mikemariano

Xbox Live: Threat or Menace?

  

29 members have voted

  1. 1. Is Xbox Live a threat or a menace?

    • Threat.
      2
    • Menace.
      11
    • Donk.
      16


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Last week I was charged for another year of Xbox Live Gold Membership, which I use about twice a month to watch a movie on Netflix.

Then today Ben Kuchera posted this article:

The ugly, profitable details about Xbox Live advertising

Game discovery is terrible in the current design of Xbox Live, and the usability of a system that used to be about games is suffering in order for Microsoft to make money on ads.

They have buried Xbox Live Arcade games even further down then they were just a few months ago. It is now miserable to use this machine.

Is this yet another sign I should return to the world of PC gaming?

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I also pay every month for a service I haven't used in forever. At this point Microsoft is probably just being perfectly silent about it, hoping nobody will shine a light on how ridiculous it is that they're charging for it at all, and calculating exactly how much longer they'll be able to get away with it. Then they'll announce some restructuring of the whole service where multiplayer becomes free, and the "premium" service gets some dumb exclusive ice hockey stuff.

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Yeah, I rarely play games online anymore and just use it for the stuff I could use it for on my PS3. I've just gotten used to using the 360 for media stuff... Which i realize is really stupid.

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My number came up a short while ago and I dropped XBL Gold. I'll probably renew for 3 months after Halo 4 comes out, but for the forseeable future I'd rather just get my games on PC/PS3 if I'm interested in multiplayer. As someone who really only likes to play a small subset of multiplayer games, XBL is practically worthless to me. The only other reason I might go back to XBL Gold is if I follow through with plans to setup CableCard and use it as a Media Extender for Windows Media Center, at which point I'd need Gold to use it essentially as a streamer box for all types of content.

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Buying Spelunky was an exercise in frustration. I'd be "okay" with ads if they didn't completely ruin the practicality of using the Xbox. Steam, the App Store, heck even the Xbox Dashboard of yesteryear, do a tremendously better job of curating great games, and making it easy to buy stuff.

It's really, really disappointing to see where Microsoft's priorities really lie. :/

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Everyone seems to agree that XBL offers a vastly superior service to PSN? I'd rather pay and have a better service than get something crappy for free.

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I don't play MP games, but yeah, I'm pretty sure XBL does a better job.

In terms of the marketplace, I don't think so. Before NXE, I'd say Xbox for sure, but now: 1) games are buried deep in the menus, 2) you can only view 5 tiles at a time, 3) there's a lack of "curated content" because of all the ads, so I'd actually say PSN is better.

Also, shouldn't paying for a service mean less ads!?

Both are really awful compared to Steam, or even the App Store.

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I think PSN is better than the App Store. But Steam (and pretty much any other digital retailer for PC, like GOG.com, etc.) is much better than PSN. Don't know about XBLA.

But they all suck for browsing the collection.

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Yikes. I can't say I'm a fan of the App Store. I certainly wouldn't consider it a high watermark for usability(!). Steam is pretty good, though.

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I have been a 360 user for the past five years. I also for a year lived in a household with a PS3. Having experience both pretty heavily (the ps3 was the houses default system as it was in the living room and thus was used most as netflix system and the gaming system for a lot of intra-house gaming) I got used to both UI's. I will say that I think the current iteration of PS3's Premium service is fucking great. The fact that they give you access to so many games for "free" (Included in cost) is really fucking cool. I also think that for certain things like Netflix their UI is now better than the 360's ever since for no fucking reason other than to include Kinect support they absolutely ruined the 360 netflix ui. Unless their intention was to make it less usable and a lot slower, in which case they succeeded with aplomb.

The biggest advantage the Live Gold has over the PS3 is cross gaming invitations and the general use of getting friends organized to play multiplayer. So if you're big in to online MP I do have to say I prefer the 360 over the PS3. Being able to invite a friend in to a match of Black OPS while I'm playing FIFA and just being able to quickly drop and pop over and having a consistent friends chat going on in the background is nice.

I've posted about this issue in the past on other sites (Shacknews) but the thing that genuinely gets me pissed off is how Microsoft has consistently found ways to for all intents and purposes promise big, pretty much lie, and then end up doing fuck all. I'm talking about how one thing they at one point touted about Xbox Live Gold was that it would host and foster a better sense of community through events and cool stuff that in theory a percentage of that price we're paying as gold members would help subsidize. Recently they killed Inside Xbox which was a video production thing that they would display in one of the ad tiles. I never watched it. It was pretty boring...but it said to me they're killing this and certainly not replacing it with any original content. http://www.shacknews...own?id=28121074

