The Next Xbox Will Require An Internet Connection To Start Games, Sources Say

Two Kotaku sources have added more credence to the rumour that the next Xbox, expected to battle the PlayStation 4 in late 2013 or early 2014, will be an always-online system, though it will be able to tolerate dropped connections. "Unless something has changed recently," one of the sources told us over email, "Durango consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used."

Durango is the codename for the next-gen Xbox.

"If there isn't a connection, no games or apps can be started," the source continued. "If the connection is interrupted then after a period of time—currently three minutes, if I remember correctly—the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started."

The PS4 will not require an online connection to start or run games, Sony has confirmed. No gaming console ever has.

Reporting about the next-gen Xbox is still mostly a matter of checking rumours and leaks. No one in or out of Microsoft is authorised to discuss the console publicly. But there are a growing number of people tied to the gaming industry, including our sources for this story, who have had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with Microsoft's plans for the machine. Development of games for the console is intensifying. Microsoft has sent beta development kits, sporting a new controller and Kinect motion/voice sensor array to game creators. Our main sources for this story have a perfect track record in getting these kinds of things right.

That said, a caution and a caveat: other sources familiar with the codenamed Durango console have told us that they are still unaware of any Microsoft plans regarding an online requirement. No one has been able to say it's not true and some have speculated that this is required at the operating system level and therefore isn't something Microsoft has to tell all developers or retail partners. Microsoft also has the ability to change this type of requirement seemingly at a moment's notice through changes in firmware or networking infrastructure.

Microsoft doesn't comment at all about its next-gen system, so the best we have from them on the matter is as follows: "We do not comment on rumours or speculation. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform, but we don't have anything further to share at this time." That's from a Microsoft spokesperson after we asked, today, about this always-online rumour and told them this story was planned.

But if Microsoft is about to walk this back, they probably haven't done so yet. One of our sources says that the always-online plan was in effect as recently as two weeks ago.

The always-online rumour has been swirling for about a year. We'd been hearing it but couldn't nail it down with the specificity we have today. We raised it as a possibility, tied to a good source, but were unclear how dropped connections would be handled. We also weren't clear if this was something like Microsoft's anti-used-game system, a plan the company briefed partners on in 2012 but that we had heard so little of since that it may well have gone away—or if this was like the plans for the new Kinect, which, it has become increasingly clear, is an essential element of the Durango.

An always-online requirement would obviously be a big deal. It raises many questions about how the system would perform in places that don't have reliable Internet and about the extent that the connection would be used to authenticate ownership of games. This is something every gamer would want to know about. So, since we first heard about it, we have tried to confirm whether the requirement was real and in the cards. Sources in development, publishing and retail mostly responded with shrugs.

In January, the hacker SuperDaE began sharing official development documents for the next-gen PlayStation and Xbox. Many of the dozens of pages of the Xbox/Durango documentation were full of programming code but the parts in plain English—the parts that, honestly, we could understand—said nothing about an online requirement. They were, however, crystal clear about the new system needing the new Kinect to operate: "Every Durango console ships with a Kinect sensor. A Kinect sensor must be attached and configured for the console to function."

Some sources told us that they believed that the Durango development kit required an online connection so that Microsoft could keep tabs on them and update them with new, ever-evolving firmware. Others weren't sure.

A few weeks ago, we heard from one reliable industry source who told us about a Durango developer making a game that would use an always-online connection for gameplay purposes, to constantly be able to share game data back and forth. It wasn't clear, though, if this indicated the Durango's capacity to be always online—Nintendo's Wii had its own optional 24/7 always-online mode—or if the online connection was a must.

Meanwhile, the site VGLeaks, which appeared to have access to many of the same Durango documents shared with Kotaku by SuperDaE posted a new document that appeared to indicate an online connection was required for the console. It referred to an "Always Online, Always Connected" console, the better to give users current content and quick access to their entertainment, without waiting for updates or for the machine to boot up. We were unable to confirm this document's authenticity, but the major gaming website IGN reported that they confirmed that it is real. The gaming magazine Edge has also reported that their sources say the next Xbox will require an online connection.

