Instead, last night, Microsoft proved that they really are stupid enough to do such a thing. The Xbox One requires a mandatory online connection every 24 hours in order for Microsoft to check your console for various possible updates (system, application, games). If the console does not make that check, then you get 24 hours of offline gaming before the console personally stops you from playing games on it. If you’re playing on your account on a different console, this is reduced to one hour. This is a design decision that a major… no, the number one console manufacturer in the market place today made in 2013. It boggles the mind.
Let’s take a moment to just think about who exactly is getting the shaft with this news. On the immediate end, we have armed service members and charities such as Child’s Play. Hard as this may be for Microsoft to believe, but Xboxes are very popular overseas as a recreational tool for those men and women fighting to keep us safe as a nice way for them to unwind after a stressful day. Similarly, Child’s Play is a fantastic charity that donates game consoles to hospitals with sick children in order to cheer them up. Both of these are services that depend on consoles that don’t require the Internet for their own various and individual reasons, they need consoles that let you play games offline. The Xbox One doesn’t allow that and so, consequently, is now completely useless to these people and seeing as these two sectors are excellent for the image of videogames in the public eye, that’s a giant image knock to the Xbox One right away. And don’t even get me started on those ordinary consumers who are unlucky enough not to have an Internet connection…
Further on down the line, think of the problems for those who do buy the console and have the Internet connection to play it. Say Microsoft shuts down their servers for a short while in order to perform maintenance. What normally is merely an inconvenience for most gamers is now the equivalent of being in an episode of 24. It’s a tense race against time as Microsoft need to get their maintenance done within the hour otherwise a large collection of gamers will be booted out of their single-player games. And say that maintenance lasts longer than that hour. Say it lasts a full day. That’s 100% of customers being forcibly kicked out of the games that they paid their hard-earned money to play. Think of the resentment caused by that one day of lost gaming.
And what if Microsoft get hit with the equivalent of the ApocalyPS3 that Sony did back in 2011. All of their servers brought down or shut down and no timeframe as to when they’ll be back online. That could be anywhere from a day to a week to two weeks to a month. A month where you can’t play any games on your Xbox One. Until those servers come back, congratulations, you’ve just blown anywhere from $300 to $500 on a big black box that you can watch TV on… something you can almost definitely already do with the TV sitting in your living room. But you can watch DVDs and Blu-Rays on it! Except that you probably already have separate dedicated devices for that express purpose, ones that likely perform that task better than the Xbox One would.
Let’s look even further down the line, say about 15 years from now. Say that you’re bored of the newest generation’s games and want to fire up the Xbox One in order to revisit a game you loved last generation. Say you’ve started up the console only to find that Microsoft shut down all of the servers because there was no economic sense to keep it running due to the new generation being the thing that all of the kids are buying into. Now you can’t play games on the Xbox One and, most likely, thanks to console manufacturers treating backwards compatibility like a disease that needs to be snuffed out soon as, you can’t play any Xbox One games anywhere ever again. That’s a whole generation of games and history that is now gone, lost to the ravages of time and never to be experienced by anyone again. Collectors will be left with just a very expensive box that can play DVDs and Blu-Rays. After all, do you really think that those TV deals will still be there in a decade’s time?
Finally, let’s go back a couple of years from that awful possible future to another, equally awful possible future. Try and think outside of the Internet for a moment. Think of the ordinary gamer, the one who doesn’t keep up with this sort of news or, even worse, does but simply just does not care. The ones who just want to buy the Xbox One so that they can play the latest Call Of Duty and Madden (in America) or FIFA (in the UK). These people, like it or not, are the mass gaming audience. These people will buy the Xbox One in force and, consequently, give Microsoft all of the incentive it needs to do it all again next generation. Cast your thoughts wider, though: What do other console manufacturers do when they see those Xbox One sales figures? If they’re highly successful, I bet my future fortune that everyone else would more than happily follow suit and program their next generation consoles with similar restrictions, because they know that, no matter how much the Internet complains, people will still buy the console they’re selling. Then, before you know it, these stupid restrictions will be the norm instead of the exception.
Essentially, by making these restrictions, Microsoft have made it so that you are not buying their console. What you are doing… Well, have you ever gone around to a friend’s house to play on their games console? You get to play it for a while but, after a certain amount of time, they kick you off of it because it’s not your console and you’re being a freeloader for trying to use your friend’s for so long? Yeah, it’s like that, except that the middle man has been cut out of the equation and you’re paying anywhere from $300 to $500 for the privilege of getting to play on Microsoft’s console for a short while at a time. You do not own the console anymore, you do not get to play games on your terms anymore. You’re playing on Microsoft’s terms, terms that can mean that they can take their ball away from you and go home whenever they feel like it. The ball that you paid money to play with. And if you don’t like it? Well, then Microsoft are pretty much telling you to get stuffed.
It’s such a horrifyingly stupid decision, one that makes so little commercial sense yet one that, worryingly, has a great shot at succeeding in the commercial marketplace in spite of common sense. Their games will be shiny enough that the mass public won’t care and the greedy, idiotic fuckwits at Microsoft will get away with it.
And that’s the worst thing of all to come out of this news story.