In case you didn’t, creative director at Microsoft Games Studios Adam Orth is a funny one. After the latest rumour report which stated unequivocally that the Xbox 720 would require a constant internet connection, Orth took to the internetz and proceeded to defend the concept.
Now remember: He defended the concept, that too on Twitter, but only meant to voice his opinion. He didn’t quite understand just how many people could read what he was saying. Or for that matter, how vocal the internet gaming community would be.
And oh, the flood of comments that followed. Adam Orth is now a household sensation, boys and girls, but he’s also an exercise in keeping your mouth shut. Because whether he meant to “have an opinion” or just joke around, when you’re part of a company that has a next generation device in development – that too one which has suffered for lack of information – anything and everything you say on the subject is volatile.
That being said, Orth had a general essence to what he was saying that kind of made sense. He found most devices of today to already be always online. Smartphones and the like, for instance. Even the current Xbox 360 is always going to log you into Xbox Live at start-up, constantly following your progress in game.
He completely discounted that both smartphones and even the current consoles benefit from doing things completely offline though. Because, you know, not everyone has constant internet access in the world. Or across the United States for that matter.
While it remains to be seen as to whether Microsoft will actually pull the trigger on an always online console, there’s no denying that both it and Sony want to completely destroy the used games market and bring all that moolah back to the fold. If Microsoft isn’t asking you to stay online, that Sony is telling you to invest in its cloud gaming services and essentially repurchase all of its PlayStation titles.
But hey! You can probably play your PS3 games from your smartphone (you can’t)! It’s a sweet deal (it’s not)!
This is the way consoles are heading, whether we like it or not. Remember that EA had to suffer Spore being the most pirated game of the year on release and the SimCity debacle – and they still haven’t announced any intentions to discontinue the DRM system for future titles.
Ubisoft lost tens of millions of dollars implementing the system in its Assassin’s Creed titles. It only relaxed its always-online draconian system in 2012 after mounting losses and complaints from gamers.
And did UPlay help curtail piracy? In a rather hilarious twist, release groups were now creating cracks for licensed titles so that gamers who bought legitimate copies wouldn’t need to go online to enjoy their games. Oh but they also tots pirated the game, guys.
At least with a normal DRMless game, you’re offering it out there for the community and trusting them to pay for it if they really want to. The fact that games like Tomb Raider have seen commercial success – and piracy is very much rampant on the consoles as well – just goes to show you that if a game is good enough, it will sell well regardless.
Long story short: Don’t tell gamers how to play their games. Because oftentimes, they’ll find a way to make it work without you.
Will this kind of backlash hit Microsoft when the Xbox 720 is eventually revealed? It remains to be seen. Pages upon pages have been written about the disastrous silence that Microsoft has exhibited in the wake of the next generation of consoles.
This was only further accentuated by the wrong people – in this case, Orth – getting their opinions out there and being misconstrued as representing the company’s stance by fans. People have defended his claims. People have mercilessly flogged them. The whole situation is perhaps best summarized by the phrase “smh”.
What does that change about Microsoft’s Xbox 720? Not much. Because no matter what Microsoft chooses to push on to the market, it will only listen when the cash flow stops. And even then, it will remain sceptical – Windows 8, anyone? – about whether it did the right thing. So even if you don’t agree with an always online Xbox, it’ll be a good long while and lots of boycotting until you probably get your way.
Now let’s see if Microsoft has the kind of titles that fans will be unable to abandon them for. Because if this current generation of gaming and security has taught us anything, wanting to play the next Halo offline is far, far simpler than getting a reliable internet connection.