And it has nothing to do with being always online.
We’ve heard it a million times by now. With Adam Orth’s comments not exactly helping the case for secrecy – and which earned him a ticket out – it seems the next Xbox, codenamed Durango and which will probably be called the Xbox 720, will be always-online.
This means launching applications and playing games while connected to the internet. For an example as to how this can negatively impact the console’s working, just take a look at recent news of Xbox Live going down and people being unable to access Netflix, Hulu and multiplayer. Now just extend that to all your games.
Then again, as Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski has mentioned, an always connected world is not far off. In fact with innovations such as 4G and LTE, not to mention Google Fiber making inroads throughout the United States, it’s not far-fetched to think that the whole world will be connected within the next 10 years. Then again, the Xbox 720 doesn’t need to cater to whole world. Just to markets that already enjoy the Xbox 360 or have an internet connection.
Leave aside the fact that we know nothing – repeat, nothing – about whether the Xbox 720 is always online or not. Heck, Microsoft could very well be working on some kind of system to benefit your games if you’re always online – but if you’re not, you can still enjoy the experience; just that it won’t be the same as if you were connected.
Think hot fixes that are commonly seen with some patches these days, whose benefits are gone when you exit the game or are unable to access them at the time. Maybe extending that to removing content from the game, unless you’re connected?
Completely possible, absolutely draconic, but again, just a rumour – like everything else we’ve heard about Microsoft’s next gen console.
The main crux of the argument is that always-online will be the death of the console. An always-online DRM helped Assassin’s Creed 2 PC lose about $50 million dollars. Let’s not even get into the SimCity debacle, wherein EA wanted to implement “social features” (read: sell you practically everything) to enhance/milk the experience.
One segment worries about the piracy; the other is trying to recoup the enormous amount of money spent on development somehow. But with Microsoft, it’s completely different.
The Xbox 360, after the release of Kinect, has transcended the need to rely solely on hardcore gamers and franchises. It’s fully made the transition to being a living room device that the whole family can appreciate and it’s done so far better than Sony.
Look at where the Move has gone from when it was introduced – the definitive motion gaming solution – to now, where it plays second fiddle to the DualShock 4 and can be used to create, of all the things, a puppet show.
Let’s not forget that the Xbox 360, whose biggest market is the United States, is now the top selling console for the 27th consecutive month in a row. If it stays on top for 9 more months, it will have been the top selling console for 3 YEARS in a row.
Coupled with evidence that plenty of gamers are pretty much online all the time anyway, in some form, with Xbox Live – not including all the casual users who use it for Netflix, social networking and the like – and it’s quite amazing to see the response to an always-online console be so venomous.
Remember those Xbox 360 first person shooter fans? The ones who make Call of Duty a success, year-in and year-out, and are the primary reason for Activision focusing all of its efforts on Microsoft’s console? You think they care about single-player? They’re always online anyway. A new console with the same requirement changes nothing.
Microsoft knows which audience it’s catering to – it knows the success it’s achieved, and how to strengthen and expand that market further.
And that’s not because they’re going to go always-online from here on out.