Editorial: Why ‘Always On’ Turns Me Off

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The flurry of rumors surrounding the Playstation 4 and NextBox announcements for the incoming new generation of consoles are in full force. Things have escalated as of late, however, with whispers spreading that the upcoming XBox console will be required to be always on in terms of internet connectivity for firing up games and apps. The issue was exacerbated a couple days ago when Microsoft’s Creative Director Adam Orth not only did not deny these rumors, but defended them, and told Twitter to #dealwithit.

Now all rumors that “these rumors are fake to hype up the Microsoft announcement” aside, I’m going to tell you why the idea of an ‘always on’ console really turns me off.

Deal With It

1. Not everyone has a reliable internet connection

I live on an island on the East Coast of Canada. It’s windy, and snowy, and the majority of the island is populated by moose and tiny little towns that literally still do not have an internet connection. If a console requires an always on connection, I’m guaranteed to not be able to use it probably 25% of the time I want to use it. Weather and location regularly at least interrupt the internet for ~5 minutes. Cyrus says it best: Technology should make it easier to play games. Not more difficult.

The rumor is you get three minutes to fix your internet before the Xbox kicks you off and you lose your game. That has “rage induced blackouts and broken controllers and televisions” written all over it. I understand what Microsoft could be going for if this rumor is true – like Sony, they want everyone to be connected. But it’s the wrong approach to it.

Sony, on the other hand, comes at the internet and connectivity aspect in gaming in a different, and already more successful way. By focusing more on social connection and sharing vs. technological “progress”, the Playstation 4 can have the best of both worlds – connecting gamers with other gamers, and maintaining usability in any internet down time.

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2. Bandwidth usage/cost

I don’t know about you, but I’m broke. I can’t afford the top notch speed/GB whatever package for my internet service. I pay for my usage, and if I go over my limit then I pay a LOT more (a hard lesson to learn when I first got Netflix). Being continuously connected for me sounds like dollar signs that I do not have, and potentially means I can’t play a game I want when a financial choice becomes choosing between going over my bandwidth usage or eating next week. And I’m not alone in this – gamers come from all walks of life, and some can’t even afford internet at all, let alone the usage costs to use it continuously. Making it necessary is a poor marketing choice, and could be off-putting to the Playstation advantage.

3. Degraded gameplay

We all know what happened with the Diablo III and SimCity releases – the servers couldn’t handle the launch one influx of players. And the wait time to play a single player game was not only long, but not easily forgotten. EA and Maxis even offered up free games in order to compensate for the horrible day one impression. A constantly connected console only poses to have even more issues.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been playing a game on my Playstation when my internet connection has hiccuped and I’ve been signed out of PSN, but it’s enough to notice. However, no matter how many times my internet cuts out on me, I have yet to lose a single hour of Ni No Kuni or Tomb Raider gameplay. I don’t want to risk losing checkpoints, items, levels, or saves because the wind picked up outside.

Lag already pisses me off enough, but the thought of losing my place in a single player game is not a risk I want to take as a gamer.

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The biggest issue I have with Adam Orth’s examples of why it’s not a big deal is that they don’t relate to gaming. There are things I expect to need an internet connection for. I get that I can’t use Netflix without internet, or that my vacuum cleaner wont work without electricity. But I’ve been gaming for over 20 years without a dedicated internet connection. I know it can work without one. And changing that now is a big deal.

And honestly, sometimes when I’m playing Hannah Montana for shameful trophies, I want to do it offline and alone. I don’t need anyone to see that.

Luckily, you won’t have to #dealwithit if they do go “always on”. You can #Playstation instead.

Discuss:

What do you think about constant connectivity in a console? Does it turn you off? And can it really add anything substantial to your gaming experience? Let me know in the comments below!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Avi-Patel/100002076529431 Avi Patel

    or maybe this always-online thing isn’t what we think it is.
    it could be something like ps4′s sleep mode.

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    let’s hope it’s more palatable then what everyone is assuming it is now. only time will tell!

