How did Microsoft manage to make consumers part £40/$60 a year for a online service that their competitors were offering for free? Its been a massive debate between gamers and has been a deciding factor for some in their console of choice. Why pay for something when you can get it for free right? Here we will highlight how Xbox Live made the Xbox 360 into the platform of choice for online gaming on consoles.
From day one Xbox Live was available on the Xbox 360, each console that was sold came with a wired headset as standard. While this doesn’t seem as a big deal, it had a massive impact on the community. It meant that every single gamer who played online would have a voice, unless they were to shy to speak up. Majority of games you joined there would be a hustle and bustle of voices which only increased the atmosphere. Which is extremely helpful when playing that requires communication such as First Person Shooter and Sports games. Sure the headset may have been cheap and flimsy but it provided that introduction to online gaming with your friends and lets be honest, majority of gamers now own expensive wireless and wired headsets from third party companies such at Turtle Beach.
Microsoft wanted you to get more value for money on Xbox Live. Yes you had to pay to game online but these fees were put to good use. With this cash injection from Xbox Live suscriptions, Microsoft were able to pay for exclusive rights to early access to new DLC for games such as Call Of Duty. This again was a massive step in tempting gamers to make the move to Xbox Live as it put a lot of gamers in a predicament Do I wait a month or two for the next Call of Duty maps or do I get an Xbox 360 so I can play the lastest content now with my friends? While yes this was frustrating got PC and Playstation 3 gamers who refused this offer, a lot of gamers did make the switch for this very reason.
Party chat is kind of a mixed bag for Xbox Live. Its made Xbox Live better and worse. The sole reason it was introduced was to allow gamers to chat with their friends without having to be playing the same game. It was a feature all gamers were crying out for, so Microsoft delivered but it also came at a cost of the community. Majority of Xbox live users now use this option all the time, so it has heavily impacted the chat from random gamers whilst in a match. Reasons for this is that no one want to hear a 15 year old smack talking about yo mama, so thats why I always use party chat. At the end of the day if you game with the same group of friends then theres no loss as majority of team based games you only talk to your team in game unless your in a lobby.
All current consoles now have the ability to update their dashboard experiences, Microsoft have adapted theres well to ever changing requirements of their consumer. If you look back over the years the 360 dashboard has gone through some drastic changes. Originally when the 360 launched it was aimed at the hardcore gaming audience, now they trying to appeal to all level of gamer. From families, causal and hardcore. This is heavily reflected in the dashboard, which is mostly taken up by advertisements for content available. Most gamers are annoyed with this setup but Microsoft needed to tailor and make this content easier to find for people who are unfamiliar with the usual navigation of the dashboard. No system is perfect but it’s hell of a lot better than its original rendition thats for sure. The reason there are fees is to pay for this kind of maintenance, the 360 does occasionally have down days for major system updates but on the most part it was available 24/7 365 days a year. Can’t argue with that.
Xbox Live Arcade/Indie Games
One of the most successful aspects of the 360 for me was Xbox Live Arcade. It was the platform that kicked off a new wave of titles that have helped some newly upcoming studios become a major influence in game design. Games like Castle Crashers, Shadow Complex, Braid, Bastion, and recently Minecraft have dominated the downloadable games scene and become well known even to the casual market. Xbox Live was also a great platform for indie games such as Braid, Fez and one of my personal favourites Super Meat Boy. These games showed that even the smallest developers can make it big in the console gaming market. For indie developers Microsoft held competitions for developers to get the chance for their games to be published by Microsoft. One game to come from these competitions was Dishwasher Samurai which was a huge success and showed the potential of the platform and service. Is it any surprise that Sony are getting this kind of content for the PS4? These type of games have changed what we come to expect from a downloadable title, along with remakes/releases of arcade classics we now demand more value for our money. Downloadable games are only getting bigger and better.
Whats Next For Xbox Live?
With Sony already documenting what the online service for the PS4 will offer, what can we expect from Microsoft with Xbox Live? In order for Xbox Live to continue its success it has to build upon these features that makes us pay a suscription for. They are going to have to win us over all over again to get us to pay monthly annual suscription fees. We need to feel like we are getting value for our hard earn money. Otherwise a few gamers may jump ship.
Its been heavily rumoured that the next Xbox will require an always on internet connection for the box to function. While that doesn’t bother me personally as when my Xbox 360 is on its always connected to the net. Here are some features I feel the next iteration of Xbox Live must have:
- Gamertag Transfer (I don’t want to change)
- All Xbox Live Arcade content available (Don’t want to repurchase anything!)
- If your going to make console multimedia hub then please let me access my full TV service such as Sky without extra fees or restrictions.
- Access all game saves from any console (Hate having to re-download content when on a friends console for some local co-op action – I’m talking to you Halo/Gears of War/Call of Duty).
- Give more visual space on the dashboard for Games and Xbox Live Arcade! We need more Games rather than media.
- Your Suscription should include some DLC for games you play. You can pick some much DLC value for free when you renew or suscribe as a reward scheme. How good would it be to get that new Call of Duty Map Pack for FREE!
- Increase the friend limit – 100 is not enough for some people.
- Have full control over notifications. Nothing more annoying than watching Netflix/LoveFilm and someone signs in, don’t need to know that when I’m watching media.
The most important feature they need is to create a need for us all to go from Xbox 360 to the next Xbox. Whether this be from first party games, some killer feature or perhaps just the simplest of ones… backwards compatibility. Come on Microsoft give us something to go off here!!!
It has come to my attention that I should mention one of the obvious reasons to how Microsoft was able to get into this position with Xbox Live. Halo. Xbox Live did get the ultimate game to become the poster child of the service. Without these games it would be hard to say what position online gaming on consoles would be like? Sure we have the likes of Call of Duty now but Halo did kick start the movement. The series still has a robust community and is only being pipped to most played titles by the likes of Call Of Duty, Fifa and Minecraft. So heres to you Bungie and Master Chief for paving the way for online gaming on consoles. Halo used to be the main reason we got an Xbox right? I might have to go play some Halo now, so many memories.