An always on Xbox 360 won't find its way in to my home

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 5, 2013
Updated • Apr 6, 2013

I have been following the development in regards to the next generation of gaming systems, and more precisely the announcements and rumors surrounding Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox 720. I own a PS3 and an Xbox 360 and had every intention to upgrade at least one of the systems a year or so after it first made it to market. The reason for that is price, as it is usually the case that it drops a year or so after launch, that I would like a revision of the original model as the past has shown that the first gen devices that get released are usually not the best quality-wise, and that I do not really have a need to buy the system when it comes out.  If you consider that games are usually scarce anyway in the first year, it is often better to wait and see how things progress.

Rumors have been circulating around on the Internet that both consoles require an always on Internet connection. Sony refuted the rumors when it officially unveiled the Playstation 4 - well at least some of it as the console was not shown - in New York in February 2013.

Microsoft has not revealed its console yet and has failed to comment on any of the rumors surrounding always-on of the Xbox 720. That is, until now. Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth posted his personal opinion on Twitter. He stated that he does not get the drama around an always on console as every device nowadays is always on.

xbox 720 always on

What followed is a lively discussion on Twitter. One user asked if Orth did not notice the issues that Diablo III or SimCity faced because of the always on scheme implemented in the games. Orth replied that he would refrain from buying a vacuum cleaner as electricity would go out too, and that he would not buy a mobile phone because of the unreliable reception in his area.

The problem here is that the analogies are not really comparable to the issues of an always on DRM. If you vacuum and electricity goes out, you can continue at the same point in time right away when it comes back up. With games, you may not only lose part of what you already have completed in the game if your Internet connection dies while you are playing which is frustrating enough, you also "wake up" and find yourself in the real world which breaks the flow of the game big time.Even more pressing: if the Internet connection dies or Microsoft server's can't handle the traffic, I can continue playing my games on the PS4 while I can't do so on the Xbox 720 if it implements always-on. But that is not the only issue that many gamers have with an always-on system.

If your Internet connection is not working, you cannot play at all. This may not look like a big issue if you are living in an area where you got reliable Internet connections and did not experience outages in the last 365 days or so.

There is more to criticize though and the mentioning of EA's Sim City fiasco and Blizzard's "we want to make money from a real money auction house, therefore all Diablo III players will need to be online to play" failure highlight what can happen as well. If you are not careful and fail to build the right infrastructure that does not budge when hundreds of thousands of users try to log in at the same time, you could infuriate many of your customers. EA learned the lesson the hard way and started to offer a solo DLC for the game. EA would not be EA if they would not cash in on the hopes and demands of gamers though by selling something that should have been in the game from the first minute on for $29.99.

Some users see Orth's message on Twitter as confirmation that the Xbox 720 will ship with always-on DRM. I would not go that far but considering his status as a Microsoft employee, it is an indication of things to come.

Consumers have only one chance to stop the always-on madness, and that is to vote with their wallet. I for one won't buy any always-on gaming system and I do hope many of you feel the same way about it.

Update: Microsoft responded officially, apologizing for the words of their employee. The company did not confirm or deny the rumor though.


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  1. Raton said on April 8, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Martin , i hope i am not breaking a rule ,but this is nice :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Relevant links are always welcome ;)

  2. Colt said on April 7, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Microsoft is trying to improve their bottom line two ways with requiring internet connectivity. Always on is a misnomer, requiring a connection while powered up is more apt a description. Requiring a connection will slow piracy, it will never stop arrgh!, next consumers who wait for a used copy of a game (profitable to the seller not developer) will have to purchase a new game thus eliminating second hand sellers. The target market for MS is wealthier adults who have the means to do this. The 360 lost money on the console and reaps no benefit from used games. So the consumer like my brother who has no internet connection bought the console used and every game he plays is a rental is of no concern to MS. They never lost his patronage because they never see a dime from him. Myself I am going to buy a PS3 to sit next to my 360 and wait out the rumors. I have internet, I play on live, I watch Netflix, if I have the choice of my control over my belongings opposed to a corporation I will always choose me. There has to be a better way for devs to increase their profits than alienating lower income consumers. I refuse to support a move that will nullify my investment in a product/s (games too) if I can’t use it when I want how I want.

