Microsoft Creative Director Adam Orth was forced to resign last week after comments he made on his Twitter page. "Sorry, I don't get the drama of having an 'always on' console," Orth tweeted. "Every device now is 'always on'. That's the world we live in. #dealwithit."
Mr Orth's comments were made after rumours began circulating that the Xbox 360's successor, nicknamed the Xbox 720, would always require an internet connection in order to work, even to play games that have no online features. Of course, his comments shouldn't in any way be taken as confirmation that Microsoft have opted to go the always-on route with the Xbox 720, but they are yet more fuel added to a fire that Microsoft isn't in any way helping to extinguish.
The idea of always-online DRM is so anti-consumer and loathsome that, if the rumours aren't true, you'd have to believe Microsoft would have released a statement by now in order to stop all the bad press they're receiving. Creating a console that is only functional if it is hooked up to the internet presents a huge list of problems and absolutely no advantages for the consumer, and if this is to be the case, then it's just another example of the home console market's huge lack of respect for their audience. With this in mind, is it any wonder that PC gaming is experiencing a resurgence in popularity?
PC gaming: for those who don't want their pockets pilfered.
Home consoles have an easy appeal. To set up your PlayStation 3, all you need to do is plug in a couple of cables, install a few updates and then you can simply insert your God of War III disk and start playing. PCs are a little more complicated to set up, are a little more expensive to purchase and, frankly, are quite off-putting for those who can't quite get their heads around RAM, processors and video cards. Console manufacturers rely on this, because if the PC wasn't depicted as some kind of weird, antisocial cousin of the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii, a lot more people would suddenly realise the multitude of ways in which they are being taken advantage of.
After the initial pricey cost of setting up your PC, you will likely save yourself money in the long run thanks to Steam Sales, Humble Indie Bundles and the like, and there are a seemingly limitless amount of games available to PC users, with the majority of them being priced very reasonably. Comparitively, Xbox Live charges subscribers an annual fee to simply play games online with their friends, forces them to buy content using an incremental MS Points system that ultimately steals a portion of their money with each purchase they make, and then forces advertisements down their throat on their dashboard. The PS3's PlayStation Plus is vastly less detestable, offering subscribers free games regularly, but it is somewhat negated by the fact that it is built upon the foundations of the PS3's broken online service. On the other hand, playing PC games online is free, perfectly functional and Steam creators Valve aren't trying to dip their hands into your wallet whenever you aren't looking.
Console gaming will probably never die, but that doesn't prevent it from digging itself a grave.
As long as there are people who have yet to be informed of the joys of PC gaming, there will be a market for the home console. However, as the gap between the price of console and PC hardware decreases, PC gaming is becoming a much more viable option for those who are becoming less enthralled by the prospect of owning a machine that is technically inferior and intent on groping their bank balance. The PlayStation 4 announcement contained the reveal of features PC gamers are already enjoying – improved graphics, fluid social network integration, the ability to record gameplay footage and share it with your friends – and if the Xbox 720 is the paranoid and intrusive machine that it is rumoured to be, then the only home console that will really offer PC gamers something that they aren't already experiencing is the Wii U.
As the price of medium-to-high-end gaming PCs drops and Steam's Big Picture mode allows users to play their games on their TV with a console-like user interface, the number of reasons in which console gaming would be preferable to PC gaming is swiftly decreasing. More and more people are becoming aware of this, with the huge popularity of the download market and the rise of the indie market contributing to the biggest boom in the industry in years. Only time will tell if the next PlayStation and Xbox will manage to tempt those currently sitting on the fence away from that mouse and keyboard, but for the first time in years PC gaming is a very real threat to the future of the home console.
Image: Zero Punctuation
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.