There’s problems and then there’s problems, and what has come to light about the Xbox One fits firmly into the second category. I can ignore backwards compatibility and what it means in regards to playing the games for the 360 on a new console pretty easily. What I cannot ignore, however, is what it means to have a system that must always be connected to the internet.
A lot of people in my life have taken to calling the One the XBone. I find this incredibly fitting, as it really feels like Microsoft is giving it pretty good to a lot of people who have been loyal for a really long time. They’re just bending us over and inserting it right into the tailpipe, through the pants, with no lube. Not even a polite reach around as an acknowledgement of what we’ve given them over the years.
To me, having to have a system on all the time smacks of a level of control that no other human being has a right to enforce upon another. It’s the kind of thing that gets jokingly brushed off as micromanaging in an office and anal retentiveness in personal lives. But on a grand scale such as this, can’t be ignored or forgotten about. And shouldn’t be, really. The implications of this to me aren’t about what they might be able to see through the Kinect or what data they might be mining. It’s about what I do with a system I own in my house. Once I buy something, nobody should be able to tell me what I can and cannot do with it. Even if I buy it just so I can take it out back and fill it with buckshot. It’s mine. That’s my right.
There are several things that I feel Microsoft hasn’t taken into consideration with this always on bullshit. And it is bullshit. Not everybody out there runs on broadband or better internet connections, the fact that they seem to think so really shows just how out of touch they are with the general population. There are entire areas of cities that don’t have that kind of connectivity. Hell, there are whole towns that don’t even know what a cable modem is for, existing solely on dial up, or if they’re really lucky, satellite.
I have a few military friends that get deployed on a yearly basis who pack their 360s along with them so that they can have something to do in their downtime. Their sanity rests in their gaming consoles. Every single one of them that I have talked to is livid about this always on move. They get computer access to send emails to friends and family, yes. But they aren’t at any time allowed to connect consoles to the internet. Which means that they won’t be buying the One. If Sony decides to do the same thing, they won’t be buying the PS4, either. Not even for when they’re home. That’s how mad they are.
Then there are people who don’t have internet at home. I have a few of those. They work with computers all day and don’t feel the need to have access when they aren’t working, or to save money they’ve opted out of having connections in their homes. They still play games.
Or how about when something goes wrong with the internet, either on the company’s side, or because somebody took out a line somewhere, and it’s out for a few days? That means, with the One and how it’s set up now, I’d not be able to play even a single player game after a while.
There’s also power outages. Now, you might say: But you wouldn’t have electricity then. Ah, but you’re forgetting gas powered generators. I lived for a whole week in Seattle in a house run off of a gas powered generator. Life was pretty normal for the most part. We could have played games the whole time, if anybody had thought to haul a system over. But with the One, we wouldn’t have even had that option.
Which brings me to the idea that there are people out there who take their systems with them when they go out to their cabins. There’s no internet out there, but there’s electricity. Or how about LAN parties where all the boxes are connected to each other, but not to the outside world? I’ve been to a few of those. I guess those won’t happen anymore either.
I’m sure there are other examples, too. Places and times that people enjoy playing their games when there isn’t any internet to be had. I just can’t think of them now. But there are countless reasons to not make a machine like this be always on. And it doesn’t all have to do with when we want to play games. It’s just not necessary to life. I feel like it would be akin to saying “You can’t use that laptop you’ve just bought because it’s not connected to the internet. Nevermind that you don’t need internet for Notepad and PhotoShop. Can’t use it anyway.”
There’s a lot of outcry about this racing around the internet right now, but the problem is that a lot of these people who are standing up now will likely end up buying the One anyway. That’s what Microsoft is counting on. Those people. And the people who rush to buy stuff just because it’s the new thing out there. And I’m sure that there are also a number of folks who don’t care about always on, Microsoft is counting on them, too. Outcry and petitions are great, speaking out is great, but only when you follow through with it. You can’t buy the One if you’re upset about always on, it just can’t happen. You can’t even pre-order it in hopes that Microsoft will change their minds. They’re not going to see your pre-order as a tentative plan to ultimately NOT buy the One. They’re going to see it as intent, and run with it.
Keep speaking out. Keep pointing out what is wrong with this idea. Join groups. Write letters. Petition. Convince Microsoft in every way that you can think of to backtrack on this plan. But most of all don’t buy it. Vote with your money, which is all that ultimately matters to them. Take away that which they love the most so they can see the errors of their ways. I think that’s the only real route that any of us have.