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Always On, Except for When It Ain’t

always on map

As you all here know, I recently moved. I used to live not very close to Atlanta, now I live even less close. There’s Inside-the-Perimeter, there’s Outside-the-Perimeter and then there’s me. The county I live in isn’t totally rural but at the same time, the guy who trained my dog used to work for the sheriff’s department in this county and the most excitement he ever had while on duty was lassoing a bull with an extension cord. If I want to get to Atlanta, I can be there in about 40 minutes, provided it’s not rush hour or a day with a Brave’s game, a Falcon’s game, a Tech game or a day with any of the various festivals and summer going-ons that happen in the city. I know it sounds like I’m out in the boonies, but trust me, it ain’t all like that. My buddy Hodge lives even further out than I do, like cow-country far out.


When I made the plans to move, the very first thing I did was make an appointment for Comcast to come out and hook up my phone, internet and TV service. I didn’t plan on watching a lot of TV while unpacking, but the kids needed something to do to stay out of my hair and the missus and I needed a way to unwind at night lest we dream of nothing but boxes all night.

On Friday, the day we closed on the house, the day before we moved, the installer showed up, said the main cable to the house was bad and that he wouldn’t be able to install anything. Bummer. He put in a maintenance ticket and went on his way. Maintenance showed up, said he could have installed things, did what they could do and went on their way. On Monday another installer came out and said the same thing that the first installer said. And so it went. I’ll spare you all of the details, but the bottom line is that I now only use Comcast for internet service, having switched to DirecTV for television and I’m rocking the MagicJack thingy for phone service. I finally got internet Sunday night but only after a week of appointments rescheduled without my knowledge, countless phone calls to Comcast and AT&T and many, many curse words.

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BioShock Infinite

When I finally got my Xbox hooked up, it was pretty low on the list of priorities, it was great to be able to spend some time exploring Columbia in BioShock: Infinite and unwind after a long day of humping boxes down the basement stairs or organizing the pantry. Yeah, my 360 still isn’t connected to the internet (I have an old school, non-WiFi version and I haven’t been able to run network cable yet), which is strange, not seeing all the usual Live frippery when I turn it on, but at least I can play it.

I mention all of this so that you understand how taken aback I was when I got back online and saw the nonsense about the possibility of an always-on console from Microsoft. I know that I’ve painted a fairly rural picture of where I live, but trust me, it’s not like that. I’m an embellisher. I embellish. The truth is that I live 40 miles from Atlanta. If you were to draw a circle with Atlanta at the center and a radius of 40 miles, you would encompass the third largest metropolitan area in the southeast, right behind Washington DC and Miami, home to over five million people. Five million! We just hosted the Final Four and it took me over a week to get the internet turned on. Yes, some of that was due to technical issues, but not much. Some of it was just time and Comcast’s priorities. Heck, Hodge can’t even get cable where he lives and he’s less than 30 minutes away from me.


Now, let’s say I had one of these awesome, always-on consoles, a console I wouldn’t be able to play while I’m waiting for service, would it be the end of the world? Absolutely not. But what it would do is provide me with plenty of opportunities to learn that I don’t need said console. I’m fairly routine oriented, and I think most people are. If I work something like playing games on a certain console into my routine, it will happen regularly. If something knocks it out of my routine, something else will replace it and it will take significant effort to get it back into the routine, effort that I most likely won’t spend if it has been replaced with something that I enjoy as much.

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When Sony announced the price of the PS3, there were many stupid statements over how it didn’t matter how expensive it was because people would have to have it and would pay anything. That didn’t quite happen. There’s a similar amount of hubris here. It doesn’t matter if it the console will be rendered useless in the case of a service outage, you have to have it. Never mind the fact that for many potential consumers, they can’t get the service necessary to hook it up in the first place. Microsoft is about to learn what Sony did, which is ridiculous for a number of reasons, mostly because they should have been paying attention over the past seven years.

I’ve seen the vacuum cleaner and electricity arguments and the cell phone and cell phone service arguments and they’re dumb and I hate them. A vacuum cleaner won’t work without electricity. It can’t. Similarly, a cell phone can’t work without cell phone service. It can be a pretty nice touch-gadget, based on what model phone you have, but as a phone, not so much. A video game console can work just fine without being connected to the internet 24/7. I have three such devices in my home. If Microsoft chooses to make their console not work without a connection, that’s their choice, but don’t make it sound like this shit is required, because it ain’t.


Here’s the thing, Microsoft. If you want to sell your hardware as a means of getting the service in people’s homes, then switch over to a model similar to the cable companies and satellite providers. Don’t charge people for the hardware, or charge a minimal, key word there, leasing charge. Charge people for the service and give them the hardware with which the service comes into the home. Then, you can make whatever service restrictions you want. But you won’t do that because then you’d have to be responsible with swapping out hardware when things didn’t work, or maintaining a system by which consumers can return devices and you don’t want to do that. What you want is to put the entire burden on the consumer. Here, buy my console, make sure it’s connected to the internet and then let me nickel and dime you to death with all this extraneous bullshit.

