I'm a little shocked that you need an update before it will play a game, and a bit skeptical that this could be a case where someone's words were taken out of context.
I think in Sony's case it has to do with licensing fees, just like they said on the bombcast. If people remember clearly... Years ago you had to activate a feature on the PS3 online before your console would stream WMA/WMV files from your PC. It's probably still the case.
With Microsoft, if it's true about the games not being playable, I would lean more towards security and copy protection. It's given them a lot more time to work on the EXACT build of the OS that will allow games to be played out of the gate. Remember there is a pretty robust piracy scene still on current gen consoles that publishers still want to put a dent in.
I do feel for those internet challenged locations though, however, trust me... Those folks are used to improvising even for day to day stuff like the challenge of having enough fuel, food, easy access to health services, hostile wildlife, you name it. If they want an Xbox One and it needs to connect to the internet once, I bet they will find a way to make that happen.
I think it's super interesting and cool that we're finally far enough along where they can start manufacturing early enough to make a ton of consoles and still be working on the OS until the last week before the street date.
By now hopefully most of us are used to connected devices and computers. We all love Steam so much but I think it's easy to forget the online requirement which is actually the thing that has made it such a success.