Always-Online Xbox Console: An Insane Idea

The entirety of the Internet has exploded with righteous rage since yesterday’s report that the next Xbox console might require a persistent Internet connection to function. That rage was further stoked by intemperate comments made by Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth on Twitter, comments that exposed what might be the company’s internal thinking – namely, that consumers had better get used to the idea, because it’s happening whether or not they like it.

Microsoft has distanced itself from Orth’s comments, but it has refused to confirm or deny the reported always-online requirement, despite the fact that, with such obvious outrage and with E3 looming, now would be the perfect time to do so. We can’t say that’s a sign that the final console will have such a requirement – we’ll all find out soon enough – but we can take it as a sign that Microsoft clearly is considering it.

So let’s forget the crudity of Orth’s remarks. The real issue here is that an always-online console is an absolutely insane idea. Here’s why.

1) It’s Anti-Consumer

Last year, we examined at length the severe problems with gaming as a service. We have no wish to repeat ourselves here, but it must be noted that since then, the conversation has advanced considerably, thanks in part to several preventable fiascos that should be avoided by any company serious about giving its customers what they want. A decision by Microsoft to trudge ahead with the idea despite the widespread humiliations enjoyed by its peers betrays a total disregard for its customers.

First, forcing people to access the internet in order to use a device that has plenty of non-online capabilities adds needless additional costs on top of rising utility prices and the already high price (and increasing with every generation) of a triple-A game. Consumers would rather not have their gaming habit increase, mandatorily, their monthly bills by a significant amount. This not only fails to account for regional variances in cost of living and prosperity, it also makes things extremely inconvenient.

Second, and more importantly, it ignores the clear wishes of the public. The reaction to Kotaku’s report yesterday ought to lay to rest any suggestion that always-online connectivity is something people are clamoring for. Yes, gamers want to be able to access the Internet with their consoles. Yes, they want to be able to play multiplayer games. And yes, they want to be able to stream movies. But they also want to be able to play their single player games with as few restrictions as possible.

But concern for the mood of the customers, as important as that is, ought to be secondary to the fact that an always-online Xbox console would require Microsoft to disregard serious technological considerations.

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35 Comments on Always-Online Xbox Console: An Insane Idea

goose2989

On April 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Let’s all hope that M$ learned a valuable lesson in all of this, Ross.

Wesker1984

On April 6, 2013 at 12:45 am

Well said gamefront!

Axetwin

On April 6, 2013 at 1:10 am

Unfortunately Microsoft believes in EA’s marketing strategy. If the consumers hate it at first, its only because they dont understand it. In time, they’ll grow to accept and even love it once its been shoved down their throat long enough.

FYI, thats not love or acceptance, thats Stockholm Syndrome.

On a personal note, Ive fallen out of love with Microsoft over the past few years, which is why Im going to derive some perverse please from watching them crash and burn with the new console.

Axetwin

On April 6, 2013 at 1:10 am

*pleasure

On a side note, when are we going to get the ability to edit our own comments? >.>

T Wal

On April 6, 2013 at 1:28 am

I’ve been an Xbox gamer since the original, and five years ago I’m sure I would have defended Microsoft with tooth and claw. I’ve since grown out of my fanboyism. At this point the only thing that will make me interested in the next Xbox is full backwards compatibility. If it’s lacking that and instead has the online “feature”, then I’m moving on.

Will all future PC games have always-on DRM? I might look into getting an Alienware X51 or even wait for the Piston.

BRYANfknRODRIGUEZ

On April 6, 2013 at 2:53 am

i think some of those s worked so hard to become something they ended up not being happy with including the pay so now they just want to be ing s.

