There has been a lot of speculation about the next generation of Xbox. The rumored methods that the next Xbox will apply to used games must have Gamestop feeling a bit like Damocles, and has many consumers who are unable (or unwilling) to pay full retail price for games in a state of disappointment and despair. This, while anti-consumer and very frustrating, is at the very least not preventing the console from playing retail purchased content. Now, the all but confirmed mandatory Internet connection for basic console operation? That’s a bit of a different story. The current rumor is that the next Xbox will not launch any applications or games without an active Internet connection, and that if the connection is interrupted during operation, it will only continue to operate for a scant three minutes before suspending operation and launching the network troubleshooter.
The problem with an “always-on” requirement is in the assumption that every consumer capable of purchasing (and willing to purchase) will also be capable of affording a consistent and stable Internet connection. Click here, and a new tab will open with a screenshot taken from the National Broadband Map showing the availability of all broadband technology short of wireless (and by wireless, I don’t mean your home wi-fi router). There is hardly any coverage to speak over over most of the western half of the country, but this can be explained by the incredibly sparse population centers across this region. This lack of population density has resulted in a lack of investment interest on the part of major broadband providers, which leaves any gamer consumers with a passion for Xbox in the lurch once the next generation hits. The same can be said for the large swaths of broadband unavailability in the incredibly densely populated eastern half of the country, however.
According to the FCC (as of August 2012), approximately 19 million Americans lack access to fixed broadband service. This is not an economic determination, but a simple statement of availability. The number of Americans with access to broadband service, but without the ability to afford broadband service is surely more considerable. Affordability isn’t always as simple as a monthly fee, either. With broadband providers placing increased emphasis on transfer caps, and streaming services becoming more and more prevalent on consoles, an additional factor of charging for overuse comes into play. So, what would a reasonable response to the concept of an “always-on” next generation Xbox be?
How about telling these millions of consumers to “get with the times” and “deal with it?”
This is apparently how Adam Orth, the Creative Director at Microsoft Studios, chooses to respond on his personal Twitter account.
The sheer arrogance and disconnectedness of such a response is staggering, especially from someone so critical to Microsoft’s game development operation. As you can see, he chooses to support his defense of the “always-on” argument against such claims of availability and (more importantly) stability by presenting straw man fallacies, likening the game console’s rumored connected requirement to the functionality of a mobile phone or a vacuum cleaner. He has a point in that a vacuum cleaner can not function without electricity, and a mobile phone can not perform its most basic function without a stable cellular network. His argument falls apart, however, when you realize that a majority of games do not require an Internet connection to play. If you want to play the multi-player portion of a game, or if you want to play a MOBA/MMO, then you absolutely do need an Internet connection. But tell me, how many MOBA/MMOs exist on consoles? How many games are released only as multi-player titles? And how do the answers to both of those questions compare to the number of games that are capable of being played without the requirement of an Internet connection?
In this case, it’s not only the shortsightedness of an “always-on” console that troubles me; it’s Adam Orth’s arrogance and his lack of respect for consumers that I find distasteful and foolish. Adam, I have a question for you: How many people do you anticipate will choose to “deal with it” by purchasing a PlayStation 4 instead, since it is confirmed that it will not come with an always-on requirement?
On a lighter note, enjoy the almost immediate birth of a new meme: the Always Online Adam Orth (AOAO).