The Great Holiday Outage of 2013
December 25th, 2013.
It was supposed to be a joyous day, one filled with new console owners enjoy their new games. It was a special Christmas season: all three console makers had new consoles on the market; the Wii U is still only a year old, so it’s new-ish. Plus that Windwaker HD bundle is new!
But that joy would not happen. Misery commenced. Tears may have been shed.
And I’m not just talking about all the people who got the “wrong” console on Christmas morning. I’m talking about people who were unable to use their consoles.
Virtually every console network was down Christmas day. There were several reports that Xbox Live was suffering, but it wasn’t anything catastrophic. Still, a lack of an internet connection for Xbox Live means Xbox One owners can’t download patches needed to fully install games, meaning you can’t play your brand new games.
The status of the PSN and Nintendo Network were far worse. The PlayStation store was down, meaning you weren’t able to digitally download any games, meaning you couldn’t buy the PS4’s best game (Resogun). Sony was able to quickly fix the issue, but Nintendo had bigger problems. The Nintendo Network was down for a few days. Stability issues were in question after Christmas dinner was long over. Remember the mess made over having to spend all launch day last year downloading a patch? Magnify that by a thousand. Nintendo’s already in a hole in the console race; they didn’t need this.
Even PC gamers weren’t clear from the mess: Steam was down for a portion of Christmas day, likely due to the fact that they were giving away Left 4 Dead 2 for free. Still, this a problem gamers will face in the current console generation.
The internet infrastructure in this country is far from the best thing in the world. We’re paying high rates for substandard speeds. Until a few weeks ago, I personally had a DSL connection. Spoiler alert: it took me days to download games from Steam. Days. Some ISPs threaten to either throttle bandwidth or enable a data cap. That’ll hamper your ability to enjoy the digital marketplace each platform offers.
All three consoles are pushing their digital marketplace, some more than others. Yet in order to access said digital marketplace, we’ll need to access the internet. That was impossible for many on Christmas Day. Sure, eventually everything was resolved and people were able to operate as intended. Still, a sour first impression was left. It’s a major difference between first hooking up a Wii and having the entire family play to hooking up the Wii U and having the entire family watch a progress bar move until you get an error message.
For a console generation that had internet related controversy before it even began, it didn’t need a lump of coal. That’s what it got. Judging by how both networks have reacted to a high number of traffic, part of me fears what will happen when the first big name release hits the consoles. Will Xbox Live crumble under the weight of Halo? Can the PSN withstand the onslaught of everyone downloading Uncharted? Only time will tell.