From SimCity 2013 to Diablo III, always online single player games have caused gamers nothing but grief. This past Christmas saw the worst connectivity crisis in years, as Playstation Network and Xbox Live were both hit by hackers. The outage has caused severe damage, as new gamers eager to play their new Playstation 4 or Xbox One on Christmas Day were met with error messages before they’d even taken off all the wrapping paper. As long as problems like this are a possibility, always-online games will never be able to function as advertised.
Sure, the Xbox One and PS4 don’t require an internet connection to function (thank God). Even when you can’t use Netflix or download updates you can still play games – but not all of them. Many AAA titles like Destiny and The Crew are designed with network play in mind and aren’t even playable without a stable connection. The networked aspects of these games are vital to their core experiences, unlike the now-infamous Sim City, but regardless of the reason behind it they still become so much useless code when taken offline.
Sony and Microsoft have invested vast resources into the online features of their consoles, but as we’ve seen this month, that’s no guarantee. Christmas Day 2014 isn’t likely to change the minds of companies that are already invested in this model, but it should. In a world where a few random jerks with axes to grind can bring entire networks to a screeching halt, always-online can never become the standard that developers seemingly want it to be.