Games on the new Xbox won't function without a permanent connection to the Internet (rumor mill?)

Mark Vergeer's picture

Sources like Kotaku claim that the new upcoming Xbox console will always have to be online to play games. Even if they are single player games. Without an internet connection the device more or less is a doorstop as it won't be possible to launch any games or apps. It is also said that internet interruptions up to 3 minutes won't cause issues but longer drop outs will halt the machine. And despite Sony denying that the new PS4 won't be able to play second hand games they did apply for a patent for technology doing that very thing. Companies do seem to be drifting away from giving a good customer service. Below are my thoughts on these matters which seems to become a reality for consumers world-wide. If you don't want to read it all, there's also a video :)

#Deal with it / #Live with it - Adam Orth (a Microsoft employee) expressed his frustration with people complaining about the 'always on' business model Microsoft seems to be going for. In his tweets mr Orth comes across as a man with a very limited skewed view of the world, probably living in a very connected inner city (LA) high tech world and may be suffering a little from arrogance not realizing not everybody has access to reliable high speed internet and that there in fact is a world beyond LA city limits. People jumped on him and his comments and responses may have been an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor, but it stirred up a wild discussion with people making comments, videos and what have you. People don't seem to like it much.

Not everybody lives in the highly connected world our friend Adam Orth seems to live in. In large parts of the world internet service can be spotty or drop out every once in a while for minutes on end. It's a nuisance when browsing the web but it will be disastrous for the 'always on machine'.
I have my most lengthy and intense gaming sessions while I am off-duty, away from work. Mostly during vacation times or weekends. I sometimes take the console with me on holiday to play on - well that new Xbox won't let me as it needs my ADSL or Cable internet connection... For what actually?

Well after the laughter and the wave of dread Microsoft decided to issue an official statement:
“We are aware of the comments made by an employee on Twitter. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views are not reflective of those of the company. We have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.”
Microsoft merely states Mr Orth is not Microsoft's official spokes-person and don't deny the 'always-on' business model. So we can assume chances of such a business model actually becoming a reality is pretty big. Always online for the next Xbox console will be a monumental mistake as it will render your games useless the moment support is dropped. Instant landfill much like ET 2600 cartridges in a couple of years from now. So it is basically investing money in a device and a library of games that will only last as long as Microsoft wants it to. If you take gaming seriously and see it is a cultural manifestation of creativity than you should not treat the new Xbox platform as such a disposable form of entertainment. It's like buying self destructing DVDs/BluRays. It would seem the game division people over at Microsoft only look at it in the short term with dollar signs in their eyes and up their arses.

Games are a part of culture and should be treated with a little more longevity in mind. Games should not be self destructing DVD's/BluRays, auto incinerating books or prints made with dissolving ink. People should not be forced to buy the same games over and over again in new HD releases not being able to play the games they already have. Of course there will always be a portion of the public that just doesn't care, they want the latest game and they want it now. They don't care that consumers are slowly transformed into Lemmings walking towards that cliff with a happy smile on their face. It all depends on how large that portion of the public/consumers is, Microsoft may even get away with it. Or it could blow up in their faces.

The thing is I am from generation X and I've grown up with a notion of ownership that says I own things that I have bought and that I can do with them as I please. Now this whole new sense of ownership is being fed into our little consumer herd telling us we don't own anything.... really. We just borrow things for large sums of money and we are very prohibited in what we actually do with the items. How on earth do you determine the value of something you really don't get to own and may be taken away at any moment's notice? Surely games on the new Xbox can't be at the same level as the current gen games that you do get to keep and hopefully play sometime in the future even when PS3 and Xbox 360 or Wii U support has ceased?

The always on Xbox will be nothing more than a highly specialized interactive TV-subscription service with a very low latency/high response time where you pay a monthly fee but also pay premium for the short term use of hardware and game discs. That will automatically turn into chemical waste the moment Microsoft pulls the plug. I'm not buying into that. No way. Enjoyed the ride with the original Xbox, had a blast with the 360, still do by the way but when Xbox 360 support ceases I at least can play my games still - for a bit untill the unit RRODs. But by the looks of it this new Xbox I will happily pass up on.

What are your thoughts?

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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I'm not sure how I feel about

I'm not sure how I feel about the concept. First off, I'd get more fired up potentially if any of this was anything but a rumor, but right now, that's all that it is. The used games thing is a possibility, but again, nothing has actually happened as of yet, and it's something that sadly consumers have already accepted, whether they realize it or not (Steam and similar services, having to purchase multiplayer for used game purchases, etc.), so the fact that its use on physical items may be extended is not necessarily a major deal.

If it's implemented intelligently, I don't see a major issue. If it phones home once in a blue moon as validation, so be it. If it persistently has to ping, that's more of a problem. We'll see I guess. The trouble is, increasingly, our consoles and PCs are being more and more useless without Internet access. Sure, we have the occasional physical good we can just stick in and run or install, but the reality is the vast majority of what we do requires some type of connection, be it re-downloading digital games or getting past a validation gateway on a service like Steam. When it comes down to it, it's all the same thing.

