Next week (Tuesday 21st May) is marked down in my calendar, it’s marked down as the announcement of the next-gen Xbox console or consoles; there could be a gaming one and a media player one. There’s a lot of rumours about this as there is with any tech announcement – just go to macrumours.com near Apple’s annual WWDC and it’s teeming with people speculating about the thickness of the next iPhone or iPad or the awful new iMac.
One major rumour that has flown around about the new Xbox (codenamed Durango) and the new Playstation is the ‘always on’ feature; it’s called a feature it’s more like a design flaw. What this means isn’t that the console has to be left turned on, what it does mean is that the console – or device – has to be connected to the internet at all times to work. For example a Google chromebook works from the cloud permanently and without the internet you have no access to anything you’ve made on it or even the applications.
This is a ‘feature’ i hope that is left out of the new Xbox (could be called the 720 or even infinite) as i believe it to be very limiting in todays current internet stage. Yes there are places and people that will have no problem with this in well connected areas, such as Google fiberhoods, capital cities, newly built housing etc but there are places without good Internet (Australia, New Zealand etc) and believe it or not some places don’t even have the internet; shock horror. This means you can’t play ‘offline’ a phrase coined to mean you turn on the console and play a game without being connected to the internet, tending to play on a campaign or a skirmish match that involves you and the console only (sometimes acting as the AI in the game as your opposition), you can’t play through Xbox Live or the PSN (playstation network). But this gives you a freedom if your internet isn’t working, or you might not even have internet; what if you move house and you don’t have it installed yet? That means you cant even use the console you paid money for, because Microsoft can’t shovel adverts in your face constantly on the xbox Live service YOU PAY £40 ANNUALLY FOR ALREADY, and also so they can regulate the games and who owns them by enforcing DRM (Digital Rights Management) through the internet – this is what is encoded into video and audio files to only work in certain areas/programs (audiobooks and movies in iTunes is a good example of this).
Now some people including ex-creative manager at Xbox, Adam Orth, think this isn’t a problem at all as ‘all devices are always on anyway now, thats the world we live in’ and ending that tweet with #dealwithit. Well Adam i’m glad you lost your job, you can say that because you’re a…were a…highly paid executive who can afford to have what they want when they want and when something falls through, you can throw money at a solution, not everyone can, most people can’t, if my internet dropped out for 3 minutes (the buffer time for the console to reconnect) and that forced me out of my offline game to go to a god-awful ‘troubleshooter’ i’d be pretty pissed off.
‘Deal with it’ isn’t something a company should use as a method of sidestepping a problem. Even if only 2% of your current audience have no or a bad internet connection then you still need to include those in the choices you make as they are your audience. To the company it might not mean much, but to the individual it means much more. I remember being at my family hone with a dreadful internet connection (Virgin media obviously) and being frustrated daily by being kicked out of Halo matchmaking, but if that shouldn’t stop someone being unable to use the console at all.
It’s the equivalent of a mobile phone being locked when you have no signal or iTunes not working if you haven’t signed into the store. It’s not the primary function or reason for the product so don’t limit it because of that. Hopefully Xbox (i don’t care about playstation personally) see sense and don’t include this so called ‘feature’.