Would we be ready for an always-on Xbox?

How about Europe and Asia?

As you'd expect, the state of broadband throughout Europe is somewhat all over the place. Akamai's trusty 'State of the Internet' report notes that nations like Spain (48%) and Italy (28%) still do not have the majority of its people on broadband connections, while others like Switzerland (82%) and the Netherlands (82%) are world leaders in this regard.

Like the United States, the percentage of Europeans that have broadband speeds of greater than 10 Mbps is still pretty low across the board, ranging anywhere from 23% in Switzerland to 8.8% in Germany to 2.8% in Italy. But also like the U.S., these figures are generally improving with each passing year.

Two notable European nations where the Xbox 360 has sold a few million units are France and Germany. In the former, the average internet speed clocks in at just 4.8 Mbps and the percentage of people on broadband connections sits at 47%. The latter fares a bit better; the average speed in Germany is 6 Mbps while 62% of Germans have broadband level speeds.

In Australia, the average speed is just 4.2 Mbps, which is actually a 23% decrease over the year prior. Broadband takeup sits at 36% for Australians too, a slight yearly increase, but the number of 10 Mbps and up connections declined 56% to now 3.8% of people. Those aren't good numbers for an always-on console.

Markets like these aren't as lucrative for Microsoft as America's, but the numbers here suggest that a sizable chunk of those overseas would be alienated from an always-on Xbox. Percentage-wise, the risks look higher. If broadband internet does indeed become a requirement for the next Xbox, millions of people in Europe and Australia just wouldn't be able to fit the bill right yet.

Ironically, the one major gaming market where Microsoft has utterly failed with the Xbox 360 is the one where an always-on console might assimilate best: Japan. Gamers there never took to Microsoft's machine and the style of games it offered, and Japanese retailers started phasing out the console back in 2011. According to Japanese market tracker Media Create, a total of 485 Xbox 360 units were moved during the second week of May. (By comparison, the PS3 sold 12,793.) Multiple Japanese market trackers like Media Create and Famitsu have concluded that the system has sold somewhere around 1.6 million units in the country since its launch. That's not a lot.

And yet, Japan's average connection speed of 10.8 Mbps ranks second in the world (behind only South Korea's 14 Mbps benchmark), 76% of its people have broadband speeds, and 39% have speeds greater than 10 Mbps. Broadband still isn't a universal thing in Japan, but compared to the rest of the world its internet appears robust enough to more easily support a constantly connected device. And like most of the rest of the world, its 'net is getting better as time goes on.

And the U.K.?

Internet in the UK is generally cheaper, just about as fast, and slightly more widespread than it is in America, but it's still something in its development stages.

According to Akamai, the average internet speed in the U.K. by the end of last year was 6.5 Mbps. Broadband adoption was at 64% and growing, as that number was a 26% increase over last year. The amount of people with more comfortable speeds of 10 Mbps or more was at 11%, which was a whopping 129% increase over the year before. In other words, an always-on console's requirements could be met by an increasingly large number of U.K. citizens, although there's still a not-insignificant number of people without the necessary 'net.

Communications regulator Ofcom is more or less the FCC of the U.K. when it comes to officially monitoring the nation's internet quality. Its definition of "broadband" is less than Akamai's 4 Mbps requirement, but its most recent findings claim that the average speed for those who do have broadband internet was 12 Mbps as of November 2012.

For those that have wired connections, it says that just 10% have speeds lower than 2 Mbps, and that's decreasing. That is to say, those that are adopting to broadband are getting faster speeds over time, which in turn means that they could more easily adapt to an always-on machine.

As far as access goes, Ofcom says that "current generation broadband" is available in 98.7% of U.K. premises. Speeds faster than 30 Mbps, which Ofcom defines as "superfast broadband" and could comfortably handle multiple internet applications, can be had in 65% of U.K. premises.