To put it another way, for years the rallying cry of pirates has been that it's just bits, so why shouldn't it be copied? Well, just because it's on a physical medium, it doesn't mean it's still not bits. Perhaps we as consumers need to rethink some of our dated ideas of ownership in this new world? I'm not saying I agree with that idea - I love the physical stuff myself - but I also have no issues with streaming my music over Spotify or streaming my movies over Netflix. I don't own anything in those cases, but still get to enjoy the content. I get more access, but less traditional ownership. It's really not that much of stretch for everything with bits to go that route...

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Matt Barton
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As someone who just wasted

As someone who just wasted hours trying to get SimCity installed and ready to play...Ugh.

My current xbox loves to disconnect occasionally from Live anyway. I can't imagine the hell I'd go through trying to play a game that'd kick me out everytime there was a drop in the router signal.

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Chip Hageman
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Wow.. I'll be giving this

Wow.. I'll be giving this round of consoles a miss, I guess. I personally loath the requirement for connected consoles. I don't like it for privacy issues, I don't like it for the way it skews multi-player aspects into games because "people expect it", and I don't like the way it allows software publishers the clear conscience to release unfinished products and "fix them down the road" with patches.. cough.

Remember the days when you could buy a physical copy of a game, take it home, play it.. and expect it to work? I miss those days.

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gilgamesh
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Joined: 03/02/2012
Steam or Origin anyone?

I don't see how any customer of Origin or Steam could be offended by this. Oerth speaks the truth, plain and simple without the usual spokesperson fluff. That's the world we live in. Deal with it.

Mark Vergeer
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Steam

gilgamesh wrote:
I don't see how any customer of Origin or Steam could be offended by this. Oerth speaks the truth, plain and simple without the usual spokesperson fluff. That's the world we live in. Deal with it.

I have 60+ games on Steam, it requires me to log-on but it is possible to play the games off-line too. The games on Steam I don't really consider as my own as when Steam kicks the bucket or looses the distribution rights to a specific game I bought (they often only have the rights for a set amount of time) that game simply ceases to become available for me. It's just gone. It's more of a subscription service almost. Where you pay a single subscription fee to 'lease' the right to play the game.

On Steam I go for the cheap discounts and consider the games enjoyable in the moment but definitely 'lost' to me in their current form for any serious time in the future. I won't ever buy a full priced game on Steam as it is money down the drain if I don't play it in the here and now. You don't get to back up the installation files and run the game without the Steam servers and such a game could never have the same value as one that does. Strangely enough a company that does offer DRM-free (older) games is GOG.com and these games turn out to be substantially cheaper. For such games, with their own installer and free from any hassle with external servers etc I would even be willing to pay more than what they offer them for at the moment. But for a Steam or Origin game I won't pay any full price.

With Microsoft's upcoming 'possible' strategy and even Sony's second hand game debacle you don't get to own the games but somehow with a physical disc people are lulled into believing that they do. But it is nothing more than an expensive leasing of games with a single fee for the media and probably a monthly or annual fee for the Xbox live services. What's the value of such a game?

Recent always on models like the whole Sim-City debacle from EA shows that such a model hinders customer experiences enormously and to this day people aren't able to play the game because of all sorts of issues with the server/verification process. The OnLive, streaming gaming, service wasn't a huge success as people's internet connections simple weren't up to the task yet. So the whole infrastructure is not up to it. Not all people live in a highly interconnected urban or city environment not all people have access to internet or always on internet for that matter. These people are not able to enjoy Origin, Steam or the New Xbox games.

Always on, is that a good thing? If you look at it from an environmental perspective will mandatory internet connections for the next gen consoles constantly dialing home to many servers in huge cooled parks be a good thing? Don't think so. It is a waste of energy. And what will be the load on the internet infrastructure and is that a good thing? And who is going to pay for it all? The customers and the games will probably end up being just as expensive as the current games that you do get to own and keep playing after support for the consoles has stopped. But the new games won't be worth it as it is a convoluted subscription service like Netflix, and there's nothing wrong with that if you offer it at the price of Netflix. Oh and Netflix and Indie games on the 360 still are not available in all parts of the world. Not even in all parts of Europe.

There won't be anything wrong with a Netflix like subscription service if you get access to all the games like Netflix does with movies and series at a reasonable price between 9-15 USD / Euros per month. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Microsoft wants to have the best of both worlds. Make customers believe they actually buy games and at the same time slowly morph the gameing platform into a netbox with digital downloads only.

