What are your thoughts on an "always online" requirement for the new Xbox?

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Matt Barton
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Bill Loguidice
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"Confirmation" of NO to always on Next Xbox

I commented here: http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/5313#comment-30581

Comment re-pasted below:

Here's the story of the internal memo leak: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/05/microsoft-next-xbox-will-work-even...

Again, I didn't believe it from the first rumor simply because it's not a practical requirement for a box such as that.

On a related note, I should have mentioned the HDMI input in my original blog post analysis. That's a natural given its intention to work with your cable/satellite box. That's how my Vizio Co-Star (Google TV) box works. It intercepts the cable box signal before going to the TV, so it can overlay things and interact with the experience. Naturally, this Next Xbox should be able to do a lot more with that. That also means you won't need an extra HDMI input, which I personally greatly appreciate and was the motivating factor for me to spring for the Co-Star at the time.

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clok1966
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There is a point (one Bill

There is a point (one Bill has been trying to make I think too- see below on upside) yes, when Valve made us use steam we all cried like little kids. I uninstalled half Life 2 and did not play it for almost 3 months till a "fix" came out. I was not a STEAM users until there was a EVERYTHING Valve pack for $99, i had to install STEAM to get it. And used it ever since. at first very grudgingly. I was one of the "no way" people on half Life 2.. Even today Im not a fan of it.. But in this case Forcing it on us has evolved how I buy games and use them, and while I'm not fan, it does work. Sometimes you have to force the NEW onto us OLD users so we can see the upside. I have not doubt when you have a good internet connection they will provide some reasons to like it.. My point has never been it wont be ok and useful, but that the ability to NOT use it sometimes is not good. it might be a small, but there will be users who cant have an always on connections. completely eliminating them seems harsh when I cant find a Reason it HAS to be always on.

BitWraith
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Steam...

clok1966 wrote:
this is one thing nobody seems to get.. "trust VALVE" how can anybody trust them? and not Trust EA, etc.. Up till now we (most people who actually think) are distrustful of anybody related to large corporations/companies.. its just a fact, they are in it to make money. We are distrustful right up till we want something from said company, then we trust um .. But in Valves case the "worst" thing i can say they have done.. L4D2 was a stand alone instead of a expansion.. many bitched about this.. and VALVE for free.. added all the original maps fro L4D to L4D2, and has added other new maps too. They even tried to do this on the XBOX but MS has a rule on DLC and they HAD TO CHARGE or not release it.. We trust VALVE sop far because they have given us no reason not too in .. what, 10 years or more? I cant think of a singel company who hasnt screwed the end user in some way, that is where the natural distrust comes from.. VALVE makes misteps, but always fixes them in a way the end user benefits.. NOBODY doesn't make mistakes.. VALVE does just like everybody else, but when they do they fix them the right way. They make customers by making them happy, and giving them product.. most companies live by Product alone.. 'you got what you wanted" who cars if it was done nice or easy..

In the interest of fairness - I remember when Half Life 2 came out (one of my very favorite games). Valve announced that Steam was required to play and the community hit the freakin roof HARD. It speaks volumes for Valve as a company that they overcame this, because fans were out of blood.

They grew Steam because they did exactly what you're talking about in the majority of your post. They offered a service that was useful to the end-user. It needs work still, but Valve's vision for the service seems to be the right one. Its useful enough as a community, that we overlook the DRM features they do use. It benefits the software makers and the end user at the same time. Everyone wins.

I'm seeing more and more retail games using steam (Skyrim, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, among others). I'm so invested in Steam at this point that it's a welcome thing for me.

BitWraith
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Compatibility vs Availability

Bill Loguidice wrote:
The PC is in a unique position because of the Wintel platform, but the reality is, in nearly all other cases, at some point, there's a clean break to allow new technology to take hold. With that said, it's important to also keep in mind that this ability to run past software on the Wintel platform was not always as easy as it is now. Some software only worked on certain versions of Windows, or even just in a pure DOS environment. This compatibility due to emulation and other reasons is a relatively recent phenomena.

I acknowledge this point for sure. When I bought Windows 95 I had my fair share of "growing pains".

