Courtesy Alex Magdaleno, Mashable.com
Microsoft has a new security researcher and he’s a five-year-old boy from San Diego, Calif.
Kristoffer’s father, Robert Davies, started noticing that Kristoffer was logging into his Xbox Live account and playing video games that were off-limits. When prompted to enter a password, Kristoffer would enter a series of spaces and hit enter, gaining access to his father’s account.
"I was like yea!" Kristoffer told KGTV-10, a CNN affiliate, after breaking into his dad’s account.
Glee quickly turned into panic as the thought of his father finding out what he did dawned upon Kristoffer. Instead, Davies was interested, as he himself works in online security.
"How awesome is that?" Davies said. "Just being five years old and being able to find a vulnerability and latch on to that. I thought that was pretty cool."
After Kristoffer showed his father what he did, Davies reported the issue to Microsoft.
"We’re always listening to our customers and thank them for bringing issues to our attention," Microsoft said in a statement to KGTV-10. "We take security seriously at Xbox and fixed the issue as soon as we learned about it."
According to KGTV-10, Microsoft will give Kristoffer four games, a $50 gift card and a year-long subscription of Xbox Live.
Courtesy NICK WINGFIELD, New York Times
On Friday, Walmart and Best Buy began offering a bundle of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Titanfall, a high-profile science fiction shooter game, for $450, a $50 cut from the combined price of the separate items. The new price becomes visible online only after you place the bundle in your online shopping cart and log in to the sites. The price cut also applies to the bundle in Walmart and Best Buy’s physical stores.
When Microsoft first began offering the bundle earlier this month for $500, it amounted to a price drop on the console, since Titanfall sells on its own for $60. Now, if you consider the fact that the $450 Xbox One bundle includes a $60 game, the price of Microsoft’s console is actually $10 lower than that of the $400 PlayStation 4 from Sony, which does not include a game.
David Dennis, a spokesman for Microsoft, said the price drops were the decision of its retail partners. “This is a special promotion offered by Walmart and Best Buy stores in the U.S.,” Mr. Dennis said in a statement. “Microsoft sets a suggested retail price, but specific pricing and offers vary by retailer.”
Even if retailers are in control of price, manufacturers like Microsoft set wholesale prices that can influence how much a retailer charges for a product. In this case, though, Mr. Dennis said Microsoft did not drop the wholesale price of its product.
It is clear one of Sony’s biggest advantages over the Xbox One, its price, is diminishing. The original $100 difference in price between the systems helped the PlayStation 4 outsell Xbox One during the consoles’ first few months on the market.
The release earlier this month of Titanfall, which is exclusively for Microsoft game systems, could help shift some momentum in Microsoft’s favor (in fact, it looks like anticipation for Titanfallhelped boost Xbox One sales even before the game came out).
Microsoft may also have benefited recently from the scarcity of PlayStation 4s on store shelves. Any advantage it has gotten from that could be fleeting, though. Jeff Shelman, a spokesman for Best Buy, said in an email that Best Buy’s inventory of PlayStation 4s will improve in the coming weeks, with the retailer receiving “tens of thousands” of the consoles from Sony.
Sony has its own big exclusive offering for the PlayStation 4, Infamous Second Son, an action adventure game that is set in a dystopian Seattle. That game went on sale Friday.
Courtesy Brad Reed, BGR
Given all the allegations surrounding Microsoft’s supposed cooperation with the United States government on implementing the PRISM surveillance program, it’s not too far-fetched to worry that the National Security Agency could one day ask Microsoft for access to video feeds of users’ living rooms through the Xbox One Kinect sensor. The reason this is so potentially worrisome is that the new Kinect has the ability to reveal even more sensitive information than other data allegedly collected by the government, especially since Microsoft says the new Kinect is designed to monitor your mood by looking ”at microfluctuations in the blood underneath your skin” and zooming “into your face to show if you’re neutral or smiling.”
