Why an Aways Connected Console is a Big Deal

Xbox_360_controller

The problem with the current crop of arguments about the rumored always connected Next-Gen Xbox are centered around it not being a big deal because that's how all our devices work now. A good showing of this opinion is in the highly publicized tweets of Microsoft employee Adam Orth.

@adam_orth

Sorry, I don't get the drama around having an "always on" console. Every device now is "always on". That's the world we live in. #dealwithit

I always enjoy Kevin Dent's opinions of the video game industry, but he also shares the same views.

Let’s pretend that “Always Online” is an issue, listen up folks; you are doing “always on” today.

Basically they are saying our devices we use every day are already always online, cell phones, GPS, Netflix, first person shooters, browsers, etc.

The problem is no one is arguing that we don't currently have to deal with services that require the internet. If you have a bit of smarts you understand GPS needs a GPS signal to work. Streaming movies may be a newer thing, but people understand that a service that streams movies can't be accessed without the internet (even though I still have to remind my father when he asks if he can use it on a plane). And yes, I can't shoot up other living people across the country in a video game without an internet connection.

But guess what, I can still use my phone to play most games and take notes and check my calendar without the internet. That FPS I enjoy playing the multiplayer of, has a campaign that can be played by myself without the internet. My computer even lets me watch a movie I have stored in iTunes without asking me to authenticate with a server first.

The problem with their argument is that by their definition, the Xbox 360 is an always on console. Netflix and multiplayer games can't be played without the internet, I can't use that clunky web browser on my tv, I even can't send a message to a friend because darn it, it won't even let me sign in to Xbox live without the internet. But my Xbox 360 spends 99% of the year connected to the internet, and because of that 99% of the time I can use the entertainment services, I can play my multiplayer games, I can be constantly notified about who is online, and I can even soak in the ads on the dashboard.

But the other one percent of the year, is when I pack up my Xbox and we stay at our family shared house in Vermont for Thanksgiving. My cousin wants to play more Call of Duty, so we play some zombie mode together. I usually show the family a new game. Skyrim even resulted in a second Xbox being purchased by my uncle, so they didnt have to share adventure time. Dishonored a year later was purchased the week following thanksgiving (I'm apparently a skilled salesman). In the evening my grandparents will ask if we can use Netflix, after explaining again how Netflix works we settle for one of the many dusty DVDs below the big old television. All of these things can be done offline, all of this is done offline, and all of these things were born to be offline.

Just because 99% of the things consoles do today require an internet connection, doesn't mean you need to restrict everything at a device level to require internet. If Battlefield 4 decides it will be a better game for requiring the internet across the board, that's fine. There will always be another FPS that doesn't, and having offline play may even become a bullet point for a scarce few games in the future.

But Microsoft has a different battle on their hands. There is no other consumer electronics device that I know of that requires an internet connection to work. Microsoft is mixing up their devices and services. Xbox Live is a service and the Xbox console is a device. But it looks like Microsoft may try to defy consumer expectations with a device by making it into a service. That's going to be harder to explain to people than they think.

Notes: This opinion is based on rumors and the interpritation that "always on" in the context of the next Xbox means it requires an internet connection even for otherwise offline content. There are other negetives and positives to such an Xbox but I had no intent to hit on them here.

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