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ONE Month In: Part 2 - Always Online? & Digital is EXPENSIVE!


 

ONE Month In: Part 2 - Always Online? & Digital is EXPENSIVE!

Welcome to the second part of my four part blog entry exploring my thoughts and feelings on my first month or so of owning/experiencing the Xbox ONE.

You can find "Part 1: The New Kinect and Party Chat" here

Parts 3 and 4 will be released over the next few days, but today's focus is my thoughts on "How you don't NEED but kinda do Need Always-online" and how "Digital is Expensive!" (and what a possible solution could be).

If you have any ideas or thoughts on the subjects I'm bringing up that you'd like to say/vent, please feel free to do so in the comments section below, I'm always up for a good discussion.

So without further adieu, grab a cup'a'joe and I hope you enjoy:

 

How you don't NEED but kinda do Need Always-online

Back when the Xbox ONE was first announced, it was going to be a system that required that you connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours; if you wanted to continue playing your games. I'm sure there were many reasons for this, but one of the primary ones was to enforce the digital rights of the game/app developers and publishers, ensuring you actually owned or were allowed access to the games/apps you were using. On the surface this seemed like a massive restriction and that it would somehow interfere with how we as gamers currently play games, truth be told, it might have, but I'll also say this: I can't remember the last time I played a console or PC game where I didn't check to ensure my internet connection was first working. Well... actually, that's not entirely true, it was when I first heard this announcement, but lately my internet hasn't been the greatest (frequent disconnections and extended downtime) and so I can empathize with people who have poor access, but that doesn't mean it was a bad or evil idea.

368470-10-tips-for-troubleshooting-your-internet-connection

You see, because my internet connection isn't the greatest at the moment I am literally experiencing the downsides of an always-online culture. Using the Xbox ONE without the internet is a severely diminished experience and not the reason I bought the X1 in the first place. When my internet connection decides it doesn't want to work I can no longer do any of the following:

  • Access my Achievements; at all.
  • Open many apps, although for most of them there would be no point as they are usually portals to online services like YouTube, Machinama or Skype.
  • Play Xbox Fitness as it require proof that you are an Xbox Live GOLD subscriber.
  • Get the full experience of Forza 5's Drivatar. Actually, I'm not 100% sure on this one, from what I've experienced it SEEMS like it downloads a full race worth of drivatat's information and stores it locally, so as long as you have played at least one race online you should be fine to play... but as I said, I'm not entirely certain.

What can you do while you are you offline:

  • Play the offline campaign for most games.

Yep, that's about it. Worst part though is that most games have some really cool features for their campaigns that being online enhances, like; for example, the aforementioned Drivatar's in Forza 5; seemless/optional/no extra menu matchmaking in Need For Speed: Rivals, Co-op in Dead Rising 3, live player updates in most sports games, and that's just off the top of my head. Hell, I'm pretty sure the games actually run slightly faster when connected to the net, I know for certain when I play Dead Rising 3 it slows down every now and then when I'm not connected, and MAN-OH-MAN are the loading screens in Forza 5 a drag without the net, takes an extra 10-20 seconds for race summary screens to load because the game is checking you connection in order to update your placing on the leaderboards and show you which of your friends you just beat, and when it finally discovers that you aren't connected it allows you to continue; but damn does it takes it's time working that out with un-skippable micro-cutscenes of your car.

forza-5-screen-13

I honestly wish Microsoft had hired a better marketing team to get the message across for the always online and really sold the public on why it was required. The 11th hour alteration to their format has resulted in the loss of a decent digital library, world-wide digital "family" sharing and a whole host of other features that I'm sure will eventually come back, but in a slowly rolled out way.

