Xbox 720: Will always-on switch gamers off?

The rumours all point towards the next Xbox requiring an internet connection to play games, but is the technology or the need there to support it?

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It was just last week that Microsoft's Adam Orth took to the internet and told gamers around the world to just "#dealwithit" when it comes to games consoles requiring an always-on internet connection. And while Orth may have his own personal reasons for making such a statement, the fact remains that this was a senior Microsoft employee treating complaints about DRM with contempt. No matter how much Microsoft wants to release an always-on console, it's clear from the internet backlash they don't want such a device: bullying them into it isn't going to work.

At the time of publication there are over 16,000 comments on GameSpot's Orth story, most of them negative. After all, what reason would gamers have to be positive about it? Persistent online games are often released to disastrous results. EA's SimCity launched with a string of server problems that meant players couldn't play a game--single-player or otherwise--without huge waits or restrictions on content. Diablo III's login server buckled under the pressure at launch, with thousands of paying customers unable to play the game.

The issue hasn't just affected PC games either. EA's Battlefield 1943, while not an always-online game as such, launched on Xbox 360 with a multitude of connection problems that took weeks to be resolved. And that's just individual games. If every new Xbox has to be online to play games, there could be potentially millions upon millions of people connecting to its servers at once, which could cause all manner of issues. It's not an impossible task to manage--after all, YouTube does just fine--but unless large investments in infrastructure are made early on, there are going to be problems.

There's more to it than just what Microsoft has to manage from its end, though. The consumer broadband market has its own share of issues, if you can get broadband at all. The latest FCC broadband progress report shows that 37 percent of Americans, 119 million people in all, don't have broadband (defined as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up) internet. 10 million of that is made up of citizens who don't have access to broadband, while the other 100 million live in areas where broadband is available but do not subscribe.

The situation in the UK is a little better--but only just. The latest report from the Office for National Statistics puts internet access in the UK at 21 million households, or around 80 percent of the population. Of those 21 million, 93 percent are connected via broadband, leaving the remaining 7 percent languishing on dialup connections. Clearly then, there's a significant proportion of people across two of the Xbox's biggest markets that don't have an internet connection suitable for an always-online console.

Of course, not all those broadband holdouts are current, or even potential Xbox customers. In the UK at least, of those who did not have broadband, the vast majority said the reason they didn't subscribe was that they "simply did not need it", as opposed to factors like cost or access. It's less likely that group of people who don't need broadband are in the market for the latest and greatest piece of connected gaming technology.

Even if you have broadband access, what if your internet goes down? Orth likened it to the electricity going out, or not having any mobile phone signal, and in some respects he's right. But that overlooks the fundamental question of why I, as a gamer, want to have my console connected to the internet 24/7 just to play a game. I want to be connected to the electricity grid so I can power the devices in my home. I want to be connected to the mobile network so I can keep in touch friends and family. What compelling reason could there be for the new Xbox to always require an internet connection?

Social features? Auto-updates? That's not enough. Perhaps it will make it easier for developers to implement new features if they know that every console is connected to the internet--but that, too, doesn't seem like enough. The only compelling consumer-facing reason I can think of is that Microsoft is going big on cloud gaming. AMD, the company rumored to be powering the next Xbox, recently made a big push into the cloud with its Radeon Sky series of GPUs that are specifically intended for streaming services. Nvidia has its similar GRID technology. Whether the next Xbox is limited to streaming games like the PS4, or it offloads some of its processing tasks, the cloud represents the one area that could convince consumers to remain online.

What compelling reason could there be for the new Xbox to always require an internet connection?

Of course, there are other reasons why Microsoft would want you to be connected internet 24/7, outside of consumer facing features. Imagine the amount of data it could capture if it knew what games you were playing, at what hours of the day, and for how long. That's extremely valuable information that could be used to improve its products, or--if we're going down the cynical route--offer up more targeted advertising on the Xbox Dashboard. But the biggest and most controversial theory behind an always-on console is that it will block used game sales.

