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Valenka

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In Defense of Xbox Live

Author's Note - 3 February 2013: In light of recent comments, I think it's prudent to state that while I am certainly satisfied with the Xbox Live service, I can perfectly understand why others do not and feel that even after what's been said and done, the $5 per month price tag is unjustifiable. That is your opinion and you are welcome to it, but please do not force it down the throats of others and then deafen yourself to other standpoints. This blog was not intended to open a "debate" (when all it really boils down to is a console war and a girth measurement contest) and that remains true - it was intended to be nothing more than an opinion piece, so please do not ruffle your feathers over one's personal point of view. Thank you.

Since 2001 the Xbox console has paved the way in the generation's gaming scene leaving behind a trail of originality and innovation for its neighbours to consume and churn out their own original and innovative take on it. For instance, while the Xbox, however, wasn't the first console to introduce online multiplayer gaming — that honour goes to DEC's PDP-10 followed by the Atari ST — it has revolutionised the way we use the feature today.

Long since the current generation of gaming, there's been an underlying turf war over which console rules vice in the gaming industry. It was originally the Nintendo 64 versus the PlayStation, PlayStation 2 versus Xbox, and Xbox 360 versus PlayStation 3; and while the latter battle has simmered, another has picked up by way of each console's respective online service. It's no surprise that the respective consoles' fan bases go against each other with every piece of ammunition they can find — whether it be pricing, features, customer support, or the look and feel of the interface — it was only a matter of time before it came down to the online services; and it's just as irrelevant and disturbing as the previous wars.

However, before I get too much into it, allow me to first state for the record that while the Xbox 360 is my primary console of choice, I do own and play regularly a PlayStation 3 and a Nintendo Wii. I do not prefer one console over another, but enjoy the three of them for different reasons. I originally purchased a PlayStation 3 for Heavy Rain and other exclusives such as Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet, and I use it primarily for exclusives. I use the Nintendo Wii for exercise games, Just Dance, and WiiSports and it serves as the family console.

I'll begin my rebuttal by quoting an official Xbox advisor — Miranda, a billing and subscriptions representative — that I spoke with earlier today, regarding the charge for the Xbox Live service:

"One reason is security. Xbox Live server maintenance, security, and making the server feature packed or content heavy as Xbox Live. The money that it costs to subscribe to Xbox Live is well rewarded with these extra qualities of service.

Live’s hosting - leaderboards, matchmaking, the lot - are all run by Microsoft rather than by third parties. It means developers are more keen to go online on Xbox where the online play is paid for by you, rather than them, so - in that sense, at least - Live’s hosting model makes for a more cohesive and better supported service, but a model where the cost will always be picked up on the gamer’s end.

So technically, it's about more security, better features and being more reliable."

In my opinion, that is a more than satisfactory response and completely understandable. However, I should make it a point to state the potentially not-so-obvious and point out that while Miranda mentioned ensuring security, better features for the console, and to ensure reliability, that should not be mistaken for a jab at Sony Computer Entertainment.

Xbox Live's current membership rates go for as low as $5 per month and anywhere between $40 and $60 for a year-long subscription, depending on what form it's purchased (through Xbox Live or Microsoft Xbox cards) and at what time (if there are any sales or promotions present.) It's more than fair pricing for a top quality service and if you wish to avoid paying for a service subscription, then you are more than welcome to take your business to Sony Computer Entertainment and purchase yourself a PlayStation 3.

To quote Brian Barrett over at Gizmodo:

"All that money, just for the privilege of paying another $96 each for Netflix and Hulu Plus, $125 for MLB, $79 for Amazon Prime. And it raises the question: Why would I go to the club that has a cover charge when there are three right next door—each almost exactly identical—that'll let me in for free? Xbox 360 might offer great streaming, but it's also got a hell of a moat."