All of this leads me to say that although you don't NEED to be connected to the internet all the time, the experience is a lot more enjoyable when you are... actually, it really is kind of annoying how you can't access internet explorer when you aren't online. Allow me to explain, you see, my internet connection has me connect wirelessly to a hub that requires a web browser be opened to authorize the devices access to the net (for usage monitoring), and without the ability to load internet explorer on the X1, the only way I can get access to my console is by bridging my PC connection to the X1 using an ethernet cable, which results in my Xbox ONE not being connected to the wireless network, which means I also can't take advantage of the Xbox Smartglass app on my phone; as it connects using the wireless network connection... so annoying, I was really looking forward to using the Dead Rising 3 app. Oh well, win some, lose some. More incentive to find a new place to live with a better internet connection I suppose. I look forward to both that day (a new net connection for me) and the day when you can have a fully digital experience (buy, sell, share and trade all digitally), that day is not yet here, and with the out-dated physical stores holding everything up I fear we won't have a decent version for a while. Unfortunately, that day is a fair way off because:

 

Digital is EXPENSIVE

 

Digital Expensive

Why on earth would I buy a digital version of a game for full retail price when I can get a physical copy on sale at any number of brick and mortar stores? The answer is, I wouldn't, and neither would most people, which is unfortunately one of the reasons it is going to take so much longer for an all digital world to exist.

Right now the price of say... Dead Rising 3 on the Xbox ONE Games Store is $109.95 in New Zealand Dollars, however I could pick up and/or have delivered the physical copy for the following NZD prices at these outlets:

I understand the hesitance of physical stores like the ones listed above (and any other international stores like Best Buy or Gamestop), their business comes from not just the initial sales but more importantly the trade-in and 2nd hand sales.

One of the major reasons I feel that the move to digital that Microsoft was trying to make failed was because of a few things:

  • Poor Messaging
  • Lack of Company wide knowledge on the subject
  • Announced before all the information was finalized

That last one is a big one. People had fears and questions after the announcement and no-one could answer them, or they would, only to be given different information from another source. It was a mess. Were we able to still trade-in games? Yes, but only to selected outlets? WHAT? Who? How? None of this was answered in a way that could satisfy the masses. Personally I hate trading in games to retail outlets that sell the games new, I have only ever done it once and I felt gross afterwards. Now, there may be people out there who say why? to such a claim, but my thoughts are that games don't really age. The 2nd-hand outlet is make pure profit out of those titles and it just doesn't feel right. I love games and I want more/better games from amazing developers, but we won't while such a large portion of the world-wide gaming community purchases titles from 2nd-hand outlets that don't share the profits. You may argue that Car manufacturers don't get a cut, why should publishers/developers... simple answer is that games give the exact same quality experience whether they are new or old, the code doesn't change, only the number of scratches; Scratches can be mended, cases replaced and the games will still work fine, so why are the publishers/developers not getting a cut. The only lost value in games is how long they've been out and whether or not they have a sequel or an upgraded version of them. Games naturally decrease in value overtime as customer demand goes down.

I propose a system similar to the original Xbox ONE digital system, only it's done in a way that will allow for people to continue using Discs online and offline as much as they like, the only "Always Online"/Online check-in system would be for those who wish to go completely digital. A fully digital system couldn't properly work if you did away with any sort of online check, DRM is an issue and to ensure people can't take advantage of it I would do the following:

Buying New

dreamstime_new_burst_570718

  • Both Online and Physical Retailers have the ability to order in Digital Codes for all Xbox ONE titles, including the smaller digital-only titles like Peggle 2 and Lococycle.
  • All full retail games can be purchased as either Disc/Code or Code-Only.
  • All Discs come with a digital code at no extra cost should the buyer wish to digitally share/lend/on-sell/trade-in that version of the game.
  • If you have the physical disc and there is nothing wrong with it then you can play the game, no digital code is required, but if you have not got or registered the code you can not play without the disc.
  • In order to play digitally you must sign onto Xbox Live once every 24 hours in order to authenticate your digital licence should you wish to continue playing without the disc inserted in the Xbox ONE drive.
  • Publishers are paid when both Physical and Digital stock is ordered.
  • Online, Physical and XBLM can all do similar digital sales.
  • Retailer purchased Digital codes and arrive as themed credit card size plastic attached to cardboard with the cover of the game/app on it. On the back of the piece of plastic is a scratchable area with a QR code hidden beneath. This or something similar so there is a physical object for retail outlets to stocktake and sell/give to customers. Online-only stores can purchase Codes-only via a specially designed Retail-only Microsoft Digital Code Storehouse Website that all retailers can apply for membership for, this membership is required for code-only (no physical version) purchases and to be able to accept/on-sell traded-in games/codes.
  • Developers are paid by the Publishers where applicable.

