Is Xbox Live Dead?

Sony may have been in the console race for longer than Microsoft has, but one thing is evident: Microsoft know how to create a strong online offering. They’ve been at it for the last ten years, who else could be doing a better job? Well, up until around a two years ago that may well have been the case, but now they’re no longer top dog when it comes to offering consumers value for money. For me, the tables began to turn on the Washington based giant thanks to the arrival of Sony’s PlayStation Plus.

Now, Xbox Live subscribers, don’t get up in arms at that claim. I’ve been an Xbox Live subscriber for the last nine and a half years and, while it’s been a reliable service that’s given me hours of entertainment, it’s become even more apparent that Sony’s offering is more tantalising in comparison. Even if it means I have to accept regular maintenance and the occasional hiccup with servers – after all, I’m not paying to play online, I’m paying for so much more.

With Xbox Live you fork out £39.99 for 12 months so you can play online and use other premium apps, that usually require another from of payment or subscription – such as Sky and Netflix. Of course there are even more multimedia applications you can use in the US if you have Xbox Live Gold, but for the most part they’re not focused upon bringing subscribers game enhancing content. Can you comfortably sit there and say you’re happy with the features you gain for shelling out £40 a year?

Personally I see little benefit, especially when over on my PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita I’m getting the exact same things without having to fork out a penny. The same goes for the millions playing on PC, they don’t pay a penny for enjoying their games online – besides from those MMOs that haven’t already jumped ship to the increasingly popular Free to Play model.

Without wanting this to come out sounding like an advertorial for the many features of PlayStation Plus, it’s hard for anyone to deny that PlayStation users definitely get the better end of the deal. For the exact same price of £39.99 you get an incredible, game focused, package that now works across both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Before you factor in all the money off you get through discounts, you’ll also be bagging 63 full games a year for nothing. Clearly this can only be the greatest thing to happen to gamers who, for the most part, are eternally torn by what big title to purchase due to the constraints of money. For less than the cost of a standard retail release, you’ll get a wonderful mixture of new indie and low-key games alongside the bigger releases of the last year or so on both your PS3 and PS Vita. 

Velocity: One of the best handheld games around, all courtesy of PS Plus

If that wasn’t enough you’ll also get some incredible discounts over standard sale prices and current full priced releases. Even picking up Music Unlimited is incredibly cheap thanks to PS Plus, knocking off a crazy 89% from the price. But here’s the thing, it’s such a tantalising service because Sony have clued themselves up on the digital era and how users want their content – an area that Microsoft and, for argument’s sake, Nintendo are seriously lacking in.

While the PlayStation Store’s day one releases and pre-order incentives for digital titles are horrifically overpriced – £59.99 for Need for Speed: Most Wanted anyone? – Sony has no control  as publishers set their own prices. However, they’re offering the opportunity to anyone who’s naïve enough to snap it up at such a price. And that’s a key point: they give you choice.

Microsoft, on the other hand, have their own service for bringing full retail releases digitally to your console. However, if you decide to pick a title up through Games On Demand for launch you’re going to be bitterly disappointed – unless you go out and pick up a retail copy – as it typically takes around half a year since from release for Microsoft to bring new games to the service. By that point they’re vastly overpriced as retailers have reduced costs or the pre-owned market has opened up. What’s worrying is that Xbox Live UK’s product manager Pav Bhardwaj says that they have absolutely no intention of changing this dated model: “We release a game roughly six months after it arrives at retail at full ERP. That’s our model and we’ll be sticking to that.”

And herein lies the problem: Microsoft isn’t progressing with the times. They’ve sat on top for too long with their online offering. They soaked up the fame of having, what once was, a brilliant online infrastructure, and now they’re not changing to match the increased competition. What Microsoft could do with is rewarding their subscribers more. Currently they’ve begun a reward scheme that offers meagre returns on the copious amounts of money users invest into their service. What’s needed is free content that free users would have to pay for, map packs or discounts on DLC for example.

Maybe it’s just me, but to fight against a world that’s so very quickly turning nearly entirely digital seems very foolish. I’m all for the retaining of bricks and mortar stores and the supremacy of physical media – after all nothing beats a shelf full of games or peeling back the cellophane and inhaling that prepackaged stale factory smell. But gamers want games at their fingertips. They don’t want to wait just because their preferred method of purchase isn’t favoured by Microsoft. Nintendo have learnt from their mistakes and are making changes for the next-generation of hardware, and just look at the explosion of digital distribution services like GOG in the last year or so.

Sony clearly know where they’re going with their online service. They’re acutely aware of what their consumers want from their consoles. They’re offering more of what players ask for and they aren’t being shy when it comes to promoting the benefits. While I’m also sure that Microsoft is very much aware of what their users want too from a console, I have a feeling that the money they make through Xbox Live Gold subscriptions – estimated at over $1 billion in 2010 by Bloomberg – is far too alluring for them to forego the model.

Perhaps Microsoft’s next-generation hardware will offer more bang for your buck where online interactivity is concerned. Hopefully they’ll expand their offering towards video games over their desire to be the all-in-one media centre for the home. After having tasted both digital pies from the kitchens of Sony and Microsoft, I know which one tastes sweeter to me.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Does PS Plus not appeal to you over Xbox Live? Why? Let us know!

