Microsoft exec can't see the problem with always online Xbox

Microsoft Game Studios creative director Adam Orth started a Twitter storm when he said he didn't "get the drama" about always-on devices.

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Nick Hide
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Microsoft exec Adam Orth, creative director at the company's Game Studios division, can't see the problem people have with a new Xbox being 'always on'.

Rumours have been circling the forthcoming sequel to the Xbox 360, with detailed leaks suggesting the next-gen console requires an Internet connection to work at all. Many game fans have objected, saying their Internet connection isn't reliable, and pointing to the abysmal experience of the SimCity launch, where servers were overloaded for days.

Orth stuck his head above the parapet and -- unusually for an unannounced product -- commented on Twitter that he didn't "get the drama". His tweets have since been made private, but NeoGaf users screengrabbed them for posterity.

"Sorry, I don't get the drama around having an 'always on' console. Every device is now 'always on'," Orth wrote. "That's the world we live in. #dealwithit"

Perhaps inadvisedly, when questioned by gamers, he proceeded to compare the Internet with much more reliable utilities, tweeting, "Sometimes the electricity goes out. I will not purchase a vacuum cleaner. The mobile reception in my area is spotty and unreliable. I will not buy a mobile phone."

This is a straw man, of course. People buy those things and are still perfectly within their rights to complain about their shortcomings. You complain in the hope that your mobile network might put up a better mast in your area, or your electricity company will repair its cables and add capacity. You complain to Microsoft ahead of it releasing a hobbled console in the desperate hope it'll rethink.

"#dealwithit" is a spectacularly ill-advised bit of peevish douchebaggery too. It's haughty and stinks of privilege. You're a creative director for Microsoft, you probably live in a well-to-do suburb of Seattle with amazing fibre-optic cable. The rest of us are hobbling along on 'up to 2Mbps' copper wiring. We'd rather not have to #dealwithit, thanks.

When Mass Effect designer Manveer Heir said, "You've lived in LA, SF, Seattle... very connected places. Try living in Janesville, WI or Blacksburg, VA [small rural towns in the US]," Orth replied, "Why on earth would I live there?" Well, quite.

SimCity is always-on because of its publisher's piracy concerns, but it got in trouble when it said the real reason was to make the game better. When the game broke, people looked very closely at whether it was actually using its online features to process data critical to playing the simulation, and surprise! It wasn't.

Microsoft is in danger of making the same mistake. Orth seems to be hinting that a new Xbox needs to be always online because... because... Internet! Everyone will suspect the real reason is to stop people buying second-hand games. This will create a lingering resentment among fans and a big stick for the competition to beat it with, just like the red ring of death did for the Xbox 360.

What do you think? Is always-online a boon that'll save the hassle of waiting for updates? Or a miserable conspiracy to deprive us of cheap second-hand games? Let fly with both barrels in the comments, or on our always-online Facebook page.