The amount of leaks for the next generation consoles have been building up for a while now and an interesting feature was included in the most recent one: The next Xbox will be online only. Obviously we will not know anything concrete till the inevitable announcement of the console but the prospect of an always connected console is intriguing.
The Xbox 360 was Microsoft’s answer to Sony and Nintendo this generation and one of the major reasons they kept in the game was the stellar Xbox Live service. While many people (many PS3 gamers) ridicule the service for the cost of playing online, the quality is undeniable. Comparing personal experiences on PS3 and Xbox 360, the online play, the store and the presentation of Live is ahead by a country mile. However, this success with millions of people using the service is not enough, in my opinion, to guarantee a successful always on the internet console.
The leak detailed what the Xbox 720 / Durango / NextBox (whatever you would like to call it) states that the console will not support “play from the optical disc” and will “always maintain a network connection so that console software and games are always current.” Now this being implemented could be for various reasons. One being to check used games and another to keep an eye on its users.
Firstly, the war against used games has been talked about for a while now, Crytek have previously talked about blocking used games (Thanks CVG) saying that ”from a business perspective that would be absolutely awesome.” Rumors have also been swirling about Microsoft being desperate to block the second hand market. Being online constantly would allow the console to make sure the game you are playing is new and your own without you even having enough time to say “Damn that console!” Leviathyn have in fact written about why the next Xbox won’t block used games, but what if we are wrong and Microsoft does. The online keeping games “current” could be PR speak for your own games only. Good for developers but what about consumers?
Secondly and on a note I support, users who want to mod their console, bypass certain transactions or hack games and subsequently ruin it for everyone else could be found out instantly. As much as creative modifications to games can be genius, some people abuse this, look at Call of Duty 4 on PS3 for example, invincible players who fly around killing everyone in seconds. Microsoft’s apparent closed off approach to its content would prevent anyone from abusing the powers of the console. That can be a controversial topic for some, if you buy the console, you should be able to use it how you see fit… but not at the expense of another player’s gaming. If this is one of the reasons going through Microsoft’s lofty heads, expect backlash from some areas of the gaming community.
There is a problem that while millions of people do own an Xbox 360 and have Live connected, there are many of those who have unstable connections. Are we supposed to deal with a console telling us half way through a single-player game that we have lost connection and therefore access to our games? It is impossible. But spare a thought for the poor souls who cannot access the internet at all for whatever reason, Microsoft will have discounted millions of gamers instantly.
As much as I think that online is the way forward in terms of gaming, it is not the time to force it on us. This decision may end up swaying people who are sitting on the fence over to Nintendo or Sony’s console.
Is there a market for always online consoles in the world today? Let me know in the comments.