The obsession with making us play always connected to the Internet and the problems it causes

The problems that Xbox has suffered in the last week that have prevented many players from playing their games offline has revived ghosts from the past and also debates about the preservation of the video game and the life of our digital catalog.

During the last weekend the Xbox servers suffered connection problems that have prevented many players from accessing their games, even offline. The problems have continued throughout the week despite Microsoft’s attempts to correct the error and they have already promised that in the coming days there will be a new update which will end the bug for those who are experiencing it. This has not prevented the debate from reaching the networks. The fact that a server error prevents you from playing your games offline brings with it a ghost from the past that cost Xbox a bad start to the generation with Xbox One. But, before we talk about the complicated topic of the drm, the preservation and ownership of the video game we buy, you have to understand how the Xbox account system works right now.

There is two ways to connect: the account that 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 has to verify the authenticity of the account every time a game is started and, therefore, those users who have shared accounts do need to be online even if they are going to play a game that does not require Internet .

However, many gamers have experienced errors simply by having an account on their console and this is precisely the error that Microsoft is trying to fix: why the console asks for online verification when it doesn’t need it. The system that Xbox uses works on the basis of receiving a license: the game can be licensed offline at install time or at run time, requiring to be played at least once to work properly offline. On discs, it is the physical format itself that serves as the key to unlock the game.

We can understand that this week’s issues are more about a bug than snatching offline capabilitiesSo, on the one hand, we can understand that this week’s issues are about more than one error that of an attempt to snatch the offline capabilities of video games. But the truth is that the system that Xbox has is more complex than the one 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 the games must be verified to verify that the user has an active subscription. But the tests I have done with the service show that many of the games I have downloaded can be played perfectly with the console completely disconnected. This was already happening in similar services, such as Sony’s PS Plus, where we can play the games of the month without the need for an Internet connection as long as our console is primary.

The obsession with making us play always connected to the Internet and the problems it causes

For all these reasons, we can conclude that Xbox is ready to play offline games, but this week’s failures also show two things: first, that the system is not perfect and Microsoft has to work on solving account conflicts with the Internet connection, causing some players to not be able to play offline. The second is interesting: our way of playing has changed a lot since 10 years ago, when Xbox started this debate with the “always online” and what has happened this week shows that, if the servers do not crash, there are no complaints because a high percentage of players play connected.

This should not take away iron from the matter, of course. A game with offline capabilities should always be able to be played without an Internet connection regardless of server failures. We must ask ourselves, then, the efforts being made by a company like Xbox, which defends the video Game Preservation, regarding this matter. And we must also question the meaning of belonging. For me, a game that really belongs to me is one that I can play in all circumstances and also one that I can lend or sell without any problem, be it 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 for the physical one as for the digital one. Never.

Gran Turismo stopped working for a few days due to server problemsGran Turismo stopped working for a few days due to server problems

In recent years, many games with offline capabilities require an Internet connection. The cases of titles such as NBA 2K or Gran Turismo are notable, which, despite having modalities that could be executed perfectly without depending on servers, demand this requirement. Why do companies have this obsession for us to play connected? In my opinion, the answer is clear: data. The same thirst for information as in other free applications that we use in our day to day. Data is more reliable than press or public criticism. We can complain about a feature of a game, that if they see in the data that a high percentage of players use it, they will trust the data more than the complaints.

There is the great debate of what will happen to our games if the servers go down or a store disappears.Lastly, there is the great debate of what will happen to our games if the servers go down or a store goes down. As for the former, if civilization faces massive collapse, your game collection will probably be the last thing on your mind; but regarding the latter, the truth is that we have cases like the ones left by the Wii, Wii U, 3DS, PSP stores (and although it has stopped, they will end up joining PS3 and Vita) that show that the ownership of digital products is not not at all insured. It all depends on the success and architecture. If the platform enjoys the first 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 company on duty decides to close its store because it has changed its architecture or because it has already reached its “useful life” (terrifying words), then the fine print of the contracts we sign becomes a very big problem. It should be the player, in each case, who decides which conditions he is willing to accept and which ones he is not; and also if these conditions should have a different price.

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