Technology Speculation: The Microsoft Durango

Two weeks ago it was announced that Microsoft would be implementing a new technology in the upcoming Xbox 720 (now code-named “Durango” according to Kotaku) to block consumers from playing used games in their consoles. Internet buzz has already begun a rally against Microsoft just short of pitchforks and torches. The thought of only buying titles at the more-than-steep asking price has gamers clamoring for something to be done. From this simple “anonymous tip”, the gaming world has been thrown into a frenzy.

The solution is 100% downloadable, digital console games. Yes, the death of the video game disc as we know it. This sounds like a crazy idea at first. You love having your gaming shelf lined with titles new and old. You like the idea of returning a game to Gamestop or Best Buy if it’s a stinker. You like just having a physical copy that you can trust in and snuggle with at night. But this way of gaming – hell, living your life – is a thing of the past. You download all your music off iTunes, right? You read all your favorite books on a Nook, don’t you? If Microsoft really wants to push the envelope and make a system that will revolutionize gaming for years to come they should be thinking 100% digital games.

Fable 2

OnLive is a cloud streaming service that streams hundreds of console and PC games for only $9.99 a month. You must be connected to high-speed WI-FI and you’ll need a receiver and controller if you want to play on your HDTV, but the technology is out there. OnLive has not released its recent subscription numbers, which means the numbers they have aren’t anything to brag about. On the other hand, FADE LLC has estimated that Xbox LIVE has sold over $123 million worth of arcade games, a number that doesn’t include downloadable content, community games, or games on demand services. If Microsoft can take some of the broader strokes from OnLive’s innovative mission statement, this could be “Game Over” for any next gen consoles not following suit.

Every console in this generation has download capability. On the PSN a gamer can play a PS3 game free for an hour, then receive bonuses for purchasing the full game straight from the Internet onto their console. OnLive lets you “Rent” games for 3 or 5 days for a lower rate, giving gamers who want to blow through a game in only a few sittings a lower rate. The PSPGo (the first fully downloadable system) was ahead of its time. Just like the MPMan or the NOMAD Jukebox, the PSPGo will be forgotten in years to come. But, the Durango could be the next iPod. Microsoft could be the first console to get the downloading thing right.

Digital copies are forever… in theory. Barring an overthrow of the Internet, you’ll get to keep that game you bought for all time. This takes the sting out of people who sell their copy of Resident Evil 4 just to re-buy it five years later when they want to replay it. Plus, if done correctly this means that when Xbox 2880 (code-named “Jeep Grand Cherokee Call of Duty 30 Edition”) comes out you’ll still have your Durango titles available to play. Digital copies also mean system-to-system compatibility. Sony’s new Vita will be able to share save files with PSN downloaded games to the PS3 (much like the PSP). Xbox LIVE already has a cloud gaming element where a player can save their file in the cloud and pick up that same file from a friend’s console. The next gen could take this small idea and blow it up into a genre altering innovation. But the price has to be right.

Defying Gravity

Used games are appealing because they’re cheaper. That’s it. CD’s used to be $15. On iTunes they’re only $9.99 or below. The price went down because you’re not paying for shipping to distributors, packaging, and lousy customer service. Hopefully this could mean cheaper games for the Durango. If Microsoft is planning on building the technology to stop used games because they’re losing too much of their investment, then even if they lower their prices, it should still be making them much, much more revenue.

In the end, this is all about money. Gamers want to pay less, developers want to make more. Buying games directly from Microsoft onto your system, more of your hard earned cash goes to the people who actually made your game. Yes, services like Gamestop and Gamefly will pay the price, but in order for new industries to strive, others must fail. Gamestop and Gamefly have been invaluable, especially in this economy, but eventually their services will become ancient, much like the video store.

We here at GN haven’t heard even the faintest grumble that this is even a possibility, but it should be. The bottom line is that the current generation of home video game consoles will be seen as the last of their era. Microsoft has the chance to be the first to take the 21st century and usher gamers into a whole new world. It’s going to hurt at first, but five years from now you’ll look back at a time before 100% digital download and exclaim, “What the hell were we doing?”


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Author: Mike Deas View all posts by
Mike is a gamer, writer and pretzel muncher. He plays on Easy, rarely completes side quests, and hates himself for relying on walkthroughs.

8 Comments on "Technology Speculation: The Microsoft Durango"

  1. Uksouth007 February 16, 2012 at 1:32 am -

    so their you are downloading a couple of games at 25gigs or more only to be told by your i.t. provider that you have gone over your download usage for the month.and you can just imagine how fast it will download at with millions of other people doing the same thing.and what happens when your new console breaks down?you have to go through the whole thing again.and can you really see game developers knocking a third of the price off the game just because it not on a disc.wont work not going to happen.all tangible goods get reduced in price after a while.why should console games be any different.nothing will ever replace the cd,paperback book or dvd as far as i can see for the foreseeable future.

  2. Manuel_santosh February 16, 2012 at 2:27 am -

    i would not recommend the idea of going 100% digital because every ISP’s in the world have set FUP so the next gen games can to somewhere around 15GB to 60GB so downloading such a huge file doesn’t make any sense and also to mention they might lose huge market because in Asia countries some of them stay in distant places were broadband if not feasible to them if Microsoft want to implement this idea i would not buy the console and i will for PS4 and i like all the are Xbox fans will definitely go for PS4 Microsoft you better come up with something that you don’t lose the us and for God sake put an end to all these stupid rumors i don’t know why people talk clueless about the next-gen tech.

  3. Pete February 16, 2012 at 8:51 am -

    I laugh at the comments below since a service like Steam is thriving. We hear fear-mongering all the about download caps and people even going as far as I will quit gaming if this happens. That’s fine, Valve is making millions and millions of dollars and as we move forward these old school gamers will be left in the dark.

  4. KingOfArcadia February 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm -

    I will never, ever buy a console that does not allow me to played used copies of games. Period.

  5. Matt April 2, 2012 at 9:59 pm -

    The only problem with complete digital gaming is the downloading of a game; if it takes along time to download you could spend an hour or two just waiting for the game to download. If they can avoid this problem it will be great. Also with fully digital hopefully the noise problem that the Xbox 360 has will be fixed. Over all I’m very exited about the next gen of Xbox and I’m sure MS will do it right

    • Peter April 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm -

      That is NOT the only problem. There’s also the fact that digital downloads are riddled with DRM — YOU NEVER OWN ANYTHING DIGITAL. If your service goes down, or if they decide to stop supporting a game, you lose it forever. That’s something I will NEVER pay money for. EVER.

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