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Let's Celebrate The Backpedal! (The Mistake Microsoft Avoided)
Posted on Friday, July 12 2013 @ 12:07:30 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

The internet has spoken once more and said that we’re not interested in always on games consoles.
Wait… did I write that right? Not only has the Microsoft behemoth caved to public opinion but that opinion is that online is bad… expressed almost exclusively online. Hmm, awesome.

So why is it such a big deal that the next generation of consoles not require a constant, or regular, internet connection? After all, who on this planet can’t connect their console to the internet at least once a day? Well, people living in rural areas, people on military bases, people living in many university dorms, people in less developed nations, and of course people who do have decent internet connections that tend to fail at least a few times a year.

The most reliable connection will have periods of downtime; that’s a guarantee. So what does any normal person do when their online source of entertainment goes down for an undisclosed period of time? If you answered anything involving leaving the building and letting the sun’s naked rays hit your exposed skin, then your answer is incomplete. The correct answer is to turn to offline entertainment like books, films, possibly outdoor pursuits, but more likely, single-player games.

But sure, let’s say the people who don’t have a persistent connection can correct that apparently gaping flaw in their otherwise civilised existence. Connections don’t fail every day so for the most part we’ll be able to get on with our single-player entertainment without a problem… maybe. It’s really not just about our personal ability to connect to the internet but also about the physical lines. The internet isn’t an ethereal manifestation with no physical form; it lives thanks to the wires and pipes snaking across the planet and 3% of the internet using population found out how easily their internet lives can be reduced to a crawl in 2008 when a ship’s anchor sliced through a cable off the coast of Egypt. On a less sensational scale we have to worry about rats chewing through cables, lightning striking exchanges, and power cuts at any of the many links in the chain between us and the self-appointed entertainment demigods.

But now the cables are made of Kevlar and they’re lightning-proof and will never be physically damaged. Has there been a game launch in the history of the industry that, despite a need for internet connectivity, went smoothly? I genuinely can’t think of one. The most recent disaster is SimCity which took downtime to a farcical extreme, because EA didn’t think to put some extra servers on to cope with the release of a popular game. This is the scenario that could have awaited not just the launch of every game, but the start of every day when millions of Xbox users have to revalidate their system in case their games had become illegal overnight.

But all of this would have been fine because, according to Don Mattrick, if you don’t have the internet you can use the pioneering offline device: the Xbox 360.

At least their backpedalling didn’t include the spy-in-the-home Kinect. We need something to complain about, after all.
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