BoBALOSA

On April 6, 2013 at 7:24 am

im starting to become convinced all the mayor companies gather together, and discuss how do we get more money out of people. “the average person will have spare pocket change…how do we get that spare pocket change?”. i have questions for the industry/entertainment world. ten years later, will i be able to play a game that has to connect to a server to play? or can i still play the game? are we becoming a a society where ‘we’ dont buy products to own but to rent? ive always been pissed that when i bought Dr.Horrible from itunes, only later to find out i can only install/download 5 times…..f.uck you, im going to TPB to get my copy of Dr.Horrible.
always online products are not good in any sense, unless youre looking at numbers, and figures of how much money ‘theyve’ made and how much ‘they’ have lost.
just thinking out loud; does MS/sony have any holdings in internet providers that have a download/upload limit?

lol

On April 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

Buy a PC, problem solved.

Blight

On April 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

If they’re stupid enough to do this, then I hope they crash in sales and burn because of it. I’m getting a ps4

St Apathy

On April 6, 2013 at 8:57 am

Industry suicide.

lol

On April 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

“But they also want to be able to play their single player games with as few restrictions as possible. ”

I really hope that’s an opinion btw, because… Call of Duty MP. NOBODY plays the campaign except 50 year old men and kids who aren’t allowed to play online because of their parents.

Also look at Minecraft on the Xbox 360, hardly anyone plays alone, this is true even on the PC version.

http://store.steampowered.com/stats/

Needs of the many.

Crap

On April 6, 2013 at 9:54 am

lol – as usual, you don’t bother to back up your claims with any evidence or even common sense. Everyone I know who owns Call of Duty has played the campaign mode, many of them extensively, and a lot of them have barely touched multiplayer. None of them are kids or 50 year olds, they’re all in their 20s and early 30s and many of them live on their own with their own internet connection.

I realise you’re just an industry fantoy who posts rubbish on here to get attention most of the time, but if you’re going to want to keep this up then you’re going to have to back it up with something other than pure emotion because the evidence simply doesn’t meet your banal, blinkered view of things.

Javs

On April 6, 2013 at 11:31 am

This is PS4 time to shine. my first console was SuperNintendo, then I got PS1 and PS2. The original Xbox came out and got that, though It didn’t have the games I was interested except Morrowind.

Then came, PS3 and 360. Chose 360 over PS3 because It was cheaper and had more variety. A few years later got a Ps3, and wow, over time got features that I was pleased with, and no charges on subscription.

Ill be purchasing PS3 just for the exclusive (i play on PC).

I think I know why Xbox is going with always online, they are going with sales figures and those that have a subscription. Assuming those that play online, those will be the ones that purchase the new console that is always online.

This bad practice will probably be a success. Think about it, who is the target audience for CoD. There excuse will probably most people play Multiplayer.

Earnest

On April 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm

In terms of total consoles sold, I think Nintendo did pretty well for itself, this generation, despite its lack of quality games.

JawaEsteban

On April 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm

There’s no way they could be that stupid. On the other hand, this is the same company that, at least going by official/semi-official commentary, was convinced that Windows 8 was just what consumers wanted and would blow the doors off Windows 7 sales.

At this point, they’ve stooped to blaming PC makers for W8′s sh*#y sales. The current line is it’s all (insert name of computer manufaturer)’s fault, beacause they’re not switching their product lines to produce touch devices. Translation: it’s failing because companies won’t force consumers to buy systems they don’t want.

If that’s the kind of anti-consumer thinking running the show these days in redmond, then they actually could be stupid enough to go through with this.

Eddie

On April 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This is nuts. I’ve been an xbox fan since I first played halo ten years ago, and if they go through with this there’s no way I would buy this new console, I’ll make do with either a ps4 or just go straight PC gaming

Tiagonal

On April 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Microsoft… why won’t you buy OnLive already?

Matt

On April 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I own an xbox 360, if the next xbox is always online, I will be switching to the playstation.

Jay

On April 7, 2013 at 2:03 am

If the new Xbox requires a persistent online connection to function, I will not buy one. Period. I have no bias in the matter, I prefer Xbox due to the controller, marketplace, and quite a few games that don’t exist on PS3… But I WILL NOT purchase a device that requires a internet connection to function, when it’s clearly unnecessary. I will not have some thinly veiled DRM forced down my throat due to Microsoft’s aversion to piracy or the used game market. Neither of which I partake in.

