Even though Microsoft appears to still be committed to the idea of letting Xbox Live users identify each other by their real names, if they so choose, that feature won't be available when the Xbox One launches on November 22, a rep for the console confirmed to Kotaku.
That confirmation came after a demonstration of the Xbox One's new, refined friends app earlier this week only identified gamers by their Gamertags and not by their real names. That conformed to the status quo for Xbox Live on Xbox 360, but seemed to be missing the real-name options previously announced by Microsoft executives.
It seems that feature has been postponed.
"While real identities continue to be part of our plans for the experience on Xbox One, at launch, customers will continue to search for friends using their Gamertags," the rep told us, noting that, "Our teams are working hard to deliver a quality experience for Xbox One. This means prioritising some features and sometimes postponing others for a later update."
Earlier this year, Xbox exec Phil Harrison told Kotaku that "I think you will see a general movement toward more real identity on Xbox One and on Live in general."
The use of real names online has been anathema to major online games for some time. While some players have called for it in hopes that a removal of anonymity might make players friendlier in online games, others have been concerned that it would violate their privacy or even enable harassment. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's online services all only identify players by nicknames and those services, particularly Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network have thrived despite or because of it.
Of course, since the creation of Xbox Live and PSN and the implementation of those networks in the outgoing generation of consoles, the use of real names online has become a normal thing on massive online services like Facebook and, to some extent, on Twitter. It's safe to assume that more people are comfortable using their real names online now than they used to be.
Both Microsoft and Sony have discussed plans to give players the option — specifically not a requirement — to use real names on its next-gen platforms. Microsoft, however, is clearly not able to offer that option this November. Sony brought it up at its PS4 reveal event in February last discussed its own plans for real name identity in September at the Tokyo Game Show. We're following up with Sony to see if that means if real names will be available at launch for Sony or if it, like Microsoft, won't be ready with that on day one.
Some gamers, including the one writing this sentence, have trouble remembering who their online "friends" are. A shift to supporting real names will help that, if and when it's available.
Despite the apparent delay of this feature, the Xbox One's friends app does make other improvements to the friend systems on Live, upping the max friend count from 100 to 1000 and letting players follow each other to receive status updates even if they're not mutual online friends.