The new confirmation we've heard from sources, including the specifics about how the Durango would handle a dropped connection, bolster our confidence that all this smoke is a sign of some fiery facts.

But why would they do this?

Every person we've talked to about the always-online connection, internally and externally, has been incredulous. They predict a fiasco. They detect hubris in a Microsoft riding high off of the Xbox 360's incredible post-Kinect sales performance. But they also detect, as I have, an intensified interest in Microsoft's part to position the next Xbox as an entertainment device, to not emphasise games as significantly as they had with past Microsoft consoles. Add that to far shakier rumours of the next Xbox working as a cable box or DVR or some other TV-viewing enabler—something not a single source of mine could confirm—and you might wonder: if my cable box always has to be connected, why not my next Xbox?

There are reasons for Microsoft to not do this, of course. They merely need to see the disastrous launch of EA's always-online SimCity and decide whether the negative backlash of selling people a product that can't work when the servers go down is worth it—especially if the earlier version of that product didn't require that kind of Internet connection.

They could also look at the competition and imagine a consumer standing at a store, deciding whether to buy a PS4 or the next Xbox. One wouldn't require online; the other, if our best sources are right, would. Surely, some would prefer the system without the online requirement.

As mentioned above, things can change. Microsoft may reveal its next Xbox this month, in May or, at the latest, at E3 in June. We'll know more then. We'll hopefully know what they've decided.


Comments

    Consoles are my go to entertainment source when my net dies or I'm capped. No way in hell would I buy an always online console. I know a lot of Australians who would agree with me.

      I agree, Im and xbox gamer at present (mostly due to gears of war), if Xbox do this, Im a PS gamer.

        Xbox gamer also, and the amount of times im randomly disconnected from LIVE because of ISP stability is too often to make an always on xbox viable.

        Im guessing Sony's in for a clear run next gen.

          the other thing i dont get about xbox owners is, why would you go for a system that requires a paid subscription for multiplayer

          that being said MS are unlikely to give a damn anyway

          the majority of their customers are tech noobs whod hand over their wallets regardless of always on or not

          our only hope is for a major fail of a launch like Sim City
          causing major disruption anger and bad press

            I went xbox cuz I could keep in touch with my brothers in other cities

            I went for Xbox cause I wanted to play the games it ran. Personally I think that's really the most sensible way to choose a device. Other factors may come into it but personally I play vastly more singleplayer than multi.

            Paying for a an online gaming service offers an Service Level Agreement which protects the gamer and offers a somewhat garrentee that action will be taken by Microsoft to remediate any outages or issues with the service (of course within cost and reson deemed by MS at the time).

            Yes - it costs money. Yes, you can get the same service on the oposing console but if the last major outage Sony PS had was anything to go by - PS fans have nothing to whinge about. No Fee for Online Gaming Service = No SLA which mean - we (Sony) owe you nothing.

            I see this all the time... I own both the PS3 and Xbox and really love both. The truth is Xbox live is a million times better in regards to online. The party system alone is worth the money IMO. Everything about playing with friends on an Xbox is more intuitive and effective than on a PS3.

        That's exactly the problem with this "solution" to piracy/used games; a lot of people will switch platform if they don't like it. Personally, I am already focusing more on PC these days, and that focus will stay with PC if this is how MS see the immediate future.....

          The weird thing with your argument is: the PC platform is pioneering this always-online technology and every game you buy on PC is not able to be sold second hand or purchased pre-owned - unless you get it DRM free which is very rare. PC really isn't much better.

            If you're talking about steam, then you must realise that it doesn't require an online connection to play games, just to download.

            Although I admit there are a few holes in my argument (securom activations for example), those types of games only need the internet for the first time you start it, then you can play them offline as much as you want. As for always-online DRM's on PC... Well Ubisoft gave up on that and removed it from most older PC titles, and Maxis with SimCity... Well they were just idiots.

            As for no reselling or used games, well yes another hole in my argument there, but I personally don't care about that for a few reasons; namely - game prices, community mods keeping games fresh and there being little worry that upgrading my hardware will suddenly make all my games unplayable (Win8 for example, I didn't have any major game problems when I upgraded to that).

