Microsoft’s Xbox One Game Licensing Revealed

Xbox One Shares Digital Generously–Physical, Not So Much

Microsoft has announced via Xbox Wire exactly what the Xbox One’s software policies will be. Surprisingly, they aren’t as bad as everyone feared, but they also are a step backward from what we enjoy today. Perhaps most interestingly of all, though, is that Microsoft has tried to ensure they won’t be perceived as the bad guy: if anyone charges a fee for the transfer of used games, Microsoft will not receive a cut. That scenario is entirely up to publishers.

All the nitty gritty details are available after the break! Read on and share your thoughts in the comments!

Forza 5 Xbox OneThe Good News:

1. You can share your game collection with up to 10 family members, on any Xbox One.

2. Disk and digital games will be available for download on the same day and date, following in Wii U and PS3’s footsteps.

3. Your entire games library will be available to you from any Xbox One you sign into, regardless of whether that game is a physical copy or a digital copy. All games are “stored in the cloud”.

4. Anyone who signs in on your Xbox One gets full access to your games, whether you’re logged in or not.

5. Up to 10 members of your friends and family can have shared access to your game library, and any one of them can have one of your games checked out on a different Xbox One while you’re still playing it on yours. Does this mean you could buy one copy of a game, share it with a family member and play multiplayer over Xbox Live? That’s unclear.

6. Disc-based games can be given away to anyone who’s been on your friends list for more than 30 days, but only once. Apparently this doesn’t also apply to digital games (why not?)

7. Selling or trading in games for credit toward new games can be done at any participating retailer. It’s not listed, but you can safely bet the usual suspects, Gamestop, Best Buy, Amazon, etc, will be on this list. Microsoft receives no money from these transactions.

8. Arguably the biggest piece of good news: Microsoft has given themselves ample wiggle room in the announcement language to massively modify these terms based on customer feedback. If the market takes a shit on their system’s sales, you can safely bet they’ll back off on the negatives (below).

Xbox One ControllerThe Bad News:

1. There won’t be any way to lend or rent games at launch.

2. Giving away games can only be done once, so if somebody gives you a game, you’re stuck with it. Not the end of the world, but annoying.

3. Arguably the biggest piece of bad news: Microsoft has given themselves ample wiggle room in the announcement language to massively modify these terms based on customer feedback. If nobody raises a stink, or if gamers flock to the new console, that will be interpreted as an “All’s clear” and you can forget ever getting your broader game selling/trading/lending rights back.


Honestly, I was expecting this to be a hell of a lot worse. While I am disappointed in the system’s inability to support game rentals or loans to friends, some of that (the loaning part) is mitigated by the broad ability to share the games I own with friends and family. If I’m honest with myself, the truth is that I basically do that with fewer than 10 people anyway, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I still don’t expect to buy an Xbox One at launch (nor a PS4, the system I currently prefer), simply because history has shown pretty clearly that the first year or two of any given console’s lifecycle is generally its worst, and I see no reason to jump in when there are so many great Xbox 360 and PS3 games to play right now, and plenty of great first party Nintendo content coming for the Wii U.

All that said, questions remain. If I own Halo 5, for example, and my friend Peter is one of the people I share my library with, can he boot up Halo 5 from my library at the same time as I do so we can play some multiplayer action over Xbox Live? Given that disk based games can be given away only once, can they then be sold? If a game has been resold once, can it be resold again? Why aren’t rentals available out of the gate? Are there plans to allow for companies like Gamefly and Redbox to continue renting new games under a new licensing scheme?

Microsoft has finally done a half decent job of explaining how the used games licensing system will work for the average gamer, and for that, they deserve a begrudging thanks (begrudging because these are details they should have had available on May 21st). But there are still questions that need answering, and gamers should continue to demand those answers before the drop their hard earned dollars on the table.

But enough about my thoughts, what do YOU think about all this?

  • Monkable P

    No-one has commented yet, and no-one should comment. Oh shit….

    • JasonGW

      LOL why should no one comment about the new system’s online policies? :)

      • Monkable P

        I’m thinking that if we all stay really, really quiet we might be able to sneak out the window and run over to Sony’s house without Daddy Xbox noticing…..time to go! Bye M$!