News Article

Opinion: Microsoft's Always-Online Debacle Is Playing into the PS4's Hands

Posted by Sammy Barker

Xbox manufacturer is in a pickle

No publicity is bad publicity, or so the old adage goes – but Microsoft executives must find themselves staring into a window of brutal GIFs wondering what to do next. The press surrounding the company’s next generation platform has not been rosy for some time, but things escalated overnight when Adam Orth, the creative director on an as of yet unannounced Xbox title, mistakenly opted to use the public forum of Twitter to channel his opinion about the latest round of rumours regarding his employer’s impending console revision.

“Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an ‘always on’ console,” he said in response to a Kotaku report that suggested that Microsoft’s next generation system would require an internet connection to operate – even in single player games. “Every device now is ‘always on’. That’s the world we live in. Deal with it.”

Orth – who is something of an industry veteran, having worked at LucasArts, EA and, ironically, Sony – went on to hold a series of charged conversations with followers, even insulting BioWare senior designer Manveer Heir in the process. “You know some people's Internet goes out, right?” the Mass Effect developer said, before pointing to a number of regions in North America that could potentially be affected by an always-online console. “Why would I live there?” the Microsoft man responded.

Naturally, the anti-consumer rhetoric spouted by Orth is not representative of Microsoft’s stance in the slightest – but the timing of the comments couldn’t come at a worse time for the company, with the manufacturer already facing the brunt of a backlash from the media and developers alike. And that’s all playing into the hands of Sony, who must be elated over the manner in which its largest competitor appears to be manufacturing its own catastrophic downfall. Regardless of whether the next Xbox will require an online connection to operate or not, there’s no doubt that the PlayStation 4 is profiting from all of this negativity.

Microsoft could have easily nipped this rumour in the bud a long time ago, but its silence is doing no favours and giving the always-online stories credence. The manufacturer seems to be content with letting developers such as Jonathan Blow badmouth its publication policies, while the PS4 soaks up the acclaim of some developers for its open and accommodating attitude towards indie studios. It may be that the next Xbox is making similar strides behind the scenes, but with those in the know gagged by embargoes and non-disclosure agreements, the firm faces the threat of looking like it’s simply following the lead.

In truth, it’s hard to imagine that the company doesn’t care about the pool of creative minds that have helped propel its platform to the top of the sales charts in North America over the past eight years, but the longer that it hides behind tin shields twiddling its thumbs, the more momentum that the PS4 stands to gain. It’s almost like an exact role reversal of the current generation, where Sony’s own misplaced hostility ceded an advantage to the Xbox 360. If Microsoft needs a reminder of where this road leads, it need only familiarise itself with the media’s treatment of the PlayStation 3’s turbulent first few years.

Sony, to its credit, has resisted the temptation to chime in on the saga. The company already confirmed that the PS4 will not require an online connection earlier in the year, at the same time as it dispelled any burgeoning rumours regarding used games being blocked. We’ve no doubt that the platform holder will be eager to reinforce the attributes should Microsoft confirm that it’s heading in a different direction.

But the PlayStation maker needs to not get distracted. It finds itself on the front foot for the time being, but Microsoft could quite easily pull the rug from beneath its feet. So long as the company continues to work closely with developers and put the needs of consumers first, then the PS4 will be a success. It’s down to its competitor to douse the flames that its own arrogance has helped ignite. And if it can’t, then it may just have to simply "deal" with the ramifications.

Has the negative speculation surrounding the next Xbox pushed you towards the PS4, or are you waiting for more information before you make up your mind about which console to buy? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (29)



ShogunRok said:

I think it's always going to be wise to wait for the reveal of the console if you're still on the fence - but like the article said, any negative press just boosts interest in the PS4. The amount of "I'm buying PS4 #dealwithit" comments I've seen today is astonishing.



SuperKMx said:

I think what people are forgetting, is that this is currently ALL hyperbole. Nothing is confirmed. Nothing is fact. The perception is kicking Microsoft in the backside, and that's not a good thing.

Plus, they can all say "We're buying PS4" as much as they want. Fact is, PS4 could very will still be a console that requires an always-on internet connection as well. Again, nothing confirmed. Hyperbole.



rjejr said:

Nice piece.

The lack of comment out of MS about this has got to make you think it IS going to require always online. I don't know if that's necessarily due to DRM, they might just want to be able to get more ads to more eyeballs or make GOLD a requirement to cover the cost of the console. (I think Sony is going to do this as well, push PS+, only maybe not required.) You can't get people to sign up for Gold if they don't have broadband, so you just tell them in advance the KinectBox won't work without being online.

