5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

Ads by Google

xbox live logo   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]It’s difficult to remember a time when games consoles didn’t connect to the Internet. I’m now so used to online features being an integral part of the gaming experience, that it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t the case just a decade ago. A decade is how long Xbox Live has been with us, with Microsoft launching the service in 2002.

At that stage in time PC gamers had been playing online for many years, and the Xbox wasn’t even the first console to feature Internet connectivity. That honor went to the Sega Dreamcast, but using a 33k dial-up modem to play online was never going to cut the mustard. It was left to Microsoft to innovate, and to get online gaming on consoles right.

Xbox Live debuted a year after the launch of the original Xbox, on Nov. 15, 2002. Meaning Xbox Live has recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Since its inception Xbox Live has evolved and grown far beyond early expectations. It’s formed an integral part of two consoles, had numerous makeovers and feature updates, and aided the adoption of online television.

In addition, Xbox Live – and to a lesser extent its competitor PlayStation Network — has changed gaming in a variety of ways. Some good, some bad, most a little of both. What follows are five ways in which I feel Xbox Live has changed gaming for better or worse.

Ads by Google

Multiplayer Is King

multiplayer gaming addiction   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

This is first on the list because it’s the most obvious way in which Xbox Live has changed gaming. There was a time when gaming was all about the single-player experience. A title would have multiple levels or a large environment, a challenging difficulty level to add some longevity, and a campaign or story mode which needed most of the developer’s attention. Now, the tables have turned.

There are still games dedicated to single players, particularly RPGs and action adventures, but generally speaking the multiplayer elements have taken over. This is especially true of first-person shooters, a genre which is only as popular as it is because most people play online for weeks, months, or even years. Hence why the latest Call Of Duty sells a gazillion copies each and every November.

Good or Bad? A little of both. After experiencing the diverse range of people you encounter online, I prefer to play offline most of the time. Doing so means picking and choosing certain games whose single player experiences have had as much time and effort spent on them as their multiplayer experiences. However, playing online has increased the longevity of many games by an incredible amount.

Patches Aplenty

dog bandaged up   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when once a game shipped it was untouchable by the developer’s hands. Barring a huge recall any bugs found after a game was released into the wild would forever more remain part of the code. This meant most developers would spend more time and energy on QA (Quality Assurance) testing. Now, thanks to Xbox Live, patches has changed this culture completely.

Games are still rigorously checked for bugs and errors by QA testers (as can be seen in the credits of most titles), but developers know they have an easy out should anything slip through the net. Gamers are now essentially the last line of defense, providing the final round of QA testing. If any issues are found and reported then a patch can be released into the ether that fixes the problem.

Good or Bad? A little of both. It’s certainly nice — both for gamers and developers alike — to have the opportunity to fix any bugs, but those bugs really shouldn’t be there in the first place. There have been numerous instances of games being rushed out in time for the holiday season on the understanding that any problems encountered with the final code can be patched later.

Gamerscore Glory

gamer achievements   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

Each Xbox Live member has a Gamerscore, which is calculated by the number of points earned through Achievements. These points are awarded for each challenge achieved. An Achievement could be beating a certain level in a game or getting a certain number of kills in a multiplayer match. Some Achievements are easy, some are hard, and some are almost impossible.

Achievements can be ignored altogether, which is what I personally tend to do. If I get them, then great, if not, then the world keeps on turning. However, not everyone is as easy going about these things as I am. And that is when the need to gain Achievements to up a Gamerscore total can cause problems. If you have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in the real world then you’ll likely have trouble leaving any Achievement unfulfilled.

Good or Bad? A little of both. Achievements are a nice little extra to most games, and can add a little longevity to a title that has a short campaign and limited multiplayer appeal. However, I hate to think how many hours have been wasted by people chasing Achievements in order to get better Gamerscore totals. And to what end?

No PC, No Problem

xbox controller guinea pig   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

PC gaming has been in the doldrums for several years now (cue PC gamers spitting bile in unison). It’s not that playing games on a PC sucks, it’s just that only the truly dedicated can be bothered to go down that route. Unless, like myself, you only play games on PC occasionally, and then only ones that are several years old.