            Don't get me wrong, I still own both a PS3 and 360 as well and I do understand why some people don't like PC (be it because of hardware upgrades, a digital majority, or they just want a more pick-up-and-play environment); but personally, PC seems like a good platform to have as your main focus these days. :)

            PS: sorry for the long post..... lol

            Last edited 05/04/13 1:23 pm

      Hit the nail on the head. Capped internet is bad. However, maybe stuff like this will *inspire* ISPs to offer uncapped at lower prices...?

        Why? They don't care about how we use the data (as long as it isn't piracy lol), they won't lift a finger unless MS makes some kind of endorsement deal. And I doubt they'll do this in Australia.

        As somebody who works for a major ISP I gotta say I am doubtful it would. It takes a lot for my employer to even consider a massive shake up of product design.

          I don't think it will be a massive shakeup, more like a rising demand. We've seen our ISP raise caps on a few occasions over the last couple of years due to competition in the market. I think that unlimited plans will become more common over the next few years and that this Xbox could help things along a bit.

            Well even if they do go down this route, you wouldn't think the actual amount of data being sent back and forth in the background would be all that much. So even if you're over your quota and get throttled, it should still be functional.

            Of course if you're stuck with an odd situation like having to use mobile data or something where you get charged extra rather than throttled then it could be a problem.

            Last edited 05/04/13 11:21 am

          Some ISP's like iiNet offer unlimited access to STEAM, so I can't see why this isn't possible?

        xbox live content is quota free under iinet still isn't it?

          Wow, that's pretty cool. I only get un-metered iView and the like on PSN. My downloads and stuff still count towards the cap.

          Speaking of iinet, do you know what the "Freezone" thingo is?

      Though I've not yet managed to reach my cap, I know the day is coming. And I agree completely.

      Always on is a burden for the data capped.

      an integrated kinect sensor is bad enough and now an always-on connection? If either one of these are true or both, goodbye Xbox! I'll stick to PC w/ Ubuntu!

      I hope they realise that most Aussies internet is total shit.

      Agreed. Given that I moved house recently and was without internet for a month, being able to sit down with my xbox and get through some of my backlog was a great experience.

      Finally finished Dead Space 2...

      If this happens I might finally take the jump to Playstation if their new console doesn't require a constant net connection.

      Exactly. When my net goes out, I plug in my PS3 and play it.

      If all home consoles did this, i'd jump ship entirely to mobile phone gaming (and I hate mobile phone gaming) just because they'd still let me play without a sim card -_-

        Except you'd have to be connected for all the ****ing microtransactions...

    Well Microshaft and Durango can politely go fuck themselves with a sharp iron rod for all I care now. I'm voting with my wallet and feet and I'm definitely not buying this! And the thing is, I really dig my 360. Bang up job there guys! Way to endear yourselves to the market!

    ...unless this is Sony playing a dirty war against MS. But I doubt it somehow...

    Last edited 05/04/13 10:14 am

    I'm planning to get a PS4 at the end of the year, largely because I'm not keen on the direction MS is taking the xbox in. When I turn it on, I'm bombarded with ads, and they don't seem to care about exclusives any more. Sony on the other hand is funding a lot of great IP's, offer great value with PS+ and have been appraised favourably with the developers. It seems like a no brainer at the moment.

    Just wish the PS4 pad was closer to the 360 pad in design.

    Edit: Forgot my actual point. I can believe MS would do something this stupid, because they seem to be completely out of touch with the core audience.

    Last edited 05/04/13 10:29 am

      I wouldn't go writing MS off at this point - certainly not until they at least announce something so we can find out how many of these rumours are actually true or not. But certainly Sony appear to have made all the right moves and said all the right things so far. If MS were expecting Sony to give them a free kick like they did with the PS3 (i.e. complex architecture, delayed release due to BluRay / Cell issues, etc) then they'll be disappointed. They'll need to be at the top of their game with the next XBox, and that's good for everybody.

      As for the pad, I'm sure there will be 3rd party ones with a more XBox-like layout. Whether the quality is any good or not is another matter, though. I've generally found 3rd party accessories over the years to be pretty ordinary.

