Microsoft's decision to remove the Xbox One's online requirements after a groundswell of gamer revolt has prompted a doleful eulogy for what the system could have evolved into, supposedly penned by a member of the Always Online development team. The document, shared anonymously, primarily blames Microsoft itself for poorly reacting to the bad publicity around the Xbox One's original DRM system, which required games to check-in once every 24hrs else gamers couldn't continue playing them - though also lists out the potential next-gen console advantages owners will now miss out on.
Microsoft's about-turn, earlier this week, came with a few compromises. One is Family Sharing, which the unnamed engineer claims to have worked on; that would have allowed gamers to share their purchased titles with up to ten "family" members, with full access to the title for between 15 and 60 minutes.
"The motto around the offices for the family plan was "It's the console gaming equivalent to spotify and pandora" it was a social network within itself! The difference between the family sharing and the typical store demo is that your progress is saved as if it was the full game, and the data that was installed for that shared game doesn't need to be erased when they purchase the full game! It gave incentive to share your games among your peers, it gave games exposure, it allowed old games to still generate revenue for publishers"
However, there are also casualties on the roadmap that we hadn't heard about until now, it's suggested. Microsoft was "building a natural social network with Xbox One in itself that didn't
require gamers to open their laptops/tablets to post to their other friends nor did they need to wrestle with keyboard add-ons." Instead, voice-to-text - using Kinect 2.0 - would be relied upon for easy messaging and comments; Xbox LIVE users would each get "a full "home space" in which they could post their highest scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, what they've watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond to" the engineer explains.
Overall, the cost of used gaming on the development system - and gaming as a whole - is blamed for some of Microsoft's motivations for the original Xbox One strategy. The anonymous engineer suggests that, while perhaps initially mistrusted, systems like online passes could have eventually matured in much the way DLC did; "we went from pointless horse armor to amazing season passes like Borderlands 2!" they write.
The identity of the author of the document can't, of course, be verified. However, The Verge claims that its own sources familiar with Microsoft's so-far-unannounced plans for Xbox One concur with some of the claims made in the document about roadmap intentions.
Ironically, just as the original Xbox One announcement whipped up a frenzy of anti-DRM sentiment, leading to Microsoft's 180 on the subject, the change in approach has itself produced a vocal cohort of gamers now frustrated that they will miss out on the online-centric features. By giving developers the assurance that the console would have a permanent or at least regular internet connection, goes the argument, they would be in a position to deliver more web-based functionality that would enrich titles, not leave them hamstrung.
Microsoft has put its foot down in a similar way on the new Kinect, refusing to marginalize it as an optional accessory no matter what usability and privacy concerns gamers (and indeed regulators) might have. By making it mandatory, the company says, "game creators, experience creators can know they can rely on it" and the user gets a consistent experience.