Then they played up the community aspect. Beyond a few rare try to game with the producers of the game events this never happened. Their best opportunity and something I honestly really really loved was 1 vs 100. This was the one time where I thought they finally got it. Hey, lets have a trivia game. Let's have basic stat tracking. Let's have opportunities to actually win real prizes. I fucking loved 1 vs 100 on the XBox. It was one of the most fun times of gaming over the course of a month or two I've ever had. I played online with online friends, real life friends, and strangers. Then Microsoft killed it because they said it wasn't making money as they couldn't attract enough advertisers. I thought the killing was premature. I know, I know, this was a small slice of their overall program and I'm not approaching it from their stand point but honestly I don't give a shit. They're making lots of money and they could have still run this as a loss leader. I thought this was a great community game that for a split second hinted at some sort of community camaraderie/growth in to a gaming entertainment hub that they always talk about. So they kill it and then they promise new games. The only thing we've gotten is fucking Texas Hold'em Poker...which is fine. But it doesn't have the mass appeal of trivia, nor does it create an as fun environment. It was fun to see things like "15,000 people playing Live right now!"

So they've killed insider video, any community games, and in its place they have more ads even though I'm paying and they bury arcade games in their sloppy UI.

It sounds like I fucking hate the 360. I don't. I love it for the most part. I'm just disappointed where and how Live has been handled. The fact of the matter is right now at this instant the PS3 seems like a sunnier side of gaming just for the fact that you don't have to pay. And when you do pay the benefits are bigger.

Oh and I didn't even mention the fact that their customer service side of Xbox Live is fucking horrid. My account got hijacked last fall, was transferred to Russia, and I was locked out of my own account after calling MS as they "investigated." This investigation ended up lasting over 100 days where they could tell me nothing, but then after I filed a BBB report I magically got a response the next day and got a call directly from some MS person and then two days later it was fixed after months of me asking through the standard protocol and then not getting anywhere.

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I don't exactly play Halo online every night or anything, but i do generally do enough online gaming that i've been perfectly happy to pay for Live. (I also don't play MMO's, or pay any other inessential subscriptions on anything else, so the Live sub isn't exactly a huge drain on my resources.)

So there's a few behind-the-scenes things Live does that i appreciate. -

When stuff goes up on the marketplace, it stays on the marketplace, barring special-case or license-related issues. Moreover, in those cases, it's actually only "delisted" instead of outright pulled from the service. You can still download it from your history, but it's invisible on the marketplace. Steam doesn't even go this far, i've had things disappear from my Steam account with no explanation or recourse. Also compare to PSN, where if something is provided as a free download, publishers are buying from Sony a set number of downloads before something disappears from the store, unless the publisher chooses to re-up. (This includes patches, as i understand things.)

There are also no restrictions on how many times you can download something, or to how many systems you can download it. (I believe PSN has changed its policy regarding this? It used to have a hard limit on how many times you could download a piece of content after "buying" it.)

Microsoft-run match-making and leaderboards will also remain active for as long as Microsoft supports 360 games, opposed to it being entirely up to the publishers on most other platforms. I mean, i actually really appreciate that i can still play Puzzle Fighter 2 HD online, even if me and my friend are literally the only people who do. (There are exceptions, of course. Every goddamned EA game, because fuck EA, and a few special cases like Chromehounds which was running an extremely elaborate persistant metagame off of proprietary servers.)

I think Live is generally a really excellent and reliable service, and i continue to be totally okay paying a subscription for it.

The Metro dashboard update was total trash though, fucking ads everywhere and terrible sorting and search options. It has made it very hard to find things, yes.

The account hijackings have also been a total tragedy, apparently it's all social engineering going through outsourced tech support. You literally cannot do anything to protect yourself from it. It's very upsetting that Microsoft hasn't been taking those more seriously. (Or, if they are taking it seriously, it's upsetting that they're not being more transparent about it.)

I only maintain my subscription for the XBLA exclusives (right now, that was Fez).

You... You don't need to pay the sub for access to the marketplace, you realize, right?

If you don't play MP or use one of the apps they've gated behind gold, you're basically fine at the silver tier.

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I wish XBLA would give up on the "Banana dollars" thing, I had 1100 points, but I refused to buy 500 points when I only need 100, special when those extra points are going to be there untouched for AGES.

I've never played a games online, except for Resident Evil, which I almost wished I played alone (don't join me if you can't speak English). Almost every game I want eventually comes out for PC or PS3 and I really don't care about cheevos anymore. I was charged another year without warning, if they had told me a few days before instead of charging me directly I would have cancelled.

What I really don't get is the PSN hate? If you plug an Ethernet cable into your PS3 the connection trouble and slow downloads will simply vanish, not to mention you can't actually find your games on PSN.

When has anything been taken off PSN, Sno? I remember the Crash games being taken off due to their poor quality port, but they put them back later. I've heard more news of XBLA taking down games than PSN (Arcadian Warriors, the Atari remakes...)

I really hope FEZ and Spelunky get a Steam release, although I'm pretty sure Iron Brigade with stay on XBLA for ever.

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I don't know if i could give you specific examples, i don't follow PSN news too closely.

I mean, and the point is, if something disappears from Live, you can generally still get at it if you had originally bought it.