Now that statement is ignorant and unjustifiable. Firstly, the wording of his statement implies that subscriptions to the aforementioned services are mandatory; they are not. With that being said, not everyone has or wants any or all of those services and just wants to pay the $5 a month to play their games online. Secondly, there are alternatives to using those services: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Major League Baseball and Amazon Prime can be streamed from your computer, mobile device or smart-TV for free (minus the cost of your subscription) and you do not need the Xbox Live service to do it. Do you expect Microsoft to give you their individual service for free just because you're already paying for a completely different service that Xbox just happens to have as an additional feature? If you answered yes to that question, you're delusional.

In retrospect, you are paying for the same [free] service provided by Sony Computer Entertainment and Steam, which is the simple ability to play games online. However, Microsoft fairly and understandably justifies their price tag for the aforementioned reasons as well as overlooked features like automated beacons - so you know when your friends wants someone to play a specific game with them - and exclusive discounts on Xbox Live content, plus early access to games, game demos, movies and entertainment. Don't forget the ability to leave feedback on friends and players met online based on positive aspects such as sportsmanship or negative aspects such as aggression. Plus, the fact that you have a ton of more multiplayer-focused online games with gameplay and special features that arguably beat most of what Sony's catalogue can offer.

I should point out that my admiration for the Xbox Live service should not be confused with complacency. I am well aware of Sony's quality PlayStation Network service and I cannot deny the excellence of the PlayStation 3 console, but the fact of the matter is that this entire subject boils down to preference. Those who want to pay the $5 per month for the Xbox Live service are more than welcome to do so and should not be chastised or criticised for it; those who don't wish to pay for an online service have the option of the PlayStation 3 or Steam.

It's fait accompli.

-Further Reading-
• It's Time for Xbox Live Gold to be Free
http://gizmodo.com/5915635/...

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Nicaragua1333d ago

Nah, I cant agree with this. Anyone who willingly pays more for something that should be free is a bit of an idiot in my book. The fact that they then try to justify it by convincing themselves they haven't just been bum-raped is even more tragic.

Having to pay to play online on a game you own, on an internet connection you have already rented is borderline criminal in my book and if Microsoft really believed that all the other stuff that comes with Live give it value then they should let it stand on those features alone.

The best online service by far is Steam, its features shit all over Xbox Live and its free. The best paid for subscription is PS+, it offers pure value for money. Live is simply a way extorting money out of people who want to play their Xbox's online.

Seriously - who would pay for Live if it wasn't holding your online gaming to ransom ?

NeverEnding19891333d ago

It sucks paying for Xbox Live. But what other choice do I have? On PSN, most of my friends don't have mics and I'm not big on jumping through obstacles just to talk to them.

Xbox Live should be free. But because SONY didn't think to include mics with each console and since, despite years of asking, they've yet to implement cross game chat, I'm forced to game on Xbox Live.

Sorry, but there is nothing better. Next gen isn't truly next gen if you can't enjoy it with friends.

Sleet1333d ago

Dude, for the money you spent on Xbox live over the years you could have bought all your friends mics for their ps3's :)

Alternatively get some psn friends who have mics. It's a requirement for most gaming clans.

Anyway a mic in the console box isn't a deal breaker for me, paying for online is.

rpd1231333d ago

@ Sleet

If you're smart about buying it, you can get huge discounts. I have never paid full price for Live.

Playstation network is great, and the fact that they have free online is awesome, but cross game chat is a huge feature on Xbox Live, and Playstation should have implemented it by now.

Does it suck that you have to play for Live? Yeah. But Xbox owners don't have a choice in the matter if they want to play online.

WrAiTh Sp3cTr31333d ago (Edited 1333d ago )

Nicaragua,tell me what features Steam has that shit's all over Xbox Live. I have Steam and I'm curious as what you're talking about. The only feature Steam has that I wish Live had is gifting games to your friends. PS+ is cool because you get to keep the trophies you've earned, but like Neverending said, I'm not ok with jumping through hoops to get communication with teammates and friends up to snuff when it's all laid out seamlessly though Xbox Live. And anyone who thinks paying for a more straightforward seamless service is an idiot, well I just assume they're a lousy bum that can't afford to pay for a more stable platform. Besides I only look at Steam as a retail platform for the PC market.

thorstein1333d ago

(I didn't hit your disagree button BTW) You make a good argument but it is a dated argument. Black Ops II (Love it or Hate it) is chocked full of games where almost everyone is on a mic. Plus, the clan system can easily align you with people that all have mics. 2nd, and you are a bit off here, cross game chat isn't feasible because of the way memory is allocated. I am hoping next gen will have more cross platform play.

