LIVE, but offline – is it good enough?

On September 29th, one week ago, Xbox Live was taken down for scheduled maintenance, with the aim of upgrading key infrastructure in preparation for the New Xbox Experience later this year. The maintenance occurred mostly as planned; there was a two hour hiccup which prevented the service resuming at the dead of midnight, but Xbox Live head Major Nelson kept users updated through his official blog.

However, on October 1st, many users worldwide began experiencing a variety of Live issues, with no apparent rhyme or reason: laggy gameplay, match drop-outs, downloads halting and sign in attempts failing. Whilst some claimed that they were having no problems, forum threads popped up across the Internet (even here on Ready Up) from angry users, detailing the trouble in full. Although the situation was resolved on October 2nd, an announcement was conspicuously absent on Major Nelson’s official blog, despite updates on maintenance progress appearing on his Twitter feed.

But I wanted to download Braid!

But I wanted to download Braid!

Of course, this downtime has fuelled the ever present debate of whether we should be paying for Live at all. Sony is definitely late – by all accounts they should have had the structure in place from launch of the PS3 – but they’re finally starting to offer a comparable service to Microsoft in the form of the PlayStation Network, and it’s free. It is hurt in that it lacks the centralised and standardised structure that Live has, but it offers Trophies (Live Achievements!), the PlayStation Store (Live Marketplace!) and multiplayer matchmaking (Live Gold subscriber only!) with merely minor bugs.

I should make it clear that I think Xbox Live is an excellent service. I grew up with PC based services such as the MSN Gaming Zone (rockin’ some Dark Forces II). To see that quality of friend, profile and chat features be extended and integrated into Live as standard is fantastic. As far as I’m concerned, right now, I believe the annual £39.99 Live Gold fee (which can be had for just over half that amount with some sharp shopping) is worth it for the online experience you’re given.

Home, whenever it arrives, may or may not add value to Sony\'s network offerings

Home, whenever it arrives, may or may not add value to Sony’s network offerings

But with Sony slowly creeping up behind, will these network problems make current Live Gold subscribers question the fee in future? I guess Microsoft’s New Xbox Experience and Sony’s upcoming Home might go some way into answering that.


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12 responses to “LIVE, but offline – is it good enough?”

  1. CrunchbiteJr (John) avatar
    CrunchbiteJr (John)

    If Sony can produce a comparable service for free then Microsoft have to consider their fee. I don’t mind paying the fee, and I don’t consider downtime to be abhorrent as a fee payer (it happens) but the competitor aspect could force even this reasonable fee down.

  2. Tony avatar
    Tony

    For the casual gamer the PS3’s online service is brilliant. My fiance only plays online occasionally so £40 a year isn’t worth it. However, she likes to drop in on a game of Warhawk occasionally, which she just wouldn’t do if she had to pay.

    But the voice chat and invites cross-game are features which are essential to getting a few friends together in the same game, which is why my GTA night (tonight at 10pm) is always on the 360 and not the PS3!

  3. Emily avatar

    I’m satisfied with the free option of PSN. Yes, there are things that can be improved, but I’m happy with it.

  4. Dave (a different one) avatar
    Dave (a different one)

    I actually find it quite hard to explain. I own a 360 and a PS3. I WANTED a PS3, but they were so expensive and the game selection so poor that I bought a 360 as something to use for the time being. I was only recently that a PS3 joined it.

    The odd thing? I’ve had 3 360s so far, due to the red rings happening twice, yet I still have more allegiance to the beast than the PS3. I just don’t find the PS3 satisfying and I can’t explain why. It’s not just the achievements (although I do enjoy them), there’s just something more solid about the feel of the whole experience. Yep, PS3 is catching it up, but it feels increasingly like “me too”.

    Sadly, I know I’m not alone. I know 2 other people who own both consoles yet spend most of their time on the 360. It just feels like Sony are a bit directionless and struggling!

  5. Donna avatar

    I finally recently bought PS3 after finding a 60GB version. I don’t have a 360 subscription, I think it’s a rip off. I can jump on my PC and play online for free. Just gotta find a good UT or Quake server.

    For years FPS servers have existed without people having to pay for them. Surely a multi-million dollar company like Microsoft can host servers. If Id Software can find a way, then I think MS can manage.

    I personally prefer my PS3 now that I have it. Free online play and a superior network adapter have won me over when it comes to the two networks.

  6. Anthony avatar
    Anthony

    I remember playing SOCOM on the PS2 online and then I remember the first time I played online with the Xbox. The two experiences were worlds apart.

    Even today I believe the Xbox Live gaming experience is the most integrated, pervasive and accessible service currently available; just look at our scores on the homepage.

  7. Simes avatar

    I think the most likely outcome of PSN being “free to play” is that game servers will get taken down once sequels come out or games are no longer deemed to be profitable. Somebody has to pay for the costs involved in running them, after all, and there don’t seem to be enough ads around the service at the moment to cover those costs.

    I also think that Microsoft won’t be able to get away with their current model for online for much longer. I think the price of Live Gold will drop or possibly even disappear altogether, but I suspect that if this does happen we might see more ads about the place. Again, servers must be paid for.

    “Superior network adapter”? You mean “it has wifi”? Because as far as I can tell, they both have holes on the back which network cables go in, and both these network adapters seem to work with my network just fine.

    Wired better than wireless. It’s faster, it’s less prone to interference, and it’s *way* more secure.

  8. mraz avatar
    mraz

    Yeah after 9/29 XBL has been a little funky at times. I haven’t logged in since 10/1 in fear of the unknown.

    I think XBL Gold is reasonably priced. An annual XBL Gold membership in the US costs $50(~£28). But, can’t beat PSN’s price of FREE.

    Seems like everyone that owns both consoles favors gaming on their XBox more, as do I. Makes me wonder what kind of volume(# of users) each network receives. That might be what is driving the price of the service.

  9. Tony avatar
    Tony

    Dave (a different one) says: “The odd thing? I’ve had 3 360s so far, due to the red rings happening twice, yet I still have more allegiance to the beast than the PS3. I just don’t find the PS3 satisfying and I can’t explain why”

    The curious thing is that I am exactly the opposite. I prefer playing PS3 and I can’t explain why. Box noise and the controller are the rational reasons that spring to mind, but it’s not just that, I can’t put my finger on it.

  10. Michael avatar

    Is £40 a year really that high a price to pay anyway? I suppose it is if you’ve played PC online games, as Donna has; you mention having to find a good server while doing so – is it not the case that that is typically good on XBL?

  11. Donna avatar

    Simes I have had no end of troubles with the network adapter in the 360, both wired and wireless. It drops out on me every 10 minutes and has jsut been a total pain. Even borrowed a friend’s wireless adapter to see if my was jsut being picky, same problem. There’s obviously something wrong with it. But I’m not going to return it to MS just so they can send me a refurb back.

    On the other hand, the PS3 and Wii both have been flawless with their wireless network adapters. Never a problem or glitch.

    As a side note, I’m not against paying to play online. I play MMOs also. I chose to compare to Quake and UT though because a large number of games played online on the 360 are FPS games.

  12. Simes avatar

    Thank you for clarifying.

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