Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dealing with the "Dealwithit" Fallout - Part Two

Here goes nothing.

Alright, hopefully this will be the last post I feel compelled to make about this, and it doesn't become a recurring topic, like EA has as of late. Yesterday I talked a little about how even though I don't like what Orth said, that I don't think he should have been let go or forced to step down over it, even though I also can't really fault Microsoft for forcing him to do so if that indeed is the case.

It does occur to me though, that even though I like many have railed against Orth for his comments, I didn't mention exactly why I did so. That is a fault, and one that shall not go unimpeded any longer. See, there are reasons why I personally am against always online, and while those reasons might be valid (I'd certainly like to think they are), there are also reasons that trump mine by a long shot. To explain I think it would be prudent to look at what Cliffy B wrote about this entire situation, and take into account some of what he's saying.

His blog entry on this subject starts off with a basic dismissal of the about of shit that Orth has gotten over this, as well as speculation that maybe he was going to step down anyways. I feel that thinking that he was bound to be leaving Microsoft even before this is attempting to retroactively make his statements out to be something other than what they were. As for the whole "stop giving him crap" thing, I believe I've covered well enough that although he has the right to say whatever it is he wants about such subjects, that people also have the right to disagree with those statements as vehemently as they too desire.

This is the part of Cliffy's post that I'm most interested in though:

My gut is telling me that an always online future is probably coming. It’s coming fast, and possibly to the majority of the devices you enjoy. Adam’s analogies weren’t that far off; although the vacuum one was kind of weird. Sim City, with all of its’ troubles on launch, seems to be selling briskly. Diablo 3, the poster child of a messy launch, is estimated to be at 12 million units. (Remember the internet rage over the art style shift? I barely do. But it seemed so important at the time!) I would bet money that without the always online elements of Diablo 3 that it would have sold half of that.

Well, let's get this out of the way first, I do believe that an always online future might be coming. Unlike Cliffy though, I don't see it coming for years, if not decades. Technology may move fairly quickly, but I've found that the proliferation of technology is a lot slower. Certainly now there isn't such a thing as an old CRT TV, certainly at least not as anything but kitsch or something a thrift store owner might beg you to buy for five dollars, but I would also insist that such things are a different kettle of fish entirely.

You see, even though a cable connection is a nice thing to have when you buy a TV, it's not something that is necessary. If you'd rather use the TV to watch movies, or play games, you can do that too. No one is forcing you to hook the TV up to cable.

The SimCity and Diablo 3 points ring false for me as well. Just because they've moved a lot of units doesn't mean the disastrous launches should be overlooked; and I (and many others) would gladly take you up on that bet that Diablo 3 wouldn't have sold half as well if it wasn't always online.

You see, the thing with online features, is that when they're offered people enjoy them. They add extra functionality to a game. If you're bored playing Diablo 2 by yourself, then hop on Battle.net and play with some friends. However, when you're forced to be online, it stops being extra functionality and instead turns into something functionally restricting instead.

Remember when Microsoft made the decision to only allow broadband on Xbox Live? It was a bold move back then; broadband penetration wasn’t anywhere near what it is now. And yet the march of progress continued. Sooner or later our government, or Google, or any number of providers are going to get their shit together and we’ll have universally fast internet for the majority of the first world.

Again, with Xbox Live, it's added functionality, not something mandatory. It's certainly a nice, fuzzy thought to believe that within the next few years that some force will come out of the woodwork and provide decently priced high-speed Internet. It's still a pipe-dream though. And even if that comes to pass, then what about places that aren't the first world? Are people really going to be denied an experience entirely just because they can't access the proper requirements for it?

Certainly, one can argue that a gaming system is a luxury item. But here's the thing, so is the computer I'm typing this at right now, so is every product Apple puts out, and guess what? Those things don't need to always be online, even if by their very nature they are for many people.

Cliff talks about how early adopters will have the necessary tech, and how "Technology doesn’t advance by worrying about the edge case." But on the former he forgets that early adopters don't account for a great percentage of the sales of units, the average consumer does. And on the second part, he's just wrong, that's all there is to it.

Technology, by its very nature, is used by the masses to make their lives easier and better. Agricultural tools weren't created so that only certain farmers could implement them, vaccines for diseases weren't crafted so that only the top 2% percent of the population could be protected from diseases. Technology, even at its most mundane and outright extravagant has always benefited the masses either directly or indirectly, and the technology which doesn't, doesn't stick around for long.

Perhaps my head is in the clouds, but I think that if Cliff and others honestly think that people will readily adopt something that only makes things more difficult, rather than easier, then they must be far, far higher above me than even they realize.

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