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Let me tell you right now, that ain’t gonna happen. Not in my house. Take a look at my gamertag. See those 100,000 points? You think those points came cheap? I didn’t just roll out of bed one morning and get those points. Those points represent a substantial amount of time and money sunk into your console, your games and your infrastructure, a commitment that I will one hundred percent walk away from if you try to pull some always on bullshit with me. No lie. If you want to shoot yourself in the foot, that’s your business, but you’re not doing it on my dime.

You seem to think that we can’t live without you, but you’re going to find out pretty quickly that it’s the other way around.


Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

7 thoughts to “Always On, Except for When It Ain’t”

  1. Yeah, fight the power Brandon! Attica! Attica!

    Seriously though, I think this particular creative director simply had some unpopular opinions about the whole “always online” thing. Of course, as a Microsoft employee, that made MS look pretty bad, so they probably asked him to kindly shut the hell up (probably in the same way Andrew Ryan would).

    I’d like to think that there’s no way MS would be that stupid but, well…it is odd that they haven’t commented on it yet. I’m sure they’re trying not to talk about their next console until it’s officially unveiled, but seriously the silence on this issue is probably hurting them.

  2. Hear hear! Hubris, overreaching…my thoughts exactly on what we have heard about Durango. Msft is trying to have the Xbox be all things to all people, with a built in ecosystem to sell, sell, sell! Always on so it is always gathering new marketing data to offer you the products you want. Boo.

    I am looking forward to the official announcement so we can form our own opinions based on verifiable facts. Today’s “leak” about how the next Xbox will interact with your cable box indicates they are focusing on taking over the living room. I have a DVR, I have a cable box, I just want to play games, and not always online.

  3. I’d like to say console gaming is on the way out, but as long as sheeple continue to shell out and support this behavior, it ain’t gonna happen. Especially if the rumors of no backward compatibility are true for the new XBOX – and I think the PS4 is already confirmed on that front.

    Maybe the horrible Wii sales are a harbinger of things to come…

  4. Even worse than the possibility of me not having internet, is the possibility of their servers being down for “maintenance”, as Sony’s servers has a tendency to do during prime hours. The fact I cannot watch Amazon Prime Instant Video because I can not connect to Sony’s servers is ludicrous (Especially considering the fact that Netflix has, or at least had when I had Netflix, the ability to watch when Sony’s servers are down). My streaming data does not need to go through your servers for you to collect data on what I’m watching.

  5. I’m hugely opposed to the always online simply due to where I live. I’m in rural Maine, the best speed I can get where I’m at is 3Mb (on a good day, if the stars are aligned properly). Primetime hours my net is practically useless, and even during the best of times forget it if there’s more then one of us trying to do something online. So, always online consoles or DRM are something I avoid at all costs. Now, if internet were the utility it was supposed to be, and high speed was more available in my area, I wouldn’t blink at an always online concept, but until that day, I’m not spending money on something I may not be able to use reliably.

  6. I totally agree. I did not buy Diablo 3. I did not buy SimCity. I never bought a single Ubisoft game while they were running amuck with their DRM scheme. I love playing video games and enjoy gaming – i have for almost 30 years. But i’m more than happy to NOT buy a certain game or console if it does something that devalues it in my view. I’ll go play Final Fantasy 3 again on my Super Nintendo or bust out Vagrant Story on my Playstation.

  7. More significantly, this post shows why Brandon and I can never be friends IRL- we are literally from different sides of the tracks. He is an OTPer (that’s out of the perimeter of I-285 for you non-Atlantans) and I am an ITPer (in the perimeter). He believes that I am a criminal, hipster elitist and I believe that he is an Applebee’s supping barbarian concerned primarily with Little League and shopping chain stores. 40 minutes into the suburban wilds of North Georgia may as well be across the country.

    I went to Cumming once, many years ago. Friday night for the local teens meant hanging out at a Hardee’s.

    But seriously, the always online thing can fuck off, I get a fine internet connection and I don’t want to be told by a corporation that I have to be online so they can track my eye movements or whatever. There is ZERO consumer benefit to NOT having the ability to use the console offline, regardless of whatever social bullshit they’re slinging…game recommendations, Twitter, directed advertising. Fuck all of it.

    Amazesmore is probably right though, Joe Public is so used to getting molested by corporate business that they won’t ever notice that the always on thing is a DRM scheme that limits their choices as a consumer.

    Crom help the folks that have data caps, I guess that will make a “nextbox” a non-starter for them.

    At this point, if I had to choose, I’d go with the mysterious and unknown PS4 over it.

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