I also dont' think the KinectBox is about games anyway. Well not retail games. Windows 8 - another MS invention everybody was NOT clamoring for - is just MS pushing it's will on people. The KinectBox is about IE10 and Skype and maybe HBOgo. Maybe MS signed a deal w/ HBO that they have to pay HBO $1 for every KinectBox sold so MS figures everybody who buys 1 should be online?

BTW - the Wii, the lamest of the last gen consoles - had an option for always on. My extended family are the last people alive who still send 10 second WiiSpeak messages to each other.



Gamer83 said:

This Orth guy is not only an imbecile but comes off as a typical arrogant MS a-hole as well. If I'm running that company I'm cutting ties with that guy today and doing something to try and turn the bad publicity. Of corse if there was anybody at MS who cared about that stuff this crap wouldn't happen to begin with. I do want to thank MS though, it's becoming easier and easier to make the decision of which upcoming console to get first and if the always-on rumor is true, and I believe it is, not even Halo 5 & 6, will make me get the next Xbox. By the way, never heard of this Orth guy before today, and I'm guessing his game is likely some Kinect focused trash given MS' current direction. So my question is, who the hell is this moron to be insulting anybody, especially consumers and other people at accomplished studios that actually make good games? MS right now is worse than Sony of 2006-07 and I hope it gets rewarded in the same way Sony was, poor sales and bad press. The only difference is Sony was never in danger because the Japanese were never going to buy Xbox, North Americans however would quickly turn back to PlayStation if it's clearly the better choice. If MS loses this market, Xbox is finished, so the corporate jerks better think long and hard about consumer relations and some of its decisions. I won't rule MS out yet because I want to be fair and I do like the Xbox brand, but these rumors need to be addressed and in a non-confrontational manner asap.



Squiggle55 said:

Microsoft just took the time to release a statement that that guy's personal views don't reflect theirs, but still didn't bother to debunk the rumor. It must be true then bc I can't imagine they wouldn't simply say "it's not true" at this point.



hamispink said:

@KenB PS4 has been confirmed to not require an online connection by the president of their worldwide studios.

Edit: upon closer inspection I see that the article has a link to the story in question.



get2sammyb said:

@KenB Oh, I totally agree. At the end of the day, all Microsoft needs to say is that this all a load of rubbish, and it'll be forgotten come launch. But, like you say, the longer it simply lets these rumours fly, the more it's going to escalate. I really think it needs to say something soon.

For the record, I don't think the next Xbox will require an online connection, or block used games, or pretty much do any of this nonsense that people are speculating it will. But the company must be desperate to get some positive press out there by now. It's crazy that it's letting this stuff slide. It could easily release a statement saying: "You'll find out more about the next Xbox soon, but we'd just like to set the record straight. Blah blah."

I appreciate that it's not ideal, but it's better than all of these headlines.



HG_69 said:

Nothing confirmed just too much babbling from different people and there are far too many Drama Queens !!



Ps4all said:

I bought a 360 at the beginning of this gen since ps3 wasn't coming out for another year. After 3 rrods and Microsoft's abhorent customer service i got rid of the 360 and i will not buy another console from Microsoft.




It's quite amazing watching MS do nothing really. The hardware of these consoles is so similar this time around that it's going to be the little things that swing sales from those who are undecided.



Solatorobo said:

If this continues the PS4 will be by far the most dominant console. The Wii U tacking distantly behind (when the first party games have come out it will be secure sales wise) and the Xbox will be the laughing stock by everyone but the most diehard MS fan.




@Magolor I certainly don't see xbox being that. Let's not assume MS are fools. Their reveal will be huge, they'll have plenty to show off, it'll be ultra connected to other devices and services and that will be the battle. Power and ease of development tools are going to be on par this time around, so exclusives and services are where the choices for the consumer will be.
I'd predict that they will announce very close (relatively) to their launch window and the marketing machine will be in full force from then on.
Those of us wanting to remain with just one of the big consoles will probably stick with either MS and Sony respectively. Some perhaps will go the multiple console route if there's enough incentive to do so. But I can see Wii U falling in to the picture just like the Wii did for many people I know-it'll become the cheaper, secondary console.



fortius54 said:

As much backlash as we have seen, I couldn't imagine even Microsoft being arrogant enough to go with always on-line and no used games. It would be the recipe for a monumental disaster.