I've had a conversation with a friend about this topic and his first thoughts on it were:
"A small fee ($1 or so) should be added to the transaction to make a game able to be shared which would allow Xbox to increase security and help prevent the sharing turn into stealing. You advertise it as paying a small, one off fee to ensure that the devs can keep making better games and so that Xbox can hire people who are dedicated to improving the sharing experience; which in this case, is the truth, it allows the devs to keep making their hard earned cash while also improving on the service... As soon as you start selling codes with the discs, sales will drop because people will start buying the discs and giving the code to a friend."

I respectfully disagree, you see you can't do that, it doesn't cost people to share games now, charging for the ability too would cause gamer riots. Digitally lending in this model has a time limit (see below), so stealing isn't possible and as far as people buying the Disc+Code copy, if you make the Physical copies that include the Disc more expensive (because of the cost to manufacture the physical disc), then that would incentivize people to get the digital version.

As far as the price difference goes, I'd make it:

  • Disc+Code (available at Physical and Online Retail outlets) = $109.99 NZD or $69.99 USD
  • Code Only (available at the XBLM, Physical and Online Retail outlets) = $69.99 NZD or $49.99 USD

 

Trading-in

badge

  • In order to trade in a digital code, the Retailer accesses a Retail-Only Microsoft website that allows a customer to input their username/password and transfer the digital rights of 1 or more titles to the retailers Digital Code Storehouse that resides within the servers at Microsoft, they then pay the customer by transferring the amount back onto the debit/credit card; in-store credit, or have the amount transferred to their Xbox Live account and the customer receives an automatically generated e-mail detailing which games they sold and for how much. The codes do not get released to the retailer until the payment process is complete and the customer has authorized the transaction by re-inputting their username and password.
  • Only the retailer has access to their Digital Code Storehouse account and from there they can print off QR Codes to be sold in-store. Digital codes that should have been traded-in with discs but were not can be matched to any physical disc of the same game that was traded in without the code and re-sold at full 2nd-hand market value.
  • Trading-in via an online store is done via a portal that you must log-in to from the retail outlets site. Once you have accessed by the online retail outlets portal and have your account logged in you can choose which codes you wish to trade-in. Payment is done by either inputting your Debit/Credit card or Paypal information or by having the amount transferred directly into your Xbox Live Account.
  • The digital codes that are purchased along with the disc come from a batch of codes that the Xbox ONE and Retailer Trade-in services (Retail-only MS Digital Code Storehouse Website) would recognize as coming with a disc. If no disc is traded in with the code, then it is worth 50% less than the market value of the trade-in value for that title. This goes for trading-in at physical and online stores, through the Xbox Live Marketplace and when selling to your Xbox Live Friends; a message appears informing the buyer that the code came with a Disc and displays the market  trade-in value for that title so users aren't as easily ripped off.
  • Discs on-sold or traded-in without the code are worth 50% less than the market value of the trade-in value for that title.
  • If you have the clean Disc and the Code with an intact case and manual, you get full market value of the trade-in of that title.
  • Trade-in prices decrease with no manual or damaged cases/discs as per the current trading systems.
  • All digital codes purchased via the Xbox Live Marketplace can either be traded-in via the XBL Marketplace, at a physical retail store, at an online store or can be on-sold to a friend.
  • On-selling to friends is done via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The Seller places how much they wish to sell the title for and the buyer must agree to the amount. A message will appear to both parties informing them of the 2nd-hand market value of the title and whether or not the code came with a disc. Once a transaction is complete it is final, the only way to un-do a sale is to repeat the process with the seller now in the buyers position and vice-versa.
  • Publishers receive a percentage of ALL sales for their respective title's that are sold via Xbox Live and the Retail-Only MS Digital Code Storehouse Website.
  • Developers are paid a percentage by the Publishers where applicable.
  • Publishers/Developers receive no money for Physical/Digital Lending/Borrowing/Family Sharing.

