If you were somehow gleefully unaware, this Saturday Microsoft’s Xbox Live saw a rather significant outage, as the service was down for most of the day. By the end of the day they were able to restore most of the network, but certain parts like group chat just simply did not function and were still being worked on in the wee hours of the night. For Microsoft, it is a pretty big deal as it is a Saturday afternoon in North America, where their core audience is and also when their core audience spends a good deal of time gaming or consuming entertainment. Saturday was a great day to buy a new game on the marketplace or watch a few movies, but Xbox Live was down and things were less-than-smooth.
Of course, this comes right after the persistent rumors of the next Xbox console, the Xbox 720/Durango possibly having an “always on” DRM system that forces the user to always have an internet connection to access Xbox Live. We still haven’t heard if the rumor is true or false, but when Microsoft employees are going to twitter and saying, “tough” and losing their jobs over it, there is a good chance that there might be some truth to it. This breach of the network could not come at a worse time for Microsoft with these rumors flying around, as it shows just how worthless the Xbox 720 would be if there was a problem with Xbox Live and everyone was sitting on an expensive paperweight that won’t load games or apps.
One would have to think that if Microsoft is really going to move forward with the always on DRM that there has to be some beads of sweat accumulating in Redmond tonight after this Xbox Live outage. We use the internet for just about every part of our modern lives now, so it isn’t far-fetched to imagine a console wanting you to always be connected to the internet to gather and send information and to keep the user engaged, but when everything revolves around a service like Xbox Live, things get dicey.
We all remember the great PlayStation Network hack, where thousands of accounts were hacked, the network not working for a span of a few days, which forced Sony to give users free games as well as force everyone to reset their passwords. If Microsoft is going to force users to always be accessing their network, there can be no flaws, no downtime and no security holes for hackers to exploit. If Microsoft is going to move ahead with “always on” then they need to prove that they can offer that service without it being intrusive or a hindrance at all, and as of today, I think that there will be a lot more gamers a bit leery of the idea.
There are going to have to be assurances from Microsoft if they do move forward with the always on DRM that they are not going to be overly intrusive and that they themselves can keep the service up and running, or they’ll have a lot of worthless Xbox systems out in the wild that no one can use. The idea of if this happened next year and not being able to play any games at all is just a horrifying one and proof that this idea is not the most well thought out of ideas and should be revised to be more forgiving in the event of such outages in the future.