TreesenHauser said:

I wasn't feeling very interested in the next Xbox anyways, but this thread of arrogance from Orth has further cemented that I definitely won't be supporting Microsoft's next console. Period.

As far as the PS4 goes... as much as I'd love to get one, I'll most likely pass on it for now. The hardware has me thinking I could get a PC rig that's just as good. It would have to take quite a few amazing-looking games or exclusives to make me consider it.



Zombie_Barioth said:

I gotta wonder why they seem so content to let so much bad press go, but then they have that announcement coming up so maybe they're waiting until then to set things straight.

The Xbox might not be truly "always online" it could just have key features that require it to be online so they'll just advertise it as such.



Stuffgamer1 said:

At this point, I see little reason to doubt the truth of these rumors simply because Microsoft keeps missing opportunities to debunk it. The amount of negative press this is getting them right now has GOT to be beyond acceptable for a feature that wasn't even real...ergo, it must be real. Either that, or Microsoft's full of ever stupider people than I thought.

It seems to me that people trying to predict the placing in the console war are coming at things from two perspectives, and the difference hinges on whether or not you believe this ONE issue. If NextBox is always online, Microsoft doesn't have a prayer...I do believe that. If they come to their senses, they'll probably present at least a halfway decent bit of competition for Sony, but I really don't think they'll come out on top regardless because their focus on games has been on decline for so long.



BlueProxy said:

I can totally see MS requiring online access as their answer to stop any type of piracy, and used game purchases. All while monitoring "ever single action you take on your xbox", then target advertise to you in and out of game... charging mandatory monthly fees to play games and use basic features. I wouldn't be surprised if they jumped way ahead and made a disc-less system. That would explain a lot of silence at least.

He could very well be testing the waters on purpose, to see what the response would be, allowing them to add a disc drive version or add-on at launch. After all MS does not like hardware. They are a software company, and don't want to deal with cost of owning their own disc format like Sony. They won't pay Sony for use of blu-ray, and DVD is long outdated, so yea...



Tuturoopa said:

If it gets confirmed, I feel theyre digging their own grave

Very true, They could be holding this off for now because they know the rage it will cause, I certainly hope this doesnt happen for any console, a lot of people I know dont even use online for their consoles



Ps4all said:

The only reason i could see MS doing this and getting away with it is if there is a benefit to the gamer that outweighs the drawbacks of an always on device. Developers would be very enthusiastic about a console that would eliminate the used market and piracy. So much so that Microsoft might be able to swing some sweet exclusives (there was no call of duty or Madden at the playstation meeting). Also they could potentially sell games at a lower price point if they had no resell value. I am not a fan of their business practices, but i am not naive enough to think they don't have a plan.Microsoft is in the business of making $$$ by any means necessary.



Sanquine said:

@Stuffgamer1 PS4 and Wii U will come on top. I believe for wii U there is also a good future. I need to play those awesome games like MH ultimate:D



FullbringIchigo said:

me and a friend was talking about this last night and i had a thought (rare for me i know) but what if they did all this on purpose, just hear me out ok

they release the news that the next xbox will require a always on internet connection to play games and then they have a person defend this statement, then they look at the feedback the consumers [that's us] give to see if it is indeed a viable option to put this feature into the next xbox, you know using us to see if it would work without telling us they are so we give a honest response



Hokage17 said:

Microsoft would have to really come out with a game changer to win me over.



divinelite said:

That's a nice view to think after all
They might do that, so when they deny the news later, they could say "we love you our buyers, so we hear you"




I don't think 'game changer' is what any of the manufacturers can do- or even aim for.
Gaming these days falls in to the realms that it always has, graphics and gameplay. The tools provided by the platform are there for the developer to make use of- of course. But what we're seeing is a consolidation of technology. Motion, voice, audio, second screen and standard controller input are the order of the day for everyone really.



Imagremlin said:

Whilst this looks like a PR train wreck I feel is a good thing. I'm sure MS as well as Sony have considered strategies like this.

Whether is true or not MS lack of actual response appears to support the idea, and the uproar may have them rethinking their position. At least that's what I hope. I'm a console fan, I own every console for the last 3 generations. The NextBox would be the first console I skip since the PS1, I'm not buying a console that's using my Internet connection to check if I'm a thief every 3 minutes.

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