I was more talking about availability rather than compatibility. When Windows 18 comes out (operating under the assumption that Steam will still be running) I do not doubt that I will be able to at least download and try to install my games. If they're not compatible, the burden will most likely be on me to find a way to get it to run. At least I'll have the option, where as other platforms have none.

clok1966
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valve

BitWraith wrote:

I can assure you that when I buy a new gaming PC, all my Steam games wil be there. This is why Valve has everyone's trust, and EA doesn't, and why Steam will succeed where Microsoft, Nintendo, and EA's Origin will fail.

this is one thing nobody seems to get.. "trust VALVE" how can anybody trust them? and not Trust EA, etc.. Up till now we (most people who actually think) are distrustful of anybody related to large corporations/companies.. its just a fact, they are in it to make money. We are distrustful right up till we want something from said company, then we trust um .. But in Valves case the "worst" thing i can say they have done.. L4D2 was a stand alone instead of a expansion.. many bitched about this.. and VALVE for free.. added all the original maps fro L4D to L4D2, and has added other new maps too. They even tried to do this on the XBOX but MS has a rule on DLC and they HAD TO CHARGE or not release it.. We trust VALVE sop far because they have given us no reason not too in .. what, 10 years or more? I cant think of a singel company who hasnt screwed the end user in some way, that is where the natural distrust comes from.. VALVE makes misteps, but always fixes them in a way the end user benefits.. NOBODY doesn't make mistakes.. VALVE does just like everybody else, but when they do they fix them the right way. They make customers by making them happy, and giving them product.. most companies live by Product alone.. 'you got what you wanted" who cars if it was done nice or easy..

The change to all digital might be the future.. I'm not convinced yet.. Like all changes quite often the first version is not the best. the all digital , always on model is not a good one In my opinion.. The example of a MP3 purchase.. There is no reason in the world that once purchased you shouldnt be able to download it again at some time for free.. its not solid goods where it takes up shelf space.. rent on buildings, etc.. that MP3 is on a server and its there for NEW purchases anyways.. Now if you want to talk about the bandwidth used to redownload it.. that is a different matter. Buying a MP3 and saying it can only be redownloaded a couple times a year for free is understandable (though i doubt something like that can effect bottom line in any real way). If software companies can do it with games.. which are 1000X larger MP3 sure should be able too.

I'm still firmly in the "if we don't accept it, they cant do it" frame of mind.. You want me to switch to the new model (digital), give me compelling reasons, not ultimatums ...not F_U, if your not online you cant play.. if you lose it, you buy it over.. when DIGITAL clearly favors the company.. direct sales, no middle man, no physical goods, no storage for product.. its like they took developing a game and the (example numbers are all bunk, just examples) cost per unit in boxed form was $10, the middle man gets $10, the Shipping is $5, the store gets $5 which leaves the dev (and publisher)$25 to split.. now we go digital.. and direct download.. or STEAM ... if Direct you pocket $50.. bonus of $25.. (of course there are servers and bandwidth, but I bet its less then $5 a game on that) you made more money.STEAM gets 30% but covers all downloads and servers so you are still up $10 the original $25 plus $10... and yet you want me to pay the same? and give me no benefits? On consoles where physical media has been the norm, you got instant play, throw disc in and go.. no wait time to download.. and I cant see release day being to wonderful on an all digital console.. PC makers who have been doing it for 10+ years still cant get it right.. nothing better then halo 13 coming out and my download takes 3 days..

i want an upside for me to move to this system.. VALVE has the best currently, is it the best overall.. I doubt it, something better will come along.. I can remove and add games at will, I can play offline once I set game to be available (when online, this one gets many as they don't think about it till the net is down, and you cant then). I can use it on as many computers as i want but can only be logged into ONE at a time. Valve has said it will "try" (again there are no promises, so dont say it will be) make all games useabel if they ever go offline, but it will then be up to user to backup and save.

So if VALVE is the current best.. I cant accept crap much worse and say its an improvement.. (origin) and when console makers try this , they need to improve it, not devolve it.. Till we see how they work, we cant judge.. but always on is the first misstep, again if its true.. The making old catalog items available for a fee is a HUGE step in the right direction and could negate a few ugly steps.. But i keep saying , why do shitty things.. and some good ones.. why not all good ones so I WANT to use it.. not.. I will use it cuz it has some good stuff.

