As someone who’s been a very happy Xbox 360 owner for the past six years, I was eagerly anticipating buying an Xbox One this coming holiday season as a sort of Christmas present to myself. The console’s specs look killer, its new TV set-top box features look like nice additions and its ability to make Skype calls through my television is a great touch. But then I read about Microsoft’s policies on both used games and Internet connectivity on Friday and I’ve concluded that, barring a significant change, I will not be buying an Xbox One.
Let’s start with the used game policies. Microsoft will let you buy, sell and trade used games but with some significant restrictions. First, you’ll have to buy and sell games through authorized dealers only, which limits the number of outlets you have to choose from when it comes to peddling your used games. While this is somewhat annoying, it’s nothing compared to Microsoft’s policies on giving games to friends: You’re allowed to do it once per game and your friend isn’t allowed to ever give it to anyone else. Think about this: Microsoft is severely restricting what you can do with property that you paid for and willingly gave to someone else. The company is basically telling gamers that it doesn’t trust them to pay for most of the games they play.
Things get even worse when it comes to online connectivity. No, you won’t have to always be online to play games but you will have to log in once a day just to play the games that you’ve already paid $60 for on the console you’ve already paid more than $400 to use. Microsoft says that this once-a-day check-in is necessary because “Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend.”
Again, the message is unmistakable: “We don’t trust you.” The company wants to make sure that you’re using all of your games properly and aren’t “cheating” the system by playing a game without its authorization. And what’s more, Microsoft has so little trust in you that it has to check up on you every single day. The entire thing reminds me of parents who force their children to show them their teeth every night to make sure that they’ve really brushed — in other words, it’s invasive and patronizing.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Xbox One’s motion-detecting Kinect sensor has got a whole lot creepier in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency getting access to major tech companies’ internal servers. Yes, I know we’re getting into the realm of paranoia here, but the Kinect sensor’s capabilities always spooked me a bit and learning about the NSA’s spying practices has just pushed me over the edge on this issue. It doesn’t help matters that Microsoft, whether willingly or not, was also the first major tech company roped into the NSA’s PRISM program.
So between the used game policies, the once-a-day check-ins and the creepiness of Kinect, that’s three very big strikes. I’ll be open to changing my mind between now and the launch period if Microsoft changes its policies, but for now I plan on buying a PlayStation 4.