One of the very few positive aspects of the Microsoft’s Xbox One used game DRM scheme was the family sharing plan, which was described as a way to allow a user to share their game library with up to ten other people. The platform holder’s Xbox One Eighty last night killed the sharing idea, and resulted in a fair number of upset gamers who were looking forward Microsoft’s promise of a digital distribution utopia.
While the family sharing plan sounded decent enough on the surface, Microsoft never fully detailed exactly how it would work. The devil is always in the details, and we are now hearing unconfirmed reports that claim family sharing was nothing more than a glorified game demo system.
The source for the report is a wall of pastebin text that supposedly comes from a “heartbroken” Microsoft employee, who is upset about the changes. Needless to say, take it all with a grain of salt.
The relevant part of the online rant reads:
“First is family sharing, this feature is near and dear to me and I truly felt it would have helped the industry grow and make both gamers and developers happy. The premise is simple and elegant, when you buy your games for Xbox One, you can set any of them to be part of your shared library. Anyone who you deem to be family had access to these games regardless of where they are in the world. There was never any catch to that, they didn’t have to share the same billing address or physical address it could be anyone. When your family member accesses any of your games, they’re placed into a special demo mode. This demo mode in most cases would be the full game with a 15-45 minute timer and in some cases an hour. This allowed the person to play the game, get familiar with it then make a purchase if they wanted to. When the time limit was up they would automatically be prompted to the Marketplace so that they may order it if liked the game. We were toying around with a limit on the number of times members could access the shared game (as to discourage gamers from simply beating the game by doing multiple playthroughs). but we had not settled on an appropriate way of handling it.”
While this report clearly falls in the rumor category, it completely explains why third-party publishers were not openly opposed to the family sharing plan. It never made sense that there companies would be okay with 10 people sharing one copy of a game, but if the sharing amounted to nothing more than a timed demo that ultimately kicked players to the Xbox One marketplace… Well, that certainly explains a lot.
Even if the report is incorrect, the family sharing plan left far too many details up in the air for me to get all hot and bothered about it. How many 10-people “families” could any one user be a part of? Could you leave one family and join another? Can other members of a family kick out a slacker? Who is in control of decided if a new person can join a family?
The list of questions and missing details goes on and on, and the wrong answer to any one of those could have been enough to ruin the entire family sharing experience.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Is the now-missing Xbox One family sharing plan something to be upset about? Would you have been happy with it being nothing more than a demo system?
[Update] The Verge is reporting that a source familiar with Microsoft’s Xbox One plans has confirmed to them that the company was considering limiting the family sharing session to one hour with game saves. This would allow you to play “through the hourly caps or purchase the full game to continue uninterrupted.”
This does not confirm the details as shared by the anonymous Microsoft engineer, however, it is a second source claiming the family share plan was never designed to provide unlimited access to another user’s game library (which is exactly what Microsoft led us to believe).