And then it boils down to ownership. And the value of digital heavily protected goods. If access and use and enjoyments of digital goods is restricted in so many ways isn't it natural to conclude that those goods have a lesser value than the digital goods that don't have these restrictions imposed on them? Consumers buying an item to use can sell it on at a later time if they have no use for it. That actually may justify a higher price when bought new. And it also may justify buying the item in the first place - it's not a complete waste of money as some of it can be recuperated when an item is sold on. Consumers are standing on ever more unstable ground with slippery sinkholes forking out more money and getting less and less in return. Thinking that is a good thing is beyond me. But it may be a European thing... :P

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Mark Vergeer
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Adam Orth.... - some of his tweets and responses

Adam's tweets and responses pondered over by Rich from ReviewtechUSA.

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Mark Vergeer
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Alpha Omega is also quite outspoken on the topic :P
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Chip Hageman
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Yeah, I've got to say... it's

Yeah, I've got to say... it's not the world _I_ personally live in. Steam for me is a place to cash in my Indie Royale or Humble Bundle keys... Occasionally I will pick up a game for $2.99 or whatnot.. nothing major. I pretty much exclusively support GOG, Desura and Dot Emu. I even normally wait for "Game of the Year" editions to come out on the consoles before making a purchase just so I can get a version with most of the bugs pre-patched. Now I realize that I'm not representing the mainstream.. But the situation is- that the cost on games is going up, quality is going down, and they're basically in the process of shifting people to a rental model... Which you may not care about- if all you want to do is play the game... but if you want to actually own the game past the life of the service (Live, Home, Steam, etc) then this should be a big wake up call.

Also, if we can agree that the restrictions imposed by these services really takes the concept of ownership away from the individual... and we can agree that needing these services to play the game is tantamount to a pseudo "rental" model... than the least they can do is give you a break on the cost.

It may seem like nothing now, but in the future, when the kids of today are pining for playing the games of their youth.. there is going to be a wonderful "Oh F$%&!" moment. :-) But who cares.. you can play the game now.. on some finite service.. for as long as they consider it financially viable... or until they go out of business.. or someone absorbs their intellectual property..

I weep for the future.

"Deal With It", indeed.

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gilgamesh
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Joined: 03/02/2012
sorry, but...

The difference between Steam's offline mode and always on is just the length of the leash. Maybe Microsoft will tolerate some awol, too? They aren't dumb, just protecting their shareholder's interests.
Also I don't get how shipping without physical media makes it more acceptable or honest to lease games? People are suckers for super platinum versions with goodies. Why not silver discs you can hang on the wall or use to scare birds?

Valve and EA do it -> super convenient and I don't use it for real anyway
Apple does it -> cool
Microsoft wants some share -> nerd rage

Those without broad band can't have AAA titles any more. That would amount to socialism.

Mark Vergeer
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Just saying? -

Quote gilgamesh
"Also I don't get how shipping without physical media makes it more acceptable or honest to lease games? People are suckers for super platinum versions with goodies. Why not silver discs you can hang on the wall or use to scare birds?

Valve and EA do it -> super convenient and I don't use it for real anyway
Apple does it -> cool
Microsoft wants some share -> nerd rage

Those without broad band can't have AAA titles any more. That would amount to socialism."

1. If you turn the whole gaming experience into a mandatory online subscription model why the heck bother with discs? Or perhaps they end up recycling the discs? LOL We don't need any more excess waste added to our footprint? Without the silver discs that will become obsolete once the lease is over it would mean a lesser impact on the environment. No trucks hauling around the games, no shops keeping inventory and selling the discs. That will have ramifications for a lot of people and their jobs and one could wonder if that is a good thing in this day and age. So not an easy solution there. It's an on going battle between retailers and the game companies.

2. Valve and EA do it but who is to say that that works? People still are having issues getting Sim City to work properly. That's not so convenient. I have the steam games on a laptop and whenever I go visit relatives in France quite often. I don't have internet there as broad band isn't available in the rural areas around Vichy. Only expensive 3G or unreliable below 1Mbit ADSL. But I can still play the games. Not always as sometimes Steam does want to dial home but often I get away with it.
Apple does it but it's not so cool. It is a nice comfortable eco system I bought into but having experienced it more and more there are some major draw backs.
Microsoft wants some share? Well the iOS and Android apps will work without an internet connection. The iOS apps can be installed on multiple devices much like the Android apps. The rumor as it is going right now Microsoft won't let you do any those things. It's an even more restricted tied down environment that cannot easily be compared to the other platforms. And about the nerd rage, you don't see me raging in my video or comments. I leave that to others who are much better at it then I am.

3. Socialism? Well there is a whole range of political/humanist attitudes in between right wing capitalism and left wing communism that's for sure. Who's to say? But even now people are pretty pissed off at not being able to get access to services that are dangled in front of their face. Companies are sending out invitations to services that they end up not being able to offer all the time. I get NetFlix offers all the time but I won't be able to legally accept one of these offers as the service is not available in my neck of the woods while relatives living only a couple of hundred kilometers away can.

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