(Update: As of 6/19/2013, Microsoft has reversed its Xbox One DRM and 24 hour check in policies. Some of the content of this article may no longer be relevant to the Xbox One specifically; however, some of the new features touted in this article are also removed.)
Before I begin, I recognize I was originally against an ‘always online’ or ‘always connected’ Xbox One in the next generation. I also recognize that it was partially based on fear, some hubris, and not fully understanding what good can come from it. I touted there was more risk than reward. The recent events at E3 and scouring the Internet for information has led me to believe that an ‘always connected’ console is not going to be such a bad thing. I also reserve the right to change my mind.
Why I’ve Changed My Stance
It’s hard to swallow when you feel you may have been mistaken, and I’ve been battled this myself. So I will address my previous fears.
It’s a Digital World, and I’m a Digital Girl…or Boy
The video game industry is going primarily digital. Many broadband providers are starting to increase monthly restrictions. In 2012, GameStop continued to see a drop in revenue in the physical used game market and outstanding increases in digital revenue growth. Publishers and developers stand to make more money in digital without producing nearly the same number of material goods and shipping them worldwide.
Platforms and digital distribution like Steam and Green Man Gaming are continuously growing and offering deep discounts on all digital products, and distributors like Amazon.com are touting a decline in physical units sold. Whether or not gamers like to admit it, we’ve in some way already bought into the digital distribution model and most DRM practices that come with it. Let’s not forget Steam was once said to be an unmitigated disaster, and now it’s one of the largest digital distribution models in the world.
Broadband Internet Access
Getting readily available broadband is a problem in some areas to make use of an ‘always connected’ Xbox One, but the truth is the United States is seeing rapid growth in broadband access. I’m relying on the fact that Microsoft has done their research on how big the potential demographic when considering broadband Internet access in all launch countries.
Taking advantage of the cloud is happening in smaller quantities on both PC and consoles, and it’s a logical step to harness more of the power the cloud can provide us. If we’re already using broadband to play on Xbox Live and use the cloud today, we shouldn’t be as nervous as we are before.
In addition, most of those that do play multiplayer play online. A console designed around a connected community of gamers doesn’t seem like a bad thing.
DRM and 24 Hour Online Check-in
Most of us are law-abiding citizens and generally follow the rules. I’m sure most of us are a little worried about privacy from an ‘always connected’ device or the need to really check our licenses for games, but if you’re honestly purchasing games and following policies on digital distribution models you don’t have anything to worry about nor will you be treated like a criminal.
The 24 hour check-in is one of the more jarring new features of the new Xbox One console, but I see possible benefits in this model. First, not only are licenses being checked, but there is opportunity for updates to the games I play being downloaded while I’m away at work. When I’m ready to play, the games are ready to play. While most updates are typically smaller in size (MB), there are some games that require much larger updates (GB). This technology opens the door for automatic DLC updates for season pass holders.
This might be the tougher sell, but I really am looking forward to the potential content coming from developers and publishers in an ‘always connected’ or cloud model. It is said that Xbox One is siding with publishers and not consumers, but if we get more dynamic content and gameplay in the end that is a real decent trade off for us. There will be changes, and it might take getting used to. It might take developers and publishers to hit their strides, but I really do look forward to the possibilities.
In the end, video game content is what is going to marry me to any console, Sony Playstation 4 or Xbox One.
I’m still not 100% certain what console gaming will look like and who will win the console war. You can guarantee that Playstation 4 will continue to work more toward the cloud. The more Playstation 4 relies on the cloud the more it relies on many of the same technology as Xbox One. The next generation is going to be a time of change, and I am thinking the future for gamers is pretty bright. This is an exciting time to be in.
Debate: With more information, how have your thoughts changed or stayed the same for an ‘always connected’ console like Xbox One?