        I'm not writing MS off because of this - its only a rumour, and there's a part of me that thinks they couldn't possibly be that stupid. I'm writing them off because of what they are doing right now. In 2007 to 2010, the 360 was the platform of choice. Since kinnect, they've completely lost interest in gaming. I think this is a mistake, because most TV's can already do all that broader entertainment stuff (netflix etc).

        As for 3rd party controllers - I actually use a 360 pad for my PS3 with a five dollar adapter. It's actually pretty damn awesome. Unfortunately, it sounds like the Durango and the PS4 pads will be too different to do that again.

          I hated the PS1 controller in 1995 and I’ll hate the PS1 controller with extra bits tacked on when it’s released with the PS4 in 2013, so I’ve never owned a Playstation console.

          That said the PS4 looks the goods if they do something stupid with the next Xbox. I can always buy a 3rd party controller!

            Yeah - I think the PS4 will be worth the purchase because Sony has a lot of good exclusives (I love Naughty Dog). My point is more that I'm not sure that it wil be worthwhile getting an xbox as well, even though I've previously bought every console each generation since the NES (except the Sega Saturn).

            Wow, some people have very large hands... Not sarcastic at all, just a general observation.

            I find the 360 controller to be quite bulky and sometimes can't even reach some of the buttons when playing Halo and SFxT on my friend's 360.

        I work with MS on a daily basis (at a distribution level) and I agree with Thom - MS are out of touch with their core audience. Not just in their Entertainment & Devices division either, I've seen the same thing happening across their other divisions as well (Windows, Server & Tools, Business). The current generation of what are traditionally their biggest selling products (Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 and Office 2013) have all been poorly received and / or not selling well compared to previous versions. And given the direction they are going in with these products, I'd say that 'always on-line' is juts about guaranteed at this stage.

        One of my customers put it very succinctly when he said "they are doing too much telling and not enough selling", i.e. trying to dictate the market rather than listening to what their customers want.

        They are too big to die, but I feel the next 5 years are going to be very rocky for them...

        Last edited 05/04/13 12:28 pm

    Just a thought... what if being a developer unit they are locking it to online only use as a means of monitoring should there be any form of audiovisual leak?

    We can all panic after the console is announced and officially has or does not have this feature.

      While you're right in that I don't think anybody should get too excited either way until there's actually been an official announcement, as far as it requiring the connection because it's a dev unit, the article said:

      “Unless something has changed recently,” one of the sources told us over email, “Durango consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used.”

      The bold emphasis is mine - if anything, that quote seems to imply that the dev units probably DON'T require the connection (which seems quite possible since MS probably wouldn't have that server side stuff up and running yet, and it'd probably just get in the way when trying to do development). But it states pretty clearly that it's the consumer units that would have this "feature" (if said feature even exists).

      But I figure the worst case would be that if there is total outrage from customers and nobody buys it because of this then they could probably ditch it with a firmware upgrade if they wanted to.

    Surely after the SimCity shitstorm there's no way anybody would go down this road for EVERY game on a platform?

    Even if this was once true, they'd have to be re-thinking it, wouldn't they?

    Wouldn't they?

    *crickets chirping*

      Well a year or so ago most people expected the next Xbox to launch before the PS4. The PS4 announcment has been made, the Simcity fiasco has come and gone...... and still no Xbox annoucement.....

      I suppose there is a chance that they've gone back to the drawing board a little bit.

        I agree, the sim city fiasco would've seen them scrambling, notice all talk of them launching before E3 has completely cooled off

        Ps4 hasn't really been announced yet either, there is only a controller. The durango has the same controller so what exactly would microsoft show off? It can't be kinect since that's part of the console.

        I still believe they will both be out by the end of this year and that microsoft will announce just before E3 its console then use the event for other stuff.

    Yeah this will be a deal breaker. If this is an attempt to stop piracy etc, it seems in vain. There will ALWAYS be a way to pirate material. If there is not, it's normally only a matter of time. Sigh. PC gaming here I come.....

