Angry customers give Microsoft an earful and get some satisfaction for it.
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Scrambling to placate furious fans, Microsoft has abandoned its plan to require its forthcoming Xbox One gaming console to periodically connect to the Internet, even for offline games.
Citing customer feedback about the flexibility of disc-based games and the importance of being able to share, lend and resell them, Microsoft president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick on Wednesday announced a series of changes in the way the Xbox One will work.
An Internet connection will no longer be required for games that do not access the Internet, said Mattrick, and disc-based games will not require online authentication following initial system setup. Also, he said, the lending, sharing, resale and rental of Xbox One game discs will work as they do today with Xbox 360 game discs.
In addition, Mattrick said, there will be no regional restrictions, as there are for DVDs.
Mattrick expressed appreciation for Xbox fans' "willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity" and noted that while Microsoft continues to believe most people will play games and access entertainment online, the company will give customers a choice.
The choice previously offered to those disinterested in Microsoft's connectivity requirement was to keep using an Xbox 360, Mattrick explained in an interview at the recent E3 game conference. That stance was not appreciated by current Xbox users and potential Xbox One buyers. Gaming website Kotaku characterized the Xbox One launch as a disaster.
Microsoft's about-face represents a repudiation of its previously stated vision for the product and a setback for technology and entertainment companies that see cloud-based services as a way to gain greater control over copyrighted content and to recapture revenue lost to the first sale doctrine, lending libraries, game rental companies and friendly sharing.
It also demonstrates awareness of the competitive threat posed by Sony, which emerged from E3 looking like the frontrunner in the next-generation console battle, thanks to its willingness to embrace offline play and disc-based games with its PS4 console, not to mention a list price of $399, $100 less than the Xbox One.
Microsoft's Xbox One is expected to ship later this year, in November.
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