  3. Anonymous said on April 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I agree with you Martin. It is shocking that this might actually happen. This is how I see things assuming this turns out true.

    IF this is indeed true (and Microsoft’s silence on the matter just makes it seem more likely) then it shows that Microsoft have gotten cocky. If it is to the extent Sony is remains to be seen but bothering with this road definitely shows they see plenty of “suckers” who would blindly buy it anyway. And no I don’t think people will just buy it regardless.

    There are way more gaming options available to people these days and even if Xbox is a strong brand it isn’t strong enough to justify this kind of move. I would not buy it for any of them. Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. They do this and they can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

    Sure maybe at first they may get the support but shortly after release the publishers that promised to flood support will jump off it in a matter of months. E3 2014 MS will be announcing re-release, price cuts and anything they can to try and get it out of the pit. But it will be far too late. People will have moved on to PS4 most likely (Wii U doing it’s own thing) and will never think about jumping towards Xbox again. Support will be all but diminished and Sony will pretty much control the market again.

    To me, Microsoft is throwing away all the respect they worked so hard to get hold of and are making the same kind of arrogant assumptions Sony made with PS3. That people will blindly buy whatever you put out without a second thought. Sony got a rude awakening and Microsoft will as well. They make this move and it is guaranteed to fail. I’m sure of it. A re-release won’t change things because people will have mainly made the decision on which console they want (just depending on when they want to upgrade).

  4. drm1 said on April 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Well, Its going to be always on and have a Windows 8 like interface from what I hear. Hmm, anyone see a pattern? They always say that win95 was bad, win98 was good, then bad, then good. So the original xbox wasn’t too bad, but the xbox 360 was better. Will the next xbox be somewhere in the middle?

    It’ll be very interesting reveal this next xbox, lets see what happens. Who knows, maybe it will be really good and surprise everyone.

  5. sunny said on April 5, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Phone use little power anyway but consoles requiring always on which uses way more watts and also need to be connected 24/7 in a household device is stupid and a waste

  6. Tom said on April 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that I have a terrible habit of forgetting to pay my cable bill, and eventually they shut it off. At that point I usually don’t have the money to pay off my bill and turn it back on. So my entertainment options are either movies/tv shows on DVD or on my media server, or play video games (of the NON-online variety).

    A game system that required an always on internet connection wouldn’t bother me if I have internet access, but if it happens to be a week where I forgot to pay the bill and I have no internet, then that nice shiny new console would be less than worthless to me.

    I’m forgetful, and I can guarantee you that in the next year I will be without cable/internet for 3 days – a week. And I’m pretty sure it’ll happen more than once.

    I understand some features not working without internet, but at least now with my current console if I fail to pay the cable bill, or if I move and the cable guy hasn’t shown up yet, I can still play a game.

    1. JohnMWhite said on April 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      You bring up another good point. Last time I moved, it took the cable company six weeks to hook us up. What was I supposed to do with an “always-online” console?

      Of course if you are an executive at Microsoft it’s unlikely you’ll ever be moving in to an apartment that isn’t already fully kitted out so I guess folks like that just don’t even think about or care about what the real world has to deal with.

  7. Zeus said on April 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    After all this, Valve could easily launch the SteamBox with the slogan:

    “Steam has an offline mode.”

  8. Raton said on April 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    The arrogance hurts more than the “always-on” ideea.
    However there is a trend of limiting/blocking/denying wich we,the 99% sheeps , deserve it.
    I see a small wireless device (or wired ), local domain , serving a response…

    1. JohnMWhite said on April 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      Agreed. The dismissive, arrogant response with its tortured logic betrays Microsoft’s complete indifference to the concerns of consumers. I get that it’s Twitter, but such a sarcastic response is unprofessional and in the region of childish trolling. It also doesn’t even make sense: If I buy an electric vacuum cleaner, I am aware that it requires electricity to function, because it has an electric motor in it. If I buy Sim City, it only requires an online connection because some jerk wrote that into it. It would actually function just the same without being constantly connected. Same for console games. That people bought Sim City anyway says they’ll just turn around and take it anyway. Anything for their fix.

