Xbox One: constant connectivity, sharing games and Kinect privacy explained

7 Jun 2013

With E3 getting closer and user queries on connectivity, licensing and privacy detracting from the hype for the next-generation Xbox, the makers have attempted to address concerns and clear up some of the confusion ahead of the Xbox One press conference at the annual gaming expo.

Through a series of posts on the new Xbox Wire yesterday, the Xbox One team answers some questions that arose about the new console – or, more accurately, entertainment system – following its reveal just over two weeks ago.

First, users wondered how the ‘always on’ aspect of the device might work. This has been clarified to let users know that the system is designed to stay on in a low-powered, connected state, which means updates can be downloaded and installed as soon as they are made available and games will always be up to date and ready to play.

Limitations on transfers and reselling

The Xbox One is cloud-based and so, when users purchase a game on a disc, all they need is to install it once and a digital copy will be stored in the cloud for anytime access through any Xbox One console. With Xbox Live’s online store selling digital versions of all games on the day of their release and discs becoming obsolete after the initial install, this could spell trouble for bricks-and-mortar games retailers. Though, granted, discs will still have the benefit of faster installs.

And what about reselling? Microsoft Studios are fine with reselling of their games and Microsoft confirmed that it will not be charging a platform fee to retailers, publishers or consumers, but third-party publishers can decide for themselves and can also add on their own terms or transfer fees. No fees will be charged by Microsoft to transfer a disc-based game over to a friend either, but this will only be permitted if that person has been on the original owner’s friends list for at least 30 days, and each game can only be given once.

Loaning or renting games will not be available at launch, but it is something that’s being explored.

Anyone on your Xbox One console can play your games, whether or not you’re logged in, but users can also grant access for up to 10 family members to their shared games library for use on any Xbox One console. At any one time, you and another family member can play from your library at once.

Always connected

The Xbox One features improved wireless connectivity and comes with two wireless antennas, where the Xbox 360 has just the one. This will allow for faster internet speeds, and Microsoft recommends a broadband connection of 1.5Mbps.

While a constant connection to the internet is not a requirement for the Xbox One, it is a necessity if users want to continue playing games uninterrupted. Offline gaming is only available for 24 hours at a time, or one hour if logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Users must re-establish a connection to continue gaming after these allotted times, but this won’t affect viewing live TV or disc-based movies.

Kinect won’t share data without permission

Privacy concerns were also raised following the Xbox One unveiling, particularly in relation to the new Kinect. Microsoft has clarified how this will work, though, and assures user that they will remain in control of what the sensor can see or hear.

For apps and games that use the Kinect to collect data such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate, etc., Microsoft has also confirmed that this data will not leave the system without users’ permission. Presumably, this would mean that Microsoft’s supposed Kinect awards and achievements patent would need authorisation to share users’ data with advertisers.

Users also retain the option not to use the Kinect sensor to control the console, opting for the Xbox One controller or a connected smart device instead.

An Xbox media briefing will be held on the eve of E3 next Monday, where more details on the next-generation console are expected to be revealed.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.