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Can Always Online Benefit Microsoft? Why Yes It Can

og:image:, microsoft, always online

With the recent rumblings about how the next generation console from Microsoft will always require an internet connection, there has been increasing public outcry. We’ve seen it in leaked developer specs, we’ve seen Microsoft “employees” talk about it, and with every whisper and rumor it becomes closer to becoming a reality. But how can this possibly be good for Microsoft when the only thing their biggest competitor needs to do is not suck?

There has already been a landslide of comments over Twitter and YouTube from aggravated gamers denouncing the idea of an “always online” console and asserting their intention never to buy one. And why should they? The upcoming PS4 from Sony has already shown it has grown beyond its rather solitary online experience, which many claim is the major fault of the PS3, and has had absolutely no word of an “always online” requirement. In the eyes of the Internet, gamers already have an alternative to the rather unpopular requirements Microsoft is pushing onto their next gen systems.

So why would Microsoft, as we gamers perceive, make such a big “mistake?” I have a theory and it’s a very simple answer: exclusivity. While this is purely speculation, I believe that this is a risk, albeit a large one, that Microsoft is taking for the benefit publishers. If Microsoft can get publishers on board with a contract to exclusively produce games for their systems, they can guarantee that problems such as used game sales and piracy will be a thing of the past. Many of the publishing giants have been struggling with these issues for the past generation, all with varying degrees of success. If Microsoft can promise that at no additional cost to publishers, they can get a slice of every sale of every copy of their games, I think they have strong position in the market.

always online drm, salesman

When it comes to it, the real deciding factor for success is going to rely on the consumer. I believe that if Microsoft is successful in getting these developer and publisher exclusives, they may be able to retain an audience, if not gain some, based on these exclusives alone. I cannot emphasize how big of a risk this is. There are so many factors that need to come in line in order for this to work out in Microsoft’s favor. With the increasing costs of development, publishers are going to want their games on as many systems as possible, regardless of that sale guarantee. I can, however, certainly see this being offset by having timed exclusives on Microsoft’s console, giving publisher’s a window of guaranteed sales for every copy played (no more day 1 rentals).

I believe Microsoft’s sales pitch for the next Xbox is going to be a complete entertainment service, which will require an internet service to function to its full potential. Along with media streaming, cloud storage and console exclusives. How well the new console actually does is in the hands of the consumers.

While this may seem a bit alarmist and complete bullshit (I admit, I’ve been speculating this entire time), I do think that this is Microsoft’s answer to the publisher’s pleas on stopping used game sales and reducing piracy. And the fact of the matter is, Microsoft doesn’t need “always online” for all operations of the console. That’s a requirement that, in theory, can be turned off or on based on what you want to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the “always online” thing dropped but have certain games require a persistent online connection in order to be played.

Comments

  • daethwing188 6 years, 8 months ago

    Bob, I've had largely the same thoughts on the topic. Truth be told, I don't care if they do end up being an 'always-online' system or not so long as I have largely the same quality of service as I'm getting currently with the 360 and Xbox Live. Additionally, if this is a move to pander to publishers, I can only hope that a possible outcome will be access to day-1 digital game downloads because I am tired of going to brick-and-mortar stores for games and I'm tired of discs and other physical media. Although I've already heard Microsoft's stance on 'gifting' points and games (NO!), it would be nice to see.

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  • ajdambro 6 years, 8 months ago

    And that was the day everyone preordered a PS4.

    Microsoft is walking on thin ice here with always online.

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  • Matt Ortega 6 years, 8 months ago

    You know what I find hilarious about this whole debacle? When this new console is released, it will likely get cracked similar to any other console currently. Hell, I bet someone will figure out a way to not only crack the console, but to also add in the ability to play used games.

    What I'm curious about is how fast this will happen. If I'm hyped for anything about the new Xbox, it's this. I can't wait to see this unfold.

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  • wing2k12 6 years, 8 months ago

    I'm only hyped to see what Microsoft shows for the next-xbox. I hope they don't wait too long.

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  • Kdbattletoad 6 years, 8 months ago

    Interesting read there. I just hope the truth will be told soon enough.

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  • FFRyan 6 years, 8 months ago

    I had the thought after the PS4 reveal of "If the next xbox has an always online thing and / or a no used games thing that developers would only publish on the xbox but all the consumers would buy a PS4 and everything would explode." Then I thought how silly that sounded, so I stopped thinking about it. These times are always full of excitement.

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  • crossoutlaw 6 years, 8 months ago

    Always online is no big deal when u have "amazing" internet, but the fact is the internet in USA is balls compared to the infrastructure to other nations...Hell even in bi cities in the west and east internet still drops occasionally due to the service provider being lackluster with consumers having no other options to turn to.

    I have comcast (-_-") and the other option is to get AT&T, both pretty much sucks...If we had say Google FIber for the whole USA than DRM would be less of a pain, but it doesnt fix the main problem with DRM...

