Here's a promising development in the ever-confusing drama surrounding Microsoft's next gaming console: a new report suggests that you will indeed be able to play Durango games offline.
Today, news site Ars Technica quotes the turnabout in what they say is an e-mail sent by Microsoft officials to all internal Xbox employees. The e-mail states that the next Xbox will let people play games without connecting to the web, despite the rumors that have been swirling over the past few months that Microsoft's new console will follow in the footsteps of games like SimCity and Diablo III, requiring an Internet connection to function.
"Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet," the memo reportedly says. "There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
This language—and the memo's existence in the first place—seems to suggest either severe confusion or a policy shift at Redmond. For quite some time now, outlets like Edge, IGN, and Kotaku have been reporting rumblings that the next Xbox will require an Internet connection to function, and we've heard from multiple people who have developed or are developing games for the console, some of whom have confirmed the news, and others who haven't heard anything about it.
What's also noteworthy is what the purported memo doesn't say: you may not need an Internet connection to play games, but what about when you need one to install them? (Internal Durango documents we read through earlier this year indicated that every Durango game, even those that are bought on a disc, need to be installed and only ever run off the machine's hard drive, not off the disc.)
This memo comes on the heels of reported rumblings of unrest and dissent at Microsoft over the past few weeks and months. Multiple Kotaku sources have suggested that the Xbox makers are behind where they need to be, and one source told us recently that there are multiple factions at Microsoft, some of whom believe that the system should require an Internet connection to play games, and some of whom don't. We've also heard stories of studios that have gotten their Durango development kits late, or not at all.
According to one source in a position to know, the recent drama involving former Microsoft creative director Adam Orth—whose controversial defense of "always on" triggered widespread Internet outrage—energized parties at Microsoft who have always been against the idea of an always-online console. This may have triggered a shift in policy at Microsoft. We reached out to the Xbox makers for comment, and we'll update should we hear back from them.
UPDATE: "We’re excited to share more about the new generation of games, TV and entertainment on May 21, but have nothing further to share at this time," says Microsoft in an e-mail.