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Microsoft 'committed' to original Xbox One plans, reveals new 'Home Gold' sharing features

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Xbox One
Xbox One

Microsoft had originally planned to let Xbox One users share any games digitally, but a backlash over the used games policies and online check forced the company to reverse most of its promising plans. Although disc-based games can no longer be converted into digitally shareable copies, Microsoft is outlining what can be shared this week, and it's very similar to how the Xbox 360 works today. The reversal of policies may have changed Microsoft's plans, but Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten tells us that "most people will use this platform connected," and the company still plans to bring back some of the original Xbox One features.

Xbox One games purchased digitally can be used by all players in a household on an Xbox One. Just as discs can be played by any family member today, Microsoft will allow Xbox One owners to create a virtual game library that includes different games that family members have purchased digitally. Any family member will be able to pick a digital game and sign in with their account even if the original owner is not signed in. Xbox One owners will also be able to play digitally downloaded games without being online. Essentially, Xbox Live digital games are tied to your gamertag, but they're also tied to your primary console. Despite this, Microsoft is not commenting on when features like being able to resell digital games will become available, but Whitten says Xbox One's digital vision is "going to drive a lot of different business models over time."

Xbox Live Home Gold is basically family account sharing, but better

Xbox One owners will be able to use a Microsoft Account as a type of digital passport to sign in and use games on another console. A key part of this sharing and cloud-powered Xbox Live is a new feature that Microsoft is calling Home Gold. Existing Xbox Live Gold members will be able to set up an Xbox One at home and anyone who uses the console will be able to access multiplayer gaming and the entertainment apps even if the main account holder is not signed in or at home. An Xbox One owner with an Xbox Live Gold subscription could also log in at a friend's house and everyone on that particular console would then be able to use multiplayer gaming and the entertainment apps while the Gold member is signed in. It sounds a little complicated, that's because it is, but in reality Microsoft is extending its Xbox Live Gold subscription so that you don't have to buy individual subscriptions for each family member.

On the gaming side it means that friends can use an Xbox One owners' console and play online multiplayer with their own gamertag. Currently, a friend would also have to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold to play online with a gamertag, otherwise the friend gets the same gamertag with a number tagged on the end. Although Xbox One owners will be able to sign in on other consoles and access their digital games — and let friends play them too — it won't be like handing a friend an unprotected MP3 that they can play over and over again with no limits. Microsoft says existing Xbox Live Gold members won't have to do anything to access the new Home Gold features as they're available as part of the subscription for Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles.

Microsoft is still committed to its original Xbox One vision

Despite the changes not being very different to how things are today with the Xbox 360, Microsoft says it still wants to bring the improved digital sharing features, that it has retreated from, to the Xbox One in time. "We are completely committed to the digital vision we laid out, and we plan and intend to deliver all the things we said before," Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi tells us. Mehdi explains that Microsoft wants to and "can do it," but it's seeking feedback before any future changes are made. "You're going to see more of the things that we talked about with digital," he confirms, including a Family Sharing feature that Microsoft previously revealed as an option to share digital content with family members regardless of console or location. Mehdi says Microsoft still has "creative pricing models" for games, and trial games on their list for post-launch. For now, Microsoft is clearly approaching any potential changes with caution to avoid a backlash over policy changes that have left consumers confused by its Xbox One launch so far.