The next Xbox won't require an internet connection to function, but it could very well block used games. Wired got a look at Xbox One before today's big reveal, and it says that games will require installation to use. “On the new Xbox, all game discs are installed to the HDD to play,” Microsoft said.
But games will be tied to an Xbox Live account, Wired concludes -- or else you'd just be able to pass games around to everyone you know:
What follows naturally from this is that each disc would have to be tied to a unique Xbox Live account, else you could take a single disc and pass it between everyone you know and copy the game over and over. Since this is clearly not going to happen, each disc must then only install for a single owner.
Microsoft did say that if a disc was used with a second account, that owner would be given the option to pay a fee and install the game from the disc, which would then mean that the new account would also own the game and could play it without the disc.
But what if a second person simply wanted to put the disc in and play the game without installing — and without paying extra? In other words, what happens to our traditional concept of a “used game”? This is a question for which Microsoft did not yet have an answer, and is surely something that game buyers (as well as renters and lenders) will want to know.
Wired also asked what we've all been wondering: will the console be online-only? The answer: it depends.
And what of the persistent rumours that Xbox One games will be “always online” — that is, that single-player games would require a constant online connection to function? As it turns out, those rumours were not unfounded, but the reality is not so draconian. Xbox One will give game developers the ability to create games that use Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, which means that they might be able to offload certain computing tasks to the cloud rather than process them on the Xbox One hardware itself. This would necessitate the game requiring a connection.
Are developers forced to create games that have these online features, and are thus not playable offline? They are not, Xbox exec Whitten said to Wired -- but “I hope they do.” So the always-online future may come in incremental steps.
So it's up to the developer. Some games may require an internet connection; some may not. The future of always-online remains hazy.