[Update: Microsoft has since apologized for Orth's statements. Deal with it.]
Rumors that the Next Xbox will be restricted by the same always-online requirement that has crippled several major PC releases of late has not exactly been met with applause from prospective customers. One man, however -- Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth -- doesn't see why anybody could have an issue with a DRM Box.
"Sorry, I don't get the drama around having an 'always on' console," Orth proclaimed on Twitter. "Every device now is 'always on'. That's the world we live in. #dealwithit."
He followed his churlish contempt with some sarcastic false equivalence, glossing over the many stated problems with a potential always-on console to focus on a simplified -- utterly foolish -- set of comparisons.
"Sometimes the electricity goes out. I will not purchase a vacuum cleaner. The mobile reception in the area I live in is spotty and unreliable. I will not buy a mobile phone."
When his comments were taken to task by BioWare's Manveer Heir, who pointed out the embarrassing issues faced by Diablo III and SimCity at launch, Orth got even more derisive. Heir mentioned America's less-than-consistent broadband coverage, and how users in areas such as Janesville, WI or Backsburg, VA would have a rough time dealing with a console that required a constant connection.
"Why on Earth would I live there?"
His comments were seized upon by NeoGAF commenters, who took him to task in their usual merciless way. Aside from making comments on things Microsoft has been staunchly refusing to comment on, he was taken to task for his general snotty attitude and derogatory comments toward those who don't live in cities blessed with non-shit broadband. Some have taken his combative defense of the idea as a strong hint that Microsoft will, indeed, force Next Xbox users to stay online -- an absolutely absurd hypothetical plan that banks on broadband infrastructures around the world improving immeasurably in an incredibly short time.
Detective-GAF also found a comment from an experienced developer following the issue, posting a line from Nikolai Mohilchock, who said: "Given that legally I cannot confirm or deny if this information is true, nor can I comment on rumor or speculation, all I can say is be sure to pay your ISP bills."
In response to the online battering, both Orth (who likes to be called Sweet Billy) and Heir downplayed the nature of their discussion, the latter saying: "Don't read too much into our back & forth ... All those tweets you are seeing about the city being superior. That's him just trolling me. And I fell for it. Don't bust his balls on that." Unfortunately for Orth, it was way too late for that, and his comments were damning even without the "trolling" about cities.
In the wake of the shitstorm started by his statements, Orth has now protected his Twitter account, hiding further commentary from public view. Once again, this is little more than a case of locking the door after the horse has bolted, but there you go.
A number of industry members, most notably David Jaffe, have rallied to Orth's defense, asking members of NeoGAF and other communities to stop giving Orth a pummeling and insisting he's "one of the good guys." While that might be true (unconfirmed), and while he's probably suffering some disproportionate retribution, what he said to begin with was impressively, jaw-droppingly ignorant, and he does deserve to have such poisonous, anti-consumer rhetoric counteracted. He's going to have to "deal with it" for a while.
The privileged attitude of "deal with it," seems to be one held by many members of the mainstream publishing industry, and more and more customers are getting sick of it. As the console market spirals ever haphazardly toward a crash, I feel people like Orth will learn exactly what happens when consumers en masse begin to learn they don't actually have to deal with any of this bullshit, and go looking for entertainment elsewhere. When the major companies fall to their knees after trying to shave the sheep one too many times, I wonder if they'll be able to "deal with it."
On the subject of an always-online, DRM-gated console, I think Michael Hartman of Frogdice Inc. sums it up perfectly:
"I hope the entire next gen is 'always on DRM.' I love anything AAA does to make it easier for us indies to sell our games."
Deal with it.