The rumors around the blocking of used games have been circulating ever since the Durango codename was revealed last year. But the fresh reports of the next Xbox requiring an internet connection have backed up those rumours. And from a pure business perspective, it makes sense. Microsoft, publishers, and developers don't receive any revenue from the sale of used games, with it instead going straight into the pockets of the retailer. Take used games out of the equation and, in theory, revenue goes up.

The trouble is, having to check in with an authentication server to play a game is incredibly irritating and prone to problems: just ask anyone who had to deal with Ubisoft's now defunct online-DRM service for PC games. Getting booted out of a game just because the internet has gone down is not going to win Microsoft customers.

Hell, even the Wii U is a better proposition at this point.

And those customers have more choice than ever when it comes to games consoles. They may flock to Sony's PS4, which is unlikely to block used games. Or they could jump ship to one of the many upcoming Android-based consoles like Ouya. Hell, even the Wii U is a better proposition at this point. It's going to take either a very strong launch lineup, or some cheap Steam-like pricing to convince consumers that Microsoft's heavy-handed copy protection is OK, and even then, it's going to be still going to be a tough sell.

The fact is, neither the technology or the consumers that use it are ready for the likes of an always-on console. Ignoring the practicalities of the situation and telling people to just "deal with it" smacks of a company that has lost touch with what its consumers want or need. Here's hoping Microsoft puts our fears to rest at its rumoured event on May 21.

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markypants

Mark Walton

Mark is a senior staff writer based out of the UK, the home of heavy metal and superior chocolate.
3775 comments
XAF1
XAF1

Just waiting to see what MS has to say for its self on the new console on May 21st. Not sure that I'd trust them no matter what they say at this point. I'm majorly on the fence about skipping the next gen period at this point but I will wait and see. Ironically it's not about the price this time ---as the fact is if I really want it I'll buy it regardless---but the principle of not being given a choice.  There are tons of other things I could spend my money on instead.

Yatterer
Yatterer

The main question is how long they will keep the servers up for old games.

Elkponc
Elkponc

If you are going to "Save" money by getting rid of pirating, then STOP making us pay a monthly subscription for Gold features. It is broadband WE are paying for after all. That would be an even tradeoff IMHO.

SoulxReaperx366
SoulxReaperx366

Do I want always online? not really. Do i care enough to boycott a new console because of it? nope.

sfreedom21
sfreedom21

I'm a game collector so and I spent a lot of my time and money in games, collector editions, I have all consoles (Home and portable) of this gen... 

I already gave up of my PC collection because of games that require always on, or external servers to detect the game before playing.

IF I PAY ALOT FOR A GAME, even the collector/special editions, WHY CAN'T I PLAY IT WHEN I WANT, WHERE I WANT!?

I go on vacations, I want to play a game in my expensive Laptop, there is not a good internet connection near? TO BAD BUT YOU CAN'T PLAY, BECAUSE YOU PAID FOR SOMETHING THAT ISN'T REALLY YOURS!

I like to keep my games and play them after some years, but what if by that time the servers went down, the company closed? Then you can't play the games...ONLY WITH CRACKS!!!

SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG IN THIS WORLD WHEN SOMEONE THAT PAY'S FOR A GAME,  HAS TO RESORT TO PIRACY TO BE ABLE TO PLAY IT!!!

m12abrams
m12abrams

Ok this is funny I currently have 6 xbox 360s one a my mothers house and 5 in my house. One machine for each gamer thats with 5 live accounts.  Microsoft pulls this drm crap and no used games its simple they will loose my accounts and the 5 new consoles to Sony.  in the words of that smartass microsoft exec Just Deal With It.

thejudge808
thejudge808

Couldn't get on live at all last night was still able to finish my Bioshock infinite playthrough that would have been a big problem on the new xbox wouldn't it if this rumour turns out to be true.

