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Malik (6/10/13)

Ok. I'm the first to admit it; I've been beyond lazy and bad with posting. I mean nearly half a year has gone by and I've been caught up in so many other things, and so many games, that I cannot even begin to think of where I should start. So, with that in mind, I'll start with the obvious problem in my mind. I'm a bitchy person, so I will bitch.

The XBox One (X1) has been announced since I was last around these parts. Yes, the PS4 has also been announced, but the X1 has the type of things I like to bitch about. In this case, it's the not-quite-always-online requirement. For those who don't know, the X1 will require a check-in, online, once every 24 hours unless you want your game console to be a "everything but games" console. So, once per 24 hours you have your game licenses checked out by the Live servers, or else they will not function.

I live with a pretty good internet connection, despite being Comcast. However, I'm more of the mind that just because something works for me, it doesn't mean it's good. This is obviously not in the same league, but about a century back, I would be able to have voted in the US. I'm a white male in my 30's and own my own home and pull in a nice enough salary to be considered middle-class. However, should I not be upset that the family across the street from me (Hispanic Americans) would be barred from the voter rolls? What about my wife, who is in the same situation as me, but wasn't born with a penis...which was apparently used to mark your ballots...?

Yes, that's a big exaggeration of the matter at hands; video games. However, one thing that remains in the US right now is that this country has one of the lamest excuses for a broadband infrastructure of any supposedly civilized country in the world. About half (I'd find the real numbers and stats, but I'm a bit lazy today) of the supposed "broadband" residential connections in the US are not up to par for online gaming. I mean if you are rocking a DSL line, you may be shit out of luck. Yes, some DSL is a bit better, but this is an outlier in the more affluent/dense areas of the residential portion (by this, I mean not counting the large swaths of resort areas and areas that do not truly support residences) of the US. So, if you're rocking the best DSL I can get at my home (which is just down the road from a major international airport, one of the largest ports of trade on the Western US, and 15 minutes from Seattle), you would be rocking out a 2.5mbps connection on the down, and a pathetic 0.75mbps on the up. Yes, I have Comcast for internet, but not all areas are serviced by the cable companies.

Yes, there are the obvious candidates for this poor service. I mean there's people living in the boonies of the Mid-West, Appalachian folks, blah, blah. Most of these are considered the "poor" people. Poor, as in, "if you can't afford cable internet, then you can't afford a X1! Get some money!" However, there are also many more affluent areas that live near civilization that fit the bill of no cable availability and low speed internet. If you want to find these places, look for the larger cities and find any mountains within 15-30 miles (a reasonable commute for work). For example, in Washington there is North Bend. North Bend would be a commutable range from Issaquah (a small but strong tech sector in Washington State). In Oregon, the former logging city of Cottage Grove is about 15 minutes from Eugene (home of the University of Oregon and several major biotechs). Cottage Grove holds some affluent people (as well as some poor as dirt people, and everyone in between) who live out there for the mountains, the forests, the clean air, and the large parcels of land. I know this one quite well. Some people I know down in Cottage Grove would be left out of the X1 for one of two reasons; either you can only get DSL service with your satellite TV, or you luck out with cable but face service outages for a couple weeks each winter when the storms roll in.

After thinking about this issue some, I even looked at the worst places in the internet; gaming forums. Yes, I was expecting a lot of stupidity and ignorance (and the forums delivered in spades!), but I knew a few small voices of experience would ring out. For every 99 posts of "works for me bro!", there would be one that was insightful. I read of people in some of the hotter areas of the Southwest. These included major cities with enough income to afford a game console and a broadband connection. I read of someone in Santa Clara, CA who would lose internet for about a weeks each summer when the heat was at the most intense due to the cable company equipment shorting out in the heat. I read of someone trapped in a home, with power, for a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit New York...but without internet and an ability to leave his house. Hell, I have seen similar in my comfy Seattle area when we hit an all-time record high temperature a couple years ago and cable went to shit, despite the power being perfectly fine. Hell, if power is knocked out due to wind storms, I've usually seen my power come back quicker than Comcast comes back (power companies are typically more ready to handle major storm damage than a cable company).

Now my personal take on this is that once each 24 hours just seems like a double edge of badness. One edge says that the US is just not ready for this type of DRM yet. As we hear every year or two from D.C., we need to improve our country in both transportation and broadband infrastructure...and that is one bit where I don't usually just see D.C. as being full of hot air. The other edge is that internet can go out and will go out. Usually it will not be for 24 hours...but it just feels to me (entirely my opinion on this) that once every 72 hours (3 days) would be a smoother time frame and would be more in line with potential problems. Hell, any time I've moved residences, Comcast would not be back up and running in my new home for about 2-3 days...three boring days that usually just had me playing video games when I needed a break from unpacking.

Now, I should also disclose a bias for me; I do own a small amount of Microsoft stock. I do, and I admit it. Well, this Microsoft stock also helps me to see another little problem. If the market gets limited any due to this DRM issue (which will probably become more apparent, if it really is going to be a problem...this is all speculation from either side at this point), gamers will be more apt to go with the PS4. Let's face it, the PS4 and X1 look nearly identical in terms of the hardware (actually, slight edge goes to the PS4 for better memory), so games and usability are key in one side doing better than the other. Well, if the DRM does frighten away consumers, or cause people to move on from the X1 due to any issues, then exclusives will be more likely to slide away from the X1 (except for exclusives that Microsoft brings about with monetary incentives). This can cause a domino effect (ask Nintendo). I'd rather have three consoles all healthy and competitive, since it breeds innovation. Well, right now we only have 2 (ask Nintendo). If this causes a problem and Sony doesn't go the same route, then innovation from competition may be in trouble, and this leads to no one winning...except PC gamers.

Anyway, I am naturally a skeptic and cynical. It's my way in life. I just see too many potential problems right now. It could all pan out, but I see a lot of things that I will need Microsoft to prove to me. So, publishers will determine if I can sell a game; How many will actually support this and not see this as a loss of income? I can trade a game license between 10 family members; there was no mention of publishers having a choice in this, so will they have a choice? If so, I see them saying "no" nearly every time, since it's like losing 9/10th of your potential income. If they don't have a choice, I see many publishers walking away when they lose 9/10th of their potential sales due to sharing between "family" members (my friends are like brothers and sisters to me, heh, heh).

Yes, Microsoft may be bringing about a huge change for the better, if things work out how they predict. However, they might also be setting up a bit of a train-wreck or a shift towards something ugly. I think Sony stock prices jumping up a couple percent immediately following the X1 unveiling was not a good sign. Personally, good or bad in my eyes, I think the X1 will be a console I'd wait a minimum of one year before buying. There are new forces at work, and many of these are entirely untested and need a real world experience to see if they are not a problem I'm willing to not deal with. Plus, Microsoft said trading and selling of games would not be ready day one, so I really need to see this in action first.

Also, I hope Microsoft doesn't do anything to anger any hackers or hacker groups. I mean Sony angered some hackers, and how long was PSN down for? Plus, how important was PSN? Now imagine if Microsoft angers the hacking community and their required Live infrastructure was obviously the perfect target. Plus, nothing bad ever happens with networks for DRM. U-Play and Origins have never gone down from excessive use. Most importantly, Live never went down from excessive use. Also, none of these companies ever offered compensation due to these failure. Oh...wait...I was just told all of those have gone down from excessive use in the past, and compensation to gamers has been involved, typically in free games. Well, I'm sure it will definitely never happen again. At least not until the next time.


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