    Launch problems with games with DRM is almost always due to the developers/publishers side of things. The servers not being able to handle to the traffic or bad connections is just soo common with always on drm, especially since EA has a shitty track record with servers. Hell i remember the servers for Assasins Creed on the PC went down during I think a holiday and I was unable to play my game because I assume no one was there to fix the problem at the server side....

    DRM makes sense for Online games like multiplayer and such...if the servers have problems than of course u cant play multiplayer thats a given, but dont force ppl to play single player with a online connection. Obisously u need internet to buy and download digital games, get updates, etc. However single player games should never be forced to be connected, especially if its an already verified purchase...i bought the game from u guys and downloaded it, u should know this is a legit copy.

    I'm not gonna lie past ubisoft DRM was a pain in the ass, thats why ppl pirated the shit out of it because it was easier to "get and play" than having to deal with the legit copy...

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  • WubWub 6 years, 8 months ago

    I still dont believe always on will be a mandatory thing. I reckon it will just allow for always on to receive the full benefits of the system like automatic background updates when the console is off etc and we have all just taken it out of context. MS will loose out on a massive group of people if it is mandatory for games. Even an exclusive like half life 3 wouldnt make up for the vast amount of customers they will loose. I also think there is something about this we dont know because the gamestop head came out and said he likes the console and is happy with it etc. If this console diddnt allow for used games i imagine he would have a very different tone because thats where gamestop makes their money.

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  • mxpxboy 6 years, 8 months ago

    So, you mean to tell me that you think developers and publishers think they will stand to make more money by having an exclusivity deal with Microsoft rather than releasing on both systems?

    Yeah, that makes perfect sense....

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    • Chad1954 6 years, 8 months ago

      Exactly! Microsoft has already shot itself in the foot multiple times now and the fricking thing hasn't even been announced! Why would someone want to buy it when the ps4 is looking so good right now... and we haven't seen a lot of that either!

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  • kungfuian 6 years, 8 months ago

    If you think of games in a traditional brick and mortar sense then always online sucks. But if you think of games or an entire platform as a service then always on is the only thing that makes sense. Your cable box is always online, because that's the only way such a service would work. And 720 might be headed this way.

    I'm personaly think this is their plan. The only way I see it working though is if they've partnered with one of the big cable/net/phone providers (without net included it's a fing disaster).

    For all it's potential problems (the main one i see is ownership rights to software/games) I actually see this as the direction the market is heading, just like phones, where hardware is directly subsidized by a fully service based model of consumption.

    It just solves so many problems for the platform holder. A always online service based/subsidized model means they don't have to loose their asses on hardware costs (typically sold at a loss early in a console cycle), and the low price of entry for the box has the potential for a significantly increased install base/market penetration. It's arguably a better business model than the 10 year hope we make our money back model that's currently in place.

    The problems of this model; loosing customers if network stability is an issue, poorly implemented drm, overly intrusive online practices, and loss of potential customers who live in areas/countries without access good internet are solvable, but only if the always on/service based model is offered along side a traditional offline box/brick and mortar type model.

    Until they reveal the system we can't know for sure, but the benefits verses problems of always online is not so simple. I'm sure Microsoft has better info about all of these factors and is going to gamble it's dollars based on a lot more than the average customer or fan has access to...

    Truth is it's only as bad as it's implemented (could go either way here).

    One things for sure, if Microsoft do go this route gamers would have to give something up (loss of ownership rights to software, mandatory service fees, and potential connection problems, etc) but also potentially gain something in return (cheap/free hardware subsidized by contracts, and a significantly more functional, robust, and content rich online infrastructure with content and features only possible with an always online system.)

    As one scenario; I could see an always on x-box that's $100 with a two year monthly service plan out sell a $400 PS4. Nothing to do with the quality of the system, but just from a business perspective. And I'm totally a Sony guy.

    The next gen will be won by who ever has the better business model plain and simple. It's foolish to discount Microsoft so easily, especially based on rumor...

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  • Honster 6 years, 8 months ago

    Man, as i get increasing tired of this shit i just find myself gravitating towards steam, i.e. a DRM system i actually find reasonable. I dont even like pc that much as a platform...

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  • Chad1954 6 years, 8 months ago

    I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to do this. Here's the thing, people already know what to expect from the PS4; from the various different leaks online it looks like the PS4 will have better hardware and like Bob said, hasn't said anything about an always-online requirement. Why would "hardcore" gamers buy a console centered around a multimedia entertainment business model? When they will probably be willing to dish out more for the PS4 (I think it will be more expensive). With things like the Ouya and Steam Box/Piston coming out it seems stupid for Microsoft to try and dip into the casual market too much with a system that's more expensive than something like the Ouya. Microsoft needs to step up their system specs, stop with this motion crap, throw-out the always-online bull, and focus on one market or the other. I think Microsoft is going to frick this up. By the way I'm a huge Xbox 360 fan and I can tell you, unless this thing prints money, I won't be buying the new xbox.

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