In a move that has at once shocked and thrilled gamers across the globe, Microsoft announced earlier today that it is to scrap controversial plans to inhibit the trading and sharing of games for its upcoming home system, Xbox One. The company also assures consumers that they will no longer be required to connect their console to the internet every 24 hours to validate their software.

Microsoft’s console has taken a lot of flack in recent weeks, particularly after it became clear that its major competitor, PlayStation 4, would allow the free trading and sharing of games and would not require an internet connection to use. “Xbox go home” GIFs became one of the most common sights online, and preorder stats indicated that Microsoft’s box was losing a lot of ground to PlayStation 4. Despite releasing statement upon statement assuring the public that the decision to inhibit the use of used games and to keep Xbox One online at all times would benefit gamers, Microsoft struggled to tell us what, exactly, we’d be getting out of the deal.

And then everything changed.

The following message from Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment Business, appeared on Microsoft’s official Xbox page, bringing gamers the glorious news they had hoped for all along (our underlining):

Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.

For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future. 

“Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One. 

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. 

We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. 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.

Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year.”

Cue the sound of millions of video game fans applauding, though perhaps followed by a few murmurs of discontent and scoffs of derision.

On the one hand, this is great news for the industry; Xbox One is clearly back in the game, Sony fans can stop making those silly GIFs, and the two next-gen consoles are now on far more even footing. Sony may have enjoyed a brief period of elation, but from now on they’ll have to work a lot harder to convince consumers that their console is the better deal. On the other hand, one can’t help but feel that this entire debacle has tainted Microsoft’s reputation somewhat.

Consumers are not stupid: while they know full well that the video game industry is precisely that–an industry–they know that Microsoft’s sudden turnaround is most likely the result of the negative press it has received since Sony announced that PlayStation 4 owners would not be restricted in how they use their games and hardware. Although Microsoft’s official announcement repeatedly points to consumer feedback and recognising how “the ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you”, this is something that gamers have been saying for months, yet always seemed to fall on deaf ears. True, passions have run especially high since Sony’s announcements at E3, but gamers’ feelings have not changed.

While this is undoubtedly a smart move on Microsoft’s part, one has to wonder whether, in changing its approach with Xbox One, the company is truly ackowledging and responding to gamers’ “passion” or simply realising that if it does not do some serious back-pedalling then Xbox One will be in big trouble. Either way, this is without a doubt a very happy day for console gamers.

Source: Game Informer, The Escapist