It goes without saying that such surveillance would be far more invasive than anything else the government has access to, but The Verge has talked with some legal experts who seriously doubt that the NSA could get away with outright monitoring citizens’ living rooms without a proper search warrant. The big reason is that, unlike with telephone metadata, there’s no way for the government to plausibly argue that watching you in your home without a warrant is anything but an unlawful search.
“It would be a flat violation of what little remains of the Fourth Amendment if the government had the ability to spy on you inside your house via a game system to which it had a backdoor,” civil rights attorney Scott Greenwood told The Verge. “If you’re going to be invading someone’s personal space, their residential space, you’re going to need a warrant unless certain exceptions are met… and I think having an always-on video camera would never, ever be able to meet the Fourth Amendment standard.”
Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, similarly told The Verge that “The Fourth Amendment has been found to be really protective of everything that’s inside a person’s home” so it’s very unlikely that courts would throw away all past precedent to let the government snoop on you through your Xbox.
Courtesy Kyle Orland, ArsTechnica
On the Xbox 360, your Xbox Live reputation is a simple five-star rating that is often ignored by the community at large. On the Xbox One, though, the reputation system will get a complete overhaul that will use more detailed monitoring and reporting tools to separate antisocial players from the rest of the community.
Xbox Community Manager Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb first mentioned the reputation system overhaulduring last month’s E3. He discussed how players would be grouped into broad categories of "Good Player," "Need Improvement," or "Avoid Me" based on feedback from fellow players and from automated logging of things like "block" or "mute" actions. In a new interview with the UK’s Official Xbox Magazine, Microsoft Senior Product Manager Mike Lavin discussed the system in a little more detail.
Players who prefer to stick with a party of known people in their friends lists won’t be affected by the reputation system changes, Lavin said. Those playing with random, anonymous strangers, though, will quickly find that they are matched up with people who have similar reputation scores.
"There’ll be very good things that happen to people that just play their games and are good participants," Lavin said. "And you’ll start to see some effects if you continue to play bad, or harass other people en masse. You’ll probably end up starting to play more with other people that are more similar to you."
In other words, griefers and those who can’t seem to stop throwing around unpleasant epithets on a public chat channel will be automatically grouped together in matches where they can’t annoy those of us who are just trying to play a polite, relaxing game. The plan bears some resemblance to one used for Max Payne 3 last year, where Rockstar sequestered players using hacks in a "Cheaters Pool" populated only by other players using illegal enhancements.
The new system should help stratify groups of players who often have very different ideas of what social norms are acceptable for online gameplay. As former Xbox Live Head of Enforcement Stephen Toulouse told Ars Technica in an interview last year, "You find in the hardcore world people are more tolerant of miscreant behavior. They either are trash talkers themselves or don’t view that as necessarily against the rules, even though it is. But you start to throw in the casual gamer that plays the occasional Modern Warfare 3 match, and that population expects that there be repercussions for breaking the rules."
Players will be able to increase their reputation on Xbox One by going for long stretches without negative reports from other players, "similar to the more hours you drive without an accident, the better your driving record and insurance rates will be," as Hryb puts it. But that doesn’t mean a few errant negative reports will send your reputation tanking. "There is no way at all that a conglomerate of people can conspire to sink your Reputation on the system," Lavin said. "The way that it’s built fundamentally stops that. It’s very much over a period of time—if we see consistently that people, for instance, don’t like playing with you, that you’re consistently blocked…"
Players will also be able to increase their reputations by taking part in Microsoft’s community programs, such as Xbox Live Rewards, Lavin said. In addition, parties will be saddled with the reputation score of their lowest player in order to encourage some level of peer pressure even among friends.
Some details still have to be worked out, such as how exactly reputation levels will be displayed to other players (stars? numbers? other symbols?), and Lavin said that Microsoft is looking hard at other "industry best practices" for separating out good players from bad. Regardless of the specifics, though, it’s nice to see Microsoft taking an active interest in improving its online community management as it enters a new hardware cycle.