The plan is to improve this, as Ofcom hopes to get "almost all" U.K. citizens access to internet speeds of at least 2 Mbps by 2015. The U.K. government also says that it wants to get speeds of at least 30 Mbps out to 90% of premises in that same time frame. Whether or not it'll achieve these goals on time is up in the air, but things are collectively getting better and the whole issue is at least on the national agenda.

One main issue here is that UK ISPs have a habit of forcing consumers to rent phone lines with their internet. The nation's leading provider is BT, for instance, and their plans range from speeds up to 16 Mbps to speeds up to 76 Mbps. Base prices for those go anywhere from £21 to £37 per month (or $32 to $56)--plus one-time installation fees of £30 ($45)--with the first few months often given to new customers at no cost. Other ISP's speeds and prices vary, but those kinds of figures are around the norm for broadband users in the U.K. Virgin Media offers 30, 60, or 100 Mbps broadband plans alone for £22 ($33), £27 ($40), and £34 ($52), for example.

A majority of BT's plans don't put a limit on the amount of bandwidth a user gets every month either. Other major U.K. ISPs like Virgin Media do implement caps, but mostly by capping speeds for select users during particularly busy hours instead of shutting them down entirely. Policies like that could affect U.K. always-on Xbox owners who don't want to their performance to be stuttered at the wrong time, but in general the penalty is less severe than it is in the U.S.


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  • StrayGator - May 20, 2013 1:31 p.m.

    Why is this article featured on Penny Arcade Report and not, say, Top 7 worst jobs for NPCs?
  • Hanover - May 19, 2013 4:48 p.m.

    MS already stated that always on would be at the discretion of the game publishers. Obviously the professional game journalists at Games Radar haven't been doing their homework.
  • Rowdie - May 19, 2013 4:11 p.m.

    It just really feels irresponsible to be feeding craziness. "Always on, Always Connected" is not in anyway if you don't have great internet connection the system won't work. It doesn't mean draconian DRM. Always on, is simply that, it doesn't go into a full powered down state. This is good because that means it'll boot faster. That's always talked about as a great thing for other devices. We rarely shut out phones off. We don't shut down our cable boxes. I can't remember the last time I turned my computer off. Probably some vacation that took over a week. When you combine always on with always connected you get updates of all sorts pushed down. First they can do this when the internet isn't a busy a bonus for the whole world, and you no longer have to wait for these things when you want to play. That's brilliant. Poor PS3 owners cringed at every update. While it wasn't nearly as bad on the 360 getting rid of that wait all together would be really welcome. Again, now where does this indicate you can't play a local game if you don't have a connection. Honestly, journalist should be calling BS on this hysteria not feeding it. The article contending that because the box would always be on and connected means you need to consider it as if you had another high use app running constantly is irresponsible at best. It's not busy sucking up bandwidth just sitting there, in a sleep state. All that bandwidth research would have been a lot better off discussion a rumors that aren't full of FUD. Like the miniXbox. Now you can start talking about playing a multiplayer game on your console, streaming some netflix to your old 360 and reading the lates Gamesradar article on your minixbox and what kind of bandwidth that would take. IDK maybe talk to your IT guy and give folks some pointers on how to set up their router for optimal performance. Maybe warn them about that old laptop with the wifi b adapter crushing their N network, Pull the wire people.
  • Rowdie - May 20, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    Yeah, to get people to riot and or slaughter their fellow man is a good reason to feed hysteria. The system is going to want to connect. It's going be be connected if it can. You mean letting the publishers have some kind of DRM like they do on open platforms? No one minds that on PC. In fact most voices have been in favor of consoles being more open and letting publishers have more freedom to do what they want. They aren't down that road at all. There is no, it won't work if it's not connected. That's all FUD.
  • ParagonT - May 20, 2013 7:42 p.m.

