Thursday, November 06, 2008

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I’ve spent the past few weeks getting accustomed to Xbox Live.

A few days ago, I finally got around to ‘re-wiring’ the living room, meaning it’s not such a huge hassle to get the 360 online, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I managed to get a headset for eight bucks.

Then, with all this in place, along with finally getting a game that someone I actually know has, I was ready.

…Just in time for my one month free ‘Gold’ subscription to run out.

Ok, this isn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be because when I got the hard drive I also got a free three-month gold subscription that I haven’t used yet. However, I don’t want to go ahead and use that until I’ve saved all my pennies and bought Halo 3.

The big problem I have here is that I just don’t understand why Xbox Live isn’t completely free.

Most of this is because I’m a PC gamer, and I’ve been an ‘online gamer’ since about 1995, and in all that time I’ve never had to pay anything to get on a multiplayer server. Basically, it feels a lot like I’ve bought a new car and now the roads I used to drive on for free have suddenly become toll-roads.

If I’m completely honest, an Xbox Live Gold subscription doesn’t exactly break the bank. I think that right now it’s about fifty bucks a year which is literally pennies a day. The point is that it’s Microsoft, the richest corporation in the world, that runs Xbox Live. Surely they can afford to give us a few free servers.

Now, this might just seem like an “I want free stuff!” rant, but it’s not. Charging for Xbox Live doesn’t make much sense.

Here’s the deal, while it doesn’t actually cost a lot, there are still hundreds of thousands of kids (and husbands) trying to explain to their mothers (and wives) why they need another fifty bucks after paying hundreds for the console and at least $60 on a game. Then, of course, you have the kids saving their allowance and choosing whether or not to get a Gold subscription, or an actual new game.

Here’s the truth of it. Out of all the Xbox 360s that have been sold, way less than half of them are actually online.

One of the things Xbox Live offers is advertising. The difference between this form of advertising and your usual pop-ups is that it’s ultra-targeted advertising that the user actually wants. You see, while I don’t like getting penis enlargement spam in my inbox, what I do like is turning on my 360 and getting to see what new games are coming out in the next few months…especially when this is delivered in entertainment form.

Basically, Microsoft is missing a trick. There are a ton of people out there who don’t have their 360s online because they don’t feel like multiplayer is worth the cost. However, the vast majority of those people would take multiplayer for free. That means more users on Xbox Live, which means more eyes on ads…and the simple truth is you’re going to make more money by charging game developers to get their product in front of millions of potential consumers than by nickel-and-diming your users.

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