Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Waiting To Play

Re-posting an article from Kotaku, via their Australian base, about the change in video games to a waiting sport.

"[H]e didn't have time essentially. But complained that when he did have time he always had to download updates on his PS3. Then the games required updates. Most of you understand the quandary: when you only have a spare hour of leisure time in your day, every second counts. A series of updates might actually ruin your planned night of gaming."

This sounds like my quandary Saturday night. My brother was home for the holiday weekend and we decided to cycle through a quick game on the XBox 360. I may not be prudent about updating my 360, but it's only been about a month since it was last turned on - so it shouldn't be that bad. 30 minutes later, and the system was still updating.

Once that was done, the game we wanted to play was a XBox Live download. So while it may be on the system, we still had to sign in and verify that yes, I am the person that bought this product, quit asking me to sign into my account 4 times as part of your DRM.

And then we finally get to the game screen to load it up...and there's another update!

In all, I think we wasted well over 50 minutes starting up the system, installing patches and updates, and continually logging into XBox Live. By then, my free time had vanished. A simple game session turned into work. And sadly I'm use to all of this! We all are, as gamers. Most of us probably have a routine set up now that we start the system, let is update, and we walk off to do chores around the home, and check back in 30 minutes. But for the average consumer (a group that makes up the bulk of the market it Madden sales are any indication), I could see it being endlessly frustrating. You bought the system. You bought the game. You want to play it now, not wait an hour or two for updates. I don't know what people do during that time...maybe they stare at their screen? Maybe they stop the update and do something else. Now, it's all a waiting game. Even day one releases require some form of system or game updates that you can't even play a new product fresh from the box!

And I understand that part of the change with technology allows for streaming of content and better access to updates and fixes. I totally get it. But there has to be a better way to provide this content and not force downloads onto the consumers. The system that Blizzard (Battle.net) and Steam uses at least allows for online games to be downloaded and updated without it interrupting your game time. After the initial client install, most products can be played while the update continues in the background. But this is something that consoles have yet to master as they lock up for the patches.

For those who may say that it's no different then getting a new computer, the difference is that the majority, if not all, built computers are pre-loaded with everything ready to go. You may have to run an operating system update, but those are done in the background similar to Battle.net and Steam - it allows you to still utilize your computer without disruptions while patching. With consoles, you are at the mercy of the download speeds.

At this point so many of us are accustomed to it, that it's become the norm. I don't know if I want to go back to the 'good ol' days' where updates were not available. I'm not bashing the updates. We need them to fix glitches that may not be known until after release, along with a myriad of other reasons. But what's wrong with picking up a game, going to your console of choice, popping in the disc, and playing right then and there? Why can't we have that as an option in lieu of the forced updates?

And to the commenter on the Kotaku piece regarding the download speeds, the U.S. is not much better. While we're above the global average of 21.5 Mbps, we're still lagging behind most first world countries, not even cracking the top 25. States like Idaho, Maine, Montana, even New Mexico are lucky to get 15 Mbps. It's not just Australia with connectivity issues - it's everyone.

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