Typically I don’t do posts about rumors because I don’t trust them. I prefer substantiated facts, like actual company officials making statements. But an article published by Edge Online has a lot of gamers in an uproar, myself included, so I wanted to take the time to address it.
In their article on the features of the upcoming Next-Gen XBox, Edge is reporting that:
- All games, even single-player only games, will require an internet connection to play
- All games will be on 50GB Blue-ray discs
- New consoles will be equipped with Kinect
- All games will require a one-time valid activation code to play
Obviously, rumors 1 & 4 are what’s causing the storm of backlash you’ll be seeing in the upcoming days.
According to Edge’s unnamed sources, who has “first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console,” the new console will require gamers to be connected to their servers to play any game, even for single-player. We’ve already seen this becoming a growing trend with publishers in this cycle. Every time I try to start a game I get a little pop-up about connecting to the company’s servers. However, this is only the publisher’s servers & is only a requirement for online play. Meaning if I don’t want to play multiplayer, my single-player experience is not interfered with by not connecting. But according the Edge, you’ll have to be connected to even use the console. It won’t matter if you’re only playing single-player. If you’re not connected, you can’t play. Period.
I shouldn’t really have to explain the problem with this idea. Despite the growth of technology in both affordability & access, there are still a lot of gamers who don’t have access to broadband. Hell, even I only got access within the last few years, & I live 30 minutes outside of a major city. People in very rural areas simply don’t have access. So to say that they can’t game because of where they live seems almost bordering on discrimination.
But even if you do have access, you may be like myself & still think it’s completely asinine to require people to be online all the time to play anything. I mean, the idea worked so well for Diablo 3, didn’t it? The servers never went down, blocking people out from the game. Single-player games never lagged. And hundreds of fans weren’t royally ticked off, resulting in normally loyal gamers to resort of piracy just to play the game they’d been waiting for. Sarcasm aside, there are real issues with the longevity of games under this system. No publisher can or will maintain a given server indefinitely. And if shutting a server down now takes down both single & multiplayer, you’re going to have a lot of games that become useless. No longer will you be able to pop in an old favorite.
But by far the biggest upset is about the activation codes which would essentially eliminate the second-hand game market. No specifics have been discussed, but it’s assumed the system is similar to the one Sony patented a while back. Based on my limited tech understanding, the system (called digital rights management or DRM) works by requiring a code to be input when you first play any game, similar to the online codes we see now. However, instead of unlocking access to some features, this code creates a permission tag which gets connected to your player ID, essentially unlocking the entire game for your console only. Based on what I read, the Sony patent allows for temporary use on other consoles. The exact wording is, “A temporary use is permitted to the reproduction device, which does not have the legitimate right of usage, on the condition that the number of temporary uses is within a predetermined maximum allowable number (e.g., five times).” This basically means you could play your game on a friend’s system for some predetermined amount, either a number of times or a time limit.
I don’t think I really need to explain why so many people, myself included, aren’t thrilled about this possibility. This basically gives publishers a monopoly on the game market. No more evil used games. Only people who buy their games brand-spanking new get to play them.
So do I actually believe the rumors? Not really. As I said before, I don’t trust anything where the person doesn’t say who they got the information from. Now I know that in journalism you want to have the latest news, & to do so you must have sources on the inside, & said sources are only your sources if they remain anonymous. But I still don’t trust it. I could say I have sources telling me things, but that doesn’t make them true.
It would probably be most accurate to say I hope these rumors aren’t true & that Microsoft isn’t stupid enough to really be considering these things. First of all, the whole always-being-online thing won’t work. It’s simply impractical to require publishers to maintain servers for every single game they publish. I have no idea what the cost of maintaining a server is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not cheap. If anything, this will just hike the price of games up even more than they’ll probably already jump for the next cycle. There’s also the issue with this making games obsolete after a server’s been taken down. Unless Microsoft is going to require servers to remain open forever, once a server’s taken down there’s no reason for anyone to buy the game since you can’t play it. This cuts into the publishers’ precious bottom line. And finally, I don’t really see Microsoft doing this unless it becomes the industry standard. Because if Microsoft requires this but, say, Sony doesn’t, not only are you going to have publisher’s preferring the alternate because it’s cheaper to publish on, but it gives the consumer the option to buy the game on a different system, again threatening Microsoft’s profits. In business you try to lure clients to you, not drive them away.
The activation codes are also a bit shaky when you think about it logically. First of all, from my reading, Sony hasn’t announced that DRM will be on the Playstation 4. They’ve merely patented the technology. Also, there has been no word on Microsoft developing such a system. While it may be that they were just keeping it a secret, the consoles always seem quick to announce when they’ve come up with a feature similar to their competition. Also, it seems like it would be some sort of violation of consumer rights for a company to dictate what I do with a product once I’ve purchased it. A fact publishers seem to forget is that they no longer own the product once I’ve paid them for it short of copyright infringement or making a profit off it. And I think we all agree making $5 back on a $60 game is not a profit by any stretch of the term.
There’s no point getting upset about this just yet. Not until Microsoft announces anything officially. However, I will say that if these functions are real, I predict the downfall of the XBox… & possibly even console gaming if they continue down this trend. Publishers need to stop trying to screw over their consumers & focus on ways to keep them being loyal instead. Incentives v. punishment.
So will I buy the latest XBox if it has these features? Highly unlikely. Given that very few of the games I play on it are exclusive, I’d rather get them through Steam or otherwise on my PC if it means avoiding all of the other crap. Microsoft (& Sony) need to remember that they’re not the only game in town. Just because I prefer to go through them because I like the console as it is now doesn’t guarantee my continued support. And I think I can safely say the same is true for all gamers.
If you want to read the articles yourself, you can find them at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/121938-Rumor-Next-Xbox-Will-Require-Constant-Internet-Connection. There’s a link at the bottom of the article to the Edge Online piece as well.