I can understand where the apprehension regarding an always-online console is coming from. But the real problem is the inability to have the option of opting out of the always-on feature. Consoles have had a recent history of coming in various SKUs. Both the Xbox 360 and Wii U are examples of this. So why can’t we have the option of picking up either an always-on or not always-on console?
Imagine this scenario. You’re at work and a co-worker tells you about a game he’s been playing recently. The constant praise and acclaim he gives is enough for you to purchase it. However, you’re at work, so it’s not like you can immediately run out to the local game store and pick it up. You’ll instead have to wait until five o’clock, enjoy the wonders of rush hour traffic, interface with game store employees and their scripted customer interactions, drive back home and install a day one patch/update. Before long, it could be easily seven or eight o’clock and you’ve yet to even sit down for dinner.
Now imagine this more appealing scenario. Instead of waiting until after work to pick the game up, you pull out your phone, load up an app, and not only purchase the game, but also have it download to your console. By the time you get home from work, it’s ready and waiting for you. That’s a possibility that exists with an always-online console.
Of course, it’s a possibility that wouldn’t be realistic for everyone. While some may enjoy the wonders of fiber-optic internet, I’m stuck with the horrors of wireless DSL. My download speeds are atrocious; it took me all day to download the game client for TERA last year. Should someone in the house get on Netflix while I’m playing Heroes of Newerth, my latency shoots up so high the game becomes unplayable. So obviously, I’m not going to reap the benefit of downloading a game remotely. But I won’t be living here forever, so I’d like the option to enable it in the future.
That’s why I want the choice to have my console be always on or always off. I want to cater the experience to my tastes. When I picked up my Wii U, I wanted the full experience. I wanted the hard drive so I can download games from the Nintendo eShop. I wanted Nintendoland to play with friends. I like having options. Chances are that you do as well. Chances are that you also may live in an area where you do have better internet than me.
All that being said, I do recognize the dangers of an always online console. It’s not just our internet connection we’re worrying about, but the status of Microsoft’s servers as well. I realize that the internet infrastructure of this country is nowhere near where it should be. I realize that should something akin to the PSN outage happens again our consoles will become completely unplayable. But I want the option to chance that fate. Better yet, why not make a combination of the two? Connect to the internet to establish a world where we’re logged into the wonders of what seem to be an “always-online experience.” And if I’m sick and tired of kids blowing up my Xbox Live headset, I can log out and enjoy a good ole’ single-player experience.
So to you gamers out there, I say this: Yes, part of the intentions of an always-online experience may be for DRM and anti-piracy measures. Yes, the benefits are heavily outweighed by the dangers. But wouldn’t it be cool to load up a game while you’re out and have it ready to go when you get home? Wouldn’t it be nice for parents that notice their child is playing games when he should be doing homework to turn off the console? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to either choose an always-on console or purchase the alternative model? That way, wouldn’t everyone win?