Tweets from Microsoft Studios’ Creative Director Adam Orth inspired some fury today when he defended the idea of an “always online” Xbox 360 successor. Microsoft tried vainly to cover them up, but this is the internet, and they should’ve known better.
Mr. Orth’s cavalier and dismissive attitude aside, this incident caused me to rethink the way I look at the next generation of consoles, and it’s not pretty. The industry is nearing a crucial juncture; if the launches and systems turn out right, we could be looking at a gaming Renaissance, but if things go badly, the industry could be in for some dark times.
Keeping in mind that Microsoft has not confirmed this to be true for the next Xbox (they’ve already distanced themselves from his comments), this “always online” idea is a mistake, because it further restricts how, when, and where I play. Right now, especially after seeing what EA has gone through in recent years, they should not be restricting anything. Gamers don’t like restrictions – that has been made very clear during this generation.
Considering the state of the industry – not to mention America’s economy right now – Microsoft and Sony should be doing everything they can to court consumers, by touting features and system capabilities that benefit gamers.
I usually buy the new systems as soon as humanly possible, hell, I already have a Wii-U, but the disappointment that has so far turned out to be, along with everything I keep hearing about the PS4 and the next Xbox, convinces me that this time, it might be a good idea to wait and see. And I’m not alone. Gamers are tired of being pushed around by game companies and their endless DRM, bullshit on-disc DLC, and horrendously greedy and soulless promotional product tie-ins.
And gamers’ displeasure is starting to have a pronounced effect on the industry. EA’s gradual meltdown provides an embarrassing amount of evidence of this.
The gaming industry’s fear of piracy has grown to a fever pitch, and NOTHING they have done has managed to stop it, but neither would it kill them if they left it unchecked. If piracy was the threat that game companies seem to think it is, GOG.com would’ve been dismantled into dust by now. For those who don’t know, GOG.com is a digital distribution service like Steam, but unlike Steam or any other digital game seller, all games available on GOG.com have absolutely NO DRM. None whatsoever. You don’t even have to login to your GOG.com account to play the games you buy. And not only do they survive, but they still continue to expand. GOG.com is the 2nd most popular digital distribution service around, beating out GamersGate, GreenManGaming, even EA’s craptacular Origin service.
And do you know why GOG.com is winning the fight against piracy? I believe the answer is simple – no restrictions. Buying, installing, and playing the games is completely hassle-free. It’s not just a better service than pirating games, it’s easier, too.
Maybe if Microsoft and Sony focused on providing a superior service that didn’t hassle gamers, I’d be more confident in the future of the next Xbox and the PS4. Granted, Sony’s said even less about the console requiring an internet connection, but the way things are going, I almost have to be pessimistic.
So maybe I’ll limit myself to being a PC gamer, or just play retro games for a while. Or, hell, maybe I’ll jump on the Ouya train and see where it takes me. Nothing wrong with those options, but if Microsoft and Sony want my business, it’s going to take something fairly substantial to get my attention.