Why the Xbox One is scaring gamers

In the two weeks since Microsoft unveiled the  Xbox One, gamers have raised some questions about its latest-generation console: will the Xbox One remain “always” connected to the internet? Will the console work with used games? And how much information can the console glean on any one user at any given time?

Those concerns turned into anxiety, as Microsoft continued to be vague about its policies.It said these questions would be clarified “at a later time.”

Yesterday, the company set up a landing page to address the most important concerns gamers have with the console. But Microsoft’s announcement has only further incited gamers. One meme on Reddit likened the Xbox One to the maniacal AI Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The biggest blow many gamers believe Microsoft has dealt is with game ownership. Right now, you can bring your copy of a game to any buddy’s house, load it up and play on his console — and even bring along your game if you have it on a transportable memory card — with no extra interference. When you’re done, you can hand it off to him to play or trade it in at an outlet like GameStop.

Not so with the Xbox One, which will continue to sell discs in stores but, according to Microsoft, “after signing in and installing, you can play any of your games from any Xbox One because a digital copy of your game is stored on your console and in the cloud.”

In effect, Microsoft plans to use the cloud as a licensing system for games, verifying ownership via an internet connection every 24 hours of gameplay (or every hour on a friend’s console). Users can “share” their games with up to 10 people via Xbox Live, but the same game cannot be played simultaneously. Loaning and renting games will not be possible at launch, and game publishers get to decide if you can resell that license or even give it away to a friend.

While practically confirming gamers’ fears about Xbox One’s DRM system, Microsoft also laid bare the privacy limits of the system. Users will have a strict opt-in when the Kinect has the ability to read and store certain data — including automatic facial recognition and more abstract concepts like recognizing a player’s heart rate — but would withhold some gameplay features if they don’t opt in.

In short, it’s a small win for privacy in a major loss for ownership. Gamers are angry at Microsoft’s decision, which isn’t going to help the console’s image right before E3.