Experienced Points

Experienced Points
What's Wrong with Xbox Live?

Shamus Young | 10 Sep 2010 17:00
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As I said in my comic, I'm not really upset about the Xbox Live price hike. As others have pointed out, this price hike very closely matches the inflation we've experienced since the service launched in 2002. I pay my Microsoft Xbox tax the same as everyone else [that has a gold membership] and I don't dislike the price enough to cancel it. My problem isn't the expense, it's what the service can't (or refuses) to do.

For example, did you buy the Orange Box? Rumor is the thing was pretty good. If you own it, then Valve has free stuff to give you. Updates. New content. Gameplay tweaks. New ending for Portal. Also a nice bunch of maps, weapons, and crazy hats for Team Fortress 2. Valve has made all this content, and they're just giving it away to everyone who already owns the game. Except, not to Xbox users. They're not allowed to simply give away free updates on Xbox Live. Think about that. We pay Microsoft $60 a year. Valve has to give Microsoft a cut of the games they sell on the platform. Microsoft is taking money from both sides of this equation, and yet they won't allow Valve to simply give us something for free. That's like charging kids and parents admission to Christmas morning and then not allowing anyone to give presents.

Yes, I know. Bandwidth costs money and so on. But the funny thing about bandwidth is that on the PC side, this doesn't seem to be a problem. Valve shoulders the cost of all the bandwidth without going broke.

PC players also don't pay for the privilege of multiplayer. We pay for servers. Someone forks over some money every month to run a server, and other players connect to the server. Since they're paying the bill, the person running the server has the power to run the thing the way they like. They can moderate in-game chat to weed out idiots. They can only allow their friends in. They choose the maps and the game type and generally act as host, moderator, and referee. If you don't like the way they run things on a given server you leave and find another one.

Finding a server that suits your taste is like finding a favorite bar, club, or pool-hall. You get to know the regulars and you know what you're in for when you sign on. Some servers are friendly, low-key places and other servers are cutthroat madhouses of profanity and screaming. The beauty is that nobody is forced to play in an environment they don't like. Relaxed players can enjoy a friendly game and hardcore players can do their thing without some nanny telling them to watch their language. Everyone plays. Everyone gets what they want. And it's all free for the players.

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