Since Microsoft launched Xbox Live, people have been happy to subscribe to the service at a run rate of about 44 Million subscribers. Xbox Live have become a lucrative business which helped solidify it as the premier online service. But since Microsoft extended the service to PC and Mobile devices, Xbox users have vocally proclaimed that they should not be ‘forced’ to pay to support other devices.
Xbox Live is required on Xbox One and Xbox 360 to play online and access certain feature sets like Party Chat. Microsoft recently allowed that users can access Netflix outside of this paid subscription, and was lauded by users who only use the box as a Media Entertainment system. With the ongoing outages this week, users have become even more vocal about the need to abolish the service because ‘they don’t know why they’re paying’.
So why are you paying for this service? Xbox Live Gold have been sold to gamers as a service that allows you to gain access to dedicated servers for your games, which were increased to 300000 when the Xbox One launched. It also allows you to have unlimited Saved Game storage, so that you don’t have to keep local backups of your files. Microsoft also offers you 4 free games and some of the biggest discounts on games each week.
For instance, on Xbox Live on PC, you do get access to the Party Chat system, and access to some dedicated services when it comes to games launching on Windows 10 (Gears of War Ultimate comes to mind). But what sets the service apart on Xbox One, is the fact that you don’t get free stuff and massive discounts. In the last year Microsoft offered over $1000 in free games to subscribers, for a nominal $60 fee (in my case $30). As an incentive to subscribe this is quite the incentive.
But with ongoing outages (which isn’t that often), gamers have become weary about why Microsoft isn’t fixing these issues. Well it’s simple really, no service online can stop online attacks (more commonly known as DDoS attacks), unless you really want the service to become as slow as dial up. A DDoS attack works when the attacker launches a campaign to increase the packet request rate of double, triple, or quadruple that of which the service have been prepared for. Microsoft and other companies (Steam included) ensures that they’re prepared for 1.5 times or up to double the traffic in most cases. No company expects to have 100 times the traffic in a short period of time (say 30 minutes), and that is when the service goes down. To be prepared for an attack of up to 100 times would put unneccesary financial strain on the company in question, as they would have to increase bandwith and even build bigger server farms to manage this, which in turn would do nothing for the majority of the time (money in the drain).
Some have called that Microsoft unbundle Multiplayer from the subscription requirement, but this will just exacerbate the situation. If Multiplayer were to be unbundled, it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to not offer dedicated servers for games outside of a paid service (which is currently the modus opperandi on PC). Thus, forcing them to unbundle it, we’ll be stuck with Peer to Peer Halo games, which would be utterly terrible.
Yes, outages suck, and the Head of Xbox continually apologizes for these issues. This is a service that should work 99% of the time (and it does), but demanding even more free stuff because you happened to not be able to play your digital game during one of these attacks for up to a day wouldn’t fix the issue in any way. The continued negative spin on the service by gamers only increases the chances of a DDoS attack in protest.
And even if Xbox Live Gold were completely struck off the roll, and dedicated servers became a paid service, you’d still have DDoS attacks taking down the service.
Xbox Live Gold is still an exceptional service that warrants the meager $60 a year. For the price you not only get Dedicated servers on most of the exclusive franchises (if not all), and over $1000 in free games a year. If you really think about this, are you really paying anything? My bank charges me $10 a month in fees, but I get $20 to $30 back in loyalty credits, am I really going to complain about the ‘exorbitant fees’?
I guess the only way forward is to offer Dedicated servers to Xbox Live Gold subscribers and Peer to Peer for Silver members. I am all for choice, and a choice for a worse online experience is in order for those who still believe they’re being ‘fleeced’ by Microsoft because PC gamers don’t have to pay for non-dedicated services. But will offering this choice really make life easier for gamers in general? Because then you’ll have to segregate the community because some believe they shouldn’t be ‘forced’ to pay but then demand that they receive the same service and experience that those who do pay receives. Sounds very much like Gaming Socialism to me.