Less than one week after E3, Microsoft has announced a major policy change on the most controversial policies of the Xbox One, bowing to growing negative consumer sentiment.
In a stunning reversal, the company announced that the system would no longer require an Internet connection to play offline games (beyond an initial period when users first set up their system), dropped all restrictions on trading and loaning games to friends and did away with region-locking restrictions.
Citing "feedback from the Xbox community," Microsoft unveiled the changes late Wednesday.
"We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity," said Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business in an open letter to gamers. "While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds."
Analysts quickly cheered the move.
"This is the fastest Microsoft has reacted to anything in quite some time," said P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research. "It's a credit to them but it also underscores how critically important this launch is for Microsoft as a company. This is the largest hardware product launch at Microsoft for the last 10 years and it sets up the next 10 years."
Microsoft had previously announced it would require Xbox One users to check in online every 24 hours or games would cease to function—even in single-player modes. The company also noted today that downloaded games would be playable offline—a key concession, given the growing emphasis on online distribution in the next generation.