If the recent SimCity launch taught us anything, it's that gamers aren't all that keen on titles that require a persistent online connection. Making an Internet link a requirement is especially annoying for single-player games that have no actual need for it. Despite apparently widespread disdain for this sort of practice, it appears the next-generation Xbox console may need to check in with Redmond's servers all the time. Two sources have told Kotaku that the next Xbox "must have an active internet connection to be used."
According to the site's moles, neither games nor applications will start without a 'net connection in place. And it gets worse. "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," one of the sources says. That's even less leeway than with SimCity, which remains playable for about 20 minutes after users goes offline.
Microsoft hasn't released any official details on its upcoming console, but as Kotaku notes, the rumor mill has been whispering about an always-online requirement for quite some time. Multiple sites have quoted sources as saying users will need to be online to play games. A purportedly legitimate document has also been leaked, revealing an "Always Online, Always Connected" tagline for the new console.
While online requirements are typically used to combat piracy, it seems likely that used games are also in the crosshairs now. Vendors have been especially keen to push used games in recent years, and they're the only ones who profit from those sales. Neither the developers nor the publishers get a cut of the action. The console makers don't, either, and they typically sell their hardware at a loss in the hopes of making the money back on game sales.
Of course, there are benefits to having consoles online. Software updates can be pushed out automatically, and entertainment content can be streamed easily. As the Xbox 360 illustrates, though, both of those things can be accomplished without a persistent connection.
Requiring an Internet connectivity would be a ballsy move for Microsoft, and I hope it has the supporting server infrastructure sorted out. Actually, no, I don't. I have to admit that I watched the SimCity debacle with some delight, and it would bring a smile to my face to see another intrusive copy protection scheme galvanizing gamers against such practices.