The Xbox Live outages that occurred over the weekend aren’t doing much to help the argument for the ‘always-on’ requirement that has been proposed for the upcoming Xbox 720 console.
Xbox Live: Not So Fine Time For Down Time
Gamers experienced several service interruptions during the peak gaming hours on Saturday, which left many unable to log into their Xbox Live accounts and rendered Gaming On Demand and multiplayer action, as well as several entertainment apps such as Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu and YouTube inaccessible.
Tech Radar notes that the outages especially affected Call of Duty: Black Ops II players who were hindered from gaining double XP (experience points) Saturday afternoon. The opportunity was a part of a promotion for a new map pack the first-person shooter game launched on Monday.
Depending on the time, users were able to log in to their accounts, but were unable to access their Friends List, join parties or send or receive messages.
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Microsoft acknowledged the issue, stating that it was using "every available resource" to get players back online and gave status updates every 30 minutes until the disruption was resolved late Saturday night. However, there has been no word on what the issue was and why it disrupted service.
We can’t help note the coincidence in the timing of these outages and Microsoft’s prompt response at resolving the issue. While some enthusiasts claim Xbox Live outages rarely happen, others say they occur often enough to elicit concern as to how future consoles will be affected.
Will This Be An Issue For Xbox 720?
The incident is now fueling even more opposition toward the digital rights management (DRM) system that is expected to power the Xbox 720 and keep it constantly connected to the Internet. One of the main issues many have had with this feature is the uncertainty of the next generation console experiencing service interruptions, not unlike this one.
Currently, Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of always-on connectivity for the Xbox 720, but several clues indicate that the console will include this feature. Recent reports suggest that the next-generation console will require a constant Internet connection, but not for direct 720 gaming.
Tech website VG Leaks claims it has obtained information from Microsoft that it will sell a companion device alongside the Xbox 720. Tentatively called the Xbox Mini, the device will require always-on connectivity for all functions, while the Xbox 720 will play 720 games offline and also include always-on functions. In addition, the Xbox Mini will reportedly resolve the issue of backwards compatibility, another major gripe Xbox fans have had -- though playing second-hand Xbox 360 games on an Xbox 720 console will require a constant Internet connection.
We may also see this DRM system turn the Xbox 720 into a complete media center. According to the Verge, the constant Internet connection would allow the console to double as a set top box and provide media content from Xbox 720 to TV sets through HDMI overridden cable-box signals.
Continued Cause For Concern?
But this does not address all the service issues that could arise with the 720 always connected to the Internet; not only issues with Microsoft’s servers, but also problems that can pop up locally, with the user’s Internet connection.
A developer source recently told tech website Kotaku that many features on the Xbox 720 cannot be accessed if the user’s Internet connection is down.
“If there isn't a connection, no games or apps can be started. 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,” the source said.
Even if the console does promote disc gaming for Xbox 720 games, the majority of its functions do seem to be powered through Internet capability. Unless Microsoft has developed some innovation for keeping outages at an absolute minimum, or for allowing offline gameplay and access for those features powered by the Internet, always on connectivity will continue to elicit concern in fans.
For now, we can only wait until May 21, when the Redmond, Wash.-based software company is expected to unveil its next-generation console and confirm details on how it will work. Until then, “always on-gate” continues.