Courtesy Will Greenwald, PC Magazine
Microsoft’s big Xbox One reveal showed off a lot of new features coming to the console. However, underneath many of those features are limitations that have had gamers worried about the next generation of consoles for months. Expanded Kinect features, cloud computing aspects, and the ability to install retail games completely to the hard drive sound great for users, but the technology that makes them tick and how Microsoft will implement them signals a dark future for gamers who want to control what they buy and use.
Microsoft has been hesistant to give specific details about how these features will be implemented, but between bits of information Microsoft let slip toWired and Polygon, and Kotaku’s recent interview with Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison, it doesn’t look good, and confirms some fears I’ve had for over a year.
The good news is you won’t have to be online all the time to play single-player games. The bad news is you’ll have to get online regularly to use the Xbox One at all. In fact, even if you only want to play single-player games, you need to sign on to Xbox Live about once a day, Harrison told Kotaku.
After Harrison let that detail slip, Microsoft tried to walk it back and said it was just a "potential scenario." Well, it’s the "potential scenario" we’ve been fearing since the start of the always-on rumors.
Here’s the trick: logging in once an hour, day, or week is always on. Effectively, it means you have to maintain a reliable connection to regularly sign on to Xbox Live. It doesn’t matter if you only play single player games and it really doesn’t matter if your Internet connection is spotty. If you can’t phone Microsoft with your Xbox One every day (or any other length of time in a "potential scenario"), you can’t play.
It gets better. According to Wired, used games are limited with online verification. That means you can’t readily find a second-hand game, or trade it to a friend, or do anything with it without paying a fee through Microsoft. Once again, something you buy is limited and controlled by the manufacturer even after you pay money for it. And, once again, it relies on an online connection to work at all. The Xbox One will "enable customers to trade and resell used games," but only through Microsoft’s system. Trading between friends? Might have to pay a fee. Buying used games from game stores? Might have to pay a fee. Want to play a used game in a few years when the Xbox Four is announced? Tough to say if it will be possible.
After the last console generation, we’ve become used to the lack of backwards compatibility. The Wii U and 3DS soldier on with Wii and DS game compatibility, but the PS3 can’t play PS2 games anymore (at least not ones you physically own and don’t want to buy again from the store), and the Xbox 360 can’t play more than a handful of original Xbox games.
Sure, we can still buy the older systems and play games on there. But requiring a digital transaction to make even current-generation games work blows that completely away without the possibility of it coming back. When Microsoft stops supporting the Xbox One connection and trading features, and it will eventually do just that, say goodbye to playingany game from that generation. How do we know that’s in the cards? Try to play the original Halo or Halo 2 online. You can’t, because the Xbox Live servers for those games no longer run. You can buy Halo Anniversary Edition and play it on the Xbox 360, but that still requires you to buy the game again when you already have Halo. We can’t count on Microsoft maintaining the servers that run these services in perpetuity.
What happens after they go down? Your game collection is worthless. Flea markets and eBay sales? Plastic junk without even nostalgia value. Your favorite games? Nothing more than coasters and locked up files. That is the result of needing to log on regularly and ask permission to trade games. If you want to play older games, you’re going to have to buy them again in whatever form the few they bother to update take for the new system.
Then there’s the Kinect. Feature-wise, I have hope for the Kinect being useful and pleasant to use. However, I also fear it like I fear anything that sits in my apartment, watching and listening to me at all times. If you want to use the Xbox One, you have to use the Kinect. According to Polygon, it will always be listening. You can’t disconnect it. You can’t turn it off. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And if you use your Xbox One for watching TV, it will be watching you whenever you’re in your living room. The features might be handy, but the features don’t have any opt out; the only way to get the Kinect to not watch and listen to you is to turn the Xbox One off.
The Xbox One seems like a huge upgrade to the Xbox 360 in features, but it also seems like a huge downgrade in freedom. Choices will be ripped out of gamers’ hands.