OverkillAzault
OverkillAzault

its true thou almost everything now is always on

xpianomanx
xpianomanx

"The rumors all point" ... well no they don't. Useless article. 

clever_inks
clever_inks

damn.internet speed in my country r slow...fuck..pls miscrosoft consider it..if u still use this theory..i will never buy xbox720 and consider to buy ps4

lee1823
lee1823

I'm more concerned about if nextbox comes with Kinect 2..... if it does they can fuck right off.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Hmmm. Xbox live has been down now for about 6 hours. Curious. And I can't fucking play AC 3 cuz the friggin dlc is tied to having a connection to Uplay in order to allow my save to load! This is why I hate any kind of DRM and always on crap!

dinslacck
dinslacck

Everybody sure can afford a dedicated gaming console like Xbox and suscribe to an internet providers. But not everybody can afford a constant internet connection. It's not like they don't have a job, but due to various factors such as their area where they live in, or 'money hungry' internet providers. I live in a rural area where i can afford a high speed internet connection but the services simply isn't available for my area. even my consoles and PC are having a hard time donwloading games Move to the city to get constant connection? its out of the question. Get an always connected console to play a game? That's another question.


There are consumers who will buy the xbox even its sprouting new craps. But a consumer like me will likely not, and there are millions like me out there. On the other hand, MS will lose millions of consumers. 

#dealwithit

HucklePeel
HucklePeel

I really hope that you don't actually believe in this article. I think most of you agree that this very unlikely that this feature will be part of the Next Xbox. Microsoft know they couldn't benefit from an always online console because their is not a big enough audience to turn out a profit.

this is much more likely it shows that the rumor is right that the console is always online however internet is not a requirement to play games and it also says that they are releasing a stand alone refurnished, scaled down Xbox 360 that  dose not contain a disc drive will be called the Xbox Mini. This will apparently allow compatibility with NextBox  to the Xbox 360

http://www.vgleaks.com/microsoft-xbox-roadmap-2013/

http://www.ibtimes.com/xbox-720-rumors-suggest-alway-connectivity-needed-tv-integration-cheaper-xbox-mini-device-will

http://www.vg247.com/2013/04/10/next-xbox-is-not-always-online-contains-xtv-new-360-sku-makes-it-backwards-compatible/


sr_arthur3
sr_arthur3

I believe they are letting this rumor run its course to watch customer reactions closely.  Remember guys, if they can get away with it in the future, they will...  Give them an inch, they will take a mile.  "Coming up next, always online Xbox 720 V2 with advertisement intervals every 20 minutes of your game!".

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

So since the rummer can now be put to rest WHY did Microsoft not just shoot it down to begin with???

The only reason I can think of is that ANY attention is good attention, its like FREE advertising.  Not only that but when the rummer is confirmed UNTRUE then FANS will BLINDLY spend huge amounts of money, more than they spent on Xbx + live + bigger HDD for Microsoft's new console. 

BUT it will be all okay because always online is not going to happen.

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

THE REAL RUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.vgleaks.com/microsoft-xbox-roadmap-2013/

Looks like this is a better explanation of what will happen.

Still, if this is true will Microsoft kill off Live faster to get people to buy the Xbox mini???

$150.00 dollars for a diskless mini vs $200.00 for an Xbox arcade, or $100.00 fro a used Xbox arcade?????

mhaed
mhaed

The thing I hate most about all the "always-on" hoopla is that we, as gamers, are not really "owning" our games that we are spending our hard earned cash on. I understand that some games, like MMO's, are required to be always-on, but single player experiences should remain offline no matter what system they're on. I honestly doubt that Microsoft will implement this strict always-on feature for every game. Some games, yes, but all, not a chance business-wise, in my opinion.

blackace
blackace

I believe this "always on" connection people are bashing has nothing to do with gaming. I think it's just for their cable/tv service only. I don't know about anyone elses cable hookup, but my cable box in always on, even when I turn the power off, it stays in standby mode with the time clock on the face screen. I believe that's what M$ is talking about. If you don't use their cable/tc service, your XBox 720 won't need to be always-on. I don't think this always-on will effect games or used game at all. Now we'll see if I'm right come May.

zyxahn
zyxahn

Obviously saying then actually doing are tough but at this point I if they stick with this I will not be getting one unless it's $99.  Hehe not a chance I know.  Like I have stated before I can't play some games right now on my 360 if offline.  Some Xbox Live arcade games that I have purchased become trials if not online.  It's just stupid all the way around.  I really hope they are just messing with us on this one.

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

The more I think about it the more that i think its not going to happen, just a ROUSE, just a BIG SHINNY object to focus on while they have other news that does not seem as bad in its place. 

