There has been a recent uproar over the news that Microsoft will make their next generation console an always connected experience. According to reports, the console will be connected constantly and will not be able to play games without an internet connection. While many people try to join on the bandwagon of bashing this decision, could there be good reasons for making this jump? I believe that always on is the future.
As previously reported, Microsoft’s Adam Orth made statements on Twitter defending his views on this feature. While his way of putting his point across was immature and could be construed as offensive at some points, he may have had a point.
Take phones as a prime example. Our phones have games on them but as some of them are offline plus online, there are many that only work when supplied with an internet connection (take The Croods as an example). These games are not hurt by this feature in any real way, and these are based around a mobile device that can be brought anywhere. If you do not have any mobile data allowance, you cannot play. But where is the uproar here? On a non-gaming mobile side, Siri is widely used among iOS patrons. This requires a constant internet connection to use, but yet there are little to no complaints about the nature of the app. Then look at the home console market. The next Xbox console will presumably not be mobile and so does not get taken anywhere other than within houses. According to Statistic Brain, there were a total of 57.8 million Xbox 360 consoles sold worldwide, and how many Xbox Live subscribers are there? 30 million. This means that over half the entire Xbox 360 market had an internet connection in 2012. By now I am sure this number has grown. While this does not prove that we should jump to always online straight away (it is pretty much half and half) it suggests that Microsoft has noticed these figures and has decided that enough people in the market are online and can connect their console to the internet. In addition, I am certain that Microsoft must have considered the people who do not have internet and deemed the size of that market small enough to be discounted.
You may refer me to the SimCity catastrophe that has been going on of late. Look at it this way, the issues with the game are a result of EA’s predictably terrible service not the concept of always online play. I play a number of EA games regularly and I spend more time being kicked out of games than playing them and it is due to the poor servers (check Facebook for some humorous pages mocking the FIFA servers). The issue with always online is that the manufacturer must provide sufficient services to the player. Xbox Live has been a great addition to gaming over the past few years, showing true quality as an online service. If the next Xbox does utilize an always on structure, Xbox Live must not be down constantly and any issues with the service (hacking, down times or maintenance) must be dealt with swiftly or else the whole idea falls apart.
Lastly, the idea of connectivity links in with the way that Microsoft have been going in recent years. They want to connect your console and your television services together, making the console a multimedia device more than a gaming device. The addition of second-screen and Xbox apps on the tablets and phones show Microsoft’s vision for a constantly connected future. Truthfully, we have been watching it unfold slowly for years. The final piece of their puzzle will be coming to us by the end of the year, hopefully, and will be ready for anyone who is willing to pick it up.
For an alternative viewpoint see Aaron’s article “Microsoft’s “Always Online” Idea for the Next Xbox is a Huge Mistake”