The always on thing.. lets just think about it.. I want to stream or download or play a multiplayer game.. YES its got to be online.. I buy a game, you want to make sure its legit, i have to be online so you can check the disc and verify it legit.. YES, no problem... You want me online to check for UPDATES once and awhile no problem. But i buy game, you decide i bought it by a online check.. now i want to play it at my lake cabin (people who watch TV and play games at a lake cabin should be shot.. but some of us have kids.. and they want to play).. and i cant.. is there one solid reason why? I had you make sure its not a pirate game, leave me alone now.. there is no upside to me being online during a SOLO play.. heck you dont need me online 24/7 to keep tack of me activities even, you can build that in and upload it on a connection.. I just see NO reason for it.. especially when there are several reasons not to.. while I wont argue many of us will never have an issue with it.. some will and that to me is reason enough to not do it.. if its not good for end users, its not good unless its REQUIRED.. and its not in this case, that i can see. This is just a shove to big brother us more, and if we accept it.. it will be the norm.. we will be the ones to blame..

Bill Loguidice
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It's not quite so cut and dry

BitWraith wrote:

I can assure you that when I buy a new gaming PC, all my Steam games wil be there. This is why Valve has everyone's trust, and EA doesn't, and why Steam will succeed where Microsoft, Nintendo, and EA's Origin will fail.

First off, it's not a given that past purchases won't carry over at some point. It's true for the most part with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft stuff on console, but it doesn't mean it has to stay that way. iOS and Android purchases (as well as the lesser mobile ecosystems) already carry over indefinitely, assuming the original developer bothers to update the app for compatibility (as needed) with newer versions of the OS/newer device types. The PC is in a unique position because of the Wintel platform, but the reality is, in nearly all other cases, at some point, there's a clean break to allow new technology to take hold. With that said, it's important to also keep in mind that this ability to run past software on the Wintel platform was not always as easy as it is now. Some software only worked on certain versions of Windows, or even just in a pure DOS environment. This compatibility due to emulation and other reasons is a relatively recent phenomena. The only REAL way of getting around the issue is to go the OnLive route or what Sony is going to do with the PS4, and that's stream the old stuff, while the new platform runs the new stuff natively. I know people don't like it, but that's the future where we can have our new cake and eat the old cake without compromising either experience. That's where a Netflix-like subscription to old content comes into play and that's where actual ownership of the bits becomes unecessary. To me, that potential PS Classics subscription for the PS4 is in the top three of most intriguing elements of the new platform. Instant access to past PS2/PS1 classics? (and eventually PS3) Sounds good to me.

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BitWraith
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New age of intellectual property rights.

All this adds up to a new dawn of companies charging their customers multiple times for the same content. The proverbial "they" have been wanting this you a long time, and they're on the cusp of getting it.

For decades, we were told "don't copy that floppy, cd, dvd, etc". The reason is a sound one: You don't purchase the actual movie / game / song, but you purchase the RIGHT to listen / watch / play the product. We are told the delivery medium that gets you your content is irrelevant - you have the right to watch that movie, but cannot transfer that right to someone else.

By those rules, I have purchased rights to a whole lot of content. Now-a-days, I understand it's impossible for me to prove to whoever owns the rights that I purchased "Nirvana: Nevermind" on cassette tape, and, as such, have purchased the right to listen to the music. For convenience, I purchased it on iTunes, and I now have a digital copy.

Companies are changing their stance because the old line doesn't work for modern profits. Apple tells me to "back-up your purchases because once the mp3s are gone, they're gone." Apple has a very real record of my purchase, and they're telling me that the MP3 files themselves are what has value? Forget the cloud service - cause I'm not paying for that. I should be able to log into any copy of itunes and play whatever songs I have purchased.

Other companies are frothing at the mouth to get a piece of the Apple Model. The Wii U is just the start in the video game space. Nintendo has, keeps, and regularly references your purchase history on their online store. There is no reason, besides wanting to sell duplicate copies of software, to limit the content to one console.

