When Microsoft Creative Director Adam Orth decided to spend part of his lunch break on Twitter last week, defending the ideology behind always-on Internet technology and the way it might apply to a video game console, it’s impossible to say whether he entered the fray with an aloof, arrogant, or even malevolent mindset.
It didn’t matter.
Whether it was the erroneous claim that “every device is now ‘always on,’” the overlooking of the problems always-on could (an has in the past) impose on many gamers, the sentiment that anywhere outside of a big city was an undesirable place to live, or the punctuation of a tweet with the always-tactful hashtag “#dealwithit”, gamers took enough umbrage with Orth’s remarks to see him become an overnight Internet pariah — and to send Microsoft scrambling for a meliorative response:
“We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.”
But now it appears that the response also includes Orth leaving the company. According to Game Informer, who cited anonymous sources close to the issue, Adam Orth is no longer a Microsoft employee. Game Informer confirmed the claim by phoning the Microsoft switchboard, and believes that Orth tendered his own resignation in the afterglow of last week’s comments. It’s unclear if Orth resigned by choice, however — it may have been allowed as a final courtesy.
The swiftness of Orth’s departure is far from surprising. The firestorm he ignited wasn’t just a reflection of Twitter’s volcanic activity level (granted, it’s Vesuvian); it reflected the profound concerns many gamers have about the next-generation Xbox constricting their capacity to, you know, enjoy games. Sure, Orth didn’t mention the Xbox 720 by name. But with every recent rumor regarding the console — leaked Durango dev-kit files and reports of an Internet TV service, for example — suggesting that it at least has the potential, the infrastructure, to mandate an Internet connection for key features, the focus of his arguments was quite clear.
And it’s a focus Microsoft would do better to avoid. From the launch catastrophe that was SimCity to the months of server bugs and hacking that plagued Diablo 3 last year, the always-online concept has proven tedious at best for major video-game undertakings, and the skepticism surrounding it has already prompted Sony to boast that the PlayStation 4 is never always online.
Microsoft has yet to comment on Orth’s resignation, but in all likelihood the company would rather not see the issue fester any further. The next Xbox is believed to be scheduled for an unveiling on May 21. If Adam Orth is expendable enough to depose after a inciting an online uproar, it’s always possible that the design he was defending proves to be as well.
Did Adam Orth deserve to lose his job for his Twitter comments last week? Is his resignation, willful or otherwise, strictly disciplinary — or a sign that Microsoft may be taking criticism into account while designing the next Xbox?