This year has been quite the roller coaster for next generation consoles. Initial reports of always-on internet requirements kept a lot of gamers off of the excitement train. A quick few months later and both consoles are ready to release to internet-free houses across the globe. However, while the initial reaction may be that it’s best for everyone this way, some might argue the opposite.
When Microsoft made their large reveal of the Xbox One they made two important promises: The console would get more powerful over time with the help of the cloud, and the console required internet to operate, even when used in an offline capacity. While it wasn’t the only topic of the anger, many gamers were up in arms with petitions and outcries for Microsoft to reverse the online requirement policy. They succeeded, and this a day one patch was announced to remove the internet requirement, but it won’t be until later this month or even further down the line when we realize if that was good victory, or a bad one. Much like an upgraded PC, if Microsoft’s cloud computing claims prove true, games may be engineered taking advantage of that extra horsepower on an iterative basis. And what happens if you try to run Crysis on a 5 year old Dell PC? Well, you don’t, that’s what happens. You need that extra power, which can only be accessed on Xbox One through the cloud, which can only be accessed when connected to the internet. It may be a far-feched example, but if years down the line, a new game in a primarily single-player game series– let’s say Fallout– comes out, taking advantage of the yet unproved Xbox One cloud, internet will be required. An unsuspecting consumer who bought the console without such capabilities or maybe just unreliable network service could be left in the dust. The best thing Microsoft could have done was keep the online check-in they had, to avoid any potential, yet plausible, confusion on the consumer side.
The potential for a required internet connection is not a problem exclusive to Microsoft, though. It’s been the trend for a while, but lately multiplayer has invaded just about every game series. From Grand Theft Auto to Assassin’s Creed, soon everything will have it, and with the evident popularity of multiplayer in Call of Duty, how long before they go the Titanfall route and cut out single-player all together? It seems every game wants to connect you, wants you to be social or competitive in its world. Hell, even Batman: Arkham Origins has a (surprisingly interesting and fun) multiplayer component. This is where we’re heading, and there is little we can do to stop it.
So, we have known for a while that Titanfall is an online-only experience, those of us that read websites like this one, that is. Still, there will be plenty of confusion, and amongst that, how many consumers will be let down? Another example: when I was working on my NBA 2K14 review, I lost internet for a few days as I switched providers. I was surprised, and frankly disappointed, to find out that I could not access the Virtual Currency that is used to upgrade a My Career player. Apparently, all of it was stored on a 2K server and without access to it, I was left playing the mode with no reward. From what I gathered about the situation, the mode would be entirely unplayable offline, which is unfortunate, to say the least. While this was a minor inconvenience for me personally, it’s weird little features like that, locked into an internet connection, that could become troublesome, especially with more service providers enforcing data caps.
It may be a case of the internet, and only hearing the voices of those with negative reactions, but it seems lately many gamers are saddened by Microsoft’s reversal of policy on the Xbox One. It went from what was meant to be a truly next-gen, connected and digital system, to a more powerful machine with many of the same features as the Xbox 360. In order for them to bring back those features they set out to provide, they will need that online check-in, and consumers will need a connection. With their willingness to reverse policies and features at will, it doesn’t seem impossible that they reinstate the original requirements, and while it may come with some backlash, it just might be what consumers need as we head into an even more internet focused gaming climate.