Microsoft is edging themselves into this same scenario. I still play my PS2 from time to time, and I'm sure that by the same point in its life-cycle, the 720 will be shut-down in order to drive consumers to buy the newest physical hardware. All of your digital purchases will go right along with it, because the new XBox will not support any backwards compatibility for digital files or physical copies.

I can assure you that when I buy a new gaming PC, all my Steam games wil be there. This is why Valve has everyone's trust, and EA doesn't, and why Steam will succeed where Microsoft, Nintendo, and EA's Origin will fail.

Bill Loguidice
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Open mind

Matt Barton wrote:

I'm not quite as scared as others about how a game could be shuttered. If it's a popular product, there would likely be unofficial versions or rogue serves where you could go play it despite what the publisher wants. At least if you're talking PCs. I do think consoles are in a better position to enforce that kind of nonsense, though even there, if things get too restrictive, savvy consumers will respond by making illegal modifications and so on. I'm sure a pirate group could figure out easily enough how you could mod your new xbox to avoid the always-on checking, for instance. The question is, how difficult would it be for Joe Gamer to do that, and would it ruin the box for sanctioned use after?

I think there's always a way. For instance, Sega long ago got out of the console business and shuttered servers, yet it's still possible to play the Dreamcast's online games thanks to enterprising individuals. The same goes for playing certain original Xbox games online, like Steel Battalion and what-not. If there's demand or a sufficiently dedicated user community, there may very well be a way. I seem to recall something similar happening with the AOL game Neverwinter Nights, at least for a time. At some point, it's time to move on, I guess, but the point is, it's not always the end.

With all that said, we are talking mega-corporations for the most part here and it's highly unlikely they'll be going away for the usable life of the service(s), and that also assumes that if they did someone else wouldn't take up the operation (which, let's face it, should get easier as networking technology continues to improve). As is often the case, there's also the aforementioned backdoor, whether it's the hypothetical master Steam switch, giving heads up to download your stuff (when GoG did their gag), or credit. A service's death sentence does not necessarily mean it's the end. Again, growing pains and all that, and we'll work through many of these issues going forward. Being in the middle of the process can be a bit scary, though, but in the end, we'll still want to play the best games on the best platforms, so if the roadblocks are not too severe, we'll still ultimately want to/NEED to play...

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Matt Barton
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I think Bill makes a good

I think Bill makes a good point. I have a bunch of DVDs and even some VHS tapes around that I never watch.

Amazon has recently started offering a deal where you get a CD if you pay a few extra dollars buying an MP3 album. I've done it twice so far. My car stereo doesn't have an audio input, so that's the only place where I still actually have to use CDs, so I get them for that. Outside of this special usage, though, I don't know why I would ever trade the convenience of Amazon cloud player for a physical CD. I definitely wouldn't want to carry around a CD case or anything like that.

I'm not quite as scared as others about how a game could be shuttered. If it's a popular product, there would likely be unofficial versions or rogue serves where you could go play it despite what the publisher wants. At least if you're talking PCs. I do think consoles are in a better position to enforce that kind of nonsense, though even there, if things get too restrictive, savvy consumers will respond by making illegal modifications and so on. I'm sure a pirate group could figure out easily enough how you could mod your new xbox to avoid the always-on checking, for instance. The question is, how difficult would it be for Joe Gamer to do that, and would it ruin the box for sanctioned use after?

What worries me is the Sim City debacle. The fact that EA failed so utterly with such a high-profile game really says something about how premature this concept is, and Sim City is just a molecule compared to the demand a new Halo, Madden, or Gears would have on a new console. Imagine what would have happened if all those millions who bought Halo 4 were unable to play their game for months on end.

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BitWraith
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Shutting Down...

I have no doubt that Origin will disappear sometime in the future, and I have no doubt we'll lose every game that's tied to it. This is why I avoid games that are tied to the service.

On Steam - someone asked Gabe about this in an interview a while back (I can't find the link, will keep looking). He said they had talked about a kill-switch which would release all your purchases from the Steam DRM. I realize that's just talk, but I trust Valve until they give me a reason not to.

Microsoft is officially no longer selling a product, but rather a service. A service can be terminated at any time. On the 360 side of things, I have spent thousands on stuff for that console - some of which I'm going to want to revisit again in the future. I spend an inordinate amount of time playing older games.

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