  9. fokka said on April 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    i think it’s interesting what discussions a little tweet coming from the right person can start :)

    reading the comments here i get the impression people tend to belong to either one of two categories i would describe as something more than simple pro- and con-“always on”:

    one category are people who accept tech/solutions/progress more as it is and also as it is intended to be by the companies providing it. they live in the now and embrace the future seeing the positive even in controversial topics as this.

    the other party, although not less technophile, is more bound to past and present, seeing what was and what solutions we have now and being rather content about it. we (yes, i’m outing myself as one of them) see the future more critical and have a harder time accepting new concepts which may endanger practices we have gotten used to and see no need to replace.

    also, as martin mentioned several times, control is a central concern for the latter party: we like to have the last word on fundamental changes, even if the majority may be ok with them. we like to have options, we like to have the choice of chosing between new solutions and proven tech.

    you now can go and call one side progressive and the other conservative, the former naive and the latter sceptical.

    but i think it’s good that we have them both. one group accelerating the adoption of new concepts and the other one being more critical, maybe discovering flaws and aspects in need of improvement.

    what do you think about my little thesis? :)

    1. JohnMWhite said on April 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      This isn’t a new concept, it’s the same old media model with a new technology underlying it. Content providers believe they and they alone should control every aspect of how somebody uses and experiences their content. They’re the conservatives ones, they think they are MGM in the 1930s, and your 500 dollar machine that you buy is merely your movie ticket.

      Quite simply it’s not conservative for anybody to want to buy a game and then play it regardless of whether a storm knocks out their phone line or their wifi signal can’t reach their bedroom. The Parker Brothers managed it, but I wouldn’t classify making this no longer a possibility ‘progress’.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Well, I have a hard time finding at least one positive for the person who bought the Xbox 720 if it is always-connected. For consumers, the best approach in my opinion would be to give them the choice. If you want your system to be always on, so be it. If you prefer it not to be, so be it.

      I do not think that not-wanting an always on console is conservative by any means as I can list several incidents in the past where always-on has made it impossible for users to play the games they like.

      Also, what happens when Microsoft stops supporting the 720? Will the games continue to work after that, or will you end up with a brick of electronics and many purchased games and maybe even apps and games you purchased in the online store, that you can’t use anymore?

  10. Tim said on April 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    “Consumers have only one chance to stop the always-on madness, and that is to vote with their wallet. I for one won’t buy any always-on gaming system and I do hope many of you feel the same way about it.”

    Absolutely! There’s no way I’d ever part with any money to a company that required an always on connection to use the product. I can’t believe that there are people out there who are stupid enough to think this is OK.

  11. Nebulus said on April 5, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I still don’t understand the reason for this. OK, let’s say (though I strongly disagree with this) that a game could ask you to be online while playing as a form of DRM. But why would a console need to be online all the time? What’s the purpose?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

      1. Force updates to be installed immediately when they are released.
      2. Online checks to see if the system has been tampered with regularly.
      3. Realtime ads or offers.
      4. A marketplace of sorts.
      5. Killswitch.

      It all comes down to control I guess.

      1. Nebulus said on April 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm

        I’m sure it is about control, but none of your 5 points is a good sales pitch :) Besides, the guy seems to live in a world of his own, where internet is taken for granted. This kind of attitude won’t facilitate sales in less developed parts of the world…

  12. Maou said on April 5, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Steam, origin, uplay, etc. works fine in “offline mode”.
    My consoles stays 99% of the time disconnected from the Internet, I don´t care for multiplayer, achievements, etc.
    MS won´t have my money this time.

  13. JIMMY said on April 5, 2013 at 9:36 am

    microsoft is losing in the console arms race. personally, their games are always more glitchy, consoles less predictable, and more problematic, than sony’s. it doesn’t surprise me in the least to see MS go down this road. hopefully, this will be the nail in the coffin and they’ll learn a hard lesson.