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You... You don't need to pay the sub for access to the marketplace, you realize, right?

If you don't play MP or use one of the apps they've gated behind gold, you're basically fine at the silver tier.

I may need to look again at what games I'm playing then because that is a subscription I could easily remove.

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I have had Gold for the majority of the last three months simply by letting it expire and then re-upping with a $1-for-1-month or $2-for-two-months deal shortly after. They seem to run one every few weeks. I don't play enough MP to justify the full charge, especially now that the Metro upgrade now has half of my screen real-estate taken up with ads. That bugs me a lot and I'm surprised there wasn't more uproar about that. If ads suddenly appeared on HBO there would be a shitstorm.

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I was disappointed to come into this thread and see that the poll was just a loaded question (and thread title was quite literal in choices).

I haven't used XBL at all, since I haven't owned any MS consoles (not out of any spite or lack of trying). But sometimes when I hear people describe in as much detail as possible what the interface is like, I wonder if there's an actual problem with it or if people are just easily frustrated. I mostly get the impression that it's the latter. I can agree that sometimes the interface changes to be more frustrating, but more frustration (an unquantified amount) on top of what I perceive to be very little frustration to begin with still adds up to not very frustrating at all.

How much of people's frustration with XBL simply has to do with using it for years on end? Stagnation can cause perceptions to skew when things are fine but generally monolithic.

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I have had Gold for the majority of the last three months simply by letting it expire and then re-upping with a $1-for-1-month or $2-for-two-months deal shortly after. They seem to run one every few weeks. I don't play enough MP to justify the full charge, especially now that the Metro upgrade now has half of my screen real-estate taken up with ads. That bugs me a lot and I'm surprised there wasn't more uproar about that. If ads suddenly appeared on HBO there would be a shitstorm.

As shit as it is (and I don't mean to downplay how shit it is, by any means!) it's not as bad as if ads suddenly appeared on HBO. They're intrusive during the browsing experience, but it's not like they interrupt you mid-gameplay to play 30 seconds of ads before letting you get back to the action.

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How much of people's frustration with XBL simply has to do with using it for years on end? Stagnation can cause perceptions to skew when things are fine but generally monolithic.

The UI actually changes annually (ish), so it's not stagnation. The article is worth a read, but to summarise:

xbl-ads-screen1.jpg

(also note that games, the thing I bought this console for, is *four* tabs away!)

and this:

Trying to get someone to jump through all those hoops is proving difficult, and it’s directly impacting the money developers can make on the system. “Unless there’s a link to your game on the front page, which is both tremendously expensive and will rarely last even a week, actually finding the games is a nightmare,” the developer explained. “Currently, you have to navigate past Home ... Social ... TV ... Video ... and finally to Games. Under Games, you need to select Games Marketplace. From there, you have to completely ignore everything under ‘Spotlight’ (which quizzically includes Games Showcase, Express Yourself, Most Wanted and New In Fun Labs, plus a giant ad right in the middle, and good luck figuring out what any of those things mean) and select a completely different submenu called simply ‘Games’ and then either select New or A-Z.”

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I haven't used XBL at all, since I haven't owned any MS consoles (not out of any spite or lack of trying). But sometimes when I hear people describe in as much detail as possible what the interface is like, I wonder if there's an actual problem with it or if people are just easily frustrated. I mostly get the impression that it's the latter. I can agree that sometimes the interface changes to be more frustrating, but more frustration (an unquantified amount) on top of what I perceive to be very little frustration to begin with still adds up to not very frustrating at all.

How much of people's frustration with XBL simply has to do with using it for years on end? Stagnation can cause perceptions to skew when things are fine but generally monolithic.

The UI has undergone numerous overhauls. I'd say its not that I'm easily frustrated. It's not confusing in the sense that I don't know what is going on. It is more that its clunky. And the fact is they started with the blade system ui which was at least snappy, but Xbox Live has grown in to a thing that they never could have foreseen it becoming. In fairness to MS they are limited in ways they can fix things (i think anyways) as they are bound by the limitations that were kind of imposed early on. But the frustration isn't these minor things that we exaggerate upon. I'd say the issue is these minor things aren't getting any better after years of tinkering. And in some cases usability is actually decreasing. You couple that with the fact that we're all paying money for this service and things aren't really getting better and it leads to compounding frustration.

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Really appreciate this thread, even though it is heavily loaded against Xbox LIVE. The new interface doesn't bother me all that much. What it has brought to my attention is how I have been neglecting multiplayer way too much in the last year, a service that I enjoy and pay for simply because it better implemented, supported and streamlined than its other console bretheren.

After reading this thread I played some Lost Planet 2, then some Iron Brigade (which I plan to finish tonight). Going to line up some Mindjack on Thursday and then dive in to some Gears of War 3 at the weekend and take on some Horde Mode might get some Awesomenauts in at some point with some randoms.

So cheers for the reminder I have been far too complacent.

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Spider-man: Threat or Menace?

Option 3: a bit dull.

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