If the connection is consistent, the ecosystem is one to encourage community, if the system is marketed well and there are backup scenarios for when the connection fails, we very well may see systems like this doing fairly well in the marketplace.
TR: There have been some well-documented outages [SimCity, Diablo 3] that make gamers uncomfortable about always-on-ness. Should people realize this is a new age, and presumably Microsoft would put as many stop gaps in place to keep damage minimal during an outage, or is it a valid concern and one that should make Microsoft think twice?
CB: Funny, I basically spoke of these stop gaps in a prior answer. I'll go back to the electricity metaphor. My wife and I bought a house last year and we're really excited about it. However, living in North Carolina and moving to the suburbs a bit outside of town I trust the power…only to a point. We get plenty of storms here, hurricanes go through, and once in a blue moon we'll get snow or an ice storm. The power can go out. And when that power goes out for a few days in the winter it goes from being a minor inconvenience to a giant pain. So I'm going to buy a backup generator. Heck, we had the UPS batteries at Epic for years before we got our new building and purchased a generator the size of a school bus. Basically, if there's an online system, they'll need whatever their stop gap version is to make it as painless as possible.
TR: What about people who don't have a reliable internet connection – how will they fare in an always-on future?
CB: At some point the march of technology has to go on. Eighty-five percent of the people I know do not have a land line. Sooner or later, it'll be a similar thing. Short term there may be some pain and outrage, unfortunately.
TR: Is our always-on future going to start with games or is it going to start with other home entertainment services, like TV?
CB: It started with Redtube.
TR: A big concern among gamers is DRM. Is it a valid issue from your perspective or is it an obsolete/irrelevant issue for the average user?
CB: That's a big hot button topic. The first thing to consider is that average gamer, the one I mentioned earlier. That person has no idea what DRM is and doesn't care. If it works, it works. The catch with this whole scenario is that the hardcore do need to be catered to in many ways because if you don't win them over first, you can't often go wider.
There's a saying we used to use -"leverage the core to ignite the masses" - when discussing Gears marketing, and it worked. In spite of the DRM issues with Diablo 3 it still went on to sell, what, 12 million units? If I could borrow Elizabeth and create a tear where Blizzard didn't have that DRM, and then create another where the DRM was working flawlessly, my gut tells me that in the case with no DRM they would have sold 3 million - 4 million. If the DRM was working flawlessly? 15-plus million.
People do torrent, and torrent often. I have friends that know I've worked in software for many years and admit to doing it. It's gotten easier than ever to do it. I still think the best way is to make your DRM as flawless as possible, as seamless, and to make a great experience that people want to say "shut up and take my money." Make one that's so fantastic that even if there's a cracked version the draw of the "legit" one is so strong and you want to vote with your dollars that you can't help but actually buy the damned thing.