Xbox One Family Sharing could return despite online backtrack

Microsoft could restore the the Xbox One's Family Sharing feature, the company has teased, having removed it as part of its backtrack on 24-hour DRM check-ins for the next-gen console. The feature, which would have allowed up to ten people designated as "family" to play games registered to a single account, no matter where they were located, was a casualty of Microsoft's concessions to angry gamers left furious by the Xbox One's online demands. However, according to Xbox One CPO Marc Whitten, Family Sharing could make a reappearance if enough gamers want it.

The initial indication is that those gamers really do, too. Speaking to IGN, Whitten commented on a petition started by would-be Xbox One owners demanding that Microsoft restore the functionality originally outlined at E3, rather than conceding to "consumers uncertainty", and conceded that the company had failed to communicate the system – and its advantages – fully.

"What it tells me is we need to do more work to talk about what we're doing because I think that we did something different than maybe how people are perceiving it," Whitten admitted. That led to the compromise on having the Xbox One connected at least once every 24 hours.

According to Whitten, "while Xbox One is built to be digital native, to have this amazing online experience, we realized people wanted some choice." According to the chief product officer, gamers wanted a halfway-house of functionality, perhaps to ease them into Microsoft's vision for the console. "They wanted what I like to call a bridge, sort of how they think about the world today using more digital stuff," he explained. "What we did, we added to what the console can do by providing physical and offline modes in the console. It isn't about moving away from what that digital vision is for the platform. It's about adding that choice."

As for Family Sharing, that could mean that the functionality might eventually appear on the Xbox One, only not as part of the original feature-set. "If it's something that people are really excited about and want, we're going to make sure that we find the right way to bring it back" Whitten promised, describing its absence as "more of an engineering reality time frame type-thing" than it being a functional impossibility.

For Whitten, even though the response was vitriolic from some quarters, it was still welcome for the Xbox team. The first Xbox One event – criticized at the time for being too TV-centric leaving little time to walk through the more advanced gaming features – did a poor job of explaining things, the Microsoft exec admits. "One of the things I think we learned was that we didn't talk enough," he says, "and we were incomplete in a lot of how using the system would work."