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Always-on DRM is a hot button topic that never loses its flavor as one scenario or another rears its head and becomes part of a raucous movement from dedicated members of the gaming community against an invasion of rights by publishers. We've seen the results of always-on DRM in popular franchises like Diablo III and Simcity, as well as the fight against Microsoft's original policies for the Xbox One. However, some publishers have tried new ways to turn games from products you own into services you rent, with a finite lifespan.
Four of the biggest games due out in 2014 are actually games you could consider to be always-on titles. They are heavily focused on multiplayer, and even their single-player offerings are still tied to online gameplay. Do you know which games I'm talking about? Well if you do, you have to ask yourself whether or not you're okay with the direction the industry is heading in regarding always-on games and if you think these titles needed to be always-on.
The DivisionTom Clancy's The Division isn't just a title many are claiming is a true “next-generation” title for the Xbox One and PS4 (and PC) but it's also prime delay-bait. The game is an ambitious, massive, huge project from Ubisoft and it bridges emergent, survival gameplay from titles like DayZ and Don't Starve with visually captivating graphics and atmospheric environments that roll elements of horror and dystopia into an eggroll of awesome. The only drawback? Well, all the “story” or progressive elements are tied to an online multiplayer atmosphere. Technically, this means that the game is always-on, so no offline single-player. However, there are single-player elements, as reported by Player Essence, so you don't always have to be an extroverted straggler working with other players. But, you will have to be online to explore the ruined world of The Division.
The CrewUbisoft makes the list twice. That must be some sort of record for them as far as DRM goes... or maybe not. Nevertheless, one of the other AAA titles that was widely talked about at last year's E3 set for release on the Xbox One and PS4 is The Crew. The title takes emergent multiplayer to the next level by incorporating a vast 10,000km world with all different kinds of race types and modes that gamers can engage in at any time with other players, or alone. However, as noted on VG 24/7 and on the Ubisoft forums, there is no actual offline mode. While the game auto-saves your progress in case you get disconnected, you won't be able to actually engage in the game if you're completely offline. Like the other games on this list, it means that when Ubisoft decides to shut the servers down for the game The Crew will no longer be playable. While it's a cool concept being able to battle and work cooperatively with other players in an open-world racing environment, it does bring into question how long the game will stay running before it's lights out?
TitanfallWe've known for a while that Titanfall was going to be multiplayer focused; that there would be no single-player campaign because Respawn felt that it was a wasted focus of their efforts, as reported by IGN. The team, instead, decided to pour their efforts solely into the multiplayer component. Some people are okay with this while others aren't all too thrilled. Things really caught fire when it was revealed the game was limited to 6-vs-6 bouts, although according to Gamespot, the game will feature up to 48 combatants at a time. Some argue that the game shouldn't be always-on and that the necessity of relying on multiplayer hurts the game's historical appeal. That's not to mention that Electronic Arts is notorious for shutting down games servers after several years of operation, which leaves some people questioning if Titanfall will be worth the $60 plunge if it may become a dud within its own generation, sort of like EA Sports' MMA.
DestinyArguably, the biggest game of 2014 seems to be Bungie's Destiny. It's another one of those ambitious AAA blockbusters that marries the concepts of MMO-style gameplay with a story-driven campaign for multiple players to embrace. However, with this kind of underlying structure comes the dreaded necessity of always-on DRM. There is no offline play for as far as any of the reports are concerned, however, as noted by Gamespot you can solo some missions, just via online. This has led to some of the most heated discussions over the future of gaming: should some developers limit their vision to accommodate gamers who aren't always-on or should they go all-out for something unprecedented in the gaming space? The main problem is that – despite Bungie's illustrious track record of making award-worthy games with high sell-through rates – there's nothing revealed so far that dictates that Destiny needs to be online, hence the debate about why it is always-on. This game will probably keep discussions about the growing trend of DRM in mainstream console games all the way up until release. This is also one of those games where publishers will definitely gauge whether pursuing this service over product methodology will be worth their efforts. Ultimately, though, it all boils down to how you feel about DRM being ever-present in more mainstream titles.