Report: The Next Xbox Will Let You Play Games Offline

Here's a promising development in the ever-confusing drama surrounding Microsoft's next gaming console: a new report suggests that you will indeed be able to play Durango games offline.

Today, news site Ars Technica quotes the turnabout in what they say is an email sent by Microsoft officials to all internal Xbox employees. The email states that the next Xbox will let people play games without connecting to the web, despite the rumours that have been swirling over the past few months that Microsoft's new console will follow in the footsteps of games like SimCity and Diablo III, requiring an Internet connection to function.

"Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet," the memo reportedly says. "There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."

This language — and the memo's existence in the first place — seems to suggest either severe confusion or a policy shift at Redmond. For quite some time now, outlets like Edge, IGN, and Kotaku have been reporting rumblings that the next Xbox will require an internet connection to function, and we've heard from multiple people who have developed or are developing games for the console, some of whom have confirmed the news, and others who haven't heard anything about it.

What's also noteworthy is what the purported memo doesn't say: you may not need an Internet connection to play games, but what about when you need one to install them? (Internal Durango documents we read through earlier this year indicated that every Durango game, even those that are bought on a disc, need to be installed and only ever run off the machine's hard drive, not off the disc.)

This memo comes on the heels of reported rumblings of unrest and dissent at Microsoft over the past few weeks and months. Multiple Kotaku sources have suggested that the Xbox makers are behind where they need to be, and one source told us recently that there are multiple factions at Microsoft, some of whom believe that the system should require an internet connection to play games, and some of whom don't. We've also heard stories of studios that have gotten their Durango development kits late, or not at all.

According to one source in a position to know, the recent drama involving former Microsoft creative director Adam Orth — whose controversial defence of "always on" triggered widespread internet outrage — energised parties at Microsoft who have always been against the idea of an always-online console. This may have triggered a shift in policy at Microsoft. We reached out to the Xbox makers for comment, and we'll update should we hear back from them.

UPDATE: "We’re excited to share more about the new generation of games, TV and entertainment on May 21, but have nothing further to share at this time," says Microsoft in an email.

On May 21, Microsoft will reveal the next Xbox.


    Report: Waiting for Microsoft to actually announce something regarding the new system is a good way to get solid information.

    Finally a glimmer of good news. I really hope they make it playable offline. If they do, I'm so buying one. Already got SimCity to get dissapointed at when I want to play it. that position is already taken! That's 1 too many already.

    Big fucking surprise right there! If this is true I absolutely respect MS for not blinking and caving into sites like this and others that fueled the bullshit unconfirmed gossip by denying the rumors. Maybe not this console cycle, but the next I reckon will come a time where your console will need to be online. It's the publishers that want this feature, not MS or Sony...

      maybe they leaked this rumour to because they caved? I mean, we're one month away from E3, and a couple weeks from May 21st, and this happens?

    Well the fact that they would never even acknowledge the always online rumor with even a comment saying something similar to above but they have to an article contrary to it that may give it more weight in being the truth.

    I treid to tell you.

    There was NO WAY Microsoft were that stupid. All companies can be stupid, but no one could be THAT stupid. It just made no sense for Microsoft to do it, because technically, it gives them no benefit.

    If it's online validation keys, that's fine. I think Xbox Live is robust enough to avoid launch day issues that EA has suffered with their Origin service and ActiBlizz suffered with Diablo III. Then you've got a licence for your machine. Maybe people will just validate borrowed/rented games and then play pirated copies offline anyway, but it's something.

      The issue has never really been the robustness or otherwise of XBox Live, though - it was more to do with the robustness of people's internet connections at home and whether they wanted to connect their consoles in the first place. I remember I had issues with my internet connection at home a while back and it took several weeks for them fix it. I'd have been pretty annoyed if a major release that I'd been looking forward to for ages had come out in that time and I couldn't even play it offline.

      I guess that'd be less of an issue these days, though, since most mobile phones these days can work as a wifi hotspot so I guess I could use that for the initial install / validation, assuming it was just that - validation. It'd be more of a problem if they went and left large chunks off the game off the disc and made you download them during the install process. That'd be a good anti-piracy measure from their point of view - even if you copy the disc you still won't have the full game until you go online and validate it against the server to be able to download the missing parts.