The Xbox, and then the Xbox 360, helped diminish the relevance of PC gaming further than ever. And Xbox Live was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When you have a choice between playing a game on a huge television in your living room by doing nothing but inserting a disc, or playing a game on a monitor in your bedroom after fiddling with installations and compatibility issues then the console will always win out.

Good or Bad? Good. PC gaming isn’t dead yet, and will probably never die completely. But what the Xbox and Xbox Live did was give those of us who don’t appreciate playing games on a PC an experience that’s very close to it. It has enabled console gamers to grab the best things about PC gaming (ignoring the worst) and present them in a much more user-friendly environment.

Immense Indie

xbox live arcade logo   5 Ways In Which Xbox Live Has Changed Gaming – For Better Or Worse [Opinion]

This is an often overlooked change that Xbox Live (and later, PSN) has given us. But it’s an important one that shouldn’t be ignored. It is, in essence, the emergence of a whole new market for small and/or independent games developers to sell their wares directly to gamers. The Xbox Live Arcade is full of great games, some of which are the highest-rated titles on the system.

These immense indie games include Braid, Super Meat Boy, Castle Crashers, and the unfettered awesomeness that is Minecraft. Some of these games would probably not exist without Xbox Live, and they would certainly not have found the audience they have. They may not be visual masterpieces created from vast budgets, but they’re still fantastic slices of gaming heaven.

Good or Bad? Good. In many ways the indie games that have become hits through this live service have reminded us what makes a good game. It doesn’t matter if the graphics are sparse or uninspiring, as long as the gameplay and story are entertaining and compelling. In the longterm it may mean big-name publishers lose their stranglehold on the industry.

Conclusions

All of this is, of course, just my opinion. As noted by the [Opinion] in the title. This means you’re free to either agree or disagree with my views, and I welcome any discussion on the subject.

Do you think Xbox Live has been a force for good or bad in the 10 years since its appearance? Did you prefer gaming before online multiplayer became the first concern for many developers? Are there any ways, other than those mentioned above, you feel Xbox Live has changed gaming? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credits: THQ Insider, Adria Richards, Ruben Chase, Katherine McAdoo

Ads by Google

17 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Aggrathon (PC gamer)

A new console game costs around 70 €, last PC game i bought (steam sale) was under 5 € in addition i get access to mods and more indie titles. I have no need to throw money at microsoft.

Conclusion: pc gaming is still relevant, and maybe much cheaper!

Austin Halsell

PC gaming certainly is still relevant, and I don’t think that was the point of Dave’s article. However, it is undeniable that online gaming via a console, whether Xbox or PS3, has considerably diminished the gaps and differences between PC and console gaming.

Granted mods and more indie titles are appealing, but many gamers don’t have either the desire and/or time to dedicate to gaming (and the hardware necessary) that PC gaming demands. Even downloading and using mods needs some extra knowledge. Certainly one can chose to be less dedicated to it, but that causes their gaming experience to suffer, usually very significantly. Most games played on minimum hardware are range from bearable to fine when just single player, but as soon as you try to play online with people running better equipment, it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy the same game.

Beyond internet connection, I don’t have to worry about speed or specs when it comes to my Xbox. I literally don’t have to know a single thing about the hardware in my Xbox to be able to play a game made for the Xbox. PC’s don’t have that. That’s the biggest difference IMO.

As far as cost goes, that gets even more complicated because it depends on what you’re factoring in. Games might be less, sometimes, but not if you’re buying a physical copy brand new. Of course the cost of console/PC and peripherals, including controllers, keyboard, mouse, monitor/TV, headphones, etc. are easily enough considered, but what about things like monthly subscriptions fees? Or, even more nuanced, energy costs? How does DRM come into play? Or the fact that with companies like Steam, the player does not actually own the game?

PC vs console is easily summed up though: it doesn’t matter. As with most things in life, it comes down to personal preference and how each of us prefers to be screwed. Pick your poison: PC or console. Arguing about which poison to chug is silly.

Dave Parrack

Spot-on. I really should have avoided using such emotive language when discussing PC gaming. It’s just not for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant. As you say I was just pointing out that the emergence of the last-gen consoles meant there was much less of a jump and so much less of a reason to choose PC over Xbox 360.

