Microsoft Can't Tell Us If The Xbox One Is Region-Free Or Not

Microsoft has this week released some confusing statements and policies regarding how the Xbox One will work around the world. We've tried to get to the bottom of them, with no avail.

Earlier in the week, a guide on pre-ordering the Xbox One was published by Microsoft. Saying that the console is only launching in 21 countries this November, it also says the following:

Xbox One games are for activation and distribution only in specified geographic regions. See game package and/or retailer product information, for each game's specific geographic regions.

Which was alarming, but also lacking in specifics. If an imported game was first activated in a foreign region, would it work? What were those specified regions?

A Microsoft representative helped clarify at least one thing a little later, telling the Army Times: "Military personnel will be able to take their Xbox One and play their games with them without an issue as long as the game has been 'activated' once in the US. Your games go with you and play, no issues."

Later, the official Xbox Support Twitter account was replying to concerned users about whether the console was region-free, and said that the Xbox One would not even work if it was used in a country not listed in that initial 21.

The problem there being that the Xbox Support Twitter account was one of the most notorious suppliers of confusing information at the Xbox One's reveal.

So we reached out to Microsoft for clarification on the issue. And...didn't get much further. We were initially sent the following statement:

At this time, we have announced Xbox One will be available in 21 markets in November this year and additional markets later in 2014. Similar to the movie and music industry, games and other content must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale — which means that games will work in the broad geographic regions for which they have been cleared, much as today with Xbox 360. While the console itself is not geographically restricted, a user’s Xbox Live account, content, apps and experiences are all tied to the country of billing and residence.

Again, not terribly helpful. It made a lot of suggestions, but offered nothing concrete. Meeting "country-specific regulatory guidelines" simply means passing classification. We have no idea what "broad geographic regions" are, and if the console itself is not "geographically restricted", but everything else is, how does that actually work?

So I gave them three specific examples and asked for clarification.

  • Could I import a game from the United States and play it on my Australian Xbox One ?
  • What exactly were the "broad geographic regions"? Could someone in Germany import a game from the UK and be able to play it?
  • If content is locked to a specific country, could there be multiple international accounts on the one system?

Their response was "we don’t have any additional to share beyond the statement currently". Great.

For reference, the PS3 was completely region-free. The PS4 is as well. The PS3 even allowed different international accounts on the one system (I had an Australian, US and Japanese account). The Xbox 360 wasn't locked at the hardware level, but some publishers chose to implement their own region blocks.


Comments

    I'm just going to chalk this down with the rest of their blunders and say it's simply not region-free. ;)

      Suspicion: It WAS region-locked, backlash made them think twice, but they have to check with the lawyers to see if - in their haste to secure monies from publishers/retailers - they already locked themselves into making it region-locked. And, if so, how they can try and weasel out some kind of less-consumer-fucking compromise to TRY and look like they're not as horrible as they were intending to be before they discovered we don't like them being horrible.

      Just a guess.

        "less-consumer-fucking compromise" :P brilliant.
        Too right, I like to be taken out to a nice dinner and treated well before I get rodgered thank-you-very-much, Microsoft.

        Surely they have to make some compromises after all the negative feedback. Surely.

        Unless they're actually intent on keeping these implementations because they still think they have a good hand... Which actually wouldn't surprise me seeing as their presentation at e3 was rather arrogant and saw only Xbox as the supreme entertainment console.
        Notice how many times a line akin to "delivering the power only Xbox can provide" was spoken? (completely ignoring the likelihood that a particular other console would deliver at least on-par performance)
        Whereas I believe a line during Sony's presentation was "delivering the kind of power only the next generation of consoles could provide".
        I mean, I know they're out to push their console and beat competition into the dust, but there's a lot of arrogance in acting so oblivious.

        Last edited 17/06/13 1:46 pm

          The proof is in the pudding/preorders, and apparently they're getting quite a few. If 'planking' can be a thing, I'm not surprised that the young and stupid think spreading their cheeks for Microsoft is a good idea too.