  • jbond

    Another issue to consider regarding bandwidth is how many other people are using the internet connection in your residence….For me personally, there are 4 other people running laptops/tablets and all these devices being on the internet would certainly pull down the bandwidth (increasing lag); But if the console has to always be on, it means when I just want to play single player game I’ll need to be pulling bandwidth that could be going to other devices in the household.

    I just don’t like not having the option, and I think in this day and age of technology, we SHOULD have the option.

  • http://twitter.com/JenGlaser Jenni Glaser

    I was reading up about this ‘always online’ thing yesterday, and it kind of seemed like it was going to be similar to what they did with D3, which I’m not excited about. It makes me feel like the only way I’ll be any good at next gen games or have good gear is if I give them constant, 24hr attention, and I LOVE games, but I also have a life. In any case, the Microsoft exec’s comments and the possibility of of ‘always on’ has kind of ‘turned me off’.

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    excellent point!

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    agreed. It’s not my main console anyway, but if it was I would most likely jump ship over this. I don’t have the bandwidth or the internet stability for it.

  • http://twitter.com/JenGlaser Jenni Glaser

    I’m considering it. I won’t be buying any nextgens until they go down in price anyway, so luckily by then there will be lots of reviews and opinions out that I can go by.

  • http://twitter.com/Ziggyziggz David Craig

    Yes, agreed with all of this assuming “always on” is what the internet thinks it means. I’ll withhold my opinion until I see some ‘official’ news, besides someone “not denying” something. Good article, good job pal!

  • Lemon

    The big difference here is the word ‘mandatory’. Sony’s approach doesn’t require a connection to use the device, but it can enrich your experience if it does have an always on connection. The difference is that the Msoft rumours point to a system that needs to be connected in order to function. Nobody should really be worried about their Internet not meeting the challenge. We should all be worried about their servers. Every MMO launch has issues. Every always on single player game had issues (D3, Sim City, Ubisoft DRM). Even big always on services have issues (Steam’s beta days, PSN hack).

  • smackbo

    I think this always on thing is just a way to verify that you are playing a properly registered game .. The used game business is killing these game companies so microsoft is most likely going to force registering all games in order to increase their licensing fees forcing game developers to pay more by promising higher sales for game developers

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    Yea, the bandwidth is something really big to consider. Maybe not quite yet but a lot of US providers have placed caps on their connection. Say 100GB or 200GB. If games are more based on streaming, downloading vs. purchasing and then gaming online, and streaming movies etc. you can see where hitting the roof gets closer and closer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/murat.pepper.1 Murat Pepper

    Why can’t everyone just go to pc? I’ve been a avid Xbox 360 owner since 2005 well, needless to say I’ve gotten tired of in menu advertising for something I pay a yearly subscription 59.99 a year. Xbox 360 went out the door and 120+ games with a crap ton of accessories. Problem solved bought guns with all that money and I don’t have to see in menu advertising for something I already pay a yearly subscription on. Now, they want to have their cookie and cake Holy poppy cock! Glad I went pc/ps3! Hopefully the PS4 will dominate this next gen batch. I’m really rooting for it! Last gen it’s clear who the winner is Xbox but, I think once Xbox gamer’s crossover to PS3 or PS4 the days of Microsoft being a contender in the gaming business are over. Read the article where key wall street forecaster predicts Xbox 720 doomed. All good things come to an end and I see Halo moving to another console in about 3 to 4 years once people are fed up with what Microsoft is shoveling.

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    Well certainly Halo won’t be moving over as it’s owned by Microsoft but the idea of a game like that is as Bungie is now developing ‘Destiny’ for PS3 and PS4 (as well as 360 and 720)

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    For you Jenni, what price is a good price to jump in at?

  • http://RicardoFeliciano.me/ Ricardo N Feliciano

    Don’t even bring up the SimCity release. I’m still fuming -.-

    I love the always on concept in the sense that a computer, be it a PC or game system, should be able to constantly update things or check for things, etc in the background, oblivious to the user. (yes I do have a great Internet connection though ;)

    The fact that SimCity REQUIRES an Internet connection regardless if you are playing online, is ridiculous. That fact that Microsoft would consider this position, is even stupider when you can clearly see evidence that similar attempts in the industry just don’t work.

