren't saying you can't sell it.  But who would buy it with that addition price tag on it.

While I am for this policy I disagree with full MSRP.  That is a rip off.  I think $5-15.  My point would be $10.  Then it would be a universal online pass system.  I am ok with that.  I am assuming the full MSRP thing will not come to pass.  Why not just ban used games completely if you are gonna price it that way b/c you know not a single person will do it.  I wouldn't.  Pay $80 for a used game that I can get at retail for $40?  That is another reason this rule doesn't bother me.  It would never affect me.  I get used games once in awhile but usually if you wait a few months the game gets down to $20-30 retail anyhow. 

Also, I am assuming MS is splitting the fee with developers.  They take a small cut and the developer gets the rest just like with a game.  If this isn't the case MS looks greedy and gets sued by developers.

The last thing I am not expecting but would do if I was in MS shoes would lift the restriction on a used game after its retail life span.  Implementation could be tricky but that's why they pay their people the big bucks.

"Checking in" to play an offline game is dumb.  While internet connectivity isn't an issue for me, that would be the reason I don't get the XONE.  You can do activation at install with internet and that should be the one and only time you need it.

This argument is actually pointless b/c the next next gen will be all digital, if there is one, and then used games and requiring internet will be a mute point.

Maybe by clarifying some of the things I am assuming others will understand my stance better.    B  If not.  **** ***  J/k. 

genjuroT
genjuroT

@instigator81 @genjuroT @jmace1 kk, I was just saying when you pay for something you can legally do whatever you want with it as long as you don't make money off of it yourself.

instigator81
instigator81

@genjuroT @instigator81 @jmace1 I really need to get back to working so this is my last comment on this subject.  Didn't plan to talk forever.  Just started by stating my opinion on the used game policy.  That's all it was.  My opinion.  I believe I have a right to that, at least until some corporation buys it from me.  I actually find this to be the best response.  You are arguing that if enough people were to boycott something then a company is forced to change its policy.  People have that right.  I wouldn't boycott in this case b/c I don't disagree with it.  Its not that I am just accepting it.  I am actually pulling for them to do it so the industry can get stronger again.  It is my belief that the more you give the customer for free, while maybe drawing more customers, in the long run hurts your business.

I don't know if I completely understand your example.  The game makers stopped charging to play and gave the game away free.  Or they continued pay to play, but provided servers instead of asking people to set up their own.  I'm not familiar with this game or setup so I really don't know anything about what you are talking about.

And with that I say back to work.  No mas.

instigator81
instigator81

@jmace1 It doesn't explicitly state that but it does say the owner of the IP still hold all the rights blah blah, although in legal speaks.  They can explicitly put everything in there b/c stuff comes up that they couldn't predict so they make broad sweeping statements. 

Tell you what.  Go ahead and make a video game and you can allow people to buy and sell it used.  And you can do whatever you want with it.  In this country (US) you get paid for a skill.  Making a video game is a skill.  You also get rights to go along with what you produce with that skill unless you give them up.  If you don't have that skill you don't get paid or get the benefits.  It is set up like this so people try to better themselves skill wise and don't just sit on their butts expecting someone else to do everything for them.  I know a large part of America like handouts but that isn't good for everyone.

genjuroT
genjuroT

@instigator81 @jmace1 The first Ragnarok Online was pay to play back in the day with a free download of the game. This made people download the game and create their own free to play servers because it was in their right to do whatever they wanted with their downloaded version of the game(other than make money off it). To stop from losing customers on the pay to play model they were forced to make the game completely free to play on their own servers.

jmace1
jmace1

Go pick up a license agreement. Show me where it states that it is illegal to allow your friends to borrow games unless they pay "insert giant corporation" Show me where it states if I purchased a used copy of a game or movie, I must pay "insert giant corporation". Doesn't exist....yet. I can't make illegal copies and distribute those copies. Stop being corporate America's punching bag

instigator81
instigator81

@jmace1 Because there are licenses that go along with IP that put restrictions on what u can do and they grant certain rights to the owner of that IP.  You may not agree with the license but when you buy something or check that little box at install you agreed to the terms.

jmace1
jmace1

Nonsense. Why can't we compare history? Why is an intellectual property to be treated differently than physical property? I'd love to hear your warped rationale