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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Aggie Arcade

Always On

I don’t often comment on rumors, speculation or reports with anonymous sources, but sometimes evidence piles up to insurmountable levels and one must address the inevitable. Such is the case with Microsoft’s next-gen console and reports that the system will require a constant internet connection.

We live in a world of rapid technological advances, and yet the internet remains fickle in terms of its reliability. Just last week my connection dropped out for about an hour. The cause? Who knows. It only happens in rare cases on my end, but the annoyance still remains.

I can only imagine the frustration from people with noticeably spotty internet connections and the negative impact that would have on their collective experience with Microsoft’s next-gen console. In fact, that entire audience would have to think long and hard about purchasing the system in the first place.

And what if Microsoft’s own servers are down for maintenance? Do we have no way of playing games on the new console? As someone who mostly enjoys single-player experiences in which internet plays no role, such a notion makes my brain hurt.

Consoles have never ventured into the world of always-on requirements, but games have. The results have been … poor, to put it lightly. Just look at the SimCity debacle from last month — owners went days without being able to access the game because of server issues. The outrage and backlash from the video game community spoke volumes.

The always-on requirement in SimCity displayed a lack of consumer awareness on the part of developer Maxis and publisher Electronic Arts. The same may hold true of Microsoft with its next console, and recent comments from a prominent member of Microsoft Studios emphasizes the disconnect between the company and its audience.

Adam Orth, creative director at Microsoft Studios, took to Twitter last week to address the possibility of an always-on requirement. He posted quite a few quote-worthy lines, but my favorite tweet involved a picture of Obama on the phone, with the words “deal with it” in bold letters at the bottom. Doesn’t Orth realize that such hostile behavior actively alienates the consumer?

I took a quick glance at IGN’s comment section for the news article about Orth’s tweets, and the highest-rated one stuck out: “I can deal with it … by purchasing a PS4.” Say what you will about console biases and internet comment sections, but the user who posted that expresses a reasonable sentiment regarding next-gen consoles. With reported prices of $500+, many individuals will have to choose between Microsoft’s successor to the Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 4. The always-on requirement immediately puts Microsoft at a disadvantage.

Part of me still reserves judgment considering Microsoft has yet to officially unveil its new console. Perhaps the company has a few tricks up its sleeve that will help quell the seemingly negative reports. In the meantime, the video game community’s skepticism continues to grow and persist.

ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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