        True, true. Obviously if it's a one-time validation this is better for people with shaky connections (which let's face it, is >95% of people). I guess the next question people have though is, if everyone is logging in to validate their games on launch day, will they be able to get online or will they be queued and getting the XBL equivalent of Error 37 or whatever.

        Well, Xbox Live stands up to the launch of every new Call of Duty and Halo game, so yeah, I think they'll be fine.

          And it's also the issue of whether of not that initial validation is there to prevent the use of used games i.e. if that disc has already been validated against a different console / XBL account, will it refuse to validate it again if you trade it / sell it / lend it to a friend?

            What if all it does is delicense the previous "owner" console so when you give it back it has to be relicensed? That's a not-so-bad possibility?

              Yeah, that's OK. I'm not saying that it WILL prevent used game sales, I'm just saying it has that potential.

                It could really go either way, I'm just hoping for the best.

              Yeah somehow I think they'll put that functionality in and let publishers decide what they want to do about them. It would be good to be able to buy a new game and not have to enter multiple codes to unlock the functions

        I suspect that Microsoft may decide to simply ignore the people who don't ever want to take the console online. That's going to be an ever-shrinking part of their market, even now it can't be a huge number of people.

      I have zero problem with having to authenticate initial purchases online, onetime activations ala STEAM and how it does it personally. I think thats a valid process and if you have to purchase those keys to play the games so be it, companies should get their money, not second hand retailers so much. However I hated the idea of having to be online all the time. This bodes well now for my chances of getting a new model xbox :D

    It's good news, but I kind of wish this wasn't even a headline, The ability to play a game you bought on a console you bought if your router breaks down should not be 'news', it should be a given.

      It's a headline because the press drummed up rumours of not being able to play the Xbox unless it was online, generating as much hype as possible with varying "sources" and the "ominous silence" from Microsoft - which then led to an online witch hunt over the last few months where every guy and his dog proclaimed the death of Microsoft. By all means this deserves to be a story, if anything it has more right to be a story than any of the other junk since its "rumoured to be" an internal leak.

    Has anyone considered that it was only the Durango dev kits that required a permanent internet connection to function so that Microsoft could monitor all games in development (and hold anyone to account should they leak any tech?)

    well, my judgement is still reserved untill there is an official release of news
    im over the amount of rumors and speculations out at the moment, it feels like being back at school

    "This language — and the memo’s existence in the first place — seems to suggest either severe confusion or a policy shift at Redmond."

    Sounds to me like it was a policy shift. You can bet the idea had been discussed and debated on internally, and I assumed there would have been a number of important people who wanted the 'always online' feature to go ahead.

    People should consider this a small victory, but I don't think the war has been won yet ... not by a long shot. As the internet infrastructure grows, and higher bandwidth becomes more readily accessible to people (and at a cheaper cost too), you can bet your bottom dollar that this issue will rear its ugly head more and more.

    destructor said it best: "It's good news, but I kind of wish this wasn't even a headline".

    I think little by little companies will implement policies that eventually lead to an always online environment. They simply aren't plunging everyone in hot water; it's kind of like the 'boiling frog' theory - turn up the heat slowly so that the frog doesn't even notice the danger it's in.

    Eventually people won't even talk or complain about it ... they will just accept it (or at least that's what they are counting on). And with crap like day one DLC's, micro transactions, and season passes, that net these companies a tidy little sum of money (people complain, but it doesn't stop them from all walking off the cliff like droves of lemmings), it won't surprise me in the slightest. It's a money making machine, and they don't want to miss out on a single dollar.

      Also Adam Orth wouldn't have been so crass about his comments if this was the case from the beginning. He obviously got upset at the outcry because it was true.

    well i haven't owned a PSX since the original back in the day, and i only bought that for Tomb Raider 2 & Wipeout games to be honest, however i hope microsoft has backflipped on this, because being forced online just use the fkn console would mean i wouldn't even consider the console.

    i'd jump to PS4 in a flash, and just hope their new controller's not as much arse as the previous ones. their presentation wasn't spectacular, but they had the same few games i was looking forward to on the next Xbox, plus their own titles, and seemed to be more into the games than the streaming apps etc., also making note to foster small indie dev's, where it's been noted that microsoft is rather bastardy to indies in recent times when it comes to getting smaller titles on XBLA or even getting patches approved.

    the 21st will be interesting indeed...

    Last edited 13/05/13 4:21 am

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