Now normally I would’t be one to give rumours and online ‘hear-say’ any second thoughts, but recently – via many channels, an interesting and slightly peculiar story made its way to my attention. The XBOX 360 console is the most successful console of this generation and houses over 40 million active Xbox Live users. The Xbox family has for over a decade graced our screens with top quality content and unbeatable online services, regardless of the state of your internet connection or home set up. But now a rumour has come to light the puts Microsoft in a very awkward and treacherous position. Several renowned gaming sites have claimed the next generation of Xbox console to have an “always online” requirement to be able to play games as well as a requiring a ‘decent internet connection’.
The latest news out of Redmond is that it is ‘likely’ the next generation console will require a internet connection to be able to play games, even though they may not feature a multilayer functionality. Now take these with a pinch of salt, but stop and think. Microsoft has built up a fan base of honest die hard users that are loyal to the Xbox brand. Launched in 2001 the original console seemed underpowered compared to the likes of the PlayStation 2. Either way Microsoft marketed the console in a way never seen before and coupled with major exclusive game titles pushed Xbox to become a highly successful console. Featuring a unique online service, Xbox Live, it was unrivalled by the likes of Sony. Later replaced in 2005 by, problem riddled Xbox 360 console – Microsoft built upon their success and introduced HD gaming, WIFI and an improved XBOX LIVE service.
Throughout the history of Xbox, Microsoft has been shown to offer an experience that some one say is distinctive. The likes of Halo and other exclusives have locked gamers into an ecosystem, that many do not want to leave. But as the latest rumours emerge from the web, I personally as a casual Xbox user, start to worry about the future of the console and Microsofts further plans. Microsoft has apparently begun development on the next console in attempts to rival the PS 4, code named Durango but commonly known as the Xbox 720; Microsoft is said to be toying with the likely idea of requiring the console to be connected to the internet before using any game in the console – otherwise rendering the box useless. I have a high regard for Microsoft – it is easy to criticise when you are not the one building a console, nevertheless the consumer has to be forefront during design.
Adam Orth – Creative Director at Microsoft Game Studios has recently committed a cardinal sin in the rule books of customer relations. He has done a disservice to loyal Xbox and Microsoft customers by questioning the “drama” over a “always on” console”. In replying to several tweets by avid users who where concerned that they lived in rural areas with low internet connections which had the likelihood of cutting out Orth replied: “Why on Earth would I live there?”
In an instant reply to a concerned user – Orth single handedly insulted the entire rural population of America. I however could see this as a short attempt at a sarcastic response – but on the other hand this highlights the issue and reality behind Microsofts ‘always online’ plans. The fact is, and placed on Twitter, not everyone can be guaranteed a perfect internet connection, Orth went on to compare electricity going out and the fact he would :
“not purchase a vacuum cleaner”
But as internet tariffs remain overcomplicated and a high percentage of the world remains without high speed internet – or even an internet connection at all; Microsoft needs to seriously communicate more with their consumers. Again, this is still a rumour – but if a senior Creative Director amongst Microsoft is making a fuss over such a thing, it must be at least being considered in side the great walls.
The benefits, if there are any…
There would have to be a benefit for Microsoft in implementing such as system, otherwise they’re going stark raving mad. In forcing a console to be connected to the internet, Microsoft would be able to over come a vast majority of the issues surrounding DRM and copy right infringement amongst pirated games. At the birth of the CD/DVD game – a gamer would be required to enter a unique code taped to the inside of a box in order to gain access to the vast majority of features, now these forms of activations are mostly obsolete, apart from EA who remains a stubborn user of such codes. By constantly connecting to servers Microsoft would be able to more easily identify those pirated and infringed content and take action, but games that are forced to connect online have recently faced bad press – SimCity (We’ll say no more). Always online would become and extension of copy right management and the cost of the user.
Microsoft risks alienating a proportion or their user base. Those with a limited internet connection may see themselves with an unusable console or one drastically limited. And for those who argue that everywhere is connected, how about rural villages and countries who see sky high internet prices, not to mention those defending our countries in places such as Afghanistan? Such as system would place a lot of strain on a users current connection, and could possibly see a jump in prices, especially for those who pay per use. I find myself at least once a month shouting at the TV after a long day – after finding that Virgin Media have decided to carry out maintenance in the area resulting in a local blackout. How about then. Below is a video of a YouTuber, boogie2988 – who voiced his concerns noticeably on the video sharing site – and who I believe sums up the issue nicely (warning excessive swearing below).
Why would I buy a console if I already pay £5 a month for an online service but then also have to fork out to ensure I have an internet connection that is capable of handling my gaming sessions? As it stands Xbox Live has now become a fairground for uninteresting, irrelevant and annoying adverts from Doritos and the likes of Netflix – I pay for a service and therefore should not have to wade through ads to find my content.
Microsoft has built the XBOX on a reputation of social integration and quality titles. It owes it success to the likes of Halo and CO. But if this next generation of consoles requires me to be “always on” I think I may just skip this time round. Microsoft need to ensure that the consumer is at heart and that users can actually use their consoles. Microsoft risk losing users, especially since the announcement of the PS4 – they don’t need to lose any more. After all the only casualty in this debate is the hardcore Xbox fans.