Rumors of an always-online requirement for the next Xbox have been circulating, much to the chagrin of gamers everywhere. Always-on digital rights management (DRM) has been a problem for quite a few major PC releases, with the “SimCity” debacle being the most recent incident.
Upset gamers took to Twitter to voice their grievances.
“Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an ‘always on’ console,” tweeted Adam Orth, former creative director at Microsoft. “Every device now is ‘always on.’ That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit.”
This tweet on Orth’s personal twitter account has sparked a firestorm of media coverage and public outcry over a rumor that has not even been confirmed. It is fair to say though, that Orth’s defense of the “always on” DRM system is pretty much an indirect confirmation.
Manveer Heir, senior gameplay designer at BioWare and self-proclaimed Hokie, responded to Orth with references to the failure of “Diablo III” and “SimCity” DRM systems.
Both games faced massive problems at launch, largely due to the “always on” requirement that accompanied the releases. “SimCity” had core features temporarily stripped from the game to keep game servers online.
“You know some peoples’ internet goes out, right?” said Heir. “Deal with it is a shitty reason.”
“Electricity goes out too,” wrote Orth.
Heir responded by saying, “You’ve lived in LA, SF, Seattle... very connected places. Try living in Janesville, WI or Blacksburg, VA.”
“Why on earth would I live there?” Orth tweeted back.
Though this back-and-forth has attracted a lot of attention, the outcry seems directed almost entirely at Orth’s comments instead of the actual DRM that might be built into the next Xbox.
It is interesting to see that people are more offended by a Microsoft employee’s attempts to justify the decision, than the decision itself.
The underlying problem with an always-on system is the console manufacturer takes away control from the consumer. Players gain nothing from being required to have an active internet connection.
In what may be an attempt to kill used games, Microsoft might be establishing an activation system with an online requirement. This would be a huge blow to GameStop, but being able to buy and play used games is not a huge deal to most gamers.
Those with spotty internet (see: Access Media 3) are obviously at the greatest risk. A console that cannot play games without an active connection could be a huge problem for people who live in areas where internet is not always reliable.
For everyone else, this is not a big change, or even a problem. The ever-popular digital distribution platform Steam has been a powerhouse in the realm of computer gaming despite requiring you to log-in and remain connected to play your games. Although an offline mode is offered, it is difficult to use and does not always work as intended.
Getting past the hubbub and uproar, gamers speak with their wallets.
The sales of the next Xbox probably will not see a dent made by users boycotting the “always online” requirement.
In recent news, an extended Xbox Live outage has cast even more of a shadow over Microsoft’s likely decision. If Microsoft cannot even keep its servers running, how can gamers expect to play their games, regardless of internet woes?