So here we are... we've had the inevitable backlash, we've had the (almost) inevitable u-turn and now we're in the middle of the inevitable backlash against the u-turn. Exciting times.
Obviously this reversal has upset a few people -and perhaps they are right to be upset- but I think it had become crystal clear that Microsoft couldn't go ahead with their original policies and had no choice but to drop them and revert to a more traditional model. It would have been suicidal to carry on as planned.
However, they have clearly put a lot of thought and work into features such as game sharing and doing away with disc-swapping, and these features have evidently resonated with some people. The question is: do they need to drop these features along with the mandatory restrictions they've been forced to drop? Or can they instead salvage them from the flaming wreckage of the last few weeks and come away with a system which pleases both parties without infuriating either? Maybe even giving them an edge over Sony? I believe they can, though some compromise is unavoidable.
This is Microsoft's problem through and through. They made cool features that a lot of people would like and then ruined it by dictating that everybody (at least everybody who chooses to by the system) must like them. No disc-swapping? Great! Sharing your games digitally? Well... nobody was really clamouring for it but that's great too! Oh, but these can't work now because there's nothing to stop you giving/selling the disc to somebody after installing to HDD :'( ...
The solution is an 'Assigned' / 'Unassigned' game model. I'll explain what I mean. When you install the game from, you choose whether to 'assign' the game (using the unique code on the disc) to your Live account or not.
If you choose not to assign it to your account, it effectively remains a traditional disc-based game. You need the disc in the drive to play it, but you can take it to a friends and install it there, or you can sell it if you wish.
If you choose to assign it to your account, this registers the unique code as 'assigned' (with Microsoft), effectively converting your disc copy into a digital copy and rendering the disc temporarily useless. You can then play without the disc in the drive and make use of the family sharing feature etc, but to do so you will need to be connected to the internet. The disc remains useless (as far as installing it on another console goes) until you 'unassign' the game from your account: doing so would remove your 'assigned' privileges, reset the game back to 'unassigned' (with Microsoft) and allow you to sell it or take the disc to a friend's house.
Putting the disc into any connected X1 will check with Microsoft whether that unique disc is currently 'assigned' to any account or not, making it easy for any stores or buyers to check when buying a used disc.
This system would offer people the flexibility to choose from the best of both worlds -traditional functionality and modern conveniences- depending on their personal circumstances and how they play games.
Unfortunately there's an unavoidable compromise, and that is a one-time authentication whenever you install the game from disc. I don't see any way around it. Without it, it would be possible to install, assign the game to your account and then sell / give the game to somebody else to use on a disconnected console. ie. Two people could be playing the same copy at once indefinitely (as long as the second installation remained disconnected), which wouldn't be acceptable.
One check during installation (so Microsoft can see if that unique disc code is currently 'assigned' or 'unassigned') is still a hell of a lot less troublesome than once every 24 hours though, and a much smaller price to pay for facilitating all of the proposed new features. It would even be possible to have an offline alternative for authentication, for extreme cases.
What do you guys think? Is a one-time check during installation still an unacceptably restrictive price to pay? Is there some feature which wouldn't work under this system which I haven't considered?