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13 Comments to “ Is Xbox Live Dead? ”

  • ZachNovember 22, 2012 at 2:53 amLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Nice article – gave me a good read.

  • Dirty SanchezNovember 22, 2012 at 4:10 amLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Hey Remember when the Call Of Duty 4 Modern Warfare Game came out. I remember now it came on XBOX LIVE FIRST.AND now that Game is a Multi Billion dollar xbox hit which has the first dlc maps . Oh yeah and I also remember netflix, hulu, you tube coming first on live. We also have HBO GO and if you want you could watch television on fios. Hey also on December 4 I will be picking up Dragonborns Skyrim on Xbox live and you will be picking up Mass Effect 1 an old XBOX GAME that was on live first. Halo 4 also has multiplayer maps every week on live. Listen Fan boy I know you like your system but just stop wasting time writing stupid articles like this because it going to blow up on your face. And I’m not talking about jizz.

    • Vaughn.HNovember 22, 2012 at 10:25 amLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      If you noticed, I own both systems and like them on their own merits. If anyone is a fanboy here it would be you – blinded by their passion for Microsoft over what their money actually buys them. You’re still paying for all that DLC and content and map packs (bar Halo 4’s Spartan Ops – although 2nd series onward will cost).

    • manlymovie.netNovember 22, 2012 at 12:45 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      COD4 was released on PS3 and 360 simultaneously, not on the 360 first. Secondly, COD existed before COD4, the hint is in the number. COD1 was released on PS2 in 2003 and not on the Xbox. The Xbox brand has only had 8 COD’s released on it, the Playstation brand has had 11 released on it.

    • AnthonyDDecember 16, 2012 at 10:54 amLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Umm,I think Hulu came to PS3 first. Netflix came to PS3, then Wii. For the record, Netflix is most watched on Playstation 3 more than any other device, (gaming console or otherwise). Either way, Amazon Instant came to PS3 first. Also, COD4 was multiplatform, it even came on Wii at the same time. It had DLC first on Xbox due to a deal that was signed, not because ‘its better’. Also, comparing Mass Effect & Halo 4? Mass Effect franchise went multiplatform to make more money, it was NEVER Xbox Exclusive. Well, food for thought.

  • Vita_is_DeadNovember 22, 2012 at 10:36 amLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Vita is Dead.
    Live is alive and kicking.
    Very different.

  • Name noooobishmaNovember 22, 2012 at 1:34 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    lol at this so called article

  • MeniacleNovember 22, 2012 at 4:45 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    “regular maintenance”

    if that happens it happens at like 4:00 am and you can still play

  • McGamorNovember 22, 2012 at 4:56 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    This trashy article sounds like typical sensational crap from Yahoo! I gladly subscribe to XBL, because unlike PSN; IT DOESN’T GET HACKED.

  • McGamorNovember 22, 2012 at 5:00 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    It’s obvious the PSN fans are being allowed to spam dislike on XBOX fan postings causing them to be hidden. That in itself is against the First Amendment. Fix it GamerHub

    • Vaughn.HNovember 22, 2012 at 5:18 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      You’ll find that each comment is has gone through perfectly fine.

      It’s all hand moderated and we decide if a comment goes up. Only reason it wouldn’t would be due to offensive content or derogatory marks towards another commenter.

      Others downvoting or upvoting responses is all community based. Many of which were ill made points.

      I’d also like to point out that the First Amendment only applies to the USA. We’re an international site based within the UK.

  • cutoffslimNovember 22, 2012 at 6:33 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    This was a fantastic read!!! I have both the PS3 and Vita and can say personally that Sony is really future proofing themselves. I have so many games to play that its pretty scary to know that the supporters of Xbox would say that free games as a plus member doesnt compare to having a cross-chat feature on the console. And now if you make a one time payment for a Vita, you have cross-chat on the go! FOR FREE!!!

  • JustaGamerNovember 27, 2012 at 3:21 pmLike or Dislike Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    I also own both a ps3 and 360, I use my ps3 for exclusives and multiplatform games, and the 360 for exclusives and a couple of other games such as Bioshock, etc. I did the Wii too and loved it until third party support went south.
    Bottom line is both consoles are good. It’s personal preference. Many people ask me what console to buy, I measure their needs and advise them. For some Kinect is better, for others Mario, and for some top Exclusives, which the PS3 has more of. True, not everyone can afford both consoles, and neither could I at first.
    I also agree that PSN is better then XBL. When MS wouldn’t let me use the 360 You tube app coz I didn’t have a Gold subscription, it was obvious there is something wrong. I can view you tube for free on so many other devices, so why can’t a silver subscriber get free access. Same for Sky Player.
    On another note, the web browser on the 360 is better then the one on the PS3.
    Get real ppl, this article is an opinion, so don’t hate, express your points. Just coz Master Chief is awesome, and yes he is, doesn’t mean Nathan Drake is any less. Gears is great and so is Killzone. Be Gamer, not a hater.
    When the PS3 first came out, it wasn’t much more then a box to play games on, but gradually via firmware updates and PSN’s improvements, it’s an amazing piece of kit and the blu ray feature is a killer too. I credit Sony for that but I don’t go crapping on MS and so neither should fans of either camp.
    I think I’m done, thx for reading ;)