TECHNOLOGY Microsoft’s online service turned 10 recently
Paying to play online — what a preposterous notion! It’s bad enough that we (or in several cases, our parents) have to foot the Internet bill, and then there’s the capital expense of purchasing the console itself as well as games with online multiplayer capability. Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE service was always going to be a tough sell.
At launch, the idea of an online gaming platform itself was in its infancy, and yet, Microsoft wasn’t the first company to make an attempt to implement it in a games console.
Sega’s Dreamcast shipped with online capability, but due to a negligible broadband adoption rate, was forced to use dial-up modems. This resulted in a sub-par experience, to say the least. Fortunately, by the time Microsoft rolled out Xbox LIVE in late-2002, ‘broadband’ became a term everyone was rather familiar with.
The Internet was always going to play a major role in Microsoft’s video game strategy in the long run, and Xbox LIVE would leverage it to the fullest.
It started off as an online gaming platform and community management tool — the first of its kind to feature a gaming friends list, voice over IP communication as well as unified identity across games irrespective of publisher (the now-ubiquitous ‘GamerTag’). Downloadable content was added later, and while some great games such as Halo 2, Mech Assault and Crimson Skies did support online play, Xbox LIVE on the original Xbox was very much a prototype for what was to come later. It was only when the Xbox 360 was launched in 2005 that the service really came to the fore.
Currently, Xbox LIVE has an amazing feature set, offering everything from cloud storage of game data to social networking as well as television and entertainment. It’s no secret that North American users get the most out their paid subscriptions to that service, but Xbox fan-boys will argue that LIVE’s ‘TrueSkill’ online matchmaking system alone is worth the 200-odd rupees you pay for it every month. Core and competitive players swear by Xbox LIVE’s ‘clan battles’, plus there are ‘achievements’ that can be used solely to brag about your incredible skill. Not only is it essential for Xbox owners today, paying a monthly subscription for the service doesn’t evoke as much as a second thought. Besides, LIVE has done its job — Sony has been playing catch-up ever since the Playstation 3’s release in 2006 despite initially offering a free service.
The future promises even more for Xbox LIVE. For starters, several games for Windows 8 will sport features such as leaderboards, achievements and exclusive multiplayer content.
The Xbox SmartGlass app for Windows 8 will let you access movies, TV shows, music and games through your Xbox LIVE account — interacting through a Windows 8 tablet, phone or computer. What started off as an online gaming service has now transformed into a cross-platform content delivery mechanism that effectively doubles as a social ecosystem.
Thank you Xbox LIVE, for 10 years of world-class entertainment.
VIDEEP VIJAY KUMAR
XBOX LIVE FACTS
Xbox LIVE was launched on November 15, 2002
Microsoft revealed at CES earlier this year that were 40 million subscribers to Xbox LIVE
As many as 442 million hours were logged on Xbox LIVE between November 6 and 13, 2012 — the highest in 10 years
The service featured live coverage of the U.S. 2012 presidential election on election day