Dave Parrack

Perhaps it is still relevant, as you’re not the only commenter to disagree with me on that. However, that price comparison is surely biased, as I have never paid that sort of money for a console game. They get cheaper very quickly, and are also subject to sales, particularly the digital versions.

Reply

Arron Walker

Pretty solid reasoning on every point, nearly enough to take the opinion out of the title. You don’t have to be hardcore dedicated for PC gaming, you can get a rig that’ll at the least run everything for less than an iPhone.

Dave Parrack

If I’d taken [Opinion] out of the title my editors would have roasted me alive. But thanks for backing me up.

Ah, but I wouldn’t pay the silly money Apple asks for an iPhone either ;)

Reply

darth

saying that consoles substitute a pc can only come from someone who hasnt played on one for ages. everyone is entitles to their opinion, but its just narrominded

Dave Parrack

Perhaps I am a little narrow-minded when it comes to PC gaming. I do still play occasionally, but when you have a console sitting in your front room there’s little contest really.

Reply

CD_Ridge

The X-box is cool and fun. As someone who lives in a house without a satellite shot (lots of trees), I like streaming the Sunday Ticket on my PS3. The BluRay is nice, too

Reply

Christopher Chen

I think that the ease of entry into console gaming has caused more poeple to become gamers than would have picked up the hobby using PC’s. A console’s standardization also allows developers to (slightly) more quickly produce and ship their games. This is not to say that the console overall a better platform for gaming. When considering the attributes of saturation, affordability, and expandability, the PC is without question the better platform. While console users won’t ever have to worry about compatibility, drivers, etc., at any given time they only have access to the set of hardware and computing capability available at the time of the design of said console. PC users will always have the edge when it comes to graphics processing, customization of games (mods, etc.), and the price of their system(s) because of the rapid development of computing technology and the relative openness of a personal computer. For example, the Xbox 360 was released just a few days over seven years ago and all titles written for it are forced to use 2005’s hardware capabilities. Since 2005, the average computer’s graphics processing capability has multiplied and the higher-end rigs can produce visuals which at first glance, and sometimes even upon minimal examination, can be mistaken for real life. All of this to say that while consoles are a sufficient starting point for many gamers, the PC will always represent the pinnacle of hardcore gaming and will retain a soft spot in the hearts of many early first-person shooter players. Personally, don’t see what the big deal about Xbox live is. Aside from the social features, avatars, achievements, etc., all I see Xbox Live as doing is unlocking the internet connection to be used to the console. For me, it’s PC.

Dave Parrack

PC games will always have an edge, but to keep up with that edge means upgrading your system regularly. And I’m a lazy gamer who would rather spend my money on new games than new equipment.

You’re very entitled to your opinion though, and thanks for your contribution.

Reply

Josh Hardin

worse!

I should *not* have to pay extra money to play the games that I purchase for an already steep $60. if the game code has networking / a multiplayer mode I should be able to use it to connect to my friends without paying extra for a stupid network. – also I should not have to pay extra money to Microsoft to use third party services that I have to pay yet more money to use like Netflix. please don’t get me wrong, I’m completely happy and satisfied to pay content creators for excellent online content (I love me some Netflix, Hulu, and some multiplayer gaming). but this is just one more reason I do most of my Netflix, Hulu and multiplayer gaming on my pc and use the xbox to simply play single player games. live is supposedly a service, but I don’t get any real services from them. rather I feel it’s extorting me to use the internet connection and online services that i’ve already paid for on a box that I already own. even the connectivity options are pretty bad for communicating with friends and matchmaking… games have to do most of that for you, it doesn’t do much to facilitate things. – if you want an example of matchmaking and online content distribution done right, you don’t have to look any farther than Valve’s Steam service. the service itself is free, they get paid by selling game content and provide an excellent friend chat and matchmaking service. I don’t even need physical media, and so long as i have the game installed, if a friend is playing, i can click on their name in my list of friends and join the online game session that they are in. no monthly fees, no media, good friend connectivity, and I pay for the things I use.

I’m also in no way declaring that steam came before life (it didn’t, steam came out a year after the original introduction of xbox live for the original xbox), but it’s a much better implementation.