  14. YB said on April 5, 2013 at 7:47 am

    It’s 2013, not 1992!!! You are connected to the internet right!!! So what’s the problem? You are not going to be traveling from home with your console, so always on is not a big deal. The only reason I can see this being a big deal is if you are in the military, and most bases have an internet connection on base. You certainly will not be playing COD while on patrol, or at least I hope not.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

      For me, it is a question of control. I do not want my devices to be connected to the Internet permanently, only when I select them to connect online. I do not want games to be linked to single accounts so that they cannot be shared or resold, and I certainly do not appreciate it if games stop working in single player mode because the Internet connection has a hiccup.

      1. anon said on April 6, 2013 at 11:44 am

        Steam allow you to play the game offline, all those other one failed miserably when they tried to implement always on drm.

        Also, are you 12? Must be since you doesn’t seem to know how consoles of older time (and even today’s) work.

      2. YB said on April 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

        What is Steam, Origin, Uplay, GreenMan Gaming, and every other PC Digital Distribution platform. Actually even buying retail, you are only permitted to use that product on one machine at a time, and activate it via the internet.

        You are breaking EULA if you use it on more than one machine and you certainly will not be playing it if you do not activate it. PC has been doing this for years, so what’s the problem if the next iteration of Xbox does it?

  15. fokka said on April 5, 2013 at 6:14 am

    i got a few points to add, let’s start:
    sure, everybody is entitled to their own opinion and that’s what we see here: orth’s personal opinion on twitter. but as he has the right to tell his thoughts, i got the right to comment on, or in this case, criticize them.

    so first i have to say that on a subjective level, statements as these seem at least ignorant, maybe even arrogant to me. coming from a creative director at microsoft studios doesn’t help, in the contrary.

    but also objectively i have my regards against it, mainly as players technically not _needing_ to be online when playing single player campaigns. so the mere fact, that most consoles are online anyway, doesn’t mean you neccessarily have to require a connection even for functions that really don’t need one and are useless at best and the reason for a fiasko at worst, as we see with simcity.

    so in the end this is the difference i would make: wanna play multiplayer online and use every feature of the console 100%? sure, log in, have fun!
    but playing the solo campaign for hours old-school-style, or even just for a few minutes? why the hell should you need a connection for that??

    orth’s “examples” with the vacuum and the phone to me confirms his ignorant views because to use the former, i absolutely _need_ power. it won’t work _at all_ without. and the phone? i don’t know what he wants to prove with that, but a phone, similar to modern console, is ideally connected all the time. that doesn’t stop me though from using all the offline functions and apps and games (!) if i have no signal/wifi.
    but people with orth’s ignorance may would prevent gamers from casually playing solo, if, for _whatever_ reason, there is no connection.


    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

      I agree with you on this one. This will turn into a PR nightmare for Microsoft and the arrogance of that guy really shines through in the tweets that he made following the first one.

      I sometimes wonder why executives do not learn from failures of the past. They only need to look at Blizzard or EA or Ubisoft to come to the conclusion that always-on DRM is a terrible thing.

      Sure, Microsoft may hope to eliminate the copying or renting of games, or the selling of used games, but what they implement for that is customer unfriendly if you want to put it mildly.

  16. Mark said on April 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

    I want the console to be always online. They can make the system and games a lot smarter if they are always online. If they are doing home automation then the system needs to always be online and connected to the internet. Signing in wastes time too. I want to be able to play with the system instantly.

    People who against this are idiots and standing in the way of some cool technology. I hope MS doesn’t listen to any of the stupid cry babies.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

      I see, so instead of giving people a choice forcing everyone to go Microsoft’s way or no way at all is better in your opinion? If you want your console to be online 24/7 then do so, I do not mind and do not criticize you for it or even call you idiot because of it. But forcing everyone to be online all the time, even if they do not have any intention to play online games or use the console’s online functionality is plain stupid in my opinion and will result in a loss of sales for Microsoft. This will quickly turn into an online PR disaster for the company.

      The tweet already made it on Reddit’s frontpage and from there it is spreading far and wide.

      1. Anonymous said on April 8, 2013 at 2:10 am

        @ mark

        Your to stupid to respond too you dont have any idea what your talking now take your juice and go to bed and let the adults talks sweet dreams

      2. Jim said on April 5, 2013 at 8:53 am

        That guy will probably get fired for that tweet. Although he didn’t come right out and say the next Xbox will be “always on” or the games will have to use always on DRM, his attitude towards such a setup speaks volumes.

