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.
I’m privileged enough to have a reasonably stable and fast internet connection. I’m lucky to have as stable a connection as I do, loads of people don’t. My net connection still drops out.
In order for always online to work, my net connection has to go and check in with someone else at another end of time and space or something. I subscribe to quite a few services, none of these have 100% uptime. Not one.
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. So even Steam which is robust as anything and one of the few things that just sits there always open, always connectible on my computer is not always online.
If I had to stay online for all these services to work, I’d have large periods of time where I couldn’t use those services because their end falls over. This is an unfortunate truth and one that the always online dream fails consistently to acknowledge because acknowledging this acknowledges that the idea of always online is fundamentally flawed. It is not like XBox Live requiring a broadband connection, speeds can and have been getting faster. Service reliability, well… not so much and we’re just adding more points of failure to that.
I’ve got a phone. I hear the phone argument a fair bit, it seems like it’s the agreed upon go to thing for company execs who want to put forward the always on argument.
“HEY, YOUR PHONE IS ALWAYS ON LOL”.
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?
But hey, at least with networks, if I don’t get good coverage from one, it’s fairly straightforward to move to another, swap a sim card round or whatever. Consoles don’t work like phones. Not even slightly. For a start, I don’t have to worry about whether I can ring my auntie on one particular phone or not because last I heard, the phone network hadn’t made her phone number an exclusive for six months or forever and ever, maybe with a Steam release in 5 years time.
Oh yeah, I’ve got cable too. That’s sort of always on. Except when it’s down and it’s off or the signal is fucked or something. So that’s two “always on” devices, neither of which can manage 100% uptime. Neither of which can manage to constantly provide a service when I want it 100% of the time, unlike when I’ve just got a box and a disc or a box and stuff saved on my hard drive and it doesn’t need to phone home.
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.
I’m not really convinced there’s a good reason for going always on, at least not a good reason for me. I don’t want a dialogue between me and the company, it’s OK. I’ll live without that.
And I’m not really convinced that some of the people pushing for always on understand the difference between “always on” and “always connectible” because I’ve had the latter for over 10 years now and yes, I’m comfortable with that, I imagine most people are. But that’s so very far from the same as “always on”. So very, very far.
I’ve not heard one single convincing reason why always on is supposed to be good for me. “It’s important to be able to provide direct connections between us and our consumers” is most definitely not fucking one.
I’m not ready for always online but I’m perfectly happy with always connectible. There’s a massive difference between the two though but let’s face it, when someone says “we think the audience is ready” you can read that as “we’re doing it anyway” really.