After what could only be described as a consumer rights gaffe of colossal proportions, Microsoft has bowed to fan feedback and removed the draconian restrictions on the Xbox One. Instead of hassling users with constant Internet check-ins and a fee for used games, the Xbox One will function just as the current Xbox 360 does.
Previously, the Xbox One required users to check in online once every 24 hours, or else Microsoft would block his or her entire games library, leaving only TV and Blu-ray functionality. Now, the system requires the Internet only for its initial setup. Playing online will still require a connection, of course, but offline, single-player games can be played for days, months or years without Microsoft peering over players' shoulders.
Users will also be able to lend games freely among themselves, as they can with the Xbox 360. "There will be no limitations to using and sharing games," wrote Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. This only applies to disc-based games, but even today, there is no convenient way to share downloadable titles.
One potential drawback is that Xbox One disc-based games will require the disc in order to function, as the Xbox 360 does; initially, users could install entire games from discs. Microsoft has not revealed why this functionality was removed, but it may be to provide downloadable versions of titles with a feature to set them apart from physical copies. [See also: 10 Great Games You're Missing]
A torrent of negative backlash from fans likely played a large role in Microsoft's reversal, although rival Sony's presentation at the E3 convention in Los Angeles last week did not help matters. In a series of purposeful jabs at Microsoft, Sony boasted that its PlayStaion 4 would not require online check-ins, would not restrict used game sales or loans and would retail at a cool $100 less than the Xbox One.
The Xbox One's price is unchanged, and many consumers still have a sour taste in their mouths, but the Xbox One's new policies put the system on a much more even playing field with the PS4.
Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will probably clarify its newly revised policies and continue to refine them until the system's release in November. Until then, the next-generation console massacre just became a war again.