Remember when I told you kids about the rumor that the next iteration of the Xbox console would require an always-on connection? Even after those rumors have spread like wildfire, drawing a collective “WTF guys?” from the gaming community, Microsoft is still unwilling to confirm or deny an always-on requirement to operate their next-gen Xbox, codenamed “Durango.” In my opinion it is that same refusal that is keeping the rumor alive and drawing gamers’ ire. It’s really simple fix – all we want is a straight answer. Yes or no, that’s all it would take.
But instead of real answers from Microsoft to their customer base (that pay hundreds per console and upwards of $50 per title) through a statement or press release, what we got instead was arrogance, ignorance, and insult from Microsoft Studios’ Creative Director Adam Orth (@adam_orth). Over Twitter. After going on about how he doesn’t see the big deal about always-on devices and software, he added one choice hashtag to the proceedings:
That was his answer. Classy, man.
After BioWare’s Manveer Heir (@manveerheir) cited the always-on issues that arose with Diablo III and SimCity, Orth quipped that “Electricity goes out too” and sarcastically followed up with “I will not buy a vacuum cleaner” and other assy things of the like. His twitter feed has since been protected (uh ohhhhh I think the boss may be angryyyy), but of course a number of screencaps were taken around the web to let everyone know how it went down. For someone who really loves always-on that much, I figured he would have known that stuff you put out on the internet can last forever. Thanks to HuffPost Tech UK by the way for this lovely capture.
As far as the validity of the always-on rumors, it was Kotaku who finally furnished an answer for us. Their sources say that the answer is not only “yes,” but that it will only take 3 minutes of being offline to not be able to play anymore. So why not just tell us that in the first place?
I’m surprised that Orth, someone who’s been in the industry for a while (he’s spent time with SCEA and LucasArts), could make such a shortsighted comment after the very public fiascoes concerning Diablo III last year and SimCity just last month. The comment shows an alarming amount of industry ignorance for someone in such an important position, and says to me that Microsoft is catering only to users that have stable always-on broadband connections, telling those who don’t to deal with it. There are a number of areas in the United States that either don’t or have spotty service. You guys ever use Skype internationally or to someone in the remote USA? play World of Warcraft or any other MMO? Then I’m sure you noticed that some players would lose connection and drop wayyyy more frequently than others. If that’s the case, then your wiped raid is evidence of this fact. For those users, a 3 minute timer would render this console unplayable. And that’s just in the United States. What about American military personnel that game during deployments to remote areas? In remote areas they’re running on connections reliant on satellites in geosynchronous orbit, where some areas can only be reached by certain satellites, possibly giving a skewed signal on a flatter-than-optimal angle. So there are definitely potential issues with that setup.
And what about international users? A lot of those users may find similar problems.
Working in IT I get that Microsoft’s plan forward on their enterprise side is pushing everyone cloud-ward with SkyDrive and their 2013 line of Office. Given that they’ve been talking for a while about a Microsoft “ecosystem” that would combine Microsoft OS’es with Xbox, their moves including this one don’t seem so shocking. But aside from that, they need to understand that this business model going forward is not only going to hurt their users, but their own brand. Sony has made no such assertion that the PlayStation 4 would have an always-on component, so this helps them too, potentially giving them the opportunity to take some ground and have a chuckle at the same time. But we still don’t have a straight answer. So it looks like we’re going to have wait until E3 to see any sort of confirmation from Microsoft. Meaning they have until June to get it together with a unified front and message to users, without rogue employees going berserk on social media.
Let me be clear on my stance on this sort of business practice in case you don’t know already. I am against always-on. In my opinion it’s a form of DRM that is sharply anti-consumer, especially now that we have laptops that have the graphics card juice to play modern games. Always-on means I can’t play Diablo III on a flight, or SimCity on a long train ride. And dictating when and where we can play our games just isn’t right. We’ve been burned with it more than once. But the problem is partially us. Always-on seems to be the way the industry is going, and we tacitly support it by still buying the games knowing the potential issues going in. At that point, they already have our money, so why should they care? They’ll move on, and quickly. And we’ll be left wondering what to do when they finally shut down those connection servers.