          I know SOME of the hatred, fear, and loathing is escaping our little tech-savvy echo-chamber here, escaping out into the real world.
          Eg: A coworker who is only just now getting a PS3 came and asked me (because he knows I'm a geek) about the 'new xbox coming out next year', and said he'd heard from a friend that you needed Internet to play your games. His opinion was that sounded stupid because surely, "only a really hardcore nerd would hook his console up to the Internet?"

          On the other hand, a friend's brother who pretty much only plays CoD multiplayer provided the other perspective: "Who gives a shit, bro? I only play online anyway, and I'll just play the latest version of whatever's out with my clan. Gotta keep moving or die man."

          So yeah. There are... so many different types of people out there. And by the looks of it, many of them are pre-ordering. From EB games, no less.

    Honestly, I'm trying to think of a greater shambles in video game history than MS's handling of the XBone. So far I'm failing. It's like amateur night over there, except it's been going on for about 4 weeks.

      Agreed. Microsoft seriously needs to look at whoever their main PR guy is for the Xbone and either tell him to get their act togethet or just fire them. MS' s loss of face has been massive.

      The only one that comes close is a console that was never released. Infinium Labs hoax, the Phantom Console. Phantom by name, Phantom by nature, that's about it really.

      The PS3 launch was blunder after blunder, it took Sony down from total domination to a level where they had to work their butts off to end the generation equal to Microsoft (who were a joke at the time), but this is on a whole other level. Microsoft are practically throwing drunken punches at the audience. =P

    I wouldn't be surprised if in Australia they have an "X-box One" region for every State.

    Similar to the movie and music industry, games and other content must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale

    Also, it's strange that those "regulatory guidelines" don't seem to apply to Sony who have been region free since the PS3 launched nearly seven years ago...

      Or for just about every handheld before Ninty decided to be asses w/ 3DS....

    Region locking sucks, and remains my biggest gripe with Nintendo. This is probably the biggest reason to go Sony next gen.

    Call me a fanboy (and there would be some truth to it) but we all called the Wii-U launch a failure and how nobody being told what hardware the console had under the hood was misleading or bad or whatever and how it doesn't have a great deal of games. All of that kinda pales in comparison to the circle-jerk that Microsoft have going for them.

    "While the console itself is not geographically restricted, a user’s Xbox Live account, content, apps and experiences are all tied to the country of billing and Residence."

    I think I understand what they are talking about, and everything can be understood from the above quote. Microsoft are going digital, which means that they can't build a system that enables people to circumvent their regions tax systems (and other regulations). Let me give you an example.

    I live in Sweden, where sales taxes are 25%. If my gamertag was region free, I could ask my friend in Washington to buy Forza 5 and install it with my gamertag; I would then own that game without paying taxes or customs fees. I don't know much about law, but I will bet that Microsoft would be breaking alot of laws by letting Europeans by games tax free.

    So, back to the above quote. The console itself is not locked to any region, but your gamertag and your digital content is. I can also add that there is free market within EU, so content should be able to be distributed freely within this Union by law.

    My two cents...

    Of course they can't tell us, that would require a straight answer which apparantly Microsoft don't know how to do.

    Xbox Support's twitter told someone that if they took their UK Xbox One to another country, they may not be able to play there, and should only take a 360 instead, citing 'supported countries' and 'unsupported countries' giving rise to issues with daily account authentication.

    https://twitter.com/gi4ouR/status/344929544492429313

    So forget region free, it's looking like if you take the console away from where you bought it, it won't work for games.

      That twitter thread is INSANE. It's like... do they really not know how they are being perceived right now? "Take your 360 on the go?"

    Good god, it's like they WANT people to buy a PS4 and hate their brand forever! They seem to be living in this bizarre, delusional bubble, where they actually think they HAVEN'T completely and utterly repulsed and alienated the entire gaming community! Everyone is laughing at the sheer amount of stupidity they've been displaying over the the past month! Seriously Microsoft, you haven't given people ONE reason to purchase your Spybox over the PS4! Do you really think Halo is going to save you?

