While the rumors that the next generation Xbox, Xbox One, will require a persistent internet connection seem to not be true in all circumstances, there has been acknowledgment that regular check-ins are going to be required. In an interview with Kotaku.com, Microsoft’s Phil Harrison indicated that the Xbox One needs to be online every 24 hours or even single player games and possibly even Blue-Ray movies will be unusable until it connects again. This has been confirmed in a few other areas. I suppose with sufficient negative feedback this could change by launch and I sincerely hope it does.
There is no question requiring a persistent or even just repeated internet connection helps them. We’re told it’ll make for cloud processing so we can get better gaming through server delivered content. I’m sure at some point they will cite piracy concerns and that it will help keep costs lower. I suspect it also ties into the way that Microsoft intends to control the 2nd hand market as well since new game installs need to be validated. That deserves more time and perhaps I’ll address that set of concerns in another piece. The reality, though, is that it also puts them in control of when we’re done with games or a system. If they no longer wish to maintain a server to verify our system, we can’t access it. How is that better?
Now they could promise support for a very long time, or do something else so endurance isn’t an issue, but that hasn’t happened yet. Until that is addressed, it effectively means we don’t own the hardware we paid for. That is a big problem. I’m not even sure one could sell one’s Xbox One to another party without Microsoft getting a cut. Perhaps it’s my knowledge of history interfering, but property ownership has been one of the big gets for the creation of a middle class. Most people think of it in terms of land, but it was more than just that. As it stands right now, the best you can do is lease the Xbox One. They won’t call it that, but it is the reality and it isn’t a better solution for the customer than what we have now. As someone who still plays games from the 2600/Intellivision era on the actual systems rather than through emulation, this sucks. I have no reason to believe anyone will be able to play an Xbox One 30 years after release.
Even if we do get a long term solution, we still have concerns about outages and availability. I have had in the last two years two separate internet outages lasting more than 24 hours (one was approximately 40 hours). If I wasn’t able to play games during that we might have had a The Shining level of mental breakdown. Additionally, I’d like to move in the next couple of years. I can promise that I should expect 10 days or more from move it to connection of internet services. Why shouldn’t I be able to play my games in that time frame? How is the Xbox One need to connect better for me?
Many others have pointed out that video games are a popular past-time for our deployed men and women in the armed forces. Not sure Uncle Sam will allow that use of their broadband. Why shouldn’t our soldiers be able to play their games? How is this need to connect better for our troops? I don’t point this out simply to get “Support our Troops” sympathy for my position. Rather it’s a demonstration that there are market segments Microsoft simply doesn’t care about who do care about gaming.
Finally, how is it better to have my ability to play possibly at the whim of a 3rd party who decides it’s a good time to unleash a DDOS or some other attack which forces the receiving system offline? In the history of the few games that have needed an active or repeated connection, the issues have generally been not at the users end.
I could cover rural users and possibly several other scenarios where connectivity requirements are either not plausible or practical. Regardless, the point remains the same. Gaming remains a leisure activity and the gamers’ ability to game shouldn’t depend on anything other than having the time. The question we need to hammer home when anyone announces their product will require an internet connection to use is to ask over and over “how is this better?” If they cannot answer that question in terms of benefits to the customer, then don’t spend the money. Then tell them you won’t spend the money and why.