    Agreed. Its just opening the doors to things that I believe will be problems in the future. Just because people are content with it for other systems (...) doesn't mean that its perfectly fine with me.
  • assedo1 - May 19, 2013 11:49 a.m.

    providers often deceiving promises 100MB, and give 50-60
  • sandplasma - May 19, 2013 8:22 a.m.

    Stop feeding these stupid rumors, Sony confirmed that they arent going this route and you can be 100% sure that the competition isnt either.
  • FireIceEarth - May 19, 2013 6:35 a.m.

    My main concern with all these figures for internet speeds is (in the UK at least) there is *always* a *massive* discrepancy between what you pay for and what you get; I've had to move home for a post-grad MSc, my parents live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and are forced (as it's the lowest available) to pay for 8 Mbps broadband. Is this the figure I'd be quoted for? If I run a speed-test then it comes out at 1.1 Mbps, but if I actually download something from Steam then it comes in at a staggering average download speed of 100 Kbps! 100 KILOBYTES PER SECOND! What you pay for vs what you get could mean that the numbers are even worse than you think.
  • ParagonT - May 20, 2013 1:06 p.m.

    I think the maximum Mbps in my area used to be a whopping 3 Mbps. It just recently bumped up to 6 Mbps a couple of years ago. So if you were getting what you payed for hypothetically, I would be totally jelly of you. But I feel for ya, my friends parents had been screwed for over 10 years by the only available broadband service in our area, Windstream, because they were getting a lower tier of bandwidth than they were paying for. Bless her heart, but in her lapse of judgement she took the 100 dollars worth of credit (bribe) instead of pressing charges. My college only offers a whopping 10 Mbps. Here in the great state of Kentucky, we take pride in our technological advancements and services. /sarcasm
  • ShadowOps117 - May 19, 2013 6:01 a.m.

    I do not even have Xbox Live. Much less a wireless network. No Xbox for me then.
  • MightyWumbo - May 18, 2013 9:38 p.m.

    so it looks like ill be getting a ps4 and maybe a wii u if they make a super smash bros console edition!
  • codystovall - May 18, 2013 8:46 p.m.

    I dont have online sooooo.......
  • StrayGator - May 18, 2013 2:42 a.m.

    and suddenly I think: you know how a seemingly single product have few variants? Samsung galaxy Sx phones are notorious for featuring different hardware / connectivity options for different parts of the world. It's also common in guitars (i.e. strats/teles made with ash/alder bodies, whatever's cheaper at the time). if MS will go a similar route, we might see great demand for import consoles from outh america / east eu.
  • Shinn - May 18, 2013 1:40 a.m.

    I live in New Zealand, so no.
  • imagremlin - May 17, 2013 11:41 p.m.

    Can anyone describe a scenario where an constant connection is required for an offline game? I can't see any, and that's the kind of game I primarily play. If the console insists on using my connection, I need to know what for, and at the end of the day, I can never be sure of what the heck its doing. Is it checking that I'm not stealing the software? Is it reporting on what I play, when and how? Whatever it is, it's not doing anything for me, it's doing something for the publishers or for Microsoft. I'm not comfortable with that, I cannot be. I'm a console player, I own every single console since the PS1. If the NextBox is always online, it will be the first console I'm not buying.
  • einhazard - May 17, 2013 11:01 p.m.

    I grew up in the country in western MN, and up until just a couple years ago, people were still left to one internet choice: Dial-Up. The idea of a always-on (or sometimes-on) console just doesn't appeal to me. Granted, I live somewhere with good internet now, but America has a lot of open space between the coasts, and I feel like a lot of gamers would get screwed out of playing new stuff due to the fact that companies just flat-out will not run cable to where they live. I want to be able to take a console home and show my parents (you may laugh, but my dad loves seeing the new games), and if I can't do that, it's a personal disappointment. I may be among the minority that doesn't care about uploading stuff to YouTube and Facebook or making customer playlists for soundtracks on the fly, but that's because I want to game for the sake of gaming, not for the bells and whistles. I dunno. Maybe I'm just getting old.

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