Yesterday, the internet's gaming community erupted in fits of rage over tweets of Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth. Orth seemed fed up at rumors of the next-gen Xbox going "always online," and saw fit to respond by... essentially confirming them. After a series of sarcastic, ridiculous analogies, Orth shot back at a BioWare game designer who voiced concerns about the policy in light of recent SimCity and Diablo III launch disasters.
Adam Orth: "Sorry, I don't get the drama around having an 'always on' console. Every device now is 'always on.' That's the world we live in. #dealwithit"
Manveer Heir (BioWare): "Did you learn nothing from Diablo III or SimCity? You know some people's Internet goes out right? Deal with it is a shitty reason."
Orth: "Electricity goes out too."
Heir: "You've lived in LA, SF, Seattle... very connected places. Try living in Janesville, WI or Blacksburg, VA."
Orth: "Why on Earth would I live there?"
(The author would like to add "Rhinelander, WI" to the list of places with spotty or non-existent broadband.)
Folks, you can't make this shit up. The highly indicative nature of Orth's tweets (the full set, captured here on NeoGAF) seems to confirm that the next-gen Xbox will require you to be connected to the Internet at all times. Kotaku corroborates this story with a source of its own, a developer with access to Durango specs and info who states, "Durango consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used . . . If the connection is interrupted then after a period of time--currently three minutes, if I remember correctly--the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started."
"If there isn't a connection, no games or apps can be started."
NeoGAF sleuths, even after blowing up Orth's incriminating tweets, weren't satisfied. Words of a game designer--The Workshop's Nikolai Mohilchock--were found on the Evil Avatar forums:
"Given that legally I cannot confirm or deny if this information is true, nor can I comment on rumor speculation, all I can say is be sure to pay your ISP bills. "
Mohilchock may be winking, but the rest of the Internet is far from happy. Vitriol over Microsoft's next-gen silence, Orth's arrogance, and the seeming confirmation of "always online" for Nextbox erupted overnight, putting Microsoft squarely in a defensive position. Except they haven't done any defending. The silence on Nextbox features continues, while Adam Orth's Twitter account has gone "Protected" to hide the evidence. I imagine Orth is getting a mouthful from his superiors, but that does little to stem the hemorrhaging next-gen wound. Microsoft is falling out of favor fast with gamers and journalists on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, Sony rides the high of an excellent PlayStation 4 reveal, a staggering amount of developer support, and a wealth of indie titles announced last week at GDC 2013.
Things aren't looking much better for Nintendo, though at least The Big N isn't actively insulting gamers. After a warm critical reception at launch, noteworthy games are coming few and far between for Wii U. The console's sales in North America are "disappointing," says GameStop, and early promises of third-party support are starting to look like a pipe dream. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told IGN last June that he expected third-parties to jump onboard with Wii U games shortly after launch. The same man outright lied to CNN last November when he said, "third-party games like Call of Duty look dramatically better on our system." So where are we now, and how do Nintendo's promises hold up? Dead Island publisher Deep Silver has decided that a Wii U port of Dead Island: Riptide isn't worth it. DICE has confirmed that Frostbite Engine 3 won't work on Wii U-- no Battlefield 4, Mass Effect 4, or Dragon Age 3. When asked if Unreal Engine 4 would work on Wii U, Epic Games VP Mark Rein burst out laughing.
The sales woes and seemingly outdated tech of Wii U, alongside damning evidence of "always online" for the next-gen Xbox, looks laughable next to marketing that has cast PS4 in a favorable light with many gamers. Developers are swearing allegiance. Indie titles are coming in droves. We have jaw-dropping evidence of PS4's graphical beauty and a heaping ton of information on everything from system specs and offline play to social features and streaming. On top of everything, PlayStation Vita looks ready to find its niche as an essential companion device for the hardcore PS4 gamer. All this, before year's end. No wonder Xbots are jumping ship.
If this all sounds like a huge turnaround for Sony, you're spot-on. PlayStation 3's lifecycle was plagued by the memory of a $600 launch console, arrogant retail confidence, and utterly confused marketing that could never decide what PS3 wanted to be. A host of shoddy third-party ports didn't help. But the future looks exceedingly bright for PlayStation, because Sony seems to finally understand what gamers and game-makers want. Zero download times and background updating, thanks to Gaikai streaming. Easy to develop for, akin to a "really perfect gaming PC." Social connectivity for staying in sync with your buddies and sharing game content. It's a cool, hip vision of gaming that flies directly in the face of prior efforts, and whatever the hell is going on in Microsoft and Nintendo camps.
Of course, this exciting future isn't real until it happens, but Sony would do well to take recent incidental victories to heart and ride this free momentum all the way to E3. There, a blowout of games, hardware, and features will seal the deal on PS4 buyer confidence. By giving the same love to PS Vita and the increasingly relevant PlayStation Mobile platform, Sony can make evident the usability and convenience of a PlayStation ecosystem that puts gamers and compelling experiences at the forefront. And why not give us a sneak-peek beforehand? The sound of Microsoft's silence will get even louder with a few more PS4 game trailers and details at an event rumored for May.
Then again, maybe another event isn't necessary. In the next-gen console race, Microsoft's ignorance and Nintendo's software-dry system put Sony squarely in first place.
Do you agree? Have thoughts to share on how Sony can ensure a successful PS4 launch? Drop a comment below and join the PS4 conversation here at PSU.com