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Xbox One Always-on DRM – Your questions answered

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Xbox One
Xbox One

The Xbox One is the next-gen Microsoft games console. In some ways it’s pretty traditional, but the way it operates online is quite different to the Xbox 360.

Does it have to be connected all the time to operate? And will it let you use pre-owned games? We answer some of the Xbox One’s most common queries below.

Do I need the disc to play a game?
Xbox One games are installed to the console’s 500GB as standard, after which the assets are streamed off the hard drive, rather than the Blu-ray disc. This will reduce load times and noise, as a hard disk spinning is much quieter than an optical drive’s spin.
 
Installing games is common in the current generation of consoles. What’s different this time around is that you won’t need to have the disc inserted to play a game – the presence of a disc is currently used a layer of copy protection. Not so in the Xbox One.

Can I carry over my current Xbox Live Gold subscription to the Xbox One?
As happened with the transition from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360, any Xbox Live Gold subscription you have when the Xbox One lands can be used on the new console. You’ll use the same Live account, so there’s really no difference between using Gold on either console.

What’s new with the Xbox One is that an Xbox Live Gold subscription can be shared among any users of the same console. If one member of the family has Gold, all of them do – assuming they are all using the same console, anyway.

Does an Xbox One always need to be connected to the internet?

One of the most contentious issues of the Xbox One pre-launch was whether it would have to be connected to the internet all the time when playing. The good news – it doesn’t.

The bad news is that it does have to connect to the internet around once a day, as part of the console’s piracy protection regime. If your internet goes down for several days, it sounds likely you will not be able to play games or Blu-rays, or watch TV through your Xbox. We’re still waiting for some clarification on exactly how this online check-in works.

Will pre-owned games work with an Xbox One?
Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox One will support pre-owned games. However, there’s plenty of discussion about how they’ll work exactly.

The issue is that the mechanics of the Xbox One’s copy protection have not been discussed by Microsoft fully. It seems highly unlikely that game discs could be unique, mandating the use or some form of registration code for each game – commonly used in current-gen games to access online bonuses (used to dissuade people from buying pre-owned games.)

It’s rumoured that pre-owned games will come with an activation fee – which comes into play when this initial registration code has already been used. We’ll be looking to clear up this issue as soon as more information is available.

Can games be shared with friends?
Wired wrote an article claiming that if a game disc is used by another person – after the game has already been installed by the owner – they’ll be asked to pay an extra fee. This introduces a whole host of murky problems. If the game is tied to an Xbox Live account, does that mean each different Xbox account on a single console will have to pay a fee?

Update: Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb (a.k.a. Major Nelson) has spoken out on the issue, saying “Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”

Will the Xbox One let me play my old Xbox 360 games?

The backwards compatibility issue isn’t so much one of copy protection as a fundamental technological problem. The Xbox One has a completely different architecture to the Xbox 360 – its core processing units work in a completely different way.

To get Xbox 360 games working on an Xbox One, Microsoft would have to develop an emulator or port games individually. And neither would be worth the investment, especially given the performance cost involved in using an emulator.

How many friends can I have on Xbox Live?

Your Xbox One Live account is limited to 1000 friends. This is much greater than the current limit on the Xbox 360, which limits you to a paltry 100.

Do you have any other questions on how the Xbox One works? Drop us a line in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer.

Next, read about how the PS4 compares to the Xbox One...

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