    All other things being equal - comparable price, comparable performance, comparable launch line up - this would give the edge to Sony, hands down. But if Sony shoots themselves the way they did last generation, with a ridiculous price or awful third party buy-in, Microsoft could get away with this.

    I don't know, though. Sony's been getting smarter over the last two years and Microsoft's been getting progressively dumber. I don't have a lot of trust in MS's ability to make sensible decisions or understand their consumers right now.

      The durango could have better guts and literally be half the price of the ps4 and i'd still tell microsoft to go die in a gutter if they forced drm on us.

        Every major console currently available forces DRM on you. That's what prevents you from running your own software on them, and forces game publishers to pay platform royalties and go through the platform QA process.

        It would be a surprise if any of the next generation of consoles came without a DRM scheme of some type.

          No they dont, I can buy a 360 right now and put it any game and it will play, period. That is pretty much the opposite of DRM.

          Everything else is semantics and i personally am hoping none of the console makers are in fact stupid enough (because there 100% will be outrage, shit probably even hackers) to make the next set of consoles always online. But at this point i doubt sony will, but microsoft is arrogant enough that it may well try and end up killing itself.

          Last edited 05/04/13 3:12 pm

            All those game discs are cryptographically signed by Microsoft though. Without approval from Microsoft, those games would not play on your console. And for the digital download offerings on current consoles, there is also license verification to make sure a user on the console is authorised to play the game.

            The opposite of DRM would be an open platform where the user is the one with ultimate authority, which is not the case for any current console. PCs probably count, but are moving away from that ideal.

              As i said its arguing semantics, just because im buying a propriatary system and games doesn't really make it DRM in the same vein as Online "activations" or permanent connections and limited installs.

              The game discs aren't DRM, sure they have anti piracy stuff so that you can't just burn and ISO image of the game for yourself without some modding of the console. But that doesn't intrude on me playing the game and as such isn't the DRM we are talking about in the next console or this article.

                You're changing the definition of DRM. Proprietary or not DRM is DRM whther it's in your face like always on connection or if it's silent like disk crptography

      I think Sony appear to have actually taken on board a lot of the criticism they've copped over the past few years. From what we're hearing about the PS4, it seems like they've actually listened to people - developers, publishers and customers - and responded accordingly. Which is, quite frankly, very un-Sony-like. I guess this is what happens when your back is to the wall. If the PS4 is a big success it could help drag them out of the hole they're in (although their share price has bounced back quite a bit this year, but coming from a very low base). If it sinks it could drag the rest of Sony down with it into the abyss.

        This is what im seeing too, i personally hated the ps3 and only bought one for the few rpgs not on the 360.

        But now microsoft has ignored me, the core gamer and is trying to constantly force kinect causal shit one me. Has buried all my gamer centered stuff 20 options deep in a dashboard trying to get me to buy every other form of entertainment under the sun EXCEPT games and with 1000's of adds too boot.

        Where as sony has given playstation plus, with actual great content and games. Seems to realise i want a games system not a set top box, has changed their architecture to be better to develop on and integrated the vita into the ps4 experience. While microsoft has continued to push Kinect and alienated its entire core fanbase and is about to give sony the console king crown before its even launched durango. Its a sad state of affairs considering teh 360 was basically the best console going around for the first few years of its life.

        Oh please, do you think 'customers' has one single voice? It's a clusterf*ck spanning infinite directions. I'd MUCH rather see vision and firm direction over listening to every single whine and tweet. "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses"

    Now surely this wouldn't work in a lot of the world....

    Hell I've had optus cable here in melbourne for more than a decade and I wouldn't trust it for something like this.

    Xbox Simcity.

      At least MS is known for their uptime of servers

        Microsoft can have the worlds best server uptime for all anybody cares that doesn't help with unreliable connections beyond that point.

    Im waiting for official words, PS still haven't confirmed the DRM for their console just 'You can play games without an internet connection'

    So until all the cards are on the table, I'm sitting tight...

    IMO - if the rumors are true that Microsoft will make their next-gen console requiring always-on connection, then Microsoft will have shot themselves in the foot. Hopefully Sony doesn't do the same mistakes like they did with the PS3 with their pricing model (although the PS3 had the high price due to the hardware it was built on)..at least Sony learnt from their mistake and made the PS4 more developer friendly. There would be a lot of gamers that do not play online and even their machines are offline (due to poor internet connection speed etc.)