Xbox will be, more of a Set atop box that plays games using windows 8, and the cost of Live will go up again to give you better services, and those services will not cost as much BECAUSE Live cost $100.00 a year.  

BUT ALWAYS on was just a rummer it will not happen. THERE don't you feel better!!!

Igal-Ze
Igal-Ze

This is where we, the gamers, should take a stand and vote with our wallets.
Yes, we really can "dealwithit", as long as we do it in our own way.
Let 720 fail like no console have failed before and go down in history a classic example of greed fueled marketing. DRM is an unfriendly way of forcing an inferior product on your users, and users shouldn't except that.
(Disclaimer: I bought Xbox 1 and X360, and [BIG MISTAKE] Diablo 3 so I`m a formerly loyal Xbox user who knows just how DRM can go wrong)

jazzyrider
jazzyrider

Anyone pick up the rumors from GameInformer that he's gone because of this? all i can say is, back at ya adam!!


BravelyRanAway
BravelyRanAway

I'm not going with microsoft this time around if the rumors are true and it requires an always on internet connection.  I live in a rural area so if my DSL drops my 720 is reduced to being a paperweight.  Also, why do consoles now have to try and take over your living room with netflix, hula, zune, tv shows, movies, commericials and tons of other crap.  Why does my console need to be the central hub for all things entertainment and social media.   I would like a console to focus on games and allowing me to play online competitively or with friends when I want.  End of story.     Which ever system comes closest to that will get my money. (yes, I'm old and started out playing games on the atari 2600)

HapiJoel
HapiJoel

Interesting round up :) I can't believe Microsoft are really considering this, and you've got to wonder if the recent criticism of Orthy will make them change their minds, that is, if they even can at this point; Durango must be pretty far down the development line, could they end up burdened with a system they're scared of even launching?!

KingOfTheNubeis
KingOfTheNubeis

I'm not buying something that I have to ask permission to play every time I switch it on.

I got options.

And my option is NOT to buy ;)

happypanda53
happypanda53

microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot if there were to put this feature into play. i mean already the gamers have spoken and they are displeased to say the least and the 720 isnt even out yet. why would they want to alienate and piss off thier fanbase like this?

DAMSOG
DAMSOG

So what happens when I want to take my 720 out to my inlaws for the weekend? They don't have internet and I will have nowhere to hide.......WAAAAAHHHHHHH...I don't want to have to talk to them.

Barjavel
Barjavel

"Whether the next Xbox is limited to streaming games like the PS4". Eh?! Am I misreading that? PS4 can only stream games? When was that announced?

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

I'm tired of being treated like a piece of garbage by my government, banks, employers, and now even my video game console makers.  really?  is this what the world has come to?  opportunism, no virtue, unrestricted greed around every corner?  this is more of a last straw situation than me comparing this to those real problems.  still, it's ridiculous.  if xbox sells more than ps4 im going to be very mad at all of you.  the implications of this on privacy are harrowing to say the least, let alone the obvious internet connectivity issues that will arise.

Darth_Cola
Darth_Cola

Microsoft forgets that thee generation that helped them get to where they are have been the Nintendo generation. We got older, wiser, and we call bullshit every time something piss's us off. I vowed never again to buy another Xbox product after the shit i had to go through just owning a god damn 360. I went through 6 of them. This one i have now lasted me the longest at almost 2 years. I rarely ever play it, because i refuse to pay any money just to play co op with friends. When i do turn it on its mainly to stream my movie through it. No not through Netflix, or any of that shit. My fucking Xbox turned into a commercial. My Xbox. I paid for the fucking thing, should of gave me the option to at least hide that fucking shit. 

buzzcann
buzzcann

Yes, I hate it. If I can't play ANYTHING without being connected, that's redonkeybutts. I'm old school I guess, but you should be able to take your console anywhere, even grandma's house and use it on her tv. and you know she aint got no mofokin fios up in dat home o hers. knawimsayiiiin?!

Phatmista
Phatmista

@Mark Walton
How could you forget the ever important aspect of LAN parties or traveling with
 the console/TV? I still do it with my friends and many small tournaments still have LANs to play console games. This would REQUIRE an internet connection, making certain venues a lot more difficult, pricey, and possible not achievable. Will I NEED an internet connection at the hotel (where they may block such services anyways) to play my console when I travel? Yes, I do travel with my 360 sometimes.

