always on

Lately there have been a fair number of rumors that the next Xbox will require a constant internet connection. Yesterday there was even something of a kerfuffle when someone at Microsoft seemed to be telling the world #DealWithIt instead of addressing consumer concern in a real, non-hashtagged statement. I’m going to add my opinion to the fray on this one, and it’s not because I enjoy playing Xbox.

XboxThe reason that Microsoft wants an always-on connection is to reduce not only pirated games, but to control the second-hand game market. And by control I mean eliminate. They don’t want me to go to GameStop or Amazon to get a used copy because Microsoft doesn’t make any money on that. They plan to stop me from buying a used copy by making used copies unusable. Each game will be playable on only one console, and that console with be constantly hooked into the interwebs to make sure the DRM is properly managed.(1)

On the surface, I don’t care about that. My phone is always connected. My iPad is connected anytime I’m at home or at work…so most of the time. My problem isn’t with the Big Brotherish implications here. Microsoft can’t even design a decent, stable OS; they’re not going to develop a system to watch ever single thing every Xbox owner is doing.

The reason why my phone is always connected is different, though: it’s to help me. If I need to make a call, it’s ready. If I need to look up who’s winning a football game, it’s ready. I don’t have to boot-up, log-on, or log-in; it’s ready to go. The constant connection of the new Xbox won’t do anything to help me at all. I’ve been playing video games for thirty years without needing the internet. Instead, it’ll help Microsoft. And, in my experience, enforcing Digital Rights Management only constricts customers; it doesn’t help them in any real way.

Even all of that isn’t quite what concerns me. Here it is:

I am a fantastically slow gamer. I like to play games in which there is a ton of map to explore and nearly countless things to do. And I like to explore all of that map and do all of the things.(2) Gaming consoles have reached the point (or nearly have) that a given game might literally never end,(3) and games just get bigger and bigger with more and more things to do.

So I can literally spend a year or more playing the same game.

Because of the way I play, I don’t get around to a lot of games until they’re no longer making new copies. I would much rather buy new games, but, for example, there wasn’t a new copy of Mass Effect available. So I had to buy the used copy.

Were I to buy a new Xbox, I would have two choices: change my play-style, or buy games that I might get to in a year and that have no re-sale value if I don’t. Neither of these options are good. In fact, the only good option is not to spend the money on a new Xbox. And, you know? By comparison, the Wii U is looking better all the time.

So there’s my two-cents worth. Microsoft, the next move is yours.


  1. I’ve even read rumors that the game disks will only serve to load the games onto the Xbox.
  2. I once spent hours trying a reach a spot on a map that would allow me to uncover 100.4% of it. And, yes, that .4% was totally worth it.
  3. Skyrim would be perfect if the damn glitches wouldn’t render a character useless. Grr…
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