An Analysis of the Latest Next-Gen Xbox Rumours

So today’s big “Next Gen Console” rumour is in regards to the next Xbox and how it will allegedly require an always on Internet connection in order to use.The idea being that this will stamp out the used game market by doing… something.  Everybody’s very hazy on the specifics of how that effect would come into fruition.  Whatever, it’s bullsh*t.  Those rumours are untrue and I have three very sound reasons as to why.  So; sit back, relax and calm yourself down with these legitimate reasons as to why such technology will not be in the next Xbox.

And if, for some Maker forsaken reason, there is that technology in the next Xbox; then I’ll upload an embarrassing video of myself singing “Hot In Herre” by Nelly.*

1] Not everyone’s connected to the Internet

“No Internet? They must live like savages!”

I know that it doesn’t seem like it thanks to our continued attempts to create the illusion of a fully-connected, always online world; but it is true.  Either due to their location or their lack of funds or just not particularly wanting it, some people don’t have the Internet but still buy and play games.  I’m not going to delude myself into believing that it’s a big number, but it’s a number nonetheless and I don’t think that Microsoft would want to lose that slice of potential buyers.

Also, along a similar line, children.  Children play videogames, that much is obvious, but they are not allowed access to the Internet – look, I know that most parents are terrible and allow their younglings to roam the Internet as they please, just go with it for this article, OK?.  Now, children are a very large and important market or, more specifically, the beleaguered parents forced to buy games and consoles for said children (lest they face the wrath of angry whiney children) are a very large and important market.  You make your console Internet required and you immediately remove the stigma that children can use it; you make it seem like a grown-up device and, suddenly, you cut off a large audience sector.

What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make very good business sense to restrict your new product’s potential consumer base by forcing you to have an Internet connection when not everybody has one or wants one.  It’s not good business at this time, plain and simple.

2] The technology is just not there yet

Imagine this but on a much larger scale.

Do you remember which developer tried such an always-on DRM – let’s stop dancing around the issue, folks; the topic of the rumour is whether the new Xbox is going to have pre-owned DRM or not – technique a few years back?  It was Ubisoft, and I think we all remember how that turned out. (If you’ve forgotten, it failed miserably almost every single time with the only people it harmed being the honest game-buying public and not the pirates it set out to stop.)  Now, granted that was for piracy and it was on PC but the point still stands.  The technology to allow such an always-on service is just not ready right now.

Imagine paying £40 for a brand-new, 14-hour, single-player experience.  You bought that game and took it home to play for a good while.  You get home, put the disc in the console, load it up…  Only to be greeted with a screen saying, “Sorry, our servers are down at the moment and you cannot play your game until they return.  We apologise for the inconvenience.”  Boom; until those servers return, you’ve just spent £40 on a luxury coaster.  And what if you’re halfway through a particularly difficult boss fight or emotional story scene… only for your connection to die and to be booted from the game with no warning and no chance to save.  Doesn’t matter if it only dropped for five seconds and then came back perfectly fine, you can say goodbye to all your hard work since your last save.

That’s what players of Assassin’s Creed II had to deal with and, quite simply, it’s bullsh*t.  The used game market is a problem, I agree to a certain degree, but this is absolutely not the way to go about fixing it.  All you’re doing is punishing everyone who plays your game.  Plus, again, Internet connections and net servers are not yet good enough to run with a stable connection 24/7.  And if you can’t do that, then you are setting yourself up for a major fall.

The technology is too much of a risk, right now, which is why the Internet requirement won’t show up in this console.

3] The backlash would be enormous, almost deadly

When you announce a new console, you want positive buzz.  After all, you’ve just announced a new console.  If people aren’t raving like mad for it and practically tripping over each other to get their pre-orders in, then you have cocked up big time.  It takes something majorly off-putting to turn people off of your shiny new toy.  Sony managed to do it with the PlayStation 3’s extortionate $599 initial price tag (amongst many, many, many other missteps at their 2006 E3 press conference).  Nintendo did it with the 3DS thanks to a stunningly poor launch line-up and a relatively high price tag.

Those would be nothing compared to the extreme backlash that would be caused by a reveal that the newest Xbox required an always-on online connection that stopped used games from being playable.  Think of the utter sh*tstorm that would engulf the Internet the very second that that information got out and the mass boycotts started being promised (whether they actually follow-through is irrelevant for this article).  Congratulations, you’ve just lost at least half of your potential target audience.  Yes, you’ve still got the casuals, the people who only buy an Xbox for either Call Of Duty and FIFA or Kinect games, but you cannot sustain yourself purely on the people who purchase a console just for two games a year.

As I’ve said repeatedly, it does not make good business sense to limit your consumer base and it makes even less sense to piss off your most hardcore supporters and followers who have been there since day one of the original Xbox.  To implement this feature right now, at this time and for this coming generation, is absurd and causes all manner of issues.  This is not even mentioning download speeds or how retail stores would react to Microsoft’s attempts to curb the pre-owned market or how much positive free advertising this gives PC gaming… all very likely to tank your system before it has a chance to get out of the starting gates.  I see it happening eventually, but this year or next year (when the system is most likely to launch)?  Nope, not happening.  So everybody calm down for this rumour is almost certainly false.

I bet my dignity on it.

*If said rumours do turn out to be true, Callie Petch will not actually post a video of themselves singing along to “Hot In Herre” by Nelly.  Sorry to get your hopes up.

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