Since the announcement of Micrsoft's next generation Xbox One gaming and entertainment console earlier this week, we've received several inquiries about our thoughts on how it's announced features, particularly the cloud computing and DRM aspects, will affect how we deal with it in the archive. Below are my (Dave's) initial thoughts:
I've been following somewhat the information about the Xbox One since its announcement earlier this week. While we don't have many details yet, what I've read so far gives me cause for concern as to how we'll be able to work with the new system in the Computer & Video Game Archive.
As far as offloading game play to the cloud and requiring an Internet connection to function, this offers a challenge that is in many ways similar to dealing with MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. If the online experience is part of the game, how do you replicate that experience when the online component is no longer available? (And in the case of WoW, even if you have the game and have a server on which to run it, is it really the same experience without several million other players interacting? Ten or twenty years from now it will be essentially impossible to experience WoW.)
There is a history of manufacturers not supporting their old gaming platforms; e.g. in 2010 when Microsoft stopped supporting the original Xbox on Xbox Live. If you want to play Halo 2 online multiplayer on your Xbox? Sorry, you can't. And that's for a game that's less than 10 years old.
But I can take a game and game system from 30 years ago, plug them in and they still work and play fine. Even for companies that are long defunct. Will the same be true in even 10 years for games for the Xbox One?
I'm also concerned about new DRM restrictions, such as requiring a game to be installed and tied to a specific user account. This also presents challenges to us (not to mention to the First-Sale Doctrine...) Though we've been dealing with this sort of thing with PC-based games for several years now and I'm sure we'll deal it, it doesn't fill me with warm fuzzy feelings.
Still, with both of these issues, the proof of the pudding is (as they say) in the eating. We'll have to wait until more details are available before evaluating if the Xbox One will be a system that we can support for archival purposes. Or if we're just tilting at windmills.