Daily Reaction: Sony Proves Why PS4 Can’t Handle Xbox One’s Online Restrictions

With the The Last of Us demo release crashing the PSN, the Daily Reaction duo of Seb and Dan discuss why Sony isn’t prepared for an ‘always online’ future with the PS4, and how Microsoft could be shooting themselves in the foot with the Xbox One.

Seb: While we do know that the PS4 won’t be technically ‘always online’, we don’t know if it will have the same setup that the Xbox One has adopted, where users have to check in with their console every 24hrs to play games, even if they’re playing them offline. As checking in every 24hrs is such an extreme stipulation, it’s incredibly close to requiring a constant connection, and Microsoft’s incessant bleating that ‘the console isn’t always online’ is just semantics. The Xbox One is basically always online, and many fear that the PS4 might follow the same path.

The problem is, even if you ignore all the arguments about it hurting people in poorer countries or with bad internet, there’s also the pressing issue that this isn’t something Sony can logistically pull off. The release of The Last of Us demo is a perfect example of how Sony isn’t prepared for anything like the Xbox’s 24hr countdown.

The demo was only available to the million or so God of War: Ascension players (and they didn’t all log on to get it), Sony had plenty of time to prepare for its debut as they set the timer and the release had even been delayed. But it still crashed everything, and the demo was unavailable for several hours and error codes popped up everywhere. That’s only a demo with limited availability – imagine if Call of Duty: Ghosts had been released?

The PSN has regular maintenance, often several times a month, often unscheduled, and often lasting for longer than they plan. This has meant that gamers are regularly unable to play multiplayer games, but thankfully they have singleplayer. If Sony were to follow Microsoft, we’d lose that option too.

When we did a Daily Reaction about the Kinect 2 always watching and recording us, I said it was unlikely that Sony would do that with the PS4Eye, not because they don’t want to, but because they weren’t able to. I said that “ineptitude is our safety net”, and I’ll say it again – Sony can’t pull off always online, they don’t have the servers or the skill, and that, bizarrely, is a good thing.

Of course, I could be wrong, and Sony could force it on us so that we’ll only be able to play games once a month, but I sincerely hope not.

Dan: Exactly, the pedantics regarding the Xbox One not being ‘always online’ is basically trying to say that there are people out there willing to plug-in, then unplug their console once a day, just to check in. No, most people will just leave the thing hooked up to the internet, meaning it really is an ‘always online’ system, arguing besides that fact is unrealistic and shortsighted.

Sony could feasibly follow in the XBO’s footsteps with the PS4 but, besides the simple fact of them being mostly ‘inept’, they have had more than their share of financial troubles and do not have the same level of revenue that Microsoft brings in with Xbox Live subscriptions.

So, for them to establish anything near Microsoft’s 300,000 servers (even if this could be a lie in of itself) to handle the massive bandwidth needed for these assets, would be putting more at risk on a service that could potentially bite them in the ass, rather than improve profits this upcoming generation. They already are going to have enough on their plate trying to launch Gaikai as a reliable platform.

Gaikai, while also a cloud based system, is designed to be an optional online service for gamers to stream games that are also available offline (on disc or PSN). This means that no game will be completely crippled by outages, as no game (short of MMOs) will be reliant on an internet connection.

After the SimCity DRM fiasco, which forced people online by having some of the rendering driven by cloud-computing, many are left wondering how the XBO will also handle this issue. That’s not to mention the fact that XBL is already a service that has been stricken with a number of outages that has prevented gamers from playing online during massive traffic spikes on days like Christmas or CoD DLC releases. Also, today’s failure from Sony to properly launch a single demo, while a minor issue at heart, still speaks novels as to where the current online-only infrastructure stands.

Seb: Yeah, Microsoft are going to struggle with this, almost as much as Sony might. It’s a stupid idea, and for what? Better services for everyone? No – so that they can stop people playing used games, an industry that already helps keep vital game stores in business and helps some gamers fund their addiction. Anyone that argues that always online services are a step forward is either a complete idiot or, worse, a fanboy.

No game has launched without online issues, no popular MMO has managed to not go down at launch, and online passes often fail to work on day one. All they’re doing is spreading this misery to singleplayer as well, and doubling the chances of multiplayer issues. I miss when buying a console and then buying a game for that console meant that I could actually play said game. We’re going backwards, not forwards.

Dan: While I am not exactly a fanboy, (I am an idiot, though) I do think that ‘always online’ could be beneficial in a utopian future, but our technology is just not there yet. The ability to improve the visual fidelity of a product beyond the capability of the hardware it is running on, has great potential behind it, but should not be the foundation for any platform. Gaming really needs to be the focus for the core of any console, beyond the technology, beyond the connectivity and beyond the gimmicks. That is why implementing a feature that could possibly prevent anyone from simply using a gaming device to play games, shows that some manufacturers are losing sight of their audience, and I just hope that Sony isn’t one of them.

Do you think Sony will force PS4 users to go online every day? Will you boycott the system if they did, or will you just deal with it? Let us know in the online comments below, by sending drunken messages to our online email at [email protected], or by going online and following us on our online Twitters at Seb and Dan.