Jun 21, 2013

    Microsoft heeds gamers' outrage

    MICROSOFT handed gamers a victory on Wednesday by backing off plans for new-generation Xbox One consoles to require Internet connections and putting restrictions on playing second-hand game disks.

    The president of Microsoft's interactive-entertainment business, Mr Don Mattrick, announced in a blog post that the US technology titan was surrendering in the face of outrage by gamers in the wake of last week's premier E3 videogame expo.

    "The ability to lend, share and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you," Mr Mattrick said in a message to gamers.

    "Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world."

    He promised that Xbox One will now let people "play, share, lend and resell" game disks the same way they can on current-generation Xbox 360 consoles.

    Xbox One consoles will need to connect to the Internet only once, to set up systems, and users will then be free to play games offline.

    "There is no 24-hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360," Mr Mattrick said.

    Sony's new-generation PlayStation 4 console scored an opening-skirmish triumph over Microsoft's Xbox One at E3 last week.

    Sony and Microsoft each hosted distinct private events to spotlight their new champions in the long-running console wars.

    Both titans showcased blockbuster games, but Sony drew unbridled cheers with assurances that it would not interfere with sales of used titles or require Internet connections for play.

    The points were in sharp contrast to those of Microsoft, which said at E3 that Xbox One consoles would need to check in online once every 24 hours for games to work, and set conditions on used games.

    Sony also priced PS4 at US$399 (S$507), compared to the US$499 Microsoft said it will charge for Xbox One consoles when they are released in the United States and Europe in November. Sony built on its E3 momentum with ads stressing the ease with which used games could be played on PS4 consoles.

    "When a player buys a PS4 disk, they have the right to use that game, trade it in, lend it to a friend or keep it forever," Sony Computer Entertainment of America chief Jack Tretton said at the company's E3 press event.

    Sony and Microsoft both plan to release their new videogame consoles in time for the year-end holiday shopping season.

    Microsoft has sold some 77 million Xbox 360 consoles since they hit the market in late 2005. Sony has sold about the same number of PlayStation 3 consoles, which were introduced a year later.