Microsoft Destroying Live?

XBox Live LogoIf you asked me a few months ago which of the next-generation consoles was the best, I would have adamantly said XBox 360, based on two factors: (1) Hardware that keeps the cost down by not trying to be the one-stop-solution to everything, and (2) online experience. Ask me now, and I’d have to say I really don’t know — Microsoft’s hardware still makes more sense, but they seem intent on destroying their own online experience.

The change in attitude is four-fold:

  • The recent revelations that Microsoft is indeed forcing publishers to charge for content they would have otherwise put up for free. I guess charging 13.7¢ per day per subscriber (at 6 million subscribers, that amounts to over $820,000 a day) isn’t enough. Microsoft also wants to nickel-and-dime you to death on the Market Place, too. Epic (Gears of War) and Bizarre Creations (Geometry Wars) have already come out and pointed the blame at Microsoft for charging for content they wanted to provide for free. Add to this EA Games’ (Madden, et al) and Activision’s (Guitar Hero II) eagerness to go along with it, and you have a community that’s very hostile towards your wallet. Key opening for the opposition: Let companies like Epic and Bizarre do as the please, and remind companies like EA and Activision that there are other ways to maximize profit.
  • The over-pricing of TV episodes. While we’re on the subject of over-charging…you know, I wouldn’t mind paying for a few key episodes of my favorite TV programming that I missed. However, with pricing between $2 – $3 per episode, and the fact that I can only watch the content on my 360 (not including that Media Center bullshit), buying the DVD makes more sense. DVD’s can be readily decrypted and then stored and played anywhere. (Why do you think the 360 favors Media Center and Windows Media Video over the standard SMB file sharing and Advanced Video Interleave that Windows has had for years?) Key opening for the opposition: Just let this DRM-ladened hose-job die out on its own.
  • Microsoft using their market standing to push their online services over other established services like Steam and Xfire. I guess I should have seen it coming — Microsoft has found a way to attempt to monopolize the online gaming experience. On it’s face, Windows Live doesn’t sound all that bad. XBox Live for the PC, right? But on the PC front, there’s already two well-known solutions. What is Microsoft to do, coming into the game late? Well, Microsoft already controls most on the PC market, and nearly all of the PC gaming market. Why not create a label that uses your shit only? We’ll call it “Game for Windows” and “Live-Enabled.” *sigh* See why I’m such a proponent of open source? Instead of having a 4-way dance, we’d have a 4-way collaboration. Key opening for the opposition: Get together and work it out! Wouldn’t you shit yourself if you could see “Mark is playing Half-Life 2 on Steam” on your PS3? Or “Josh is playing World of Warcraft on XFire” on your Wii? Likewise, wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants to Microsoft if XFire and Steam users could see what their PS3 and Wii buddies are up to?
  • The utter pain in the ass the switch-over from Passport to Windows Live ID has become. When I saw the Windows Live Messenger on my XBox 360, I thought, “Sweet! Now I can see who’s online without setting my home page to Microsoft’s XBox web site! I can talk with everyone on my XBox Live Friends List!” Boy, was I wrong. You still have to give out email addresses (Because, you know, nobody ever abuses those!) and you can’t add people to your Messenger list while on the XBox — you have to use Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger, or something like Trillian, Pidgen, or Audium. And if you signed up from XBox Live prior to Windows Live ID (eg, when it was called Passport), you’ll spend at least an hour trying to figure out why your email address isn’t verified and how to verify it. (Protip: go to Windows Live Account Summary, which will give you a link to verify your email address if it hasn’t been done so already.) For a company that loves to tout “integrated solutions,” this sure seems like a half-assed job to me. Key opening for the opposition: Pick an IM protocol and do what Microsoft should have. In fact, integrate every IM under the sun except for Microsoft’s while you’re at it.