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Microsoft's Big Bet on Online Gaming 351

Posted by Zonk
from the my-favorite-place-to-be-swore-at dept.
Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "The Wall Street Journal Online analyzes the prospects of the Xbox's online-gaming component. Analysts say Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions on Xbox Live, with little guarantees of returns. 'It is not clear that companies like Microsoft and Sony will be able to lure large numbers of players -- each has attracted a small fraction of users to online play with their previous consoles,' WSJ Online writes. 'The companies also must be careful about new business models for distributing games -- such as games-on-demand -- so as not to alienate game publishers, who still rely heavily on in-store sales. And games designed for multiple players have a mixed record of attracting customers.' Says analyst Michael Pachter, 'At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ... We play games to escape.' Microsoft's strategy is 'absolutely flawed,' he added.""
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Microsoft's Big Bet on Online Gaming

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  • Um (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Asakusa (941025)

    I don't play games to escape anything. It's like saying "You build model boats to escape from society". That's utter bullshit. Hell, I'll go to a local computer gaming place to kick the crap out of all the people there in Counter Strike as a social interaction.

    Next time someone wants to tell me why I'm playing video games, tell it to my face.

    • Re:Um (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:34PM (#14365553) Homepage
      There was an interesting interview in this month's Maxim with the head game designer at Nintendo (I think that is his title, he is the guy that invented Mario Bros etc.)
      He said the big challenge is that games have become so complex, that there are no casual gamers. That the world has been divided into two types of people: those who play games, and those who don't play games.
      I see his point- I haven't played a video game in years, aside from ones that can be learned in 5 minutes. I just don't have the time to spend hours every day attaining levels and learning complex controls and commands.
      • Don't start now, then :)

        In online games, you can actually lose "levels" if you play poorer that day than your average.
      • I haven't played a video game in years, aside from ones that can be learned in 5 minutes. I just don't have the time to spend hours every day attaining levels and learning complex controls and commands.

        Pick up one of the Katamari games or Rez if you have a ps2. Both are very original (which is lacking in a lot of games these days), simple, and fun.
        • This is the reason I own a gamecube. Games like pikmin are great to just jump in and goof around, and the controls are simple and fun. I doubt they will ever dominate the market again, but nintendo has a neat approach, and are willing to keep making the goofy, fun, easy to get started type of games.
      • I just don't have the time to spend hours every day attaining levels and learning complex controls and commands.

        Didn't you used to do that?

        What has changed with your priorities that now you "don't have time"?

        • Re:Time (Score:4, Insightful)

          by oscarmv (603165) <oscarmvNO@SPAMmac.com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:29PM (#14365937) Homepage
          Life happens. Getting married, having kids, or just having an actual full-time job substract from the hours the young'uns used to spend playing.

          I used to clock at least 15 hours a week in videogames a few years back. Now that I'm married, college done and I have a full time job, I rarely put more than 5. And even though I can navigate my way through most of the hardcore stuff of today, I'm beginning to appreciate more games where the learning curve is well integrated in them and don't take forever to finish.
        • there's this thing called a "wife" and a "baby" that seem to detract from the amount of time that i can stay glued in front of the console (or whatever).

          besides, my 1 year old is far more interesting, and challenging... i mean... i can play with blocks again!
      • Re:Um (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        I see his point- I haven't played a video game in years, aside from ones that can be learned in 5 minutes.

        But that invalidates his point. The fact that there ARE simple, quick games is what makes it possible for people to be casual gamers. There are literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of casual gamers. They play the occasional game on their cellphone while they're waiting in line, and they play sol.exe or bejeweled or alchemy or some other web game periodically.

      • by GFLPraxis (745118) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:54PM (#14366112) Homepage Journal
        Something that isn't even mentioned in the article is this. We know that Microsoft sells the XBox for a big loss- I recall hearing that the number was around $75 per system, initially at launch. I have come to believe that the original plan was to make that money back on XBox Live subscriptions. Think about this- if every XBox user bought Live and paid for four years, Microsoft makes $200 per user just off Live. Heck, if less than half of XBox users paid for a Live subscription and kept it for four years it would pay off the losses incurred from the system. At the same time they could sell a more powerful system for the same price as some of the competition (PS2 and XBox are the same price to this day- interestingly, the GameCube is at a lower price yet is more powerful than the PS2 and sold at a profit).

        Unfortunately, the percentage of users on XBox Live is much smaller (the numbers I hear are 10-20%). Microsoft took a big loss on the XBox. And now they are doing it again