Everyone can now relax. If the leaked internal email circulating around Microsoft, according to Ars Technica, is to be read at face value, then the nightmare that is the always-online console future has not come to pass. Specifically, the email has this lovely little paragraph:

[The next XBox] is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today’s Internet. There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should ‘just work’ regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game.

It’s easy to want to call this a “leak”, sent out as unofficial damage control, but whether it is or not, it’s the first words from the mouths of Microsoft that our fears are definitely unfounded, which is all anyone really wanted out of MS once the rumors started flying. This does, however, open up a whole other batch of questions about the NextBox, though these are far less terrifying, even sorta exciting questions. Like the “watching live TV without an internet connection” thing. MS has been talking up the whole entertainment box thing for a couple of years now, so a cable hookup of some kind, through the HDMI In port, is more plausible than ever. In addition, if the console doesn’t require online, then what’s all this about an internet connection-based used games deterrent? Well, at this point, the smart money’s on a Steam scenario, where you can play games on disc all you want, but if you expect to install it to your hard drive, you’re activating that sucker online first, which isn’t that far removed from what the 360 does with DLC now.

We’re still about two weeks away from finding how what exactly MS has in mind, but for right now, as far as an always-on console goes, everyone can rest their sphincters knowing that, indeed, nobody’s THAT dumb yet.
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