        Is MS bent on self destruction these days?

  17. Leaving The G said on April 5, 2013 at 5:10 am

    “Consumers have only one chance to stop the always-on madness, and that is to vote with their wallet. ……..I do hope many of you feel the same way about it.”

    The thing is, there are many people who would buy it regardless. A number of twats would do so, and it would still sell. If people voted with their wallets more often, do you think we’d be seeing the crap that goes on in the industry¿
    I just hope an extraordinary amount of people feel the way we do.

  18. rpwheeler said on April 5, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Same for me, Martin. For a few years I’m enjoying freedom with free games, and if my connection fails, one of the ways to amuse myself is to play some game on my netbook.

    I’m not interested to be locked, so I don’t want to buy DRM-locked device.

  19. ilev said on April 5, 2013 at 4:26 am

    Not only requiring “always on” , but no second-hand games support as well. All games will require installation.

  20. Nebulus said on April 5, 2013 at 4:16 am

    JohnP, that’s why I don’t use a smartphone :) As for an always-online console, this would be a really bad idea. If Sony will make PS4 a normal console and MS will make an always-online one, I believe they will lose customers to Sony (I bet Sony will use this as a marketing trick).

  21. Dave said on April 5, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Completely agree whit this. I do not have game consoles but i have seen always connected offline games and hate them. The game has to be local and do not depend on internet connection.

  22. JohnP said on April 5, 2013 at 3:38 am

    Well, smartphones these day are “always on” and I don’t see people making a fuss about that. Smartphones are way more personal than gaming boxes.

    1. Chris said on April 8, 2013 at 2:04 am

      @johnp another who is missing the point… always on net is a choice not a requirement if i airplane mode my phone no signal i have shut off always on but i can still use the other apps and games in my phone…….720 no internet and you cant play anything nothing not even a movie disc will function its a paper weight till the internet is back…….so your playing say the new fall out you’ve played for hours and suddenly your internet connection is lost and so are all those hours of game play……..poof gone still think always on DRM is a good idea?

    2. anon said on April 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Are you seriously comparing those?

      Are you Adam Orth?

    3. rpwheeler said on April 5, 2013 at 4:59 am

      The mandatory updates to play are just one more vendor-lock, so you are saying “I want to be locked even more to avoid delays caused by locks”. How exciting ;)

      For me it’s better to be free of locks at all, that’s why I’m not buying console (until there will be good unlocked free as a speech one, capable to install what I want and not locked to what I don’t want).

    4. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 4:03 am

      I can turn off mobile connection any time I want and still play games or use apps, provided they do not need an Internet connection.

      1. JohnP said on April 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm

        So there we have it, Microsoft refuted Orthy’s twitter comment. Now it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but I’m sure Microsoft will take this out break into consideration.

      2. fokka said on April 5, 2013 at 5:39 am

        edit: oh, i meant “@johnP”…

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on April 5, 2013 at 8:20 am

        No worries ;)

      4. fokka said on April 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

        imho you are missing the point here a little, no offense, but personally i’d define “always on” as in you gotta be connected, as soon as you want to play a game, or even use the console in any other way, depending on the implementation.

        “always on” for me doesn’t mean it has to be “on” and “connected” 24/7 just to alyways be up to date. these are two different things and don’t need to be coupled.

        also, you defend 24/7-always on with arguing that then all updated would be applied, when you start your console and you could game right away. while this is true for online gaming, there still are the single player parts of many games. there is no immediate need to always be connected to play them, so “always on”, however implemented, would always be a hindrance/unneccessary if you just wanna beat the solo-campaign.

        not attacking you here, just arguing from my pov ;)

      5. JohnP said on April 5, 2013 at 4:48 am

        That’s true you can turn off mobile connection. But I’ll wait until Microsoft official announcement to make any call. I’m pretty sure Microsoft won’t want to let Sony one up them and market their console more positively.

        However, I also see a reason for leaving the console connected. If you own any console today, you’d know the dreaded update message when you want to play a game. You have to wait for the whole lot to be downloaded before you can play.

        If the console can download the update as it is available then I’d would leave that on and not waste my time when I want to play games.

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