If I had a billion dollars I would develop a X-Game Open world assassin style FPS called Microsoft v Sony. And, if you were playing a PS you'd be on the Sony side and... well you get the idea.

Godmars2901333d ago

No, it should be an honest choice. Either you pay for it just for the cross chat and game related features while 3rd party entertainment apps are freely accessible, or you don't pay and can still play online w/o chat leader boards and Achievement points.

Also, I got a blue-tooth mic for $15 - FIFTEEN DOLLARS! - and it works fine. Sure I don't use it but that's another thing. Likely lends to your Sony too damn cheap to include one argument but the point's still there.

Outside_ofthe_Box1333d ago (Edited 1333d ago )

At least you admit that it should be free unlike some people.

Everyone should just take your stance: "Live should be free, but I do not mind paying for it as MS currently doesn't offer a free option and/or I am not necessarily a huge fan/don't prefer PSN and/or PS3."

Simple. No need to try and defend something that you know you shouldn't.

iliimaster1333d ago

i feel the same way neverending i tried making friends on psn and the hoops to jump thru if ur playing a different game...

it sounds so stupid but why does this issue keep popping up xbox users say XBL is the best

psn users awnser to that... "we dont need cross game chat"

well what about the gamers who dont really use cross game chat but like the fact that it is available not only that but have gotten use to it sony is like nintendo in some ways nintendo refuses to add the DVD feature and sony refuses to add cross game chat ...and the best part is the ps3 says it only does everything and it does pretty much everything BUT cross game chat...

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 1333d ago
dedicatedtogamers1333d ago

People pay for it because they choose to. Ultimately, it's a rip-off if you do a pros and cons list. But that doesn't matter. People pay for it because it's a social thing. Better MMOs have come and gone but people still play WoW by the millions because it's the most social MMO. Better social networking apps have come and gone but people still use Facebook because it has all their friends. Xbox Live is no different, and Microsoft knows it, so they see no reason to stop charging for Gold. They know people will pay for it, so why not?

iliimaster1333d ago

lol exactly they view it as gold IE xbox live GOLD

Chaostar1332d ago

I remember a time when everyone and their gran was on Myspace.

Times change.

If Sony/Nintendo/Valve bring the same level of sociability as XBL to PSN, Steam etc then there's a massive incentive to migrate, whether you have a billion achievements/friends or not.

IMHO the thing most people fail to notice is that new consoles have to capture the interest of brand new generations of players as well as the already entrenched fans, which makes built up loyalty traps like achievements/trophies, as well as backwards compatibility, less important than you would think.

KMCROC541333d ago

I find people who bitch or find faults with what others do with Thier money to be complete idoits.in other words live & let live.

rainslacker1333d ago

Most of the time when I speak on Live, or MS in general, it's from the viewpoint of things they can do that are more consumer friendly, not from a fan boy standpoint.

I am literally dumbfounded at the acceptance that Live has gained as a paid service, when any other company doing it would have been met with extreme hostility and rage at the very concept of that.

I know Xbox owners aren't stupid. They are just like most other people. But the Xbox's communities apparent lack of understanding that they are being fleeced is beyond me.

In the end, if the actual community stopped defending it, and started asking..."hey, why are all these other companies offering almost all the same things for free, yet MS is charging...why is that?", then it would force MS to either stop charging for the service, or force them to add real value to it, much like Sony did with PS+.

All of you as consumers have a lot of power to persuade these companies to do what is in your best interest, yet way too many just accept it as the norm. How it became the norm I don't know, because nowhere before or during the Xbox's time has this been the norm anywhere.