The longer I live on this Earth, the more apparent it is that those who are in the position to make these kind of decisions are out of touch with the real world.

Tremolo

On April 7, 2013 at 5:04 am

Anything that leads more people to buy a Playstation and fewer to buy an Xbox is good news.

Roy Batty

On April 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

MS wants to apply the cloud concept to everything including Xbox. They are doing this with MS office and Office 365. (See http://www.zdnet.com/microsofts-attempts-to-clarify-office-licensing-policies-fall-short-7000011697/)

What you are experiencing is a push by the entire tech industry to move to cloud based computing. Not because it is technically superior to local computing (it isn’t) but because the perception is that it saves money (if fact it does not but people don’t bother to use their brain case anymore). For Xbox it makes even less sense since the new Xbox is not thin (at that point you might as well have a PC).

It isn’t Insane – it is however highly inefficient. What troubles me is that someone tweets that he “doesn’t get it” when he is in this freaking business! You’re fired! Would be my response since statements like this on hot-button issues can cost MILLIONS (people seemingly have lost the art of diplomacy). Having said that maybe Valve can offer offline play with the SteamBox as a marketing ploy to lure Xbox gamers away.

In summary – MS is trying to become more like Apple (here is our stuff if you like it great, if you don’t then drop dead)

I see dumb people, they’re everywhere but they don’t know they’re dumb.

R.J.

On April 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

This article is exactly right, and it’s amazing that these problems wouldn’t be so blatantly obvious to MS. Even if they try to downplay the outpouring of discontent as yet another claim that it’s just the “vocal minority,” they simply can’t ignore examples like Diablo 3 and SimCity. People don’t like it when the single player game they bought can’t be played because the company that made it cheaped out the resources needed to maintain those online connections. As was correctly pointed out, even when the PSN was offline, the PS3 wasn’t rendered totally useless. As a predominantly single player gamer, I was able to use my PS3 mostly unhindered. It would be one thing if people were buying for something that is necessarily online, like an MMO, but Microsoft simply can’t assume that every Xbox owner is focused on playing online.

Orth’s statement that customers should, “Deal with it,” just show how ignorant he is of what customers want and makes his company look bad in the process. He pointed out that things like vacuum cleaners require you to have electricity, but that ignores the basic fact that most appliances use electricity for basic functionality. You don’t need the internet to play a game. He also pointed out that cell phones result in phone bills. Again, people know that going in, and the basic function of a phone is communication, so being able to tap into a communication network is required. Again, tapping into a communication network simply isn’t necessary to get use out of most games.

One thing that most companies would do well to remember is that customers like OPTIONS, not requirements.

Goner

On April 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm

It’s clear than, that is a stupid idea, like it’s was a stupid idea to feed herbivore with meat an bone( mad cow disease ),but they (companies )just can’t resist it seem.
Internet is not a safe place and it will never be, next war and actual industrial war is all about internet how can they keep feeling like they were in some godlike mode.
Wisdom is dead.

demize

On April 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I read that Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4, Destiny, and Assassin’s Creed 4 will have “always on” requirement for ps4. I know the ps3 has that option for publishers to use but not many did.
I bet if the next xbox is successful with this you could see alot more ps4 games to follow suit.

Axetwin

On April 8, 2013 at 7:56 am

I cant help but wonder if MIcrosoft is going to simply do away with the Silver rank of XBL and make the yearly subscription fee mandatory.

ado

On April 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

woo :) I just uninstalled windows for mint now that linux has steam and more and more games. If this turns out to be true and an always on connection is required then Ill be getting a PS4. It will be the first time I’ve not had a M$ product in the house. Also just got a raspberry pi and Im liking the look of the steam boxes

Ebalosus

On April 9, 2013 at 1:37 am

Given that I come from New Zealand, I now have TWO hurdles to jump through to get an next-gen system:

1: Price. Given the rumours of a US$500 Xbox720, the price over here will be like if the NZ$ still traded for around US$0.40, thus the thing will retain her for around US$1150.

