The last census of the USA showed that around 85% of Americans maintain a subscription to broadband internet access. That number drops to around 70% in rural areas where American ISPs have very little incentive to build out broadband infrastructure. That’s a fairly robust minority–and it doesn’t even mind the fact that America’s definition of broadband is badly outdated. So, as the game industry stubbornly establishes that always-online gaming is the norm, a sizeable chunk of the American gaming scene is experiencing the very real effects of Digital Divide. Sure, at it’s heart, gaming is pure privilege, and the concept of Digital Divide is rooted in deeper matters of livelihood. But being able to game online is one of the main factors most consumers make when selecting their tier of service.
So, my question is, given that so many people are unable to maintain a broadband connection, are game companies doing enough to keep their business?
On the business and legal side of things, you have always-on DRM, which requires that a piece of software be able to connect with a developer server in order to finish booting. On the cultural side of things, you have the disappearance of offline multiplayer. Both of these norms can exist independently of each other, but when you add in the fact that always-on DRM has even infiltrated single-player games, the outlook can seem dim for rural, poor, or just plain curmudgeonly gamers. For my part, I genuinely miss the days when four-player split screen multiplayer on a single console was a given.
What do you think? How should the ideal balance of online to offline features look? Should there be some sort of guarantee that a single player game need not run an online DRM check? Talk about it down in the comments or over at the Boss Rush Discord!