What Happened To My Xbox LIVE?

The first time I saw Xbox LIVE? I thought it was from the future. Like a hoverboard, or walking on the moon.

I simply wasn't prepared for it. I didn't play games on my home PC, which was archaic. I didn't own a Dreamcast. I had never dialed up a modem to play death match on Doom and I was barely aware of the existence of Phantasy Star Online.

Xbox LIVE: the marketer's dream. The itch I didn't know I needed to scratch.

At the time Xbox LIVE felt monolithic, and I pounded upon it with the clumsy fists of an ape. What was this strange virtual object? What could be done with it? What were the possibilities?

Years of playing Halo 2 online. Years of simply connecting, garbling through the headset at strangers. Years of twiddling my thumbs, years of being humbled, years of genuine enjoyment. It's easy to dismiss the impact of Xbox LIVE — particularly if you were a PC gamer — but for those who did most of their gaming on a console, it felt like a small, but significant, revolution.

Then came the Xbox 360.

LIVE on the 360: like watching colour TV for the first time. The scope and scale of the leap was equally bewildering. It was unlike anything we'd seen on a console before, and Microsoft's competitors would be playing catch-up for years.

Profiles, messaging, new games, transactions, online stores — in hindsight it all sounds so trivial, but back then? It was like giving a caveman sherbet, like a slick reinvention of the wheel. It was a grand, incredible leap forward for console gaming and we ate it up greedily.

Nowadays? I turn on my Xbox. I look at the dashboard and wonder — what happened to my Xbox LIVE?

————

Back when Xbox LIVE was orange and garish it looked a little silly, but it was difficult to find fault. Now it's doused in cobalt gradients and feels adult, but overwhelmingly sterile. Even if video games were the reason you turned on your Xbox 360, it's hard to shake the feeling that Microsoft wished you were doing something else instead.

Home. Social. Video. Games. Fourth in the list. Surrounded by lifestyle shots and advertisements, scrolling past graveyards of failed initiatives and products you don't want to buy. This is the new Xbox LIVE experience as we now know it.

Look, I get it. I understand. The Xbox 360 is no longer a console, it's a multimedia device. I have no issue with that, that state of affairs does not concern me. I use my Xbox 360 (and my PlayStation 3 for that matter) as a multimedia device. I watch movies, I'll use it to stream content, or watch DVDs — but it's the sheer disdain being shown for video games that irks me, as Microsoft continues to pile feature after feature atop what should be the primary function of the Xbox 360.

Video games are being buried on the Xbox 360 and on Xbox LIVE. Almost literally buried.

Games on Xbox LIVE, particularly if you want to actually pay money and buy them, are like books with three years worth of Cosmo subscriptions piled on top. You have to sift for them — you have to wade through crap, you have to suffer.

And then, you have to pay for them using one of the most outdated payment system on the internet.

————

When Microsoft began selling points as the main currency within Xbox LIVE, we tolerated it. We tolerated it because we didn't know any better. We tolerated it because buying digital products online was a relatively new thing and, for all we knew, it may have been the most efficient and worthwhile way to engage in this kind of business.

Now we know better.

Fast forward to the present. Buying things online, digitally, is a part of everyday life. We buy music online, we rent movies online, we buy apps online. We buy these things with money. Not with points.

Going back to Xbox LIVE, to buy a video game, feels like getting in a time machine, and going in the wrong direction.

You can't spend the precise amount of money you want, you have to buy points in packs. You are left with points you can't use. Points that just sit there, stagnant until the point when you decide you want to buy other online content. It's archaic, dishonest, and wrong.

Worse still, it's out of date.

At one point, Xbox LIVE represented the cutting edge when it came to digital content and online gaming. It was a service worth paying for. Sony scrambled frantically to imitate it. Now? With Android, the App Store, iTunes and practically every other online system you can name, Xbox LIVE looks like a dated, sprawling mess in comparison. It needs a complete overhaul, on all possible levels.

What happened to my Xbox LIVE? What happened to the service that I gladly forked over cash for — the service that made my head spin? What happened to the Xbox LIVE that gave me quick easy access to Indie games, what happened to the Xbox LIVE that boldly pushed forward with innovations that would define gaming? Where did that Xbox LIVE go?

