Microsoft's Xbox One simplifies game-console sharing

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Microsoft Friday released details about how the Xbox Live subscription service will work when the company’s new Xbox One game console releases in November. Key news: if you’re a family or have roommates, your life is about to get a lot easier. And cheaper.

Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft’s now decade-old subscription multiplayer service, has long been the best online experience for consoles—except for families and other shared-living arrangements.

Previously, each Xbox Live account needed a separate annual $60 subscription to access a wide range of features—not just multiplayer, but multimedia functionality like Netflix. Digital games also were locked to the account that bought them; anyone who wanted to play your copy of Braid, for instance, had to log in to your account and play, or buy a second copy for the same household.

It was all a bit silly.

How it will work

The Xbox One arrangement now rectifies these oversights, with a new program called “Home Gold.” Anyone on your home console can access all of your digital games, as well as all your Xbox Live Gold perks, with just one subscription. If friends come over, they can all log in and play multiplayer even if they don’t have a Gold subscription, without the need for “guests” or any other workarounds.

If you go to a friend’s place, they can also access all your games and Gold perks (including online multiplayer), although you’ll have to be logged in the whole time.

Xbox Live Gold membership

As expected, your Xbox Live Gold subscription carries over from your old 360 to the Xbox One, so no need to scope out a new account name. Microsoft also says you can be logged in on a 360 and an Xbox One simultaneously—probably a good addition considering Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Games Studios, recently told OXM UK they plan to support the aging system for "years"—though Home Gold only works on the new console.

No word yet on how you designate an Xbox One as your “home console.” If your console breaks and you have to transfer everything to a new Xbox One, can you set it as your new “home”? We’ve got an inquiry regarding that topic in with Microsoft, and await comment. We’ll let you know when we hear more.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson just sent us this update on how the Home designation works: “When you set up your Xbox One, you will be asked if you want to share Xbox Live Gold features with anyone in your home. You can also switch the Home Gold designation up to three times per year.”

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