 

Physical and Digital Lending/Borrowing

lend_borrow_resized

  • You can physically lend or borrow any disc based game you own. If a person has the physical disc they can play offline and online without a digital code. However, once the disc is removed from the Xbox ONE, the game can not be played until the disc is re-inserted.
  • If the Owners owns the digital licence as well as the physical disc, both CAN be used at the same time, no matter where each console is residing. As long as the digital licence has an active licence (has checked-in at least once in the past 24hrs) then both copies are valid.
  • You can digitally lend or borrow and game via Xbox Live. When you want to lend a digital title, you select a friend, the title and the duration of which you wish to allow them to have access to the licence of your game. Once the time expires the licence returns to the owner, even if the borrower goes offline. Should the borrower go offline and attempt to alter the date/time then they automatically lose the rights to access the game, however until the borrower goes back online or the original lending time runs out, the lender will not have access to the licence/game.
  • You can lend/borrow more than one game at a time on one or more lending times.
  • You can not lend/borrow DLC/add-ons.

 

Digital "Family" Sharing

sharing

  • In this case the word "Family" refers to people from your Friends list that you have chosen to place in your "Xbox Live Family Group"; "XLFG".
  • You can have up to 10 Family members.
  • You can add/remove Friends to/from your XLFG as often as you like.
  • YOU can be a member of more than one of you friends Family groups.
  • You can choose the titles you wish to share to your Family members; either as a whole or individually.
  • Only one Family member may access any one game at a time.
  • The Owner always has priority; should one of your Family member be playing one of your games that you wish to play, then they are given 1 hour to save the game and exit. You will be able to play immediately. You can also play with them online/in co-op during that 1 hour period.
  • Family members do not gain access to any additional DLC/add-ons you may have purchased, only the main game.

 

Digital Renting

rent

  • Customers can rent full game/movie and /or show digital licences directly from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • Customers can rent any full game/movie and /or show  digital licences for 1 Day, 5 Days or 7 days.
  • Prices vary based on how recent the title is. There are 3 categories:
    • New - Less than 1 month;
    • Recent - Less than 6 months;
    • Old - Over 6 months.
  • The licence/s automatically expire when the paid and agreed upon renting time is up.
  • However, should the renter go offline and attempt to alter the date/time then they automatically lose the rights to access all rented titles.
  • You cannot rent DLC/add-ons.
  • The Digital copy of the title does not get deleted unless you authorize it.
  • Customers receive a message when the renting period expires asking if they would like to purchase the title at a reduced price (discount equalling the total amount you rented it for, including all past rentals for that individual title; where applicable).
  • Publishers are paid when their titles are rented and/or purchased after/during the rental period.
  • Developers are paid by the Publishers where applicable.
  • Physical Rental Outlets can still rent out Physical Discs as per the current standard.

For a super simple way to look at all of that, see the following diagram:

digishar

It might also be worth looking into a few different Xbox Live Gold versions that include pre-paid for worldwide TV/Movie and Music services, similar to Netflix but exclusive to the Xbox ONE. We can already rent or buy movies and music through the Xbox Live Store on the Xbox ONE, why not include TV Shows and make a new price teir. With the addition of the new service, it might be nice to discount the current Gold service by about 20%, that way a Platinum service can be slightly more expensive, but not overwhelmingly so, and during the transitional period give all Xbox Live Gold members a free month of Platinum and the option to put their remaining Gold subscription time towards upgrading to the Platinum service; eg. they pay and extra $2.99 NZD ($1.99 USD)/month of Gold service to upgrade.

