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Plugged In

Microsoft exec stirs up controversy with ‘always on’ Xbox Twitter tirade

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Was it a hint at one of the new Xbox's features? Was it a friendly argument that spun out of control? Either way, a tweet from a Microsoft bigwig has turned into a public relations debacle.

Microsoft Studios' creative director Adam Orth took to Twitter Thursday to comment on the growing gamer disgust with "always on" DRM, essentially technology that requires a game or device to be connected to the internet to work properly. That tech made the launches of high-profile PC games Diablo III and SimCity disastrous, and rumors are swirling that it will be included in the next Xbox system as a means to thwart used game sales.

Orth, however, just doesn’t understand why people hate it.

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Not exactly the most gracious way to support tech that most of your audience can't stand.

That led to a debate with Manveer Heir, senior gameplay designer at Bioware, that instantly went viral largely due to comments by Orth that appear to be dismissive and, according to some, contemptuous.

“Did you learn nothing from Diablo III or SimCity? You know some people’s internet goes out right?” Heir tweeted back.

“Electricity goes out too,” replied Orth, prompting Heir to point out that not everyone lives in well-connected areas.

“Try living in Janesville, WI or Blacksburg, VA,” tweeted Heir.

“Why on earth would I live there?” Orth responded.

With everyone from gaming forum NeoGaf to Reddit weighing in with their thoughts, which are almost universally against Orth, the Microsoft employee has found an unlikely ally, though -- the very person he was debating.

"A dear friend of mine @adam_orth is getting a lot of flak, some unfairly," Heir tweeted today. "Let me say he's one of the good guys and cut him some slack please."

"You should know we are good friends who joke around with one another. Don't read too much into our back & forth," he said in another.

Orth, who has since switched his Twitter account settings to private, describes the exchange as "just the normal daily back and forth I have with Manveer" and apologized to the cities he might have offended.

"I was trolling him personally," said Orth.

Orth's comments have done more than whip up the easily stoked rage of the Internet, though. They've also supported whispers that the next Xbox will indeed require users to be constantly connected to the Internet to play any games – including single player. Earlier this week, Kotaku reported on a rumor that the console will be an 'always on' system.

Microsoft has repeatedly declined to discuss -- or even officially acknowledge -- its next-generation system, and apparently they're not changing their tune. Instead, the company offered this statement to Game Informer:

"We are aware of the comments made by an employee on Twitter. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views are not reflective of those of the company.  We have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter."

Maybe it’s time to, uh, deal with it?

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