Microsoft has finally answered[*1] some of the nagging questions about the next XBox:
- "every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection" - In other words, a high-speed Internet connection is a requirement for using this game console, despite the fact that the vast majority of console games have no specific requirement for network connectivity. People who live in areas with poor or no Internet service are simply out of luck, the same as if they had no electricity.
- "your system, games and apps are always current and ready to play - no more waiting for updates" - Many people (myself included) are happy to wait a few minutes for an update if it means they have control over what their devices are doing when they're not watching. This sounds like a nice feature except when you consider that every XBox One will be constantly updating itself, even games that the owner is no longer playing. This will increase bandwidth use unnecessarily. Hopefully this feature can be disabled.
- "Access your entire games library from any Xbox One - no discs required" - Not having to swap discs constantly is definitely a good thing. The only reason discs are always required for the XBox 360 is copy protection. Microsoft is shifting the copy protection to a network-based model; hence the need for always-on Internet. Convenient, yes - but at what cost?
- "buy disc-based games at traditional retailers or online through Xbox Live, on day of release." - This is a welcome break from traditional (and senseless) release windows. No more need to push through crowds at GameStop.
- Improved networking - Gigabit Ethernet (as opposed to 100 Mbit on the XBox 360), and better wireless (802.11n, 5 GHz, two antennas). Good stuff.
- "While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend." - Okay: strictly speaking, an 'always-on' Internet is not required, but in practical terms, it amounts to the same thing.
- "With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies." - Yes, your shiny new game console is about as useful as a brick if you lose your Internet connection. Because, um, piracy!!!
- "Anyone can play your games on your console--regardless of whether you are logged in or their relationship to you." - Well, that's a relief. With the technology already in place on the new console, Microsoft could have required a separate license for every user. Don't laugh: if Microsoft thought they could get away with it, they would do this.
- "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." - So Microsoft won't charge a fee for trading in games, but individual game publishers may or may not enable trade-ins, and may or may not charge a trade-in fee of their own. That is extremely lame, and likely to hurt overall game sales.
- "game publishers can enable you to give your disc-based games to your friends" - Sounds good, until you realize that again, the publisher has to enable this. Also, you can only give a game to someone on your XBox friends list. And a game can only be given once. Lameness, you have found your pinnacle.
- "You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear" - Well, that's a relief.
My prediction: when XBox One sales tank immediately after the initial buying frenzy, Microsoft will scramble to backtrack on some of these restrictions.
Ars Technica[*2] and The Verge[*3] have their own analysis.