    It seriously makes me wonder if behind closed doors, they're actually panicking. I mean, from what I have seen the vast majority of gamers are screaming HELL NO! at the prospect of buying their joke of a console lol.

    They need to get their stories straight before it becomes more of an embarrassment.

    You'd think they keep it like 360.

    ie. Region locking for games is the publisher's decision, and country migration/region for accounts can be changed/updated in the users account settings.

    You'd think...

    What a shitstorm.. Avoid at all costs.

    You would think, they employ people earning a non-trivial amount of money to be good at getting messages across, that are both consistent and enhance the companies reputation. You would think...

      Everything points to a cobbled together launch. I don't think they ever planned to launch this year.. PS4 forced them to move before they were ready.

      You'd almost think the PR people would feel really guilty about how badly their job is being done. Like... if I couldn't do my job right, I'd feel pretty guilty about collecting the paycheck.

      Then again... they're PR people. Pretty sure your conscience is surgically removed during orientation.

    So what happens if I buy an xbone in aus with a few games then move to the states for work or something, can I use the Xbox over there, how about the games, what about new games can I walk into a Walmart or best buy or do I have to import them from aus?

    Remember about five years ago when the entire Xbox Live service went down for three weeks over Christmas holidays? No one could play online for that period.. Do we all remember that? At least we could still play off line.

    I own an independent store in NSW and have been taking pre-orders for both PS4 and XBone. They have ramped up this week of course and the figures tell an interesting story - 23 PS4 pre-orders, 0 XBone Preorders.

      That sounds like you have well-informed customers - which, I'm guessing, makes their choice of an independent store a self-selecting demographic. I'm also guessing the JB Hi-Fi/EB Games preorder stats show a much closer race. :/

        got another 5 ps4 pre-orders today but still no xbone

    Could MS fall any lower? I read that their demos at E3 weren't even running from the console itself, but high end PC's. What a joke!

    Annoyed at people using PC as an argument. Steam has an OFFLINE Mode and even if that fails, 90% of the games can be run straight from the HDD (avoiding steam all together) so long as they have been VERIFIED through steam INITIALLY. There is NO DAILY required check-in or online requirement for PC games in general (unless we're talking about MMO's or Ubisoft games or something.

    On top of that as people have said countless times, your internet is irrelevant, If you are being REQUIRED to check into Xbox live EVERY single day to even play your games that have been PAYED & BOUGHT & OWN. When the Xbox servers FALTER, get hacked, SHUT DOWN, whatever (all of which is surely to happen, I have played my 360 long enough to know Microsoft DOES NOT have a perfect record with server RELIABILITY) you will be left out in the cold.

    Finally there is the issue of PRINCIPLES. I think myself & most Gaming people simply don't like throwing their MONEY away at people or companies that think of them as shit, ignoring anything you have to say or want. In order to use an Xbox One full potential, you 'MUST' have INTERNET

    1. Live in the US (half the features aren't available anywhere else) because Microsoft don't care about you otherwise
    2. Have a high-speed extremely reliable broadband connection (because 40% of the US don't exist according to Microsoft - and if your internet is too slow, you should just get a 360).
    3. Pay $7.50-8 a month just to use half the features.
    4. Suffer millions of advertisements, because your monthly fee apparently isn't enough.
    5. Then you get to pay the high Retail Price for new games :)

    If you're happy giving money to a company that likes to treat it's customers like that then fine I suppose personally I prefer to stick to companies that actually LISTEN to their fans. Using the example from Steam/Valve, they're not perfect but they do TRY, such as Greenlight being added to address issues with the method of games being added to steam. Microsoft NEED to understand what GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE MEANS---What the Customer wants & is Asking for--NO MANDATORY ONLINE , TRADE or GIVE your GAME as easy as PS4 informacial ( Handing the game " Here you go, its yours now")... Gamers want the FREEDOM to have a CHOICE to DO what they want if they chose & RIGHTFULLY SO.

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