When did Xbox LIVE get left behind?

The Xbox 360 came out in 2005; that was a long time ago. Xbox LIVE may be a service held back by the 360's aging technology. That's a strong argument. But there's no excuse for Xbox LIVE as it currently exists — a service that makes it difficult to find games, not easier. A service that uses outdated and intelligence insulting payment mechanisms. A service that bombards you with services you neither use, want or need.

That's not the Xbox LIVE that dazzled me, the Xbox LIVE that felt like a hoverboard; that felt like walking on the moon. That's not the Xbox LIVE we signed up for.


Comments

    Yeah i stopped using xbox live when they changed to the new dashboard however long ago that was, when it becaome 90% advertising, 9% media and 1% gaming content.

    I completely understand this, but games on demand can be purchased for the monetary value, not points. We still pay 20-30 bucks extra than US, but still better than points.

    Ahh man! I remember feeling that exact same way when I first got Xbox live, I was AMAZED!

    Now I see a whole bunch of crap I neither want not care about :/

    I'm not overly fussed but what actually surprises is the ire that it has raised. The PS2/PS3 leap was not good for Sony (as far as angry fanbases go), but to see how far the pendulum of goodwill has swung the other way for the Xbox brand is kind of worrying.

    There's no manual for all of this.

    Considering the massive overhauls Microsoft's done with their phone OS and now Windows, I'm expecting big things from the next Xbox.

      I'm expecting big things, just not interface-wise. I really think it will be more of the same mess.

        Everything Windows 8 is squares and rectangles. The Xbox is already there.

    deleted

    Last edited 19/06/15 9:33 am

      I just turned off auto renewal for my gold. On the first of November I'll on Xbox silver for the first time in 5 or 6 years. :(
      It's kind of sad, but I don't really play online much these days (and when I do it's usually on the PC) so it's just not worth it any more.

    Correct me if I am wrong, But PSN uses "real money" but don't we still have to top up our "wallet" with a minimum amount of $5-10 at a time?

      You can buy games for the exact cost. I only know this because I thought the same as you, and someone told me otherwise, really recently too!

        When I still used my PS3 you had to buy a minimum of $10, so it is the same as using points basically.

          I was one of the first with an Au PSN account as I imported my PS3 and there was always an option to add the exact purchase amount to your account if you had something in your cart.

        Last time I was on the Playstation Store I wanted to buy an $8 game, but it wouldn't let me unless I charged $10 to my credit card and kept the extra in my 'wallet'.
        Suffice to say, I didn't buy the game.

        Only if they're more than $10. If they're less, you have to put $10 in your wallet to make the purchase. The good thing is though, that unlike MS points, if your next purchase is more than $10, the existing amount will contribute to it so you don't have loose points all the time.

      There's a minimum amount of $10 (which I suppose is not unlike the minimum purchase that many stores require for eftpos / credit card purchases). But these days you don't actually get a lot for less than $10 anyway - most games tend to sit somewhere between $10 and $20, and as long as it's over $10 then you pay the exact amount. You don't have to buy $20 worth of credit to buy a $14.99 game, for example - you just pay $14.99.

    The fact that for a while it was actually going backwards, making it more difficult to find xbla games in their UI, seemed ridiculous. They're busy trying to re-invent the wheel to appeal to a more broad audience, but changing or removing the basic things that just worked beforehand. Like the keyboard for Xboxes YouTube app, WHO TYPES WITH EVERY LETTER IN A SINGLE LINE? HOW IS THAT TIME EFFECTIVE?

    They should go and have lunch with Valve and have a chat about how to manage a UI well.

      No, no they shouldn't. Steam is almost as bad!

        The Big Picture UI is pretty intuitive!

        Indeed, Steam is only popular because people confuse 'it's bearable' with 'it's great'.

          Regardless of whether steam is actually good, or just bearable, you still admit many people use it. Doesn't that imply that the systems people aren't using must then be of a lower quality?

            Are you implying people don't use their xbox's?

              are you implying people use origin?

          No, Steam is awesome. I love it and I love its convenience. The only valid complaints about Steam I've ever heard are the automatic updates which I only really care about if it affects mods.

            same here. I hate when say Skyrim gets an update I don't want and I have to wait for the script extender to catch up a week later....

    A few additional pet peeves with XBL
    *Why does it tell me my download is stopped when I open up a game?
    *The keyboard is awful. Why are you putting all the letters across the screen in a horizontal line? At least make a square. Optimally use the letter system from Beyond Good & Evil.
    *When I open “My Games” I am told I have Bejewelled and Bomberman and a bunch of other games I never asked for. Where the hell did these come from?

      Because the download does stop?

        Well it shouldn't stop. I mean, what if I want to download something AND play a game? Is that really such a big ask?

        That said, I don't think it really does stop. I've been playing games and then had a notification come up saying my download is complete.

      I've noticed that when you boot a game which has online play, e.g. COD, and chose mp, it will stop the download to prioritise mp, if you play sp the download continues, but as far as I can tell there is no real pattern.

      *Because certain games require that system resources are dedicated to the game being played. Most multiplayer components of a game tend to do this, or even entire retail titles (Live Arcade titles tend to do this much less). However, not ALL parts of a game will require a download to be paused, and the download will start up again without noting you when this is the case.
      *Completely agree with the keyboard. The Xbox 360 does actually support USB keyboards though, so if you've got the room...
      *These are trials for said games that were on the console by default. If you wish to remove them, press the Guide button, scroll across to the right and select System Settings, then Storage, then select your Hard Drive, then Games and Apps. Scroll through until you find the offending games, hit (Y) and then choose Delete.

    it got left behind when people discovered steam

    Mark - For starters - you only have a silver account *trollface.jpg*

    But seriously, I quite like the purchase points system because I buy a lot of stuff from the marketplace and the spare points "change" comes in very useful for random bits of DLC. Having the Visa attached to my profile makes it easy - Buy... not enough points? Add them, finish purchase. All in seconds. Also Games on Demand prices are in $$ amounts, not points. (Albeit expensive given any JB Hifi comparison for physical media)

    I'm also in the Beta for the new dash (which I can't talk about here) but it looks like it will add that moonwalking experience that you so deeply desire.

    Is it the dissillusioned fanboy within you who still mourns the shutdown of Halo2 talking? Is it time for you to look at what Sony has to offer in comparison? Or is it that you want to download the new Trials DLC to take out your frustrations on and you keep forgetting to buy a points card?

      I really don't think you made a good argument for MSPoints.

        It's the 'spare change' mentality along with the 'visa attached' that what concerns me about the future of DLC.

          I know right. Your "spare change" is locked in and you have to spend it in XBL. I don't want to waste my money on things that would use this "spare change" like avatar items or what have you. And when I am done with Xbox and likely move to a PS4, what happens to my "spare change"??
          And how are MSP more convenient than real money? You are adding an extra step to purchasing things. Also everytime you want to buy something you have to convert it to AUD. Not to mention MSPoints are more expensive to purchase in AUD than USD (there is absolutely no reason for this).

            I do agree with the whole Visa attached statement (I also have a PS3) but given the fact that we have to do things online it's a risk you take with ANY electronic funds transaction. Banks have security procedures in place to investigate this and any fraudulant transactions ARE reversed. As for the spare change mentality - who doesn't like to have spare change of any variety lying around?
            The conversion issue? Look at the apple app store and how much difference there is between ANY soft/hardware pricing between here and there. it's all a rort. So much so that there is currently a government investigation into it. Australia in general is getting bitten on the bum with regard to this across the board, not just by M$.

            I'm not saying the points system is perfect, but i have no issue with it. The additional transaction is immediate so the extra step is just an A button push. Big deal.

            Also it doesn't matter how good the syte is, someone will ALWAYS find a fault with it.

              Yes, I have spare change. But I use it to buy coffee in the mornings and when it accumulates I'll deposit it in the bank. At least the local cafe doesn't make me buy $10 of coffee points and then charge me $3 per coffee.
              Yes, iOS and others overcharge as well, but it doesn't make it any better. It's just one extra irritating thing about their system.
              I would be much happier without MSP and if they announced that they were getting rid of it in the next console, I might think that they are going in the right direction and might reconsider getting a 720.

              I have to disagree with your spare change argument, it's not better for the vast majority of consumers out there.

              Imagine if one Petrol Station made you buy Petrol points before you could get petrol, first consumer watch groups would complain it's trying to hide it's real prices. Second I need to top up in $30 increments meaning I need to pay $60 instead of the $50 I usually pay.

              Now admittedly I spend that extra $10 on Coke and Mars bars (I kinda wish that was a joke) but under the Petrol points system I'm worse off, because I can't skip the junk food and I have to prepay for something.

              Sure every 3rd refill I'd only need to buy a single $30 top up, but at the end of the day they are taking my money for a product I may one day purchase.

              Let's all remember Points where a way of getting around certain laws that prevented children spending money online. Now I wouldn't mind points so much if I could buy the exact amount of points needed at point of sale. This IMO would be the best of both worlds, you can still give your kid his point allowance but us adults could buy exactly what we want for just the right price.

              Example: I want something for 640 points, I have 120 (surveys @ Xbox Rewards) at the confirm purchase it tells me I need 520 points and they will cost $8.60. I think most of us would be happier with this system. If you buy point in bulk it still works for you, if you want to purchase with real money it's a slightly annoying extra step.

    I just wish they drop that 40,000 price for every tiny little patch or update. PC games weren't even that bad back in the 90s.

      Can you elaborate? I've had a 360 for 5 years and have no idea what you're talking about.

        The cost that MS charges Game developers to add patches.

        I think he's referring to the fee MS charge developers/publishers to release patches / updates? Which sometimes results in games simply not getting fixed because it's not economically viable for the developer to release the patch (e.g. Fez). I'm not sure what Sony's stance on this is - I'm sure there must be SOME kind of fee involved since Sony need to devote resources to certification.

    Agree 10000%. I remember I used to love browsing the 360's menu just for the beauty of the blades, it was fun to just play with it. Now I have to hold my breath and hope for the best when I dive into this horrid pile of crap. It's almost as painful as trying to find something on the PS3's menu, which is a massive achievement. It's like a race to the bottom to remove usability in favour of style, and I hate it.

    "For those of you with PCs" *Raises hand*
    I picked up a 360 primarily to play mass effect and a couple of the other exclusives.
    While I regularly play it, I have never once paid for Xbox Live Gold.
    What exactly are you paying for? The ability to play Halo or Gears against other people? No other service does that.
    PCs have always been free, PS3 somehow manages it, and while the Wii's system is difficult, it also comes with built-in Wifi and is designed to keep kids safe, if only by being so difficult to use they couldn't be bothered to work out how to use it.
    Wake up, Microsoft, and give your customers some credit.

      same. I just picked up an Xbox this year to play Red Dead Redemption, Rayman Origins, and the Double Fine games on XBLA. I did pay for a year of Xbox LIVE Gold. It was only ~$50.

    At least with the new update Games is now 3rd on the list instead of 4th.
    http://i.imgur.com/QCNFa.jpg
    Hopefully they've made changes to the XBLA interface with the update as well.

      Also I miss the old dashboard with the blades, even the NXE was good too.
      I wish that the Xbox had an option to customize your dash so you could make it your dashboard instead of what Microsoft wants you to see. Is it so hard to add a customization option?

        This.
        If the option was available I would switch back to NXE in a heartbeat.

    MS points is better than currency being used in one particular way.

    As MS doesn't allow accounts to change countries, you're stuck with whatever country you set an account up. In my case, I live in AU but still have an NZ account.
    Therefore if all purchases were in currency, I'd have to buy it all via NZD on an Australian credit card therefore get slammed with FX fees. Right now, as purchases are in MSpoints, I can buy MSPoints in AUD at any store I feel like in Australia, and add them to my account. Therefore there is no cost in FX fees.

      An easier way around that is to just let people change their country.

      I'm also tied to that. Absolutely ridiculous. People move to different countries all the time.

        Does PSN allow you to do that? I know you can have different accounts for each country (I'm sure just about everybody has at least an AU and a US account), does it allow you to actually "move" your account from one country to another?

          I don't think so. However, seeing as you can set up another account & share content with your main one, it's not quite as painful...

        Um....aren't you a journo on a game website? MS lets you migrate the country of your account now. It's not exactly a pain free process, but at least they let you now.

        Here you go buddy. For free.

        http://www.ausgamers.com/news/read/3247829/account-migration-quietly-permitted-for-region-moving-xbox-live-users

    Hi Mark,
    I actually like xbox live, because it's so simple. You want to watch abc or youtube it's easy, you want to watch a movie plug in a usb, want to play a game put it in. You can even get 12 months subscriptions for $39 bucks which is $3.25 a month. My fear is when we get the new xbox 720 or what ever it's called xbox live will be too complicated and so full of usesless guff I'll go back to playing double dragon on my nes, love that game.

    Wow ur easily impressed. If i ask for a credit card for what is free on all other systems will you think i am awesome and from the future too?

      Na not with a name like tisme...lol...

    I stopped by Xbox live sub a long time ago. I use my ps3 more not because it is better but only because it is also my bluray player and I can only connect one device to my ancient surround sound system. I used to love Xbox live so much but don't miss it.

    You're all whining complainers. I still see games more than anything else BY FAR on my dashboard. I'm running the beta of the Fall Update which is a fair bit different but games definitely feel like the biggest part - the very first option when I turn my console on is to play the current disc (usually a game) and a "Pins" list with all my favourite games pinned, and a few ads for videogames...games, that's all I see unless I dig deeper. Almost every ad on the dashboard is an ad for a videogame (at least in Australia)...as in; they are shoving the games down your throat and not hiding them. Also, there is an opt-out option for third party marketing right there in your settings. Use it.

    I dont really have an issue with the new dash but agree that it was easier to use the old ones. I stuill find that many people complain about navigating to find certain things, and many of you don't effectively utilise the bing search. Now dont get me wrong, i despise bing, but it works on the console.

    So Im fine with the dash but it could sure use an overhaul and generally agree with much of the comments above.

    I am a self confessed fanboy but am seeing myself shift toward the PC simply because of the hardware really feeling dated these days.

    I completely agree with this article! Ever since the new dashboard, it doesn't seem Microsoft cares about video games- the main reason most of us bought an Xbox 360 for. I, too, am frustrated that I have to move through pretty much ever other tab on the Xbox Dashboard, just to access my games and the games marketplace.

    The way I see it, if I wanted to watch a movie, I'd buy a DVD player, if I wanted to listen to music, I'd buy an MP3 player or use a computer. I bought my Xbox 360 because I want to play video games on it. I want easy access to my games, not have to shift through menus just to have to shift through more menus, just to have to shift through more menus, just to buy a game.

      people complain about the clutter of the dashboard, but the alternative: a cluttered lounge room full of different gadgets. when you could just have one? I know which one I'd prefer...

    Ugh, this again.

    a) If you're smart, points actually save you money because a descerning shopper will find points cheaper than RRP which means you're technically paying LESS than you would if MS were using dollars. You can't buy $50 for $45 now can you? But you CAN find 3000 points for less than $50.

    b) Advertising? Since this is the Australian arm of Giz, then you see the same 'advertising' I do. Which is ads for Xbox related content. It's the smart way to do things. It's how Microsoft help promote other games and products THEY sell. It's why most smaller devs wanrt their games on Xbox Live first and foremost. Because Microsoft knows how to give them SOME form of visibility on their marketplace.

    c) In the new Dash, Games has been moved up a spot or two anyway. Also, remember, the very first panel you have highlighted when your dash starts up is the game that's in your disc drive. You then have your pins under that, and there you can pin whatever you want. So technically games are the first things you have access to. Generally, those 'advertising' panels have game stuff on there anyway.

    Having said ALL that. I still miss the blades. They were great.

    While I agree with the complaints about MS points... and the dash getting a little cluttered and slow to navigate, I am still more than happy to pay for my subscription for xbox live.

    A bit off topic but I have a PS3 and xbox 360 and even when we play the PS3 we still use the xbox so that we can have party chat. I am absolutely dumbfounded that Sony still haven't implemented something along those lines. 99% of my online gaming is done while chatting to friends, we are a bit older now and have more responsibilities (children, housework, work etc.) so don't have time to catch up as much as when we were younger. Getting a chance to chat to friends who are not necessarily playing in the same room is not too much to ask... and why should I have to mute everyone else in the room to not hear their rubbish? That gets really tiresome having to mute every person that drops into a room in high turn-over games like pretty much every FPS.

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