DarthChrisious
DarthChrisious

It's not just the "always online' thing. I find the rumor of the Kinect having to always be on more troublesome. Call me paranoid, but always online combined with an always on camera in my home is dangerously close to Orwellian.

scarred_fox
scarred_fox

ever watch, "I, Robot" look how much of a success their, "always online" feature turned out to be

MrMarlbor0
MrMarlbor0

i dont understand why anyone should give a crap about xbox...its a product , if ppl wont like that shit they are going to do with it then logic says it will fail. why the hell should i care if it fails or not when i have other options like another console or a pc its beyond me...sorry but screw you microsoft ! kisses

Drunkvampiresex
Drunkvampiresex

How about just offering benefits for having it always on. I'm not just talking **** no one cares about, I mean offering something gamers will want, kind of like playstation plus compared to its free version.

Kme2222
Kme2222

They better apologize for that remark ten fold by coming out with an awesome console that we ALL can play. If not, I'll be going back to Sony... That's if they don't charge us $800 for it. Like amdreallyfast stated, it will be interesting to see what happens. 

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

The guy who uttered the comment left Microsoft very quickly after saying it.  Whether he was booted out or left voluntarily is not disclosed; I suspect he was "allowed" to leave with what was left of his dignity.  My experience with the company so far has been that they put an enormour focus on their customers because it is good business.  Their useability studies are too numerous to mention, so I'll put my money on the final product actually being pretty nifty.  After all, they spent the original XBox into success (it wasn't profitable for years), they spent windows phone into success, and I don't see them stopping here.  It will be interesting to watch.

sr_arthur3
sr_arthur3

If they do it, and they are successful...  God help us all...

Vegna_Infamous
Vegna_Infamous

I have always had the xbox 360 as my main console. When Microsoft first launched their original xbox in 2001, I was hooked and trusted them for the fair service they provided at a price of course but never thought they would, if it's true, think only of themselves and not their customers. I like all the consoles and damn wish I could afford a PS3 but Microsoft is disgusting me. If these rumors stay true, I'm getting a PS4 instead of the Xbox 720. I won't be treated like garbage and I know everyone else who is aware of this will probably do the same.

garcia_jx
garcia_jx

always on means no buy for me.  It would me I won't be able to play my xbox anywhere there isn't a connection.

Chrypt22
Chrypt22

I'll re-iterate what I said earlier.. How is Microsoft hurting?  Nothing is being sold yet and nothing has been confirmed or denied.  Just because an exec got fired for shooting his mouth of doesn't mean anything.   All of this buzz surrounding the XBOX be it negative or positive talk is taking attention away from Sony and the Playstation.  I hardly see that as it negatively affecting Microsoft.  People are all fired up over a rumor that probably is only half true.... I bet my paycheck that what is true about the rumor is that if a user wants certain features to work, ie Social Feeds, then it will always have to be online.  

Everyone here is eating out of Microsofts hand all the way up to when they announce the console which will probably be at E3.  Until then Microsoft is going to let the controversy fly surrounding THEIR console which keeps everyones eyes on them and off the competition.

obsequies
obsequies

microsoft will and has ripped people off to a calculated level of user base loss. I'm not sure if this will go through or not but I know microsoft balances user schemes and user base

ermack103
ermack103

Random Encounter: Pigeon Dating Sim...The future, of Gaming...

Banyek
Banyek

3800 comment, all trashing MS . I really hope MS gets the idea...... 

106473
106473

I'm waiting for the CEO at Sony to say "Sorry but there wont be a PS4 we just made this niffty new controller for you and made a mega update for the PS3. Top that Mircosoft. *wink wink*"

jkim161
jkim161

It's troubling that MS hasn't denied the rumors of the Xbox 720 requiring an always-online connection. This makes me think it's true. I can't believe that MS is dumb enough to give up a huge amount of market share to Sony before the next gen consoles are even out. If this turns out to be true, it will be very interesting to see how consumers react. sony will be jumping for joy. lol