How long has the current gen been current? We stand now on the precipice of a new generation in gaming, and always-online seems more prevalent than ever. Thanks to services like Steam, Origin, and Xbox LIVE, gamers find themselves connected to each other and games in new ways. I'm not just talking about multiplayer or anything, because as we all know, these services -- free and paid -- provide so much more than just a means for playing online.
With the next-gen Xbox (a.k.a. the Durango) reveal just a day away, let's focus on Microsoft's wildly successful Xbox LIVE service. This reveal will be the Xbox brand's leap into next-gen, making it the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to show off what they've got in store for LIVE. With this in mind, I turn to the community and ask this very simple question: what do you want from Xbox LIVE?
Now, I'm not the pickiest person in the world. Usually. So when it comes to my personal wants, the list doesn't stretch very long. I've had Xbox LIVE Gold for years now, maybe since 2006, just for Halo and Burnout. Over time, that library expanded, and Xbox LIVE continued to evolve alongside my gaming tastes. Unlike most everyone I speak to, I never had any issues with the major visual makeovers, and I've had few complaints that I can really recall. Oh, I've got my gripes. The recent Kinect-centric one could use some tweaking, and Avatar items are way overpriced. Microsoft's focus on turning the Xbox into a broader entertainment machine may also be cause for worry, namely due to a concern that they might shift focus away from actual games.
That's a concern I can relate to, as someone who uses Xbox LIVE primarily as a gaming machine, to play games on and interact with other gamers. Okay, so I watch DVDs on it too, and I know enough people dig the Netflix service. I'm not saying services and apps should be done away with, especially with how much I've been using the Twitch.tv app for League of Legends streams, but the gaming aspect should be prioritized.
Oh, I've already got a few ideas for how the LIVE service can improve. I should probably mention that all this pertains to Gold membership, since that's the paid version.
1. Game of the Month program.
How about some more of this? I'm actually thinking of PlayStation Plus and Sony's free Game of the Month perk, because that's absolute genius, right there. Let paying consumers have a chance at scoring some freebies, which really aren't 100% free in the end, because we're still paying a monthly/annual subscription fee.
2. Avatar store sales.
The little things matter, and those "little things" ought to include a better Avatar Marketplace. Oh, don't laugh. You care about how your Avatar looks as much as I care about mine. I mentioned already that I find most of the Avatar content overpriced, sure, but their pricing wouldn't be nearly so bad if Gold members could get some proper discounts. I'm not asking Microsoft to lower the prices on a permanent basis. No, I understand the need to make money, especially if there are users out there sticking to Silver. But for those of us who shell out an annual subscription fee, getting a better deal on this sort of thing would be pretty great.
Heck, how about some free Avatar items? Can't imagine that hurts anyone's bottom line too much, especially if they're a limited offering and go back to being paid after a period of time.
3. DISCOUNTS! All the discounts.
This goes with what I just talked about, but in a broader sense. Hell, we're forking over $60 a year (standard, anyway) for the ability to game online, which competitors already allow at no extra cost. How is Xbox LIVE to compete? Give us some more of those sweet-sweet discounts. More games, more DLC. Offering more subscription discounts would be amazing, as well. It'd certainly boost Microsoft's bottom line, too, because few consumers out there can resist any sort of ad with the words "X percent off!"
Microsoft should also push more aggressively to have service providers offer more deals, maybe monthly or periodic specials for Gold subscribers. I understand they also want to make money, so making services completely free to Gold users probably won't fly with the likes of HBO or any third-party provider. Not to mention things can get complicated when licensed content (i.e. music) comes into play.
4. More services.
Speaking of services, how about more of these? Granted, this is just icing on the cake, because I'm fairly certain Microsoft is already actively working on bringing in more services to LIVE. I was pretty dang excited about the recent addition of Twitch.tv, which I've been using more than any other third-party app or service on LIVE.
Twitch is also a favorite of mine because it's actually, well, gaming oriented. Netflix, Zune, and HBO Go are all well and good, but general entertainment shouldn't completely overtake Xbox LIVE. That's really a major reason I'm so excited for Twitch.tv -- it's actually relevant to my interests.
Modern gaming is pushing consumers forward with all new ways to connect. Yes, that sounds completely hokey, but it's also true. Still, consumers are a wide-ranging and fickle bunch, and just because one person wants something doesn't mean we all want the same thing. At the end of the day, however, no one wants to be nickel-and-dimed.
So all that said, I leave the rest of this discussion to you, readers. What would you like from Xbox LIVE? How would you improve the service?