Whereas rumors once swirled that Microsoft’s Xbox One would require a true always-on connection — one that required the Xbox One to be online literally all the time — the policy turned out to be a simple check-in once every 24 hours. As long as a game is being played on your own Xbox One, rather than a friend’s — which requires an admittedly draconian hourly check-in — you can technically have an internet outage for the majority of the day and still be able to play your games. However, a common argument against an always-online Xbox is that some people just can’t afford an Xbox plus internet service, but no one ever seems to go out and survey to see the extent to which this is true.
This argument assumes that people can afford an Xbox One, games, and a display, but not an internet service. To see if this is true, you’d compare the prices of two groups of products and services. The first is everything you’d need to use an Xbox One without an always-on internet requirement — the Xbox One, a television or monitor with appropriate inputs, and at least one game purchasable from a brick-and-mortar store.
The second group would be an internet connection and a device to utilize the connection — a computer. You’d include the computer in the second group for the same reason you have to include a display and a game in the first group. An Xbox One without a display and a game cannot be used, and an internet connection without an internet-capable device cannot be used.
Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed the price on the Xbox One, so if you’re feeling mighty generous, give it the launch price tag of an Xbox 360. Because the Xbox One has mandatory game installs and thus requires a hard drive, go with the 360′s Premium model, as that launched with 20GB of storage space and would be the closest Xbox One launch analog. It released at $ 400.
Since you wouldn’t be able to access Xbox Marketplace to grab a cheap DLC game without that internet you can’t afford, you’d have to purchase a disc-based game, which in this generation launches at a standard $ 60. Since money is tight, you wouldn’t get a fantastic display. You can easily find a refurbished, 18-inch brand-name monitor on Newegg for around $ 70. The Xbox One doesn’t have a DVI connection and the monitor likely won’t have an HDMI connection, but you can get an HDMI-to-DVI converter off Amazon for around three bucks. Altogether, that’s around $ 533.
You’re not buying a ton of games for your Xbox One since you can’t really afford it, so we can agree that only having a few games for an entire console generation makes you a light or “casual” Xbox One user. If you apply that same usage classification to your internet and computer habits, you’d likely just be browsing some sites occasionally, checking your email, and having a few GChat conversations per day. For that type of usage, you wouldn’t need a blazing fast internet connection, nor would you need a top-of-the-line computer. For $ 20 per month and a total of $ 240 per year — you can get barebones internet service from Time Warner. You’ll be able to browse the web, chat, and check your email (slowly). That doesn’t come with a modem, so you’ll have to get one off Newegg, which can be as cheap as $ 30. You’ll also need a computer, and you can get a nice Chromebook (not a Pixel, though) for around $ 250.
That’s a total of $ 520, or roughly the same price as everything you would need to get an Xbox One up and running — and that’s only if the Xbox One is as cheap as $ 400! You could even take that $ 70 refurbished monitor and instead use a $ 35 Raspberry Pi as your computer rather than a Chromebook, which would cut costs by about $ 140, but the RasPi feels like cheating. We’re also not mentioning very cheap ISPs like NetZero, because that also feels like cheating.
In all likelihood, you wouldn’t only buy one Xbox One game, as there wouldn’t be a point to spending all that money on a console and display. Since this exercise is about sacrifice, which is a common thing you have to do you when you can’t afford stuff, if you sacrifice buying just four games over the course of a year, you can afford Time Warner’s cheap internet package. If you’re making the argument that you can’t afford an Xbox One plus an internet service, look at your current library of 360 and PS3 games and see if you can cut some of those out. The argument here isn’t that an always-on Xbox One is a positive thing, it’s that there are better arguments against making an always-on console.
You may not like an always-on policy, but the argument against it shouldn’t be that someone can’t afford an internet-capable household if they can afford everything it takes to play games on a cutting-edge console.