Being connected to the internet is practically a staple at this point. Once the domain of only desktop computers, it is now possible and easy to connect to the internet with laptops, phones, video game consoles, and various other portable devices. Also, technology has made it easier to connect in places outside the home. It is possible to connect to the internet while at work, at most restaurants, coffee shops, and even on a bus or airplane. In fact, the vast majority of Americans are connected to the internet one way or another during most waking hours of their life.
Recognizing that most Americans are now connected to the internet at almost all times while using a computer, video game companies have made use of this when designing video games. In the early days of growing internet popularity, video games usually only used internet connections if they were multiplayer games like MMORPGs or competitive multiplayer games like Warcraft. As the technology became more ubiquitous, games used the internet to provide patches, for online play, and even as a way to sell the game. In the modern gaming industry, almost every game, even if primarily a single player game, optionally utilizes an internet connection in some way.
Very recently, a new trend has begun. This trend began with an announcement by Ubisoft early in 2010. As a new form of DRM, Ubisoft announced that future games would require the player to be connected to the internet while playing the game. This was even true for games that were entirely single player experiences that could be purchased on disc at a retail outlet. For the first time, a person could purchase a single player, non-online game and be unable to play it without an internet connection.
The response was from the customer base was generally negative, though, in part this was due to the fact that Ubisoft already had a poor record of using infuriating and invasive DRM. Most gamers were unwilling to give the company the benefit of the doubt after past experiences. Despite the announcement, Ubisoft did not immediately release any games with the new DRM and the fervor died down relatively quickly. In fact, it seemed like the idea might never gain traction.
But, it did, and Ubisoft was neither the only nor the first company to require an internet connection to play a disc-based single player game. One of the most notable and recent examples of a game that requires this is Fallout: New Vegas. This is especially telling because the game is a top selling expansion to a top selling franchise.
One more thing stands out greatly about this decision. While the requirement of an internet connection to play the game is printed on the box, that requirement is neither printed on the front of the box, nor is it listed as one of the system requirements. Instead, it is printed in a red box underneath the system requirements. The requirement certainly isn’t hidden, but it is far less prominent than would seem to be appropriate given the fact that it is not an obvious requirement. Comparatively, just about every MMORPG lists the requirement for an internet connection on both the front and back of the box and in the system requirements.
There are only two reasonable conclusions that can be made from these facts. The first is that an internet connection is considered so ubiquitous that game companies barely feel the need to advertise the need anymore. The other possibility is that Bethesda felt that it might hurt sales if the game prominently displayed the need for an internet connection to play it. Whichever the case, it seems that video game companies are willing to produce disc-based single player games that cannot be played by someone without an internet connection. In the case of a game like Fallout: New Vegas, the likelihood that someone owns a computer capable of playing the game and does not have an internet connection is incredibly low. But, for less hardware intensive games, this decision can further cut into the potential player base; a trade-off that video game companies appear more and more willing to make.