Is Always Online Worth It?

By Vinny Alascia

I am not much of an online gamer. At best I would say I dabble. By the same token I was more than a little miffed when I could not log onto my Xbox360 or shiny new Playstation 4 this past Christmas. Someone must’ve been on the naughty list, because this past holiday season a group of hackers decided it was open season on the Playstation Network (PSN) and Xbox Live (Live). They unleashed a Distributed Denial of Service attack to make sure no one could access these services. This is when one thought really came home: are we better off constantly connected?

Video games have suffered under a gradual march to an always online state. Microsoft took a huge blow when they announced their original plans for the always connected Xbox One back at E3 2014. Sony promised none of that and Microsoft soon reversed course, yet gamers still had to look at polite messages that said, “No, they were not playing that brand new game that Santa had left.” Even titles that offered single player only, that should have been offline experiences, could not connect to servers required for whatever purposes. It appears always online gaming has come and no one even told us. Both PSN and Live are services that gamers pay for above and beyond the cost of the systems and games, so were both Sony and Microsoft guilty of selling inferior products? What about those dweebs—I mean hackers; did their need for 15 minutes of fame have to come at such a cost? There was plenty of anger all around.

So what did I do? Well, I dusted off my Turbografix 16, Playstation 2, and Sega Genesis and played games from a time before dedicated servers and login credentials became barriers. Gamers will have to face more and more games being an online only experience, as we all will with our television and music services. The real question is will the companies that charge for these games and services keep up the security needed to keep their networks safe from dweebs? If not, are we ready as consumers to raise a stink about it? A glut of poorly conceived and executed software accounted for the first video game crash of the eighties. Could a glut of always online (when the network is up) games result in a repeat of that history? I hope not, but just in case I have my Saga Saturn and Nintendo 64 on a shelf right next to the TV.

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