WHY THE EFF SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY DOUBLE FOR SOMETHING THAT I CAN GET FROM THE STATES FOR MUCH LESS!?

I went into Gamestop yesterday and asked them about it, and the b*tch (yes, she was a b*tch to me, thus I’m calling her that), and they gave the BS excuse that “We’re surrounded by water, so it costs so much to ship it here.” It’s BS because A) we have a free trade agreement with china (where consoles are made), thus lower tariffs, B) We’re closer to china than the US, and C) economies of scale.

2: Compounding the first point, lousy overpriced internet. Internet isn’t very reliable over here. Sure, you’re always connected…mostly, but the speeds and ping are HIGHLY variable.

I’ve noticed with some always-online DRM schemes that, even when still connected to the internet, the connection “wasn’t good enough” to maintain the DRM.

In closing, the message I’m getting from the console manufacturers is this: F*CK YOU FOREIGNER

>:(

VIvid8

On April 9, 2013 at 5:28 am

Ya know I slept outside a Best buy to get a 360 at launch, it’s always been one of my geekier happy memories. I made friends, camped out and in the morning was rewarded with a brand new 360 on release day. I have no intention of doing such for the 720. Infact unless this persistent internet connection thing is done away with, I may not even buy a console. In the last two years my purchasing has almost entirely moved over to Steam. Why? Because instead of paying 40 dollars for a used copy of LA Noire, I got it for 5 on Steam. (Should note I was at the store looking at LA the same day, so I saved 35 bucks same day) .
It comes down to this. I was already furious with the always connected Kinect so that MS could watch you and CHARGE you for every individual in the room watching content. But I figured screw it, a piece of cloth or some cardboard and MS can watch blackness while I enjoy my content. You add required, constant internet connection and I’ll just adopt STEAM as my primary, one and only gaming source. Gears and Halo are fun, but they aren’t worth the hundreds of dollars MS will extort it’s consumers into paying if they get the pure market control they’re vying for.

Axetwin

On April 9, 2013 at 9:09 am

I just want it said that my decision to not buy the Nextbox is not based on this one feature alone. My displeasure with Microsoft has been growing over the past few years. It was never anything major, it was the small things that bothered me. Such as making Silver players wait an additional week before downloading any new demo. Think about that for a second, a demo that has been released on PC, PS3, and 360 at the same time, yet free XBL account holders have to wait an additional week. Or better yet, if you play Borderlands 2 on the 360, you cant redeem SHIFT codes if youre not a Gold member.

The problem here is Microsoft seems to live in this bubble where they are operating under the assumption they have exclusivity rights for certain features like Voice Chatting and since they are completely oblivious to the outside world, they think its ok to charge for features like that. Tell me, whats the difference between using XBL to voice chat while playing, and using my PC with a wireless headset to chat with someone through Vent or Skype? If Microsoft had actual exclusive content they are charging for, then yeah Id get it. But why am I paying Netflix a monthly fee to use their service and then am forced to pay Microsoft another fee to use a service Im already paying for?

So apply that mentality to the next console where the rumors have all been unpleasant. Always online DRM. Yeah, lets call a spade a spade, this always online and all games have to be installed from the disc is a way for them to monitor players and make sure each player is playing a legit copy of the game. No backwards compatibility. Yeah I know PS4 doesnt have it either but the difference here is Sony at least seems to recognize that its something players want and they do seem to be working on a way to fix this (positive rumors from PS4 camp). MIcrosoft on the other hand has taken this attitude of “you have a 360 to play 360 games, why would you want to play 360 games on a 720?”. Let me go back to that installing thing. From the way it sounds, you literally install the game like a PC game but after the install is done, the disc is worthless. I really hope this isnt true but again, not a pleasant rumor.

