Discussion – The Next-Gen Console War: No Offline or Used Gaming Allowed

Xboxoneeventfotos3Earlier this week, Microsoft released new information about the upcoming Xbox One console, specifically about the topic of internet connectivity and used games. Since the reveal of the Xbox One last month, Microsoft has come under harsh criticism regarding its new policies on used games, as well as its new mandatory “always-on” policy of keeping the system regularly hooked up to the internet.

This week’s announcements sought to clarify just how Microsoft would be handling its new services, and frankly, it doesn’t cast any positive light on the new system:

  • The system NEEDS to connect every 24 hours to the internet. Once you go past that window without reconnecting your system, you will be unable to play games offline, even if you’re playing a single-player game.
  • “Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies.” Oh THANK GOD.
  • Disc-based games can only be given to people “who have been on your friends list for at least 30 days and each game can only be given once.” So it’s not as simple as loaning out your games to anyone you want.
  • On that note, this tidbit from Microsoft’s new policy: “Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.” What.
  • Certain retailers can take in used games, but with permission from the publisher.
  • Worried about the Kinect always being on as well? You can turn that off, according to Microsoft.
Xbox-360-Games

You don’t own games.
Games own YOU!

The thing that annoys me the most is the used game policy that Microsoft wants to implement. I get it – they’re trying to keep games from being pirated. But what they’re doing is adding steps that only hinder the experience of gaming. Gaming had and always will be a communal experience, and for me that involved taking my games over to a friend’s house so that we could play together. This new policy of theirs just adds hassle to what should be a fun experience. Hell, DVDs don’t have this level of security.

Another thing that bugs me immensely is the “always-online” policy that Microsoft is keen to push onto consumers. We live in the digital age, where a growing online network is slowly linking our everyday lives to the internet through social media. It’s only a matter of time before the internet becomes an absolute essential part of our lives. But I think Microsoft is jumping the gun a bit too early in thinking that gaming should always be connected to the internet.

Think about it: not everyone in the world has easy access to reliable high-speed internet. I only recently switched to Xfinity Internet after years of having dreadfully slow internet service from another cable provider, and even then I’m still paying a premium to keep my new high-speed service. But for college students and people who are simply on a budget, they can’t afford the luxury to upgrade.

To be fair, South Korea needs all that broadband to support their Starcraft tournaments...

To be fair, South Korea needs all that broadband to support their Starcraft tournaments…

The US only ranks 14th in the world in internet service. We don’t even rank in the top ten. We may have more landmass than most countries, but that makes it more difficult for good internet to reach all corners of the country. Japan and South Korea consistently rank in the top 3 for best internet, where the average broadband speed can reach above 40 mb/s on average. Not only that, they are able to get such fast internet speeds at relatively affordable prices. It’s hard fact that not everyone in the US can support online gaming or has access to reliable internet coverage. Google Fiber is still a long way from being implemented in the entire country, after all.

I don’t usually play online because, aside from the fact that I have no one to play with online, I don’t think its necessary. I mostly play single-player games and almost never feel a need to jump into multiplayer matches. So you can see why requiring the console to connect every 24 hours is a ridiculous requirement, especially since a failure to do so results in your console locking down and keeping you from doing anything except watch TV or movies. You know, the REASON I would buy a new Xbox in the first place: the games. In their mad quest to stay relevant with digital home entertainment and appeal to a casual crowd, Microsoft is pushing away its hardcore gamers and making the Xbox even less about gaming itself.

GaiKai-Streaming

Trying too hard?

What the big companies seem to be thinking right now is that in order to stay relevant and keep profits up, they must have their next consoles be the ultimate entertainment package. By taking their beloved gaming consoles and jamming features such as Twitter, “sharing” options, live TV, blu-ray and DVD compatibility, and internet capabilities, they’re hoping to appeal to a broader audience. It’s baffling to me that they aren’t even trying to capture to core audience, the gamers themselves, who have faithfully been around for years. It’s almost painful that Microsoft is ignoring the cries of its hardcore audience and pushing forward with their new policies.

The big question now is, will Sony follow suit and implement similar strategies regarding used games and online connectivity? Early reports seem to indicate that to be the case, as rumors have been floating around that Sony would also prevent used games from entering the market. If you’ve read my thoughts on the PS4 or listened to the podcast, you know that I’m strongly against this “anti-used gaming” stance that the big companies are taking, namely because it allows the publishers to keep you on a leash long after you buy a game. It gives them the power to choose who plays their games and even the possibility of banning individuals from playing a game. It’s atrocious in my opinion that the big companies are so paranoid about what happens to their games that they’ll go to great lengths to make sure that purchasing their game becomes a binding contract.

At the moment, Nintendo seems to be a glimmer of hope in the upcoming console wars. They have always been about giving the gamers what they want, and with all the news about Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles, all eyes are on Nintendo to see what they do next. With a plethora of great new games coming out this year, it looks like they’re aiming to bring back the hardcore crowd that they began losing during the Wii’s lifespan. Their loyalty to their core audience is admirable, and I truly hope that they never stop listening to their audience.

