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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.

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.

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.

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.