It is the rumour refusing to die: anonymous sources have told every outlet imaginable that Microsoft’s next console will require an Internet connection to play games or use apps. On Holygrenade, I almost never comment on rumour because that is what this is–unproven, and possibly false. But countless articles taking quotes from unnamed people reinforce the idea again and again, and I have seen Internet forum-goers assume it as fact. That yes, for sure, definitely, the next Xbox must be played online.
Should Microsoft commit to this ridiculousness, it would heavily hinder their video gaming division. For one, the often cited SimCity is a fresh example of how troubling this concept truly is, and the overwhelmingly negative response is indicative of how the Xbox faithful would feel. Second, DRM of any kind is terrible at stopping piracy, its only purpose, so why would Microsoft even consider the option?
The backlash over Electronic Arts’ committal to always-online has been ongoing for close to a month, with those who bought SimCity demanding refunds or an official apology on the part of Maxis/EA. Imagine that anger but widespread to a 40 million-wide consumer base. Some of the base would be oblivious (mainly those who do not read gaming media), some would find it intolerable (constant cutouts from wavering Internet connections), and some would downright object out of principle (the kind to go camp outside for a midnight release).
From the most recent article claiming so, Kotaku cites two sources as saying that “Durango [the next Xbox's code-name] consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used.” The source then said after three minutes of an interrupted connection, “the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started.” No console has ever had such a requirement, and Sony was quick to point out the PlayStation 4 has no plans for any form of DRM.
By embracing always-online, if Microsoft chooses to, it would offer insight into the company’s priorities come next generation. Requiring a connection does have one game benefit: Microsoft gets a constant stream of data from an entire player base and can implement changes. Otherwise, it makes updating the array of entertainment options on Xbox Live easier and instantaneous.
There is one devastating scenario, though, as this could drive thousands of Xbox loyalists into Sony’s corner. As someone who owns a 360 and has a not-so-great Internet connection, I am in the middle of that crowd. I will be waiting until that day.
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