Microsoft defends the Xbox One’s licensing, used game policies

Microsoft defends the Xbox One’s licensing, used game policies

Published: Friday, June 14, 2013Tagged: Gaming, Xbox One,

Xbox marketing chief talks to Ars about the benefits of the move to a "digital world."


"This is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand."

This is the extremely diplomatic way Microsoft Xbox Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehdi spun his reaction to the PR challenges surrounding the Xbox One of late. And it's true, consumers around the world (and around the Internet) loudly expressed how much they dislike the changes Microsoft announced to its game licensing terms (and online requirements) for the Xbox One last Thursday, giving Sony the ammunition it needed to win E3 by basically doing nothing.

The reaction wasn't a surprise to Mehdi, though. In fact, he said a lot of the way people have responded to Microsoft's moves was "kind of as we expected." But the implication of his statements in an in-depth interview with Ars Technica was that this temporary confusion and discomfort among the audience would be worth it as gamers and consumers adjust to a console world without game discs.

"We're trying to do something pretty big in terms of moving the industry forward for console gaming into the digital world. We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better."

Mehdi made a comparison to the world of home movie viewing, where inconvenient trips to Blockbuster Video have been replaced with Netflix streaming on practically every TV-connected device. On Xbox One, having all games exist as cloud-connected downloads enables new features like the ability to access your entire library at a friend's house with a single login or loaning games to up to ten "family members" digitally and remotely.

Those digital "benefits" will be available at launch, but Mehdi hinted that the digital rights management transition might unlock some more interesting game access and distribution methods later on. "In the future, you can imagine the capability to have different licensing models, different ways that people have to access games. This all gets unlocked because of digital." He wouldn't get drawn into details, but when I suggested ideas like an "all-you-can-play" Netflix for games or purely digital game rentals, he didn't shoot me down. "Sure. It could be a variety of ways."

Mehdi also suggested that the transition to a world of strictly downloadable and online-connected games would help allow for "a diversity of business models" for publishers to take advantage of, from free-to-play titles to $60 AAA games to Xbox Live Arcade games somewhere in between. "As you go into a digital world, what's happening is publishers are choosing to have different business models, and consumers are saying 'Hey, if I can't resell the title, provide me a different way to get value to get into your game.' And we think the market will be efficient in finding good models that work for consumers." In essence, Mehdi said, consumer demand for good value from games will drive prices down, even if a publisher decides to fully cut off the market release valve of used game resale.


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