Some rumors surfaced that the next console by Microsoft would require you to be "always online" to use it. Kotaku started things off with the first "insider source leak."

When I heard the news I wasn't really surprised. After the news broke a Microsoft Studio rep exchanged tweets with a few people that were not received well. Telling people to "just deal with it" over the always online requirement apparently didn't go over well with folks.

The rep Tweeted:

"Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an ‘always online’ console’. He then followed that up with: ‘Every device now is ‘always on’. That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit."

I would have said that differently if I were him, but he isn't half wrong ... sort of anyway.

I was thinking about the the idea that all our stuff is always online and for the most part its true but not from the angle he means and not in the way Microsoft will build the NextBox. My iPhone is connected to the ol' Internet 99.99999% of the time. Occasionally I reboot it for fun OR on my commute to work on the Max(Portland light rail) I go through a tunnel and it is disconnected for a few minutes. It stops working during that time in that I can't make a phone call or surf the web. That said, I can still listen to music, play a game and compose and read emails. I can also even take pictures, thumb through my photos and do a ton of other awesome shit. My iPhone is practically speaking always online but that doesn't mean it shits the bed when I go through a tunnel or travel on an airplane. In fact my iPhone still operates awesomely during a flight as I listen to music, watch video podcasts and even... play games...

So yeah, when a random Microsoft rep says we live 99% of the time online they are correct. We do. Its just how things are and I love it. Thing is, my phone is still amazingly useful on a flight and in a tunnel. It doesn't shit the bed when I lose my internet connection, it doesn't warn me the world ended, it just keeps doing its thing. So why can't the NextBox do that too? I get that the NextBox couldn't download a new game or stream something, but it has a big ass harddrive right? So... can't it work like my iPhone or my laptop? Steam has an offline mode where I can still play my games, why can't the NextBox?

The problem with the "always online" requirement for anything isn't the headache that it causes today, its the impossibility of tomorrow. What I mean by that is yeah, yeah Simcity 5 sucks for a week or something but eventually EA will sort that out and the game will work fine. The problem isn't right now with Simcity 5 or even the NextBox with this "always online" stuff. The problem is when EA and Microsoft decide tomorrow that thing you use will no longer keep working. Which is essentially the problem with DRM in general. Its not the immediate that is really the problem its always tomorrow. Yeah sure you can use your shit now, but what about tomorrow?

I bought some DRM songs on iTunes years ago before I knew what DRM was. That crap is totally unusable to me now and as such I just tossed it away as a really bad purchase. Partly the reason I still buy CD's even now as I don't have to toss my 320k MP3's because they still just work.

That said I have jumped head first into the Steam-a-palooza and haven't looked back too often. Am I am bit nervous that I put all my eggs in one basket this way? Yep. Do I trust Valve? Hell yes I do. So really, if you are going to jump into a situation where your money is being put somewhere, I recommend you invest in a company that deserves your trust. I am not particularly endorsing Steam but perhaps asking a question. "What company do you trust with your gaming dollar to do right by you tomorrow?"

One could simply buy games direct from Indie companies and maintain all the installers on some kind of portable harddrive. Thats a fine option. But if you want to partake in the new BioShock or Borderlands games you need to jump into some kind of ecosystem. I have a Playstation 3 and a PC. Right now the PC looks like the best investment for my gaming dollar. If the Playstation 4 comes out and all my games "just work" on it then it might look like a better deal, but that remains to be seen how that will pan out. Frankly I don't trust Sony with my gaming dollar tomorrow, they proved the PS2 wasn't important to them as my PS3 doesn't play those games.

At the end of the day I am really guarded to what ecosystem I am going to jump into with my gaming dollar. Just realize that whomever owns the digital bits we buy controls how and when we play our games. Remember, we are just buying bits to download now, we don't actually buy game discs anymore. Hear me out though, I think Steam is awesome and I prefer downloading games to getting a boxed game 99% of the time. But at the end of the day what company do you trust to do right by your gaming dollar tomorrow?


Thought this was pretty funny and illustrates the point I was trying to make pretty well.

CapnCurry   Supporter wrote on 04/06/2013 at 03:35am

The "always online" motif makes me nervous for many of the same reasons it does you. City of Heroes was a fun game that never found its niche and was shut down for good; that's one game experience I'll never be able to share with the next generation. It's not going to be profitable for EA to support Sim City 5 forever. Hell, the original Neverwinter Nights on AOL was a tremendously fun game that I never got the chance to really explore - and never will.

This is not to say that the ability to keep games and experiences alive forever should be the cornerstone of what makes a game acceptable. But it does seem like we need to cast a more careful eye to figuring out whether we're buying our games or merely renting them.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 04/06/2013 at 03:42am

I think thats a really awesome point. I think its quite sad to consider that some stuff won't be usable simply because it becomes economically unfeasible to modernize it.

Culture lost.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 04/06/2013 at 06:11pm

Microsoft won me back with the original Xbox, and initially I thought the 360 was a step in the right direction. Now, I hate my 360. It's cumbersome and littered with advertisements. It's turning (has turned) into the MySpace of gaming experiences. If they really do go with the always-on approach, then I'll skip this next iteration. There is no reason for that kind of system, other than greed and control. It serves no other purpose. It makes me a little sad that there will be exclusives to such a system that I might not otherwise play, but I can get over that. There is a mountain of great games on GOG and Steam that I haven't even touched yet.

hardeyez wrote on 04/07/2013 at 08:46pm

I also don't get why Microsoft thinks I should pay them $60/yr (per person, or if they still offer the Family Pack whatever that costs) just to use *my* internet connection. That is, without gold, I can't stream my Amazon Prime movies to my 360 (which I can to my ps3, wii u, pc, tablets, etc.) nor can I use their web browser... I mean really?!!??!

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