In an article pointing out the other side of the recent (and currently rather destructive) “always-on” discussion over on GI.biz – that it’s ultimately good for publishers – Capcom’s Senior Vice President has admitted that getting it right is essential, and that network based service models like always-on are “crucial to our business moving forward”.
“As an industry, we needed SimCity to get it right,” says Capcom’s Christian Svensson, suggesting that it might not be quite ready for primetime. “We needed Blizzard to get it right. And there are reasons that needed to happen for the sanctity of our revenue streams.”
“Network based service models are crucial to our business moving forward. If we cannot provide the level of service appropriate and we continuously disappoint, we create continued ill will from customers. Even when there’s a huge value to consumers – every single time, it’s going to be viewed with skepticism and waiting for people to get burnt.”
The issue is that whilst Microsoft are rumoured to be enforcing a system-wide always-on connection in order for games to even boot, Sony are remaining slightly vague on the matter. You can play offline on a PS4, but that doesn’t mean that all games will be free from the internet-based restrictions.
Meanwhile, more rumours are seeping out about Microsoft’s next Xbox. The Verge has dug up multiple unnamed sources to tell it that the race for control over the living room is the focus for Microsoft. That’s something that would, given the company’s Xbox strategy since Kinect launched, make a degree of sense. Microsoft has been unabashedly proud (and rightly so) of its more recent successes with streaming services to what it spent so long boasting was a core gaming machine.
The Verge’s sources talk about the “always on” aspect of the machine as it relates to our televisual habits. Basically, the console requires a constant internet connection because you’ll be pumping your cable box through it via HDMI pass-through. There will be an overlaid on-screen display but the control will be via your Xbox and the next generation of Kinect. Presumably the online component supplies the programme guide and unlocks for your subscription packages.
There’s no indication of what this might mean for the larger part of the globe that doesn’t run on the same TV systems as North America but if they want to advertise this feature in the UK and elsewhere, they’ll need to make it work with Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky – other European countries will have their own local providers too. In short, if not insular to US systems, this will be an incredibly fragmented service.
Further to these rumours is the suggestion that Microsoft might be readying a low-cost “Xbox TV” box. That’s something that might help to validate another source of rumours – VGLeaks. They’re reporting that there’s a cheap version of the Xbox 360 on the way.
This budget console, likened to the Wii Mini, ditches the disc drive completely although it will still allow users to play downloaded games.
It’s basically intended to compete with devices like Roku, Boxee and AppleTV in that it will enable you to use all the current streaming services through a cheap box that also happens to allow access to Xbox Live and downloaded games, including Games on Demand.
All of the media functions will apparently be present in the next Xbox (it would be silly to assume otherwise) but that will also have its beefed up hardware and more powerful games. The “Xbox Mini” is also intended for use as an add-on peripheral with the new Xbox. Similar to the ill-fated HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360, it will link up to the new console and enable backward compatibility.
With a rumoured event to show off their plans in little over a month, hopefully we can put some of this rumour-mongering to bed and start to build a clearer picture of how Microsoft intends to counteract Sony’s impressive plans for the PlayStation 4.