“Multiplayer is king”:
As far as the article goes, however, I have to disagree with some (or sadly most) of the assertions made. I have been playing video games since the atari 2600 and modem bbs days and while remote multiplayer (as opposed to local multiplayer with someone sitting beside you with a second controller) was introduced a wee bit later (bbs’s and then direct-connection modem games), it’s still WAAAAAY earlier than the xbox and xbox live. games such as doom, and ESPECIALLY quake and age of empires 1 and 2, the original starcraft, mechwarrior 2, unreal tournament, and many many other games were playable either by directly dialing to your buddy’s modem (lots of games in the early 90’s), or later in the game when dialup internet service started to slowly become normal in households in the mid to late 1990’s. xbox live didn’t even launch until october 2002. even if you consider popular consoles, that was many years after the dreamcast was launched (october 1999) which had modem built in and ethernet hardware available and even had it’s own easy-to-use web browser for use with either internet connectivity method if you so chose with *lots* of multiplayer games and decent matchmaking.

“patches aplenty”:
While I completely agree that patches changed the game (both literally and figuratively), there were plenty of PC games that got patches and updates. there were many different versions of all of the games mentioned previously that were modem or internet based. patches came with internet availability. and I do also agree that it is both a good and bad thing for the reasons stated. it sucks that game companies don’t do nearly as much product testing as they once did, especially with today’s complicated gameplay and large environments, but I for one think it’s great that game companies are able to update games and fix problems as they arise.

“gamerscore glory”:
while it’s true that gamerscore and the achievement system as currently implemented by xbox 360 / xbox live is new, and gives completionists some extra value in games, I personally feel that the gamerscore number should really be something to be touted. – the achievements are in some cases depending on difficulty and such, but the having fifty-bazillion gamerpoints is just pointless.

“No PC, No Problem”:
I have nothing against consoles or the gamers who enjoy or prefer them. I agree that there is much to be said with the guarantee that a game works without question on a particular piece of commonly available hardware, however, PC gaming has always been and still is relevant. for the most part, so long as you have a reasonably modern system with a good graphics card made in the past few years, you should be able to easily play even the most cutting edge of games with reasonable ease. PC gaming relevance comes down to pure and simple choice. you can choose to play with an xbox controller on a pc if you’d like (and there are a few games that I really like doing so, most notably racing type games), you can play with a keyboard and mouse (which is usually what I do for pretty much all first-person shooters due to the much higher accuracy of moving the mouse, pointing and clicking on my target to fire rather than using analog sticks to slowly line up my target and then have to snap back when i overshoot it and wait for my avatar to rotate in the other direction), or with a racing wheel or a flight yolk or a variety of different joysticks (some with arcade buttons, some with flight stick buttons, etc.), rudder peddles, racing peddles, pong paddles, ps3 controllers, wii remotes, etc. you name an input device, it can probably be used with a computer in some fashion to play a game. but the choice doesn’t end at input peripherals. you get to choose (if you wish) what components go into your computer’s build. processor (logic speed), video card (graphics speed), hard drives (storage, load times), ram (load times), power supply (how much power the rest of the components can pull), motherboard (what kinds of components you can get for it), etc. while this does require you to check your system to make sure you can run the game you’re picking up, you have the potential for a much better experience. for example a better graphics card paired with a modern game like call of duty black ops 2 provides a graphical experience that is potentially much higher resolution with lots of additional graphics features that can be turned on like much higher resolution textures, much more complex lighting (shadows, ambient occlusion), much better de-interlacing (up to 16x FSAA), etc. or on those games that support it, Nvidia’s PhysX technology can make a huge difference in the quality of rendering. Borderlands 2 for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wo_zDkvazKI – the quality of materials behavior is dramatically improved. but when you compare the graphics in modern games to what comes out of an xbox 360, the 360 typically comes up very wanting. the issue is that consoles are not at all upgradable. the xbox 360 will always be the same triple core powerpc “xenon” CPU (which is very reminiscent to the powerpc g5 cpu that even apple scraped years ago because it couldn’t keep up with modern demands), with the equivalent of a radeon x1800, and 512MB of ram (which isn’t enough for PC Operating Systems, never mind running video games) which leads to programmers either working much harder than they should have to in order to optimize the game for running in such a low-end environment and in most cases reducing graphics, physics, textures, etc. in order to work properly.

