Attention Game Developers And Console Manufacturers: 'Always On' Is NOT The Same As 'Always Connectable'
from the for-starters,-one's-an-imposition dept
Game publishers and console manufacturers have been feeling some intensified heat from customers about "always on" requirements. (SimCity, anyone?) Microsoft has been battling rumours that the new Xbox will need an internet connection to function, an issue greatly magnified by some unfortunate tweets by its (former) Creative Director.
Ubisoft has played the villain quite frequently in recent years, lacing its single player games with DRM requiring (at minimum) an initial internet connection at bootup. The CEO of Ubisoft Montreal (Yannis Mallat) seems to be perfectly fine with "always online" next gen consoles, stating simply, "I would say that a lot of people are already always online through other devices. I would suspect the audience is ready."
It almost seems like a logical statement, but Mallat is making some huge assumptions about what the public is "ready" for. A console that won't do anything without (at the very least) phoning home isn't one of them, as indie game developer Rob Fearon (a.k.a. Rob Remakes -- creator of DRM, a game with absolutely no DRM) points out in his rather devastating response post.
Look, we really need to start making the difference clear here. Lots of people are always connectible through other devices not always online. My iThing is always connectible, my computer is always connectible, my Xbox360 is always connectible. None are always online. Neither do they require me to be online to be functional.Those pushing for this sort of "innovation" continually point to the fact that many people spend a great deal of time on the internet as an indication that the public is dying to purchase a console that requires an always-on connection, even though no console has ever required that in the past. If this half-assed assumption/analogy fails to do the job, they trot out several others. Rob has answers for each and every one of these industry-tropes-in-the-making.
"Steam requires an internet connection."
Even Steam which is for the most part like a rock, that falls on its arse occasionally. Thing is, if Steam falls on its arse occasionally then that’s OK because I don’t need to be connected most of the time providing I’ve got a nice offline mode to rely on."Your phone always needs to be 'connected.'"
My phone is always on, yeah. And there’s loads of times where I can’t use my phone because the signal drops, the phone goes a bit bonkers for some reason, I’m in a lead lined shed like I think our local Asda is or something. I dunno. Thing is, my one big “always on” device has more time where I can’t use it than anything else I own. This is something to aspire to? Something that’s not always functional like my phone?"Cable/DSL? That flows right into your house like water from a tap you can't shut off, right?"
Always on, except when it isn't. No one has 100% uptime. No one. Even the services behind these consoles, like Xbox Live, experience downtime. What then? A console that needs to connect to play a game is effectively shut down because the underlying platform is undergoing routine maintenance/hacking.
There's no comparison that results in 100% uptime, or any percentage that's going to satisfy someone who's just shelled out $500 for a paperweight that contains all the hardware and software to play games but simply won't unless something on the other end gives the thumbs up.
I’m not really convinced I want a console that’s as always on as my phone is. I’m not really convinced I want a console that’s as always on as my cable is. Because I want to just be able to play my console. I don’t want to buy into something that has less uptime than what I already have, I don’t want to buy something less likely to let me play when I want.This is what people are worried about and this is why they're irate. If a console manufacturer decides to add this requirement to its hardware, it will be going against the wishes of its customers solely to satisfy its own agenda(s). That agenda may be to push its online services harder. That agenda may be to reduce piracy. That agenda may be to cut out the secondhand market. All of these agendas cater to the desires of the manufacture. They do absolutely nothing for the end users.
Ubisoft's CEO thinks the audience is ready. It's a bullshit statement. Certain game developers and console manufacturers might be, but the audience certainly isn't. But it's more than a self-serving bit of PR speak. It's a statement of intent.
[W]hen someone says “we think the audience is ready” you can read that as “we’re doing it anyway” really.Keep that in mind when you hear statements from developers and console manufacturers about the public's apparently secret love for always-connected devices. Their "read" on the market is nothing more than them signalling a desire to put the customers' desires dead last.