On a side note, those that defend this for MS are only letting other companies think they can maybe do the same thing. This to me is unacceptable, because it means one day I will have to be one of those people described above and hate and rage against anti-consumer practices...possibly with a company that I like. Don't think it hasn't gone unnoticed by many PS owners that Sony is now including online passes in their games(obviously not blaming MS for online passes, however).

All that being said, I agree that what people do with their money is their own business. But it would be nice if people could at least be vocal and informed consumers instead of corporate apologist.

Lvl_up_gamer1333d ago

Why should XBL be free? All you are saying is the multiplayer should be free, but ignore all the features that XBL provide you in order to have the best online gaming experience.

I think anyone who pays money so they can pay for more are idiots. PS+ is basically a coupon book that you have to pay for just so you can get discounts on other content, content that you may not even want. Therefore you have payed for coupons for items that you will never want or need.

Sure PS+ offers free content so long as you're a member, but when you quite being a member, you lose all that free content.

Sorry, but paying the same price as XBL for PS+ JUST so you can pay MORE is down right stupid. A fool and his/her money is parted easily.

Until Sony offers the exact same service and features that are in XBL for their online gaming, then you can't say XBL isn't worth it.

"If you're good at something, never do it for free." - The Joker

MS is great at providing the best online gaming service available right now. If the competition can't equal all the features that XBL offers, then it shouldn't be free.

I want the best online service available. I am a gamer therefore I want the best and deserve the best and right now, XBL and it's amazing features it offers is the best.

Outside_ofthe_Box1333d ago

***" All you are saying is the multiplayer should be free"**

Exactly that is the point. The multiplayer should be free and all other features can remain Gold only.

jessupj1332d ago

Please enlighten me on all these feature that make Live better.

In my eye, as long as PSN has dedicated servers for almost all their first party games, it doesn't matter what feature Live has, PSN will always be better as long as that fact remains.

DigitalRaptor1332d ago (Edited 1332d ago )

So why should basic Peer 2 Peer connectivity be free you ask? If you're smart, you should be able to answer that question. Damn, you guys never look at the bigger picture, do you, nor the finer details?

It's disgraceful that a company can get away with forcing you to pay for technology that has been free for many years. Forget the other features that might make it worth the asking price, the audacity Microsoft has is inexcusable nor defend-worthy. If the games they make you pay to connect to had dedicated servers then I could understand, but do you think Microsoft have a right to charge people for something that doesn't cost them to run? If the answer is yes, then you're an apologiser.

"I think anyone who pays money so they can pay for more are idiots. PS+ is basically a coupon book that you have to pay for just so you can get discounts on other content, content that you may not even want. Therefore you have payed for coupons for items that you will never want or need."

Someone really, really, really doesn't understand PS+ or the concept of a subscription service. Sony doesn't charge you for basic connectivity to your already purchased games because it's a disgraceful move, and no other company that I know of does it, besides you know who. Only they get away with it.

Kiddcarter1332d ago

"Sure PS+ offers free content so long as you're a member, but when you quite being a member, you lose all that free content"

Let me see you stop paying for live and keep playing your games online.

"Sorry, but paying the same price as XBL for PS+ JUST so you can pay MORE is down right stupid. A fool and his/her money is parted easily"

Because paying 60$ for a game then having to pay MORE to play it online is smart.

+ Show (1) more replyLast reply 1332d ago
s45gr321333d ago

You just said what I was about to say.

Karpetburnz1331d ago

Very true, If online multiplayer was available on XBL silver, then almost nobody would have a Gold account. There is no value in XBL Gold.

+ Show (3) more repliesLast reply 1331d ago
Ducky1333d ago (Edited 1333d ago )

"Live’s hosting - leaderboards, matchmaking, the lot - are all run by Microsoft rather than by third parties."

None of those services require that big of a cost. It can easily be supported through their digital sales and through advertising.
MS already does both, and probably makes a profit from physical software sales too. So it really is a poor excuse they're offering.

They might get some shred of justification if they at least used dedicated servers for online gaming rather than P2P, but from what I'm aware of, they haven't done that either.

----
"Netflix, Hulu Plus, Major League Baseball and Amazon Prime can be streamed from your computer, mobile device or smart-TV for free (minus the cost of your subscription) and you do not need the Xbox Live service to do it."