Speaking of developers, that’s another HUGE detractor for consoles and the console way of life. in order to develop a game for the PC, you can use a large collection of largely free (or even in the case of a developer choosing to use Microsoftoft’s visual studio development environment, $500 as well as the 3d development environment of their choice (quite a few of which are free like blender)) and use really any combination of a large choice of utilities, development tools, software libraries (for free or commercial), etc. whereas to develop on the xbox 360 you need to license a development kit which is thousands of dollars (I couldn’t find any reliable sources for curet pricing to license a dev kit, i’m pretty sure you have to go through the process of becoming a licensed xbox 360 developer and sign a bunch of non-disclosure agreements before they allow you to even see the page to order a dev kit which again, probably costs another few thousand dollars. a PC is it’s own dev kit. I should be able to run whatever software that I choose on whatever hardware I pay for. for literally no money besides the initial investment of the computer, using open source tools, someone can create a greet game. case-in-point: Notch: the creator of the hit game Minecraft wrote the whole thing in the java programming language using the freely available eclipse integrated development environment. Every console sold, is another nail in the coffin for gaming innovation because it tells big corporations like Microsoft that “yes, I accept the doctrine of closed platforms that you perpetuate and I don’t care that you extort content developers by making it impossible for home consoles to run code that isn’t directly authorized by Microsoft making it impossible to use as a development platform, i’m totally cool with that!” – in fact all of the titles that you give as examples in the “immense indie” section (with the notable exception of castle crashers) were first pc games and had been released for in some cases many years before they came to xbox. the truth of the matter is that indy developers, those people in their mom’s basements, or those toiling away nights in college dorm rooms just can’t afford the MASSIVE startup and licensing costs associated with getting their game on consoles, whereas thanks to the magic of the internet at large, they can easily set up a web site with a shopping cart system for a whopping total of $20-$30 a year and sell their creations on their own terms for use on computers world wide. if what they create is a fun and unique experience, then they become like the aforementioned notch: an overnight internet celebrity who’s game gets downloaded thousands of times per day for $30 a pop, and you’ve got the start of a career much better than eating top ramen and yesterday’s toast. and if what they make isn’t what the people want, they either continue to evolve their craft and write some more, or they seek more traditional paths in software development or something else entirely just like anybody else who fails at a task.

Please note, that I really don’t mean to sound like an anti-console jerk, as consoles do have their place, i’ve owned plenty of them, and I do my best to subscribe the the scruples of Wheaton’s law whenever possible. I do respect the author’s right to opinion, but I felt the need to express my disagreement to many of his preconceptions about the relevance of PC gaming, game development, (especially indy game development), and the supposed good of the “service” (or in my humble opinion lack thereof) that is xbox live.

Thank you for your time in reading my reply,

Josh Hardin

Dave Parrack

If you don’t like paying for Xbox Live there’s always PlayStation Network available for free…

I mentioned the Dreamcast in the article, but the service wasn’t a patch on Xbox Live.

It seems we agree on the patches.

I agree that Microsoft should be doing more with the Gamerscores. At the moment they’re really just there for bragging rights. But that doesn’t stop people chasing after more points.

You’re a PC, I’m a console. Each to their own. You make some very valid point, especially in terms of indie game development.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post such an eloquent (and epic) comment.

Reply

Dhaval Patel

x box have change the gaming market and now people can find microsoft everywhere from pc to phone

Reply

Christopher Miliotti

I love how a ~7 year old console is still able to compete with anything else and provide excellent performance. It has changed gaming completely.

Reply

Scutterman

I wasn’t even aware Braid or Super Meat Boy were available on xbla, and Minecraft certainly had plenty if recognition before being released on xbox. I haven’t ever really heard of an indy game purely through xbla, and if there are such success stories I think your examples need to be changed.

Dave Parrack

I didn’t say they had been released purely on XBLA. But having a market for independent games open to millions of console owners is a great thing. And it could easily persuade more indie games developers to put time, money, and effort into creating better titles.

Your comment