It must be the year of new consoles because everywhere you look a new rumor more preposterous than the last is cropping up. It’s kind of nostalgic because it takes me back to the early months of 2006, where rumors of the Playstation 3 locking games to the console to prevent resale were around every corner of the Internet. However, this new rumor about Microsoft’s next console, brought to light by Edge Online, takes the cake.
As Edge reports, Microsoft’s new console will supposedly not only require an activation code per game, but an always-on Internet connection to function. That right there is where I believe this rumor falls apart. I couldn’t find any recent statistics, but according to Gamasutra, in 2010 78% of Playstation 3’s and 73% of Xbox 360’s were connected to the Internet. So even if we generously bump those numbers up to 80% to account for the 3 year gap, that’s still 1/5th of customers that apparently Microsoft is willing to simply cut off from using their next-generation console.
If I were someone making decisions about the console, that would sound like money going right down the drain. That also doesn’t account for the percentage of users who would be completely up in arms by something like this, as you only need to look at Ubisoft’s PC DRM to find out that requiring an always-on connection to play a single-player game, let alone allow your entire console to function, is something that people absolutely don’t want any part of.
Then you also have to think about what happens when things don’t go as planned. What if Microsoft’s activation servers are down? When millions of people go out in November and buy the latest Call of Duty game and hammer the activation servers at once, what happens? We’ve seen what happens when the Live servers go down after big releases or during the holidays, but at least then we were still able to use our console and play games single-player. Then what happens if a storm knocks your Internet out? What about the troops overseas who routinely play games but have absolutely no way to connect their console to the Internet? The questions keep piling up that makes this seem more and more nonsensical.
Having said all of that, though, it’s interesting to think about what might be possible if Microsoft goes the way of the PC with its new console and includes serial codes with games, rendering the used game market for that console obsolete. While installing a dozen of the rumored 50gb Blu-Ray games on a console might be stretching it, having access to games you own with a click of a button instead of having to swap discs is something I’ve always wanted from my consoles. It would also mean the end of the online pass as we know it on their console.
If Microsoft is really going to do this, they are going to have to change some of the ways they currently operate or it’s going to be a really rocky uphill battle. It’s still a rumor for now, and let’s just hope it stays that way. It is definitely going to be an interesting year as news about these new consoles trickles out until their eventual reveal.