Xbox One Policy Reversal Not As Easy As It Seems

In retrospect, I think a lot of us knew it was going to happen.  After hearing about Microsoft’s next-gen policies, the rabid and immediate outcry clearly necessitated a change that gamers, and eventually Microsoft themselves, knew had to happen.  The Xbox One had a number of unpopular ideas surrounding it, but the “always online” portion of their policy seemed to draw the most flak.  While not everybody thought it was a terrible idea, the majority of people weren’t down with it.   In response, Microsoft did the inevitable, and dropped the policy.  The response was favorable, even if the majority of us replied with a collective “Meh, I’m still getting a PS4/Xbox One anyway.”  However, you knew there would be more to this story than meets the eye, and now we get our first real glance at that in action.

In a report from IGN, the guy leading the development of the new Forza game, Turn 10 Studio’s Dan Greenawalt, discussed how, even though the Xbox One won’t need an online check, the new Forza will:

“So when you first boot up the game,” Greenawalt said, “we’re going to ask you to log in. And when you log in you’re going to get the Drivatars and you’re also going to get a whole bunch of content: tracks and cars. Our production schedule is such that we are putting them in as late as possible and that means making them free as downloadable content on day one. [But] that is required content to play the game.”

Of course, my previous statement wasn’t entirely true.  The Xbox One will also require a one-time online check-in.  It may seem minor now, but this could be the start of a big problem for Microsoft.

The key point here is that Microsoft has spent years working on the Xbox One, and, accordingly, game developers have spent almost as much time working on the games for the new console.  The system was originally built with the always online thing being a key component of the system.  Many integral features played off that idea, and it’s natural to assume that many games for the system, at least early on, were designed with that component in mind.  SO while it is a great bullet point for the average consumer-Yay, no online checks!- the reality is that this disrupts some features that were already in place.

That’s why we see things like this Forza story.  Again, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Forza was originally going to use the always-online component to inform its in-game Driveatar feature.  This is what the AI uses to direct the in-game drivers, and if Turn 10 can’t get the data it needs, or if you don’t have the latest update, then there is a very real chance you could be stuck with glitchy, broken drivers populating your races.  That isn’t fun for anybody.

When everybody gets acclimated to the new architecture of the Xbox One, issues like this will disappear.  Until then, though, we could see a number of Xbox One exclusives featuring some strange design decisions.  In that regard, it may not be entirely clear if Microsoft made the right decision.  A lot of people planned on buying an Xbox One regardless, or perhaps of because of, their online policy.  I’m sure these people would rather see that policy returned then have some broken game functions, or a reduced game experience.  That isn’t going to happen obviously, but it is interesting to see both sides of this coin.