Speaking during an r/games video interview at E3 last week, Microsoft’s Director of Programming for Xbox Live, Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb, attempted to ease concerns over the long-term viability of the Xbox One by stating that they have not designed the console to stop playing games after the company shuts down their servers.
The confusion about the Xbox One’s lifespan came about after Microsoft confirmed that the console requires a daily Internet connection to verify the game licenses associated with a user’s Xbox Live account. As described by Microsoft, the next-gen system can stay offline for a maximum of 24 hours, at which point it will attempt to contact the servers. If the servers can not be reached at that time, the console will basically lock up and only allow users to watch live TV or Blu-Ray discs. All other features (including the ability to play offline single-player games) will cease to work until the server connection is reestablished. Naturally, this required Internet connection raised questions about what will happen when Microsoft eventually shuts down the Xbox One servers at the end of this generation.
To answer that very question, Major Nelson stated the following in the interview:
“I’ll just say this: We haven’t even started this generation, so it’s kind of early to talk about the end of the generation. That’s certainly something we would not do. That’s not the way the system is designed. It’s designed for flexibility. But let’s get the system out there first.”
On the surface, Major Nelson’s response appears to be good news for the Xbox One and all its software, but ultimately it raises more questions/concerns than it answers.
For starters, it is a bit of a stretch to say that Microsoft has not designed the Xbox One system to encounter problems when they eventually shut down their servers. As stated in their own literature, the console requires a connection to the Xbox Live server. If the servers are not there to ping, then the system will not function. In this respect, they have absolutely designed the system to someday have a fatal flaw.
With this in mind, it appears that Major Nelson is hinting that the system is “flexible” enough for them to eventually remove the check-in requirement on the Xbox One, so that it can someday be played offline. If this is the case, and we certainly hope it is, why are they forcing the requirement in the first place? Why not just let users authenticate the license for their game offline by putting the game disc into the console?
Despite what Major Nelson says, I do not think it is too early for customers to question the long-term plans for the Xbox One. Speaking as someone who has accumulated a decent sized video game collection dating back to the original Intellivision, the ability to use a console long after its generation ends is extremely important to me, and something that I take into consideration before making a purchase.
Sorry Microsoft, but a “don’t worry about it” answer is not going to cut it. The Xbox One has been designed to stop working when not connected to the Xbox Live servers. How exactly will this be changed when those servers no longer exist?