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.
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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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.