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.