Why Almost Always Connected Is No Big Deal… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Why Almost Always Connected Is No Big Deal…

After an overwhelming response to yesterday's blog about Sony and Microsoft's E3 presentations I decided to follow up with a bit of an explanation on why I don't care about the Microsoft's decision to require their system to essentially sync once a day in order for the video game function to continue...well uh...functioning.

Before I do though, I think it is important to understand exactly what Microsoft said about this requirement. This is pulled straight from their website.

While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection.

With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. 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. 

So, it might not be a true persistent connection - more of an almost always connected, or perhaps a connected once per day connection. As far as I can tell, this is one of two main concerns many gamers have with the new Xbox One; the other obviously being the used game issue. But the focus of this blog is the network connection requirement.

First and foremost, hopefully we can agree only people who have a broadband connection, or perhaps a mobile broadband connection since Microsoft says that will work too, will buy the Xbox One. Does this mean right out of the gate there are people who are precluded from purchasing it whether they want it or not? Yes. And I'm confident Microsoft took that into consideration when they headed down this path. Oddly enough, Internet Service Provides don't provide broadband connections everywhere, particularly rural, unpopulated areas...

Moving on.

There seems to be two or three general concerns with this requirement. On one hand, I've heard some (not many, but some) say Microsoft wants your console to always be connected so they can collect data - basically spy on you. But I don't see how that can be if the system technically only requires you to connect once a day for however long it takes to "verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend."


If Microsoft wanted to spy on you, your system, your gaming habits it could probably do it anytime you connected to the Internet in a relatively short amount of time - I doubt it would need a persistent connection.

The other concern seems to suggest that Microsoft might conduct server maintenance or suffer a catastrophic failure that will result in periods of time where you can't play your games. I'm not going to say it's impossible - if the great Playstation Network Outage of 2011 taught us anything it's that these sorts of things can happen. That particular outage lasted 24 days. So, it's certainly possible. But if there is any company in the world with a robust infrastructure and enough horsepower to sustain such a network, it's Microsoft. You can read all about their data centers and capabilities. Even the link above suggests they have "created a global network of more than 300,000 Xbox Live and Windows Azure servers, to help creators realize their visions of what is possible with a connected system."

Microsoft has a staff of really smart people who they pay a lot of money to make sure the network is always up and running. I know that is an extremely simple outlook on the issue, but as an end user I'm not going to lose much sleep over what could happen until it actually happens. If it happens.

The final concern seems to be... What if I have a broadband connection and I have an Xbox One and Microsoft is up and running fine, but I have a problem with my Verizon or my Comcast or my Roadrunner (insert the name of your Internet Service Provider here)...and this outage lasts longer than 24 hours and my Xbox One turns into a pumpkin and I can't play games on it. Ah, a far more likely scenario I would think. I used to have Dish Network, and sure enough...every time it rained I'd lose service. So what did I do...I didn't watch TV, that's for sure. I could've gotten rid of it I suppose, but I chose to keep it and just deal with the rain. And what will I do if I lose my Internet connection and can't sync my Xbox One and it quits working? Hmm. Go outside and play...maybe go for a jog? Play cards with my wife and kids. Read a book. Go to sleep (it might be late). Shut up and color.

The bottom line, it's not the end of the world.

I guess what I'm getting at...I'm not going to base my decision to buy a particular console because of what could happen, what might happen, or what happened to someone I know. Realistically, any outage that occurs is likely to be short and in the big scheme of things, not that big of deal. How many Playstation users are still mad at Sony over the outage mentioned above? Probably none.

I've been a gamer a long time and this isn't the first time I've witnessed a paradigm shift that left some doubtful of the change and others embracing the future. Old school gamers who remember the days of modem to modem network play (and services like Kali) are likely to remember the "shift" - that transition when you abandoned your 28.8 or 56.6K modem for cable or DSL.

For those that don't remember dial up, it went something like this. You had one or more phone numbers to your Internet provider you would call with your computer's modem. They were usually busy. Once you were able to, you would connect, do your business and disconnect. The thought of staying connected was ludicrous. Not only did it tie up your phone line, you were often charged for your usage or how long you were connected. As the Internet gained in popularity, multiplayer gaming services started springing up and cable / DSL were introduced...you basically went from only being connected when you needed to be, to pretty much being connected all the time.

Yet, the attitude was very similar to what we see today with the Xbox One. Lots of what ifs and whys... Lots of people concerned about security and always being connected.

Now that cable and DSL (and FIOS if you're lucky enough to have that) have existed for a generation or more now, we don't even question persistent online connections with our computers...or our cellphones. Consider everywhere Wi Fi exists now...like, everywhere; even airplanes and the International Space Station. We are more connected now than we've ever been, yet I'm supposed to be concerned with a persistent an almost always on connection requirement for the Xbox One, a new piece of gear in my entertainment system. My TV is always connected. My cable box is always connected. My computer is always connected. My router is always connected. Why shouldn't my game console always be connected? Is it the fact someone is telling me I have to do it for a short time once per day?

I mentioned this in an earlier discussion or blog, but as a PC gamer, I've lived with this configuration with many of Valve's games for years. While it's true Steam has an offline mode and yes, you can play some games in that mode, if you want to play online you obviously have to be connected. Sometimes Valve does maintenance...sometimes their servers have issues...and sometimes you can't play because you can't connect. These instances are rare and hasn't really affected my outlook on Valve. I have never ever ever considered abandoning Valve because they require me to log into Steam and be connected to play some of their games.

I don't expect everybody to agree with my outlook and I understand the concerns others have raised. In the end, I just don't see the big deal and instead, I look at the real reasons why Microsoft has chosen this direction...and I'm more excited about that than I am worrying about what happens if my Internet goes out for a bit.

A new generation of games with power from the cloud: Because every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection, developers can create massive, persistent worlds that evolve even when you're not playing.

That sounds like the future of gaming I want to be a part of.

 

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