Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Why Xbox Live doesn't work

I appreciate that arguing how much value for money Xbox Live is can be a very similar experience to convincing dogs that the postman’s arse doesn’t taste nice, but it is starting to get to a point where the matter of money is getting a bit silly.

I know, I know, the likelihood of me changing anyone’s views on Xbox Live is like trying to reason with chickens that cock fighting isn’t such a bad sport, but please hear me out.

Those who pay for their gold subscription status happily do so for all the benefits that come with it, early access to demos, TrueSkill matchmaking and being able to play online with your buddies. Whether you think it is right to pay for something that games on every other gaming platform offer for free is a different argument to this entirely.

The problems that are starting to crop up are subscription services for other games. You know, like MMORPGs that attach direct debit leaches to your bank account that get thirsty every month. Paying one subscription fee to play games online, that’s just about stomach-able. Asking gamers to pay for two though? On your bike, your having a laugh, die in a fire, and so on and so forth.

Playing a subscription based game on a subscription based service is going to cause more than just hiccups when it comes to striking it right with your audience. Okay, some people might be able to afford it, but others might find it almost offensive being asked to pay for two separate services to play just one game.

I can see this hurdle really putting off MMO developers trying to release pay to play games on the Xbox 360 as not all fans will want to pay for the two services. It will make the target demographic for that game even smaller than it has to be and so might not be worth the risk for the developer, who may happily take it to the PS3 and reap the benefits of a little more freedom.

Microsoft are getting really good at squabbling over money and upsetting people as of late, which is a real shame because the Xbox Live service really isn’t too shabby.

A couple of examples that spring to mind include Valve’s L4D Crash Course DLC. PC users got it for free because Valve are lovely people who do not tend to charge for add-on content. Unfortunately Xbox users had to pay because Microsoft didn’t like giving something away for free through their system and so made Valve slap a price tag on it.

The other example happened just this week when the possibility of getting the BBC iPlayer on Xbox Live was suspended “indefinitely”. The upset here was that Microsoft want to restrict the iPlayer to gold only members, where as the it (and everything BBC) is already paid for by everyone in the UK through the license fee, therefore the BBC aren’t allowed to charge anyone for access to it.

As much as I would love it to happen, I can not see Microsoft stopping it’s subscription service for Live. It would cause too many problems, such as upsetting those people who paid for a 12 month contract for the service the day before the announcement it was turning free.

Microsoft just needs to be a bit more reasonable when it comes to other people, who either want to charge through their own subscription model, or even not charge anything at all. It just becomes a real problem, especially when you think that there is no alternative to Xbox Live. It’s their way or the highway (and taking any other route will probably get you banned).


Unknown said...

You make a very good point. At the risk of infuriating the fanboys, I also disagree with paying for something that is free on every other system, but I'll admit I recently caved and coughed up £30 for a year's worth of gold.

As you so rightly say, this now limits what I'd be willing to buy on top of that. The concept of console MMOs intrigues me, but I'm already reluctant to pay a subscription fee for a PC-based one. To pay a subs fee on top of a Gold fee doubles the cost.

Similarly, I fail to understand why existing Sky customers are paying extra to watch programmes through their Xbox - why not watch them on the box that already provides said programmes?

Anthony said...

I've only ever been sucked in to one MMO and it was quite costly. About £10 a month for one game is quite an investment when you play it for three years. Adding an extra bit on top, even if in theory it is only about £2.50 a month if you buy the year in advance as you have, just feels a bit wrong.

I'm very keen to see if Microsoft is going to address this or just sit on their thumbs and watch the waterfall of money stream in.