The issues Xbox suffered over the past week that left many gamers unable to play their games offline have rekindled the ghosts of the past and also debates about the preservation of video gaming and the life of our digital catalog.
during the last weekend Xbox servers had connection issues which have prevented many gamers from accessing their games even offline. The problems continued throughout the week despite Microsoft’s attempts to fix the error and they have already promised that in the next few days there will be a new update which will end the bug for those experiencing it. This did not prevent the debate from reaching the networks. Having a server error prevent you from playing your games offline brings with it a ghost of the past that cost Xbox a bad start to the generation with Xbox One. But, before we get into the complicated subject of drm, preservation and ownership of the video game we purchase, you should understand how the Xbox account system works at this time.
There are two ways to connect: the account we have in our console and the one that is in the cloud. The latter is used to share our account with other consoles, having to establish a console as the main one. This means that the console must verify the authenticity of the account each time a game is started, and therefore users who have shared accounts must be online even if they are going to play a game that does not require Internet.
However, many players have encountered errors just by having an account on their console and this is precisely the error that Microsoft is trying to fix: why the console is asking for online verification when it does not need one. The system used by Xbox works on the basis of receiving a Licence: the game may be licensed offline at install or run time, needing to be played at least once to function properly offline. On discs, the physical format itself serves as the key to unlocking the game.
We can understand that this week’s issues are more about a bug than offline feature captureSo, on the one hand, we can understand that this week’s issues concern more than one Error that of an attempt to seize the offline capabilities of video games. But the truth is that the system that Xbox has is more complex than that used by Nintendo or PlayStation, which does not need any verification or execution once we acquire the game. A greater justification for this strict DRM could be given with the Xbox Game Pass service, in which games must be verified to verify that the user has an active subscription. But the tests I’ve run with the service show that many of the games I’ve downloaded can be played just fine with the console completely disconnected. This was already happening in similar services, such as Sony’s PS Plus, where we can play games of the month without needing an internet connection as long as our console is primary.
For all these reasons, we can conclude that Xbox is ready to play games offline, but this week’s failures also show two things: first, that the system is not perfect and Microsoft needs to work on resolving account conflicts with the internet connection, which is preventing some players from playing offline. The second is interesting: the way we play has changed a lot since 10 years ago when Xbox started this debate with “always online” and what happened this week shows that, if the servers don’t crash , there is nothing to complain about because a high percentage of players play online.
This shouldn’t remove the iron from the material, of course. A game with offline capabilities should still be able to be played without an internet connection, regardless of server outages. We must therefore wonder about the efforts made by a company like Xbox, which defends the Preservation Of Video Games, on this subject. And we must also ask ourselves about the meaning of belonging. For me, a game that really belongs to me is a game that I can play in all circumstances and also a game that I can lend or sell without any problem, whether physical or digital. If I can’t sell my digital license, it’s not entirely mine. And that’s why I don’t pay the same price for physical as for digital. Never.
In recent years, many games with offline capabilities require an internet connection. The cases of titles such as NBA 2K or Grand tourism which, despite perfectly executable modalities without depending on servers, require this requirement. Why do companies have this obsession for us to play connected? In my opinion, the answer is clear: The data. The same thirst for information as in other free applications that we use every day. Data is more reliable than the press or public criticism. We may complain about a feature of a game, that if they see in the data that a high percentage of players are using it, they will trust the data more than the complaints.
There’s the big debate about what will happen to our games if servers go down or a store disappears.Finally, there’s the great debate of what will happen to our games if servers go down or a store goes down. As for the first, if civilization faces a massive collapse, your game collection will probably be the last thing on your mind; but about the second, the truth is that we have cases like the Wii stores leave us, Wii U, 3DS, PSP (and although it has slowed down, PS3 and Vita will eventually come together) which show that ownership of digital products is by no means assured. It all depends on the success and architecture. If the platform benefits from the former and has good compatibility, the truth is that your catalog can be safe and even evolve with your machine, as is the case with Steam. But if the custodial company decides to close its store because it has changed its architecture or because it has already reached its “lifespan” (terrifying words), then the fine print of the contracts we sign becomes a very big problem. It must be the player, in each case, who decides which conditions he is willing to accept and which he is not; and also if these conditions should have a different price.