Does the Xbox One always have to be online? According to Microsoft, no. However, it does require an Internet connection.
What does that mean? The Verge seeks to clarify:
The statement, while accurate, isn’t forthcoming with the information that gamers want to know. How long can I play offline, and is the connection required for single-player games? Kotaku attempted to clarify in a question to Microsoft’s Phil Harrison, asking if you’d need to connect as regularly as once per hour or over a period of weeks. “I believe it’s 24 hours,” said Harrison, before confirming you’d have to connect online once every day. However, Microsoft spokespeople later dismissed the exact timing. “There have been reports of a specific time period — those were discussions of potential scenarios, but we have not confirmed any details today, nor will we be,” Microsoft said in a statement to Polygon.
Basically, Microsoft hasn’t worked out the specifics of its new hardware, and as such, probably shouldn’t have said anything in order to avoid confusion. Also, what happens if we don’t connect every 24 hours? Does the system stop functioning? Do my saves roll back? Does the cotton candy machine stop working?
Further exacerbating the issue is the controversy surrounding game ownership and licenses.
The confusion doesn’t end there. A Wired report on the controversial online requirement introduced the notion of a fee for second-hand games, noting that a disc could be used with a second account, but that the owner of the new account would need to pay a fee and install the game from the disc. The result would mean the new account then owns the game, after the fee is paid, and can play without the disc. Microsoft was quick to note, once again, that this is a “potential scenario.” In a blog post from Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson, the company attempts to clarify the confusion. “We have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail,” says Hryb.
While PC gamers are used to buying a Steam license for a game and downloading it for use on their own account, asking console gamers to pony up the same fee when they have a physical copy of the game in front of them is a bit odd. And how will the system know that the game has been installed under another account? Unique serial numbers identifiers contained in the code of each copy of a game would be my guess, and the system will register that code under that account when connected online.
This is all guesswork at this point, as no real details are known. Not just by the press, but apparently by Microsoft as well. While I would like to say this reveal was handled poorly, I worked at retail during the N-Gage launch, so I can’t really complain.