Exactly, so why do I need XBL to use those services on an xbox? If I've paid for the hardware, paid the Netflix/Hulu/etc subscription, paid for the internet, why am I paying to use all three in unison?

I'm assuming the 360 just streams the content, in which case it doesn't cost MS anything and I don't see a justification for them charging consumers for it.

KMCROC541333d ago

What makes u think it's that simple. Do you have first hand knowledge of thier on going business practices.

ExCest1332d ago

Well, leaderboards: one can assume it's one big excel sheet that has auto-updates.

matchmaking: p2p (and slow, at that)

DragonKnight1333d ago

""One reason is security."

That's P.R. bullsh*t. Live is no more secure than The U.S. Department of Justice which Anonymous hacked into, it's no more "invulnerable" to social engineering tactics, phishing, and other "cyber-terrorism" thanks to that $60 a year you pay for. The idea that anything online is secure is naive. Live's been hacked numerous times, it's just better covered up than when it happens to, say, Sony.

"It means developers are more keen to go online on Xbox where the online play is paid for by you, rather than them, so - in that sense, at least - Live’s hosting model makes for a more cohesive and better supported service, but a model where the cost will always be picked up on the gamer’s end."

Except in practice developers have a lot more hurdles to go through when going online for Xbox thanks to MS' policies regarding things such as price, size, etc. And making the end user pay to make developers lives easier isn't a good thing. Especially when you can get comparable services for free.

"Now that statement is ignorant and unjustifiable. Firstly, the wording of his statement implies that subscriptions to the aforementioned services are mandatory; they are not."

Actually it's apt and backed by fact. You do have to pay extra just to access those features you already have to pay extra for, and it's not implying that the services are mandatory, you're choosing to see it that way. The use of the word "privilege" negates what you're talking about.

"With that being said, not everyone has or wants any or all of those services and just wants to pay the $5 a month to play their games online."

And they shouldn't have to pay to access half a game they paid $60 for, and more money to their ISP. The point is that Microsoft holds half of a game hostage under the guise of "security", leaderboards, and cross-game party chat. Security we already discussed, leaderboards should NEVER have to be paid for, and cross-game chat is a luxury feature that MS should offer as a separate feature so that if you WANT to pay for it, you can but you can still play online if you don't want to have that feature.

"Netflix, Hulu Plus, Major League Baseball and Amazon Prime can be streamed from your computer, mobile device or smart-TV for free (minus the cost of your subscription) and you do not need the Xbox Live service to do it."

Thus negating the "Live is so integrated and such an amazing multimedia device" argument. Double standards. You can use Skype or a phone for "cross-game chat."

DragonKnight1333d ago

"Do you expect Microsoft to give you their individual service for free just because you're already paying for a completely different service that Xbox just happens to have as an additional feature? If you answered yes to that question, you're delusional."

People expect MS to not hold half their game hostage. That's not delusional, that's a right.

"However, Microsoft fairly and understandably justifies their price."

No they don't. Those are luxury features you should have a choice if you want to absorb the cost of or not, WITHOUT having half your game being held behind yet another pay wall. There is no justification for charging for a service that everyone else gets for free. The more people defend actions like this, the more MS will try to get away with locking more and more behind a pay wall. Right now, the way that it works with MS is you buy a game that has an online component that you paid $60, you paid your ISP we'll say $50 for internet, and then you pay MS another base price of $60 just to be able to play that game's online portion. $170. That's a terrible ripoff.

DK286K1333d ago SpamShowReplies(2)
s45gr321332d ago

Then there is games for windows live which offers the same as xbox live gold minus party chat.

Sleet1333d ago (Edited 1333d ago )

There is no defense for Xbox Live.

It is no more secure than any other online service. Anyone who thinks Live is more secure than the military or the global banking system is deluding themselves.

The service itself is mostly P2P so its not like you are receiving a premium connection for gaming. I honestly cannot see any way for it to justify itself as a service in the face of Steam or PSN.

Its a cash grab, nothing more.

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