Lingering thoughts:

  • I didn’t go into a lot of detail, but what are your thoughts about the next generation of consoles?
  • Do you agree with Microsoft’s new policies?
  • Do you think Nintendo will come out on top in the end?
  • tl;dr this flowchart should help illustrate Microsoft’s new business strategy:

xb1

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8 responses to “Discussion – The Next-Gen Console War: No Offline or Used Gaming Allowed

  1. I think what they really want, when they implement the policy against the used games, is to make sure that only the one who paid them for the game can use it. I think that in the end they will make a reliable identification system that will be able to tell who is physically playing the game right now and then they will be able to give you access based on whether or not you paid for the game. This way you can play with your friends at their house, but you won’t be able to lend them your games.

    Btw, did they explain why they made this rule about internet connection and 24 hours window?

    • Even so, they are making it much more of a hassle than it should be by making it a requirement for your friends to be on your friends list for at least 30 days and to have reliable internet. They’re also being really vague with the whole “each game can only be given once”, which can mean anything from the literal to meaning that you can only give a game to a friend permanently once.

      As for the rule about no offline gaming after 24 hours, it is also a bit vague. The system is made so that it constantly checks for updates and to verify your game info (who you’re loaning it to, if it’s new or resold, etc).

      • Oh, I am not saying that what they are doing is good or justified. I just think that it is another step on the road to bind the the game and the user and to change the idea of buying games into the idea of buying user accounts for the game.

        • It’s an interesting concept, to be sure. I’m not completely onboard with it, but that’s just me.

  2. I’m not sure that Sony is going to follow Microsoft down the same self destruction path. Rumors are that Sony is learning from Microsoft’s mistake and abandoning their quest to kill used gaming. I don’t know how much to trust it, Sony fanboys make up a lot of talk to support their favorite company no matter how much Sony disappoints. My prediction is Nintendo will take the first place spot at first while Sony fumbles with a ps4 that’s too expensive for the market, and Microsoft witnesses just how much of a disaster the XBox One will be. After the price drop, the ps4 will take the top spot(at a much lower profit margin), and Nintendo will hold the number 2 spot until Microsoft cuts their losses and drops their always-on and anti-piracy software. Nintendo will once again be number one when it comes to profits, but will fade into obscurity when the other two companies get their act together. Just like last generation.

    • I’m sure Nintendo has learned their lesson from last generation, even if they are really slow on the uptake with things like online gaming. The thing that always dragged them down was strong third-party support, something that seems to have weakened in the years since the Wii first released. I agree that they will most likely have a strong lead once the next-gen consoles are released this year, but I think that the Wii U stay strong much longer than the Wii ever did, so long as Nintendo keeps delivering top-tier titles.

      Sony is a bit of a wildcard at the moment. They haven’t been as vocal with exactly what they want to do with used games, so it’ll be interesting to see what they have to say come E3. I’m sure the backlash against Microsoft will affect their announcement in some way. Still, Sony and Microsoft have been focusing less on games and more on creating the ultimate “entertainment system”, a message that seems to be alienating the hardcore gaming audience.

      • The problem is Nintendo’s system just isn’t competing in power, so they will always have trouble with third-party support. Gaming companies are building games around all of the possibilities that Microsoft and Sony systems offer, and then must determine if its worth while to make a lower-power version for Nintendo. What Nintendo needs is flexibility. They need to upgrade the WiiU when it becomes necessary. One of the biggest failures of the Wii was no upgraded models to like Microsoft and Sony made to offer the market greater capacities and exciting new designs. In fact, the creation of a Wii Shop channel that roots to the system, and can’t be transferred or recalled to a new system seemed to indicate that Nintendo didn’t WANT people to buy new systems from them. While this has been fixed in the Wii U, it hasn’t with the 3DS, and that reflects that in some ways, Nintendo still doesn’t understand their audience.

        While the multimedia aspect has been over-hyped, it’s not without some merit. You have to justify the logic behind purchasing your system over the alternatives. By consolidating devices into one system, people save money. I had a Wii at one point, but when I got bored as hell being limited solely to 1st party games, I decided to switch over to the big two companies. While I just slightly favored Sony’s lineup of games over the 360, the deciding factors were free online and especially the Blu Ray player. That Blu Ray player made the big difference.Having a few great exclusive games isn’t justification enough for many that we must purchase this system over the competitors. So it’s hardware over software.

        • Not only power, I wish Nintendo would have an actual controller. The tablet is cool, but nothing beats having a controller to play console games. My biggest problem was dealing with WiiMotes. Playing with motion control is way less accurate than having buttons to input. Fanboys (like me) aside, if Nintendo can stay on par with hardware and third-party support, they can pull in more hardcore gamers.

          Yeah, having everything on one system is convenient, I can agree. But things like internet browsers and Twitter always seems tacked on. Why use Twitter or Facebook on a console when I can do it on my computer, which is way faster.

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