Today's Microsoft Xbox launch comes with a required two-gigabyte update to access the most basic of the console's features. Owners are effectively left with an expensive lump of plastic and silicon without it.
Similar mandatory or essential updates were needed for Sony's PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Wii U. Even Apple's latest iPhone 5S had a day-one bug fix update for iOS 7.
How long before day one updates become a horrific feature of all technology launches, with vendors shipping effectively useless products? And what happens when that update fails?
The New Abnormal?
Twitter feeds are currently full of pictures of proud owners and their new Xbox One consoles. But in short order this is followed by a tweet about the pain of updating it. The same thing happened last week with the PlayStation 4 launch. Earlier in the year there was the massive 3GB Wii U mandatory update, which left gamers bereft of entertainment for hours or even days.
As mentioned in a recent piece comparing the two newest game consoles, these devices are deliberately being shipped incomplete because of pressure to get them on store shelves. And it's not just game consoles. Apple's day one iOS update for the iPhone 5S "fixed" a bug with the Touch ID sensor on the phone and with the App Store purchase system.
Plenty of users are still having trouble with the Touch fingerprint sensor, so fixed is perhaps a loose term. We also saw immediate updates with the launch of Windows 8.1 and there were probably some for OS X Mavericks. We can expect larger, show-pausing updates for future operating systems, it seems.
Overloading the Consumer
Most of the headlines have gone to the small number of new PlayStation 4's suffering hardware failures. And the first videos on YouTube are of Xbox One consoles freezing up on boot or sounding like they have chainsaws instead of Blu-ray drives.
But the insidious rise of day one updates, without which the device is less than advertised, is the really chilling story.
It's not like you can avoid connecting them to the Internet as if entire features are missing (Blu-ray movie playback on the Xbox One, Remote Play on the PS4 and so on). You can't use the device as expected without it. Imagine that scenario if you have a poor Internet connection or your broadband provider is having an outage that particular day.
To its (brief) credit, Microsoft did have a page up offering an offline update users could download to PC, copy to USB stick and use to update the Xbox. However, it has since pulled the page, claiming the complexity of the process made it unsuitable for users to undertake.
Similarly, imagine when the update can't be downloaded due to the back-end technology failing. Microsoft's Azure services suffered DNS problems just hours before the Xbox One launched. If that had affected the update servers, you try to explain to several million new customers that their devices are useless.
Who Will Fall?
So who's taking a bet that in the rush to sell however many million smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, PCs or other gadgets in 2014 and beyond, vendors will leave the essential software needed for it on a distribution server, updating it until the last minute. Ignoring the massive demand those servers will face when the product ships will pose a major problem very soon.
We wonder which company will get this horribly wrong, leaving some dud code or a broken driver in the mix, bricking devices or rendering them not fit for purpose and enraging consumers. It will happen at one point and could wreck a company's fortunes — and stock prices — no matter what bit of the end user license agreement they try to hide behind.
Have you been the victim of a product that wouldn't work as expected or wasted your time trying to get it up and running? We wonder if that time can be billed to the vendor? In a world where day one ownership is more about heartache and pain than the joy of ownership, will that stop users from being first in line? Tech companies will only have themselves to blame when that happens.