Xbox Live drawbacks
Microsoft has not made any mistakes in architecting Xbox Live, and no weíre not being paid by Microsoft to say that. If every time you signed up for broadband, you received a headset microphone and there was a magic switch to prevent cheaters from ruining your game, youíd be excited. If youíre new to a game and only want to play against other novices, or are a seasoned gamer and want true competition, you can do that. Thatís not something unique to the Xbox, but itís certainly a feature we can all appreciate. The ďproblemsĒ with Xbox Live have less to do with the architecture and principle of the network.
Pay twice to play
The first problem is a philosophical one: Xbox Live costs $50 for the first yearís subscription; most PC games can be played online for free, and current PS2 online games are free. This of course, is only a disadvantage from one perspective. A subscription-based service means that Microsoft now has a greater responsibility to keep servers running and operating efficiently. Microsoft also has the power to do this. Still, weíre not going to try to rationalize the fee Ė we would all prefer a free Xbox Live to a fee-based Xbox Live. The question is if a fee-based Xbox Live is superior to free PC gaming or (currently) free PS2 online gaming.
From the lens of objectivity, for what Xbox Live is offering, the service is appropriately priced Ė itís just a question of whether or not you need the extra features. For example, if you only play online once a month, then Xbox Live isnít for you. If you enjoy using aimbots while playing Counter-Strike, or alternatively, killing opponents who are using aimbots with pure skill then the features arenít something you want.
On the other hand, if youíre interested in the online community that Xbox Live promises, and youíre playing frequently, then $50 is a bargain for the service. Things work as advertised. I havenít come across anyone who is obviously cheating. Itís easy to find other players and join a game. The voice-over-IP technology works.
The analogy would be buying a Logitech or Microsoft mouse instead of a generic one. Itís impossible to demonstrate the need for a higher-end mouse just as itís impossible for us to demonstrate the need for a subscription-based online gaming network with all of the fixings. This doesnít mean that all Logitech/Microsoft mice should be the same price as a generic one or that Logitech/Microsoft are ripping you off.