I know there are people out there that will buy this console and thats fine, its your money, you do what you want. However I implore you please PLEASE DO NOT BUY THIS DAY 1!! The release of the 360 showed that not only is MIcrosoft above taking shortcuts and using substandard materials, but they are quick to blame the consumer if something goes wrong with the product. Microsoft only sees you as a $$ sign and I know thats a cliche thing to say. However a couple months ago someone at Microsoft gave an interview where they said the whole reason they created the Xbox in the first place was to simply have a new way to compete with Sony. If you are a smart consumer you will wait a couple months before buying the 720.

Dan Miller

On April 10, 2013 at 11:35 am

The entire tech industry is moving to always online, and video games are one of the last bastions of traditional “software” right now. Everything is heading to the cloud. Is that transition painful at times? Of course. Who doesn’t hate losing service on their iPhone in a crowded area, or being unable to access a google drive document when their wi-fi cuts out. But could you imagine outrage at the iPad (increasingly becoming the main game system for a large number of people) being “always online”? That Gmail requires an online connection to access?

Further, always online has been a standard feature on both the PS3 and the 360 for my entire experience owning both systems. I have wi-fi in my house and had PSN and Live accounts – thus my systems were online 99% of the time. This is not PC gaming, I’m not taking my Playstation on a plane (guess what though, planes have wi fi now!), and it’s probably staying in the same location next to my TV for years on end without variation. In this reality, the difference between a “requirement” and a “feature” with regards to online connectivity is precisely none.

There are only two good reasons to be skeptical of the switch to a “requirement”. One is that games will screw up launches with overloaded servers, ala SimCity. Fair concern, but also reasonable to imagine that if every game launches with an online requirement, iteration on how to do it successfully will happen rapidly. Sony and MS have a huge incentive to ensure those launches go smoothly, as they make their profit on games not systems, so they’d likely support launches heavily. Server space is always getting cheaper. Second, and what I imagine truly drives most of the paranoia, is the general feeling that we are 1-2 years away from the elimination of the used games market by any means necessary. This gets back to the first point I made (fifteen minutes ago… I know…) – welcome to the cloud era of software! You’ll be getting all your games through digital download in 2015 whether you like it or not, and those goods wont be alienable. See: every other software company in the world, on the same timeline. I, for one, welcome our new SaaS overlords.

Dan Miller

On April 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

And let’s please stop pointing to Diablo 3 (a game I tried to play hour one and ultimately sank 100 hours into) as a failure that companies should learn from. It was the fastest selling PC game of all time, and the highest grossing game for Blizzard outside of Starcraft. Going to digital distribution and always online IS learning from Diablo 3.

lee

On April 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Looks like I will be getting PS4. Its sad too considering I made so many friends on Xbox Live in the past four years.

Ebalosus

On April 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm

@Dan Miller

Keep drinking that game publisher kool-aid, why don’t you.

Y’know what, lets just get rid of private property rights all together, and just licence everything to everyone…except for large, politically connected corporations, of course. They’re allowed to keep private property, because they are absolute paragons and can do no wrong.

People like you and me don’t actually need to own anything, because with licences, the corporations will sort out any problems with the products, thus it’s a win-win for everyone. Products will also be cheaper because we’ll be renting them, and as you know: renting are far cheaper than owning.

Except, no it isn’t. It’s smarmy c*nts like you that are the reason I’m a libertarian. Capitalism is dependant on private property to function optimally, and that extends to electronic goods too. If corporations have a problem with that, then they can swivel. The link between piracy and lost sales is nebulous at best, and by encouraging what you want, we’ll have an awful solution to an imagined problem.

Foehunter82

On April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

This always-on cloud-based computing model works for certain things, but for gaming, it won’t last. For gaming it would work perfectly for muliplayer games, but inevitably, you’ll end up with indie developers that are not so eager to embrace the cloud system as completely as the bigger tech companies do.

The future may be cloud computing, but not in perpetuation.

Dan Miller

On April 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm

@Ebalosus

Hard to respond to name calling and vague arguments about the economy, capitalism, and private property. Not everything that benefits a company hurts “the people”, whoever these people are.