With the cross pollination of computer and console games, people seem to have lost sight what are the benefits between the platforms as well as how the platforms’ games and their services differentiate from each other. One could even argue the roles have almost switched around completely, consoles mainly having a reputation of being infested with children playing Call of Duty while Steam has increasing amounts of console games in a virtual console environment, encouraging for console controller usage.
With Microsoft now wanting to unite their two platforms, Xbone and Windows by bringing Xbox Live to Windows 10, there is bound to be differences between the two. While Microsoft seems to swear that it won’t be Microsoft Live the Second, but I have my doubts. I do understand why Microsoft fetches payment from the Gold account services on their console, but I can’t agree that it is necessary to play online games with the system. As such, I’ve never played any Xbox title online, despite being offered a free month at few points. I’ve been more than content on playing Xbox titles on the couch with my friends.
Microsoft seems to realize this at some extent too with the recent news that the Gold account is not needed in order to play online multiplayer with Xbox Live on Windows 10. As this applies to computer consumers only, the console side of Xbox Live is still stuck with the payment wall. It is understandable that this difference has caused a slight uproar with the Xbone users. However, this is where duality between provider and customer is apparent. The customer has power over the provider at any point as they ultimately decide whether or not something is worth paying or not. Apparently, the Xbox users since day one have deemed it worthwhile to pay for online multiplayer. Sony’s PSN put up a paywall too with the PlayStation 4, a motion that I don’t wholly embrace. Then again, I don’t own a PS4, so it doesn’t affect me at this moment, but it may in the future. I would use the stance as with Xbox Live here too.
Whether or not paid online is a delicate subject has very little impact with this one. Free online service for Windows 10 Xbox Live is a no brainer motion, as if Microsoft wants to unite the two platforms they really do need make the service look attracting to the overall PC user crowd. After all, they are competing with other high calibre services on the PC platform. Well, at least with Steam. We can always argue whether or not uPlay or whatever that EA DRM service was are good.
Despite what the bad tongues may say, Microsoft has always been decent with software. Their hardware on the other hand has been a different story. In a perfect world, Microsoft had concentrated on Windows with their game division rather than making a step into console business. In a perfect world Sega would not have screwed up their console business either and now wouldn’t be have to balance with little to no proper console titles outside Sonic games and computer platforms.
Are the Xbox users justified in their anger? No, they’re really not. As a whole, they have seen it worthwhile to pay for the service provided. Are they been shanked? To some extent. While PC and console are not in direct competition with each other (Steam however is, as it is a digital games console that is now getting a physical incarnation,) it begs the question how much PC gamers will take chance and play Xbox Live? I admit, the idea of playing numerous ports of the Xbone games on my PC does sound attractive, but the service itself isn’t what seals the deal. If the only games that support Xbox Live on Windows 10 are the same ones running on Steam, it up to opinion which service platform the consumer will use. I don’t see many Steam users changing to Xbox Live for any title, but I can see less rabid fanboys mixing the two together in order to maximise their experience.
These is also another hypothesis that somebody jokingly threw out; Microsoft is giving free Xbox Live access because they want to move their current consumer base from consoles to PC. While this doesn’t seem likely, this would mean that Microsoft could embrace their forte further rather than meddle with the console business. This would also alleviate PC game and console game cross pollination and possibly bring in more pure PC and console games that what we’ve been having for the last fifteen years or so.
Windows could use a more prevailing and integrated games service that doesn’t suck. Naturally, it should only be available in certain editions, much like other properties in past Windows versions. There is no need to have Xbox Live on a working station computer, whereas a home computer could use one. All this would mean that the service would need to be very well designed and be as invasive as possible in order to be functional in the hands of the core gamers as well as in the hands of the household mother who simply wants to play some Solitaire. Even now with the current Windows 8.1 functions accessing the games have been more or less a hassle to older generations who have used to accessing their favourite pack-in games from the usual Games folders.
We could have a discussion whether or not online multiplayer as a part of online service should be behind a paywall, and here I will show my duality. As the blogger here, I do argue that a provider has all rights to demand a payment for the service. On the other hand, as the consumer I do believe certain core services that we purchase consoles and games for do need to be free. If a game advertises itself as full blown online multiplayer, I would expect to be able to access that multiplayer without any further purchases other than the game itself, yet I have to agree that whoever is providing the servers and the online function does have a case to demand that payment made.
Of course, there are multiple other dimensions to this, ranging from product design to marketing, but in all honesty those can make their own posts.
At the core, whether or not customers value a service enough to pay for it is the final nail. There is a disparity between Xbox Live users based on the platform they choose to use the service on, and whether or not this disparity will be solved for anyone’s benefit is up to how customers will move. After all, customer’s wallet has the power to vote.