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Disgruntled 'Xbox engineer' details unannounced game sharing and social features (update)

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Xbox One reveal (MS stock)
Xbox One reveal (MS stock)

A self-professed Xbox engineer has taken to Pastebin to share his thoughts on Microsoft's recent Xbox One policy changes. Describing the backlash around the Xbox One's online requirement and used game policies, the engineer says "I feel that if we spent less time on them, and more time explaining the great features we had lined up and the ones in the pipes, gamers and media alike would have aligned to our vision." Microsoft's first official comment on its online plans and used game policies caused initial confusion thanks to contradictory statements, but the company eventually detailed the policies fully. Earlier this week, Microsoft was forced to change its policies, following criticism that made it into the mainstream. "We at Microsoft have no one to blame other than ourselves for failing to convince those hesitant to believe in our new system," says the engineer.

Family Sharing more of a demo mode for games

He then goes on to detail a Family Sharing feature of the Xbox One that has been scrapped due to the change in policies. The feature would have allowed Xbox One owners to share their game libraries with other family members, regardless of their location. However, the engineer reveals that Family Sharing would only let family members access a "demo mode" of the game for between 15 mins and 45 mins, and in some cases an hour. After that time, the shared game would cease and a user would be forwarded to a marketplace to purchase the full game. It's impossible to verify that these are the words of an Xbox engineer, but sources familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans have revealed to The Verge that the company was discussing the idea of limiting each Family Sharing session to one hour and that game progress would be saved so you could play through the hourly caps or purchase the full game to continue uninterrupted. The engineer notes that Microsoft was contemplating limiting the number of times Family Sharing could be accessed per game until it was purchased.

A social network for Xbox One gamers

Family Sharing appears to have been part of a broader social approach to the Xbox One. "The motto around the offices for the family plan was 'It's the console gaming equivalent to Spotify and Pandora' it was a social network within itself!" The engineer claims that Microsoft is building a "natural social network" for Xbox One. "Each Xbox Live account would have a full 'home space' in which they could post their highest scores, show off their best Game DVR moments, what they've watched via Xbox TV and leave messages for others to read and respond to," says the anonymous engineer. The Verge understands Microsoft has been working on a number of social aspects for the Xbox One, including the ability to let other gamers subscribe to a feed of shared updates in a similar way to Facebook or Twitter.

The anonymous posting ends by mirroring Don Mattrick, Microsoft's Xbox chief, in his approach to the online requirement. "For people who don't want these amazing additions, like Don said we have a console for that and it's called Xbox 360." While it's possible that Microsoft may bring back many of these policies at a later date, or enable Family Sharing for digital content, the change of heart has disappointed this particular engineer and we're told many others. Microsoft was clearly aiming for the future with its Xbox One approach, but its initial announcement and messaging didn't outline the benefits strongly enough while competitors were pointing out some of the obvious flaws in the internet connection requirement and disc-based used game sharing. Despite the initial setback, Microsoft's Xbox executives still believe in their vision. Marc Whitten, Microsoft's Xbox chief product officer, told The Verge recently that he believes "most people will choose to be connected, and play online, because just what they can do is so powerful with the architecture of Xbox One."

Update: Microsoft's Chief of Staff for Interactive Entertainment Business Aaron Greenberg has called the anonymous engineer's statements on Family Sharing "confusing and not true." In a Twitter conversation, Greenberg notes that "there was no time limit" for the feature, adding that it worked "as we described." He continues to note that the Xbox team plans on "investing in more digital features over time."