    Honestly, apart of me hopes this is true. The PS4 will become legendary just from some of the out-lash. I think Sony could do with some of the lost gamers coming back to the platform.

  • http://twitter.com/rustyshell rustyshell.com

    do we know what always on means yet? i dont like the thought of what it could mean because I am in australia. you want to talk about pathetic internet? come down here. i would like to see some official announcements too.

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    me too – of course right now it is all speculation, so I am interested in seeing an offical announcement come from the Microsoft side!

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    I understand that, but there has to be a less intrusive way to limit the second hand/ pirated games use than constant internet connection. A game code, or even a connection to start the game but not necessarily needed the full way through.

  • smackbo

    A license code like they do on PC’s would work .. But what a pain in @$$ haha

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    Basically meaning, no internet connection = no gameplay. Even single player

  • http://twitter.com/Klawtaurus Papa Derp

    You do think fankids who live in Kansas City with Google Fiber care? Probably not but every else? Yup! Besides have you noticed that even when your playing a single player game your most likely signed into PSN or XBL anyways?

  • http://twitter.com/Cerajoy CeraTopz

    you might be signed in yes, but the issue becomes when you HAVE to be. my internet frequently cuts out and signs me out of PSN or XBL when I’m playing – if I had to rely on that for single player games I would not be a happy camper

  • smackbo

    I don’t think that it will knock you off if you lose your connection during the game .. I’m pretty sure its just an authorization thing that happens when you select the saved game you want to play .. Its going to be such a minor thing that you won’t even notice if you currently have your xbox hooked up to your isp

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    No, ‘Always On’ means that if you are not connected to the web, you will be kicked off. Even for single player. Now there is no 100% confirmation that MS will go with this but if they do, that is what ‘Always On’ means. Ala Sim City. No web = no single player.

  • http://twitter.com/JTMGames JTM Games

    If this is true and the NextBox will require constant connectivity, then it’s pretty much killing Microsoft’s chances of dominating outside of the major cities where internet connection is more stable. Then as Sarah mentioned, here in Canada internet providers price gouge the hell out of their consumers so something like this will affect our GB per month limit.

    Also being always on makes you even more susceptible to more than your usual racism, bigotry, and hate spewed on Live. I’m not sure I want any part of that. At least with Xbox 360 I can just disconnect from the net and play without being annoyed by some whiny kid.

  • http://twitter.com/JenGlaser Jenni Glaser

    I don’t have a set limit like “I’ll only pay 200 for a console, and never any more.” It depends on where they start – I mean I can’t predict what the market value of next gen consoles are going to be, especially since I don’t know what they’re going to feature. For me, it’ll probably be the first price cut, or the first good sale.

  • http://RicardoFeliciano.me/ Ricardo N Feliciano

    That’s kinda fair. For me, depending on what I’m getting it for, I usually wait till the developers are making it their primary target for their new games. In my opinion, that was a year or more for the PS3.

    Games that are made for the previous system, and just ported to the newer system don’t utilize the new hardware as they should.

  • http://www.about.me/sohrabosati Sohrab O.

    That sounds like a fair game plan. Are there any specific features that you want from next gen?

  • http://twitter.com/JenGlaser Jenni Glaser

    That’s a good point too. I’ve got a backlog of 360 games that I need to play, so there’s no point in buying a new system if there’s nothing good coming out for it

  • http://twitter.com/JenGlaser Jenni Glaser

    Most of the stuff I’d want is Xbox specific. You know, like maybe some blu-ray, or better voice activation for the Kinect. Improved storage capabilities would be nice (this 16 gigs thing is crap; there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to use a 100gig device if I choose). Maybe a greater sync capacity with my computer, like what Apple’s got going on with its devices. I haven’t really thought about it until you asked though – there’s probably stuff I’m missing.

  • smackbo

    Windows phone works pretty good with the 360. But i agree, if the new box is going to be always on it should have a bunch of memory available at a decent cost