This hypothetical new subscription model could cost something akin to:

Xbox Live Platinum

  • All the Current Xbox Live Gold services.
  • Unlimited access to all the TV Shows, Movies and Music you want.
  • All accessible via both your standard Xbox ONE and the Xbox ONE Smartglass app on-the-go.
  • Price:
    • 1 month - $13.99 NZD or $11.99 USD?
    • 1 year - $79.99 NZD or $66.99 USD?

Xbox Live Gold

  • All the Current Xbox Live Gold services.
  • Unlimited access to all the Xbox ONE Exclusive Shows and programming.
  • All accessible via both your standard Xbox ONE and the Xbox ONE Smartglass app on-the-go.
  • Price:
    • 1 month - $6.99 NZD or $4.99 USD?
    • 1 year - $37.99 NZD or $31.99 USD?

Xbox Live Silver

  • All the Current Xbox Live Silver services.
  • Access to the Xbox ONE Smartglass app on-the-go.
  • Price:
    • Free

Obviously those prices are ball-park/off the top of my head, but I don't think a platinum subscription should be TOO much more than what gold is worth at the moment

So there you have it, my idea of how a Fully Digital world could co-exist with the current physical method that we have been using for years. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, it really is quite simple and everyone wins. Although I am only human, so if you see a fault in my theory or if I have missed a crucial piece of the puzzle, please speak up, I'd be happy to discuss it in the comments section below.

That brings me to a close on Parts 1 and 2, in summary:

  • Kinect is neat but incredibly pointless for New Zealanders in it's current form;
  • The Party Chat works but is no-where nears as high a quality system as we had on the Xbox 360;
  • Offline works for basic single player or local multiplayer but you miss out on almost all the awesome features on the Xbox ONE, both in the games and in the system itself, so best to set yourself up with a quality internet connection and enjoy the ride;

and finally

  • Digital games/apps/services are EXPENSIVE! and a new system needs to happen in order for consumers to consider it a viable option AT ALL.

If you made it to the end of Part 2 and enjoyed what you've read, please hit the like button, follow me and share the piece around.

What are your thoughts on the the offline vs online modes, the price of digital content and my hypothetical new digital methods/services? Comment below and lets have a conversation!

Part 3 will be live in the next day or so and until next time,

Thanks for reading.

Luke Batt.

@LukeB4tt

 


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Comments (10)

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tuftsdude NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 6:59 PM Posted by tuftsdude
Well firstly, if you're wondering who buys digital copies...people that go halfs with their mates (:
It's not legal, but people still do it.
Secondly, most people play on their consoles with their interwebs connected. Data caps and internet speeds are a big downfall in N.Z, so some people don't really benefit from online sadly.
i haven't heard of "Xbox Live Platnum", but access to unlimited t.v shows is rad...if your internet can handle it..
Very good informative sum up. I'm kinda glad I went PC. Kinda sucks missing out on NZG game nights and community stuff though.

BTW, is digital family sharing actually live? I haven't heard about it in ages.
 
 
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LukeB NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 7:06 PM Posted by LukeB
12 February 2014, 06:59 PM Reply to tuftsdude
Well firstly, if you're wondering who buys digital copies...people that go halfs with their mates (:
It's not legal, but people still do it.
Secondly, most people play on their consoles with their interwebs connected. Data caps and internet speeds are a big downfall in N.Z, so some people don't really benefit from online sadly.
i haven't heard of "Xbox Live Platnum", but access to unlimited t.v shows is rad...if your internet can handle it..
Very good informative sum up. I'm kinda glad I went PC. Kinda sucks missing out on NZG game nights and community stuff though.

