I have a few mixed feelings about the XBOX 360. I don’t care that they decided to launch it on MTV, or that it’s breaking the “traditional 5 year console life cycle”, and I am impressed with the hardware specifications. However, what concerns me is the increased dependency on Microsoft as a sole service provider and the long-term plans for the XBOX platform.
XBOX 360 is a means of getting people onto XBOX Live. Microsoft gives you a single gamer tag for all your online games. This gamer tag is stored on a Microsoft server somewhere where I assume they monitor your browsing, music, and gameplay preferences to build a profile to sell you (and people like you) more things. Aside from the “big brother” aspect that may put off Linux geeks and conspiracy theorists, there is another big negative implication.
How much is your gamer tag worth? Let’s say it stores your ranking and everything you own in every online game you play. That’s the whole world to a hardcore gamer and probably many hours to a casual gamer. Who owns your gamer tag? It’s held by Microsoft. It’s in a proprietary format. You can’t take it with you to other platforms. If game progress and reputation are the only currency in the online gaming world, Microsoft is the central bank and the only way to access your account is through the XBOX platform.
Microsoft isn’t the only player in online gaming, but they clearly hope to be, with all games required to store their information in a Microsoft format on a Microsoft server. This is exactly why EA supported the PS2’s online model and took so long to finally offer support for XBOX Live. XBOX may aim to change the world, but some things won’t change: Sony makes hardware, Nintendo makes games, and Microsoft makes monopolies.