    So a machine that requires a always on connection and pay subscription fees just to play online...no thanks

    If the rumors are true - I guess Microsoft will have to put a message on the box that an internet connection is required

    Can Microsoft really afford to make a move like this when there is more competition in the market with Steambox and Ouya? They need to think about what the consumers want to compete imo

    Man I’m going to wait and see all the details before I make my mind up about this. People hate the whole DRM thing so much I can cloud their judgement if they don’t have the details.
    Needless to say though, this seems fraught with danger.

    One thing I can say for sure though is that Microsoft needs to get their shit together and get details of this thing out there one way or the other.
    The further away you can have a DRM shitstorm from the launch the better! The other thing is in the absence of detail people will always imagine a worst case scenario and no matter how bad this idea sounds it’s (hopefully) not that.

    This could be a good lesson to all of us who have a favourite console and wish terrible things on the others. If Microsoft do have always-online at least you can buy a PS4, and if they don’t have always online you can almost certainly thank Sony for making them pull the idea.

    Yay for compulsory motion controls and always online! Now they just need to make all of the games F2P with micro-transactions and we have everything I love about gaming wrapped up in one console.

      The mandatory Kinect for the new Xbox is not to force motion control, it's to monitor how many people are watching the movie/series you just bought and to charge you more per person watching.

    Could this possibly be a restriction they've put into the dev kits they plan on removing pre-production? Sure would be a good way to make sure none of the dev kits end up on ebay if they can't be used without being connected to the net, and thus traceable...

    Even if the rumors or true its not like it will be taxing on your usage it will like logging in to steam why do people think its gonna be huge bandwidth? but yes i agree if say your internet goes out that will be bad but I don't think a company like Microsoft will be that stupid seeing as they have probably seen all the negative backlash over the idea

    Last edited 05/04/13 10:51 am

      First comment with common sense. Seeing all this reaction, I'm thinking how did Steam manage to get away with it all these years?

    I have a suspicion (or want this to be true) but I would say they are putting this restriction on the developer kits out in the wild in order to keep track of them and know who is using those kits and where.
    I highly doubt that feature will make it to the consumer product, and as a die-hard halo fanboy, I will swap to PS4 if this is the case (PS4 adult-male orientated gamepad redesign and Bungie's Destiny will help to smooth out the transition).

    What about speed? The NBN is so delaye, with current speeds ok at best.

    Leaving bandwidth, DRM and all other issues aside.

    I know a lot of mums and dads that buy consoles for their kids and don't want their 8 and 9 year old connected to the internet at all. I know (and they do) that you can block communications easily but having that always connected option seems a lot like closing but not locking the door and I think when they are in the store its going to seem easier to get the one they don't need to worry about at all.

    Well Microsoft, you built me up with the 360 and now you've brought me down.

    Looks like next generation will be PS4 and Wii U for me, those guys in particular know how to treat independent developers

    Not much point in jumping up and down until there's an official announcement but it will be a truly sucky move if they go down this path.

    Always online PLUS a compulsory camera/sound recording device always on in my lounge room? No thank you. This is NOT 1984.

    Good news for anyone wondering if Sim City is going to be on the next X-box. Seriously though, it's amazing how much influence a marketing team can have on a company.

    As per other commentators this sounds like a problem for me.
    Living in the outer extremes of Adelaide (7km) from the exchange the best my ADSL2+ line can do when it's stable is a link speed of around 2.5Mbps, with what's already being used; daughter watching youtube, wife on facebook or catchup my line is already struggling for capacity. Although I like my Xbox the number of times recently that I've turned it on for a quick 10 mins of Fifa and I've got a system update that takes 40mins to an hour and the frustration level is creeping up. As a person who always turns off the Xbox at the power point when I'm not using it I can't see how an always on connection will help with that.
    In my circumstances that I suggest would not be that unusual for lots of Australians unless the system is very forgiving it's just not going to work.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now