BTW, is digital family sharing actually live? I haven't heard about it in ages.
Xbox Live Platinum is a hypothetical service I created as a suggestion, as is everything listed in the Digital is Expensive part, from "I propose..." onward :) So no, Digital Family Sharing is not live, could come back in the future, but atm it's still a dream... fingers crossed something like my method gets put in place though, would be great.

Do people really go halves with their mates to buy digital games? That seems ridiculous, your mate would own the game and could shut you out at anytime, silly people.

NZ's internet is kinda sh*t at times, but if you live in a street with a decent pipe laid down from Orcon or Vodafone you can get some amazing speeds for reasonable prices... just wish my landlords would upgrade the-block-of-flats-I-live-in's shared wireless internet :P
 
 
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tuftsdude NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 8:43 PM Posted by tuftsdude
Ahaha, I really should get more sleep before reading blogs xD

I went halves for PS+ with a mate, then gave my mate his acc (XBL) and he gave me his, etc. A bit stupid, needs trust.

I live in a decent street, 16mbps on adsl+2 , but Slingshot is shiet so I get dial up-10 (at times) mbps >:(
 
 
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LukeB NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 8:46 PM Posted by LukeB
12 February 2014, 08:43 PM Reply to tuftsdude
Ahaha, I really should get more sleep before reading blogs xD

I went halves for PS+ with a mate, then gave my mate his acc (XBL) and he gave me his, etc. A bit stupid, needs trust.

I live in a decent street, 16mbps on adsl+2 , but Slingshot is shiet so I get dial up-10 (at times) mbps >:(
Time to change that plan man :P
 
 
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NZBuc NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 9:42 PM Posted by NZBuc
Good read Luke - btw the USA digital store is much cheaper than NZ - I got bf4 for nz$72 on release
 
 
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LukeB NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 12 Feb 2014 10:46 PM Posted by LukeB
12 February 2014, 09:42 PM Reply to NZBuc
Good read Luke - btw the USA digital store is much cheaper than NZ - I got bf4 for nz$72 on release
Thanks man. BTW that's a pretty decent price. Worth checking out for future purchases, just wish they would make the prices the same across the board; currency conversion taken into account of course :)
 
 
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NZBuc NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Feb 2014 5:11 PM Posted by NZBuc
12 February 2014, 10:46 PM Reply to LukeB
Thanks man. BTW that's a pretty decent price. Worth checking out for future purchases, just wish they would make the prices the same across the board; currency conversion taken into account of course :)
that would be great - but if not, as long as I can keep buying from the usa store cheaper than anywhere else, I will
 
 
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Goonertron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Feb 2014 10:36 AM Posted by Goonertron
I don't think Xbox Fitness can work offline as it is just steaming video, would be cool to be able to download the 3 workouts that I use. And digital purchases will always be terrible, EB Games (gamestop) has way to much leverage over the console company's. I probably would pay the premium if I could but Titan fall now, download the data 3 days before it comes out and be able to play it 12.01 in the morning like steam does on PC.
 
 
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Goonertron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Feb 2014 10:41 AM Posted by Goonertron
That xbox platinum is a great idea, could get there foot in first in regions where Netflix isn't available. I feel Xbox Music app needs some work tried the trial but would rather just Bluetooth spotify or pandora though my headset. Xbox music should really integrate into your games like replace the music in Forza and fifa on menus.
 
 
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LukeB NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Feb 2014 2:33 PM Posted by LukeB
15 February 2014, 10:41 AM Reply to Goonertron
That xbox platinum is a great idea, could get there foot in first in regions where Netflix isn't available. I feel Xbox Music app needs some work tried the trial but would rather just Bluetooth spotify or pandora though my headset. Xbox music should really integrate into your games like replace the music in Forza and fifa on menus.
Thanks man. Yeah, the big retail outlets are tough nuts to crack, but I'm positive there is a way to get cheaper digital services to work for everyone including them.

Man, if they DID do something like that Platinum idea I'd be over the moon.
 
 
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