I have these cousins. Or, rather, my husband has these cousins, but, y'know, family through marriage.
So. There are these cousins: three kids, teenagers. Good kids, and I like spending time with their parents, too. Their dad really likes video games. The girls really like video games. The family has a Wii and definitely gets heavy use out of it, playing the hell out of every game that they buy. Whenever we all get together at the beach in the summer, the girls love playing whatever we've brought and last year we talked Mass Effect with their father. This year, the oldest came to visit and stay with us for a few days and my husband and I sent her home with a burned disc full of our favorites from GOG, for her and for the rest of her family.
Because here's the thing about this family: they live in a rural area. A really rural area. Their internet service is satellite-only, and it's got a cap of 5 gb per month. 5 gb, for two adults and three teenagers, in 2013. And even without the cap, the speed doesn't support streaming much of anything and since it's satellite, a good rainstorm can knock their service out.
These cousins are a middle-class American family of five, and Microsoft is emphatically rejecting their money or the idea that they could ever be an audience worth courting.
"Because every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection..."
This is how Microsoft desperately tries to clarify their stance on whether the Xbox One is always-on or not. Those are their own words. "Because every Xbox One owner has a broadband connection."
It's not that Microsoft doesn't understand that plenty of people in the US and worldwide don't actually have reliable broadband connections. It's that they don't give a damn. If your connection isn't reliable, then by default, you are not an Xbox One owner.
It's almost a relief how clear and cavalier Microsoft is being about this, in fact. If you have concerns about this system, that's okay with them: they do not want your money, your business, or your patronage. They do not value you as a potential consumer of their goods, and they do not care if you are aware of their contempt.
It's good to know, I suppose.
Of course, American broadband infrastructure is notoriously spotty and challenging. For the first two years my husband and I lived together, our connection was unstable and prone to fits of going at dial-up speeds or simply dropping out altogether. Comcast eventually fixed the wiring and solved the problem, but this was not long ago or far away. This was 2008-2009, in metro Washington, DC. The nation's capital.
Yes, our internet service was fixed and now works as well as we pay for it to. And yet Comcast can throttle service to our whole building anytime they want, if my media-savvy neighbors and I appear to be sucking down too much of their precious bandwidth. So it goes, in densely populated areas: a thinly-shared resource can mean rationing.
And all this, of course, does not even make mention of our global neighbors, and how tricky heavy reliance on high-bandwidth internet connections can be in such tiny countries as Australia and Canada. Nobody in those places wants to play Xbox games, right?
The always-on, fully global web really is the wave of the future. I won't fight it (though I might tie an onion to my belt and tell you all to get off my lawn) but the truth of the matter is, we're still not there yet. Tiny pockets of us are, and Microsoft is doing the best they can to erect stockades around those pockets and hanging handwritten signs over the gates that say "go away." It is certainly their right do do so. But contemptuously driving away groups of people who could spend their money with you strikes me as an incredibly bad idea in an ever-tighter and more crowded entertainment market.