In one of my previous articles , I discussed some of the distinctions of the current next-gen systems and how the rules are different now. Roughly two generations back, console gaming was pretty balanced. Every major system had a substantial market share (yes, Sega Saturn definitely drew the shortest straw), pricing made the experience open to almost anyone, technology was still very simple, and online multiplayer was not heard of. This was a time when a hardcore PC gamer would likely laugh at you for suggesting they downgrade to a console. Games like DOOM, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Corridor 7, Terminator Rampage, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Leisure Suit Larry, and Archon were amongst the many games that kept us enthralled; naturally, the elitist PC gamer wouldn’t see a need to purchase a game console.
Today, multiplayer gaming, especially the online variety, is huge. Game developers have realized that not everyone is an only child, social recluse, or yama-sennin living the life of a hermit. This market was probably just not profitable enough. Microsoft saw this opportunity and took their success on the PC gaming market (don’t laugh) and ported it over to the XBox. Adopting a pay-to-play model was risky but they pulled it off and now boast around 2 million subscribers.
Apparently, Microsoft had some foresight this time. They saw the threat of free online gaming services and decided to implement a baseline subscription that is free to XBox 360 gamers. It doesn’t seem that the full XBox library is currently supported from what I hear but I guess we’ll see when curiousity finally gets (and the price drops) and I get my own XBox 360. I’m all about the online multiplayer gaming simply because I don’t see the fun is in beating some games unless the story is really rich with substance and dynamic characters. Maybe that’s just me but adding an alternate ending does not make for real replay value.
Microsoft apparently has some very auspicious plans and hopes to increase their user base by 50%. If Gears of War is a sign of things to come, we should probably get excited. I saw the Halo 3 trailer and, while it was cute and all, it didn’t make me feel particularly excited. I hope they have some phenomenal gameplay updates for the online multiplayer action! But that is besides the point. I believe that more games have to be developed with online multiplayer at the core rather than an after-thought. Sure, you may exclude those that don’t have broadband access but you can’t please everyone!
With an XBox Live Silver account, you get everything a Gold member gets except the enhanced matchmaking. I think the average person will not care to have a gold account unless they want the extra stats and skill-based matchmaking. Now people can no longer say that they refuse to get XBox Live and pay to play games online. Playstation and PC gaming enthusiasts alike lost some ammo last year and, now that the games are really coming in, it looks like the XBox development team really has gotten into the trenches – they’re ready for war, boys!
I am a big fan of the Tom Clancy series so I hope to see comparable ports put over on the PS3 and Wii. Without quality tactical online multiplayer action, I certainly will feel sad and I know I am not alone. Excuse my tangent! The real issue is this: until game developers wise up and start creating sexy online multiplayer games, I don’t see XBox Live losing it’s stronghold on the gaming industry.
I almost forgot the best part: Microsoft has copied Wii’s retro emulator idea by bringing back games like Street Fighter II, Smash TV, Contra, Defender, and Dig-Dug. The games have been tweaked a bit in some cases. There are parlor games and board games for the more traditional, casual gamers. For the old-school PC gamers, there is even the original DOOM complete with multiplayer support. It makes me wonder if there are any plans to port over GL DOOM and other fun conversions. It’d be cool to see all the mods come back, including that kick-ass Batman mod!
Yes, Microsoft is a scary 500-pound gorilla . They’ve copied good ideas so well that they even have a point system like the Nintendo Wii has for online purchases and now they’ve copied Playstation Online‘s FREE multiplayer gaming – what novel ideas! The bastages thought of everything. Even the Microsoft haters have to admit that these people are pretty darn smart. XBox Live is going to be hard to battle so I have a feeling that Playstation will continue to focus on stellar, epic single-player content while Nintendo focuses on fun for the entire family and the not-so-hardcore gamers. When will the insanity end? Who knows, who cares, see you online.
For a list of games on XBox Live Arcade, visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/livearcadexbox360/default.htm – don’t forget to bring extra Jolt and caffeine pills. It’s time to relive some of gaming’s best times EVER!
Want to enhance your online gaming experience and take it to the next level? Check out my article on the power and pwnage of being in a social gaming clan!