Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Crashes

We're still on holiday schedule around these parts, but I figured I can take a break from Super Mario 3D World and stuffing my face with leftovers for a quick update as well as a little grousing. Afterall, just as Batman and the Joker need each other, you can't have Santa without Krampus.

Christmas day brought an unexpected windfall of video games this year:

Not pictured is The Wonderful 101, another game I'm looking forward to digging into.

It's been a long time since I set up a new console and even longer since I set one up amidst the giddiness of Christmas morning. If I recall correctly, that honor goes to the Nintendo 64 and may have even involved an RF switch. Different times.

I completely expected a lengthy set up and update process, because that's just the way electronics ship these days. What I did not expect was this:

I thought I had outsmarted Nintendo by staying away from the Wii U and 3DS until they had a functioning, cross compatible online account and store strategy, but I guess the joke was on me. As I write this, I'm still unable to redeem my coveted Wind Waker HD game. It's a shame, since a game of that length is perfect for a week away from work.

It's cold comfort to both me and Nintendo, but they're not the only ones having a hectic holiday. PSN, XBL, Nintendo's Online services, and even Steam have experienced widespread network issues. It would be kind of impressive if it weren't so inconvenient. I can't remember another clean sweep of all four major online gaming networks.

It's hard to complain too much, as I know the services will eventually recover. A few days of shaky connections isn't the worst thing in the world, especially since my coveted Mario is safely contained on physical media. More important are the various implications issues like these make.

We're at the precipice of a wholly-digital games industry, but clearly companies either can not or have not properly invested in the infrastructure and logistics necessary to handle service surges. Maybe the fact that we're living in a hybrid world of both physical and digital media makes it hard to estimate demand? This might be true, but I'm even more certain that the network folks at all these companies are probably under-funded and understaffed. By their nature companies want to minimize expenses, which means that the philosophy of "It will probably be okay," often wins the day.

I'm thankful for the folks that are probably stuck in the office or trying to get their VPN connection to work from their homes in order to get things back on line. They were the ones that warned management of the need for more resources but were shrugged off and now they have to deal with the mess. The coal that rolls downhill is rarely produced by the people who ultimately have to deal with it.

Ultimately, episodes like these demonstrate the ongoing utility of traditional physical media. Until the technology and money behind it can support the desire to instantly play the new games you bought, you better hope Santa brings you disks.

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