Monday , 1 September 2014

Microsoft’s Adam Orth on Internet Requirement for Next Xbox: “Deal with It”

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A couple of months ago I reported on rumors that the next Xbox will require an internet connection in order to function. The “always on” requirement for Xbox 720 was said to be part of Microsoft’s digital-rights management strategy for its next-gen console. That rumor drew the ire of a lot of gamers and analysts.

Well, fast forward to two days ago. As Joystiq reported, Adam Orth, creative director at Microsoft’s video game division, added fuel to the fire by posting this message on his Twitter account:

Adam Orth always on twitter

Screen cap courtesy of NeoGAF

This would seemingly confirm the Xbox 720 internet-connectivity rumor.

PS4 will not require an internet connection in order to function.

Microsoft risks alienating loyal Xbox fans by having the always-on requirement. Some former Xbox players might even switch over to Sony. It’s a terrible sign for the next Xbox when Microsoft is losing the PR battle before it’s even announced the new system!

Sony must be loving this.

If Microsoft is hell-bent on forcing an always-on requirement down gamers’ throats, it must do a better job at explaining why it’s necessary. If Sony doesn’t think such a requirement is needed, why does Microsoft?

Here are some of Orth’s snarky defenses of the always-on requirement:

orth xbox 720 twitter internet always on

Screen cap courtesy of NeoGAF

Orth is trying to be funny, but these sarcastic defenses don’t make any sense. The very essence of a phone requires a connection to a cellular network. Vacuum cleaners, as currently designed, will not work without electricity. If engineers could create phones that didn’t need cellular reception or vacuums that didn’t need electricity, they damn sure would.

Single-player games, on the other hand, do not logically require an internet connection. So the analogy to cell phones and vacuum cleaners is asinine. Just because Microsoft wants to force players to have internet connectivity to play its system doesn’t mean such a requirement is actually necesssary.

If Microsoft is truly concerned about the effect digital piracy is having on its bottom line, it needs to spell that out. But it shouldn’t insult gamers’ intelligence by throwing out boneheaded justifications for its draconian policy.

In the company’s defense, Orth seems to be somewhat of a rogue agent within Microsoft’s ranks. It’s highly doubtful his superiors sanctioned these remarks. And Microsoft has since apologized for Orth’s statements.

We’ll see if this forces Microsoft to reevaluate its DRM policy.

 

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3 comments

  1. I have been a loyal Xbox 360 gamer but if they make this new console with an “always on” requirement – I will buy a PS4 so quick it will make Microsoft’s head spin and I will never look back.

  2. First off, as usual, so well put, Mike, excellently written (I’m gunning for the “most-commas-in-a-short-sentence” Achievement).

    Reading Orth’s tweets, his responses, and the comments of people who claim to know him; having put my foot in my mouth many, many times; and having worked for employers who expect employees to watch carefully what you say, I can imagine how this event might have gone down from his perspective:

    Some people defend the exchange by saying it’s just him and his buddy sharing insights, but nobody communicates with twitter expecting that conversations are private. He knows this, and you can tell from the tone of his opening statement that he WANTS people to hear this wisdom. Someone must have been talking to him – either he was a participant in a meeting where “always-on” was discussed, or a friendly coworker was giving him some insight into the next XBOX plans. Whatever way he was turned on to this information (one presumes he’s not just supporting conjecture the Internet is reporting), he drank the Kool-aid and is eating the dog food and he wants the world to know about it. If he had left out the word “console” in his first tweet, he would still be employed today. But he didn’t.

    Then, there’s the first stages of backlash, and he starts coming across as someone who has only thought 3/4 of the way through his argument. Maybe he’d had a beer or some wine at lunch, maybe a cute co-worker down the hall had chatted him up that morning, or maybe he’s always like this, but he continued tweeting with the self-delusion that he is brilliant and everything he’s saying is elucidative sunshine, or at the very least, correct. Likely, he was also a bit distracted at the time, and maybe even engaged in other, personal email discussions, with friends possibly agreeing with his statements, giving him the impression that he was doing all right and blinding him to the reality that it’s no really about his arguments, but about what he’s talking about in the first place.

    Then it starts to get a little desperate, and you can see that he has the dawning comprehension that this can of worms just got a little opened. He should have deleted his tweets, but instead thought “it’s just my personal opinion, maybe a few positive statements, like ‘the Internet is awesome’ and ‘I wish I could drink this Kool-Aid with ALL of my meals’ will tamp down this growing backlash”.

    At some point, when his exchange started hitting the gamer forums and the gamer news sites, and then the general media, it hit HIM that he was f*cked. He had become an unwitting unofficial spokesman. If he’s at all self-aware and valued his job and his lifestyle at the time, I can imagine that the pit of his stomach started to feel like lead, prickles of sweat broke out all over him, and suddenly the room would be getting too warm. As awareness gives over to some panic, attempts at self-delusion “this will all blow over” play in his head. The panic returns as his boss either phones him or emails him to come to his office… and then the discussion that becomes heated as he indignantly tries to argue his way out of a situation that grew into a PR monster for Microsoft becomes a desperate attempt to save his job. I’m sure he thought that his comments were personal, innocuous, and even touting the company line, but there is no back door, no way out of what he’s publically said.

    They probably let him resign, it might look better on his resume, makes Microsoft look a little more compassionate, and he might one day even be welcomed back there as a result, but he definitely wasn’t given a choice in the matter.

    They say you have to make mistakes in life to learn. Personally, I hate mistakes that make hard life lessons out of what were considered innocuous conversations or a lapse of judgment or control. I’ll bet poor Orth does, too. I’d definitely buy the guy a beer and commiserate.

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