Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US), after losing an initial face-off with Sony Corp. (6758)’s new PlayStation 4 console, dropped curbs on trading games and the need for regular Internet connections for its Xbox One home entertainment unit.
The console, after an initial one-time set-up, won’t need to connect to the Web at least once every 24 hours to continue playing a game, Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment unit, said in a blog posting yesterday. The Redmond, Washington-based company also removed restrictions on reselling, trading and lending used games.
Microsoft reversed policies it set on June 6 after being viewed the loser by gamers and analysts last week as the rivals showcased their new consoles at E3, the video-game industry’s annual conference in Los Angeles. Sony announced its PlayStation 4 would sell for $100 less than the $499 Xbox One and wouldn’t limit users’ ability to buy, trade and resell used games.
“I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback,” Mattrick said in the post.
Microsoft dropped requirements that game discs could only be resold through authorized retailers and can be given away only once to friends who have been listed for at least 30 days. Disc-based titles now can be shared without limitation, according to the posting yesterday.
Microsoft set the original policies in a bid to deliver seamless switching between games, movie downloads and Skype video-calling, using persistent Web connections to reduce the time it takes to load physical games, said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles.
“That just angered people because it took the choice away from them about how they play,” Pachter said by telephone yesterday. “By quickly dropping this issue, now they can get back to the real debate with Sony about whether the price is right based on what each offers you.”
The need for an Internet connection for disc-based titles also provoked concern among some gamers about digital-rights management policies and scenarios where Web connections are spotty.
Microsoft’s first new Xbox in almost eight years uses voice commands and motion sensing to recognize users and let them shift between games, live TV and Skype through an improved Kinect device that will come with the machine. Xbox 360 purchasers can opt not to buy it, and Sony will sell its own motion-sensing equipment separately.
Sony poked fun at Microsoft in a satirical video on YouTube last week. The clip purports to be the “Official PlayStation Used Game Instructional Video” and features Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios.
“This is how you share your games on PS4,” Yoshida says, before cutting to a screen with the words: “Step One.” In the next shot, he hands the game to a second person who says, “Thanks,” and the video is over.
Microsoft fell 1.1 percent to $34.59 at the close in New York yesterday, taking its gain for the year to 30 percent, compared with a 14 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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