So I realized the other day that my Xbox Live subscription is coming up for it's annual renewal, then I realized that I had been a gold member of Xbox Live for 8 years, which also lead me to my final realization that Xbox Live will be 10 years old come this November. So what does the last decade online mean to me? What does Xbox Live mean to the industry? and how does it affect the future of the industry?.
So let me set the scene for you. It's late into the year of 2003, I'm a few months away from turning 14, I just finish school and I head to my local Asda (Wall-Mart UK for my american readers) in order to purchase the latest copy of Official Xbox Magazine. Waiting in line to buy the magazine I stare at the front of the magazine and see the words "Xbox Live" written across the cover. Reading the words "Xbox" and "Live", my initial assumption was some new live game show of people competing for cash playing Xbox games. As I return to my home and quickly flip through the magazine I discover what Xbox Live really is. Words used in the magazine such as "a revolution" and "the future of gaming" caught my interest. This continued as I placed the demo disc that came with the magazine into my Xbox and played the promotional video for Xbox Live (shown below).
At this point I was sold and half an hour later when my mother came home begged her to upgrade our internet connection from dial-up to broadband, so I could join this wonderful online community. Nearly 8 years, £320 and 80'000 gamerscore later I have to say I am one happy customer.
I remember the early days of Xbox Live like they were yesterday, although it took me over an hour to decide on the gamertag that the 14 year old me thought the online community would fear, I finally decided to go with the name Super Saiyan 14, I also didn't realize at the time that I had would have to update this name annually, a tradition I abandoned after only 4 years of paying money to change 1 character of my name. I spent months just playing the Xbox Live demo disc which featured Moto GP and Mech Assault in order to scratch my online itch. 6 months later Halo 2 arrives and what I call the golden age of online gaming begins. The years roll by, I play anything and everything that has the ability to access Xbox Live, and also add anyone and everyone that I came across online hoping to build a group of elite gaming friends to take on the world with. Whether it be Project Gotham Racing 2, Halo 2, Unreal Championship, FIFA or Splinter Cell: Chaos theory I was playing them all and fully hooked on the Xbox Live experience.
Around the same time I pick up another issue of Official Xbox Magazine, this was just before the launch of the Xbox 360 and one of the articles within this issue was focused on Microsoft's aim with the 360 and Xbox Live. I'm always surprised by the way some people react to the way Microsoft operates these days, the main reason for my surprise is that within this article they flat out told you exactly what they were about this generation. This article went on for about three or so pages about how Xbox Live and the 360 was going to replace your TV provider, DVD player, CD player and PC along with the ability to download your games instead of actually going out and buying them. So when everyone complains about how Microsoft has lost touch with the hardcore because they add stuff like Facebook to Xbox Live ( and I do agree with this statement to some degree) It's surprising to me to see all of this uproar because this was their plan all along, and they told us from the beginning.
Over the last decade, I along with a lot of you out there have seen this service go through many changes especially the different dashboards shown below. By the way I still find the original Xbox dashboard extremely cool for some reason.
But through all these changes its not just been a simple cosmetic upgrade. The introduction of Xbox Live in my opinion is one of most important times in video game history. Not only was this service a revolution to video games by allowing the us to play and meet all sorts of people across the globe and introducing this to the mainstream. But it also changed the industry as a whole, whether it be the strategic business moves of Microsoft competitors with Sony and Nintendo introducing their own online service, or the way in which games are developed today to the point where it is almost considered suicide for a developer to release a game without and some kind of online multiplayer aswel as online pass. I'm not very happy about that last point though.
Looking back at Microsoft and their vision of the future of Xbox Live that they spoke of back in 2005, and looking at my TV screen right now as I am writing this with the LOVEFILM app playing movies while also in party chat with 2 other guys who are playing Modern Warfare. It is clear to me that Microsofts vision is fully realized as Xbox Live has completely replaced all of my other services and electronic equipment apart from the PC I am writing this blog post on. Now I'm not saying that Microsoft has made all the right moves, and has crafted a perfect service over the years, but what I am saying is that Xbox Live's influence on the gaming industry, whether you consider for better or for worse, is almost too large to measure. This service has shaped the industry and its their competitors forever and I must say that I'm glad that the 14 year old me begged his mother to upgrade the internet to broadband in order sign up for Xbox Live, because although this community has its share of screaming and verbally abusive teenagers, it also has it's share of friendly and interesting people that I have met over the years. Were it not for Xbox Live allowing me to communicate with all these different people about games, there's a good chance I may have moved onto other interests. Were it not for XBLA I would not have discovered some of the classic games that were way before my time. Were it not for Xbox Live I would not have been able to have some of the best cooperative experiences in my gaming life, the most recent being spending 5 hours going from wave 1 to 50 on Gears of War 3's horde mode. But as I sit at almost 22 years of age, I'm glad to say I was part of a defining moment in the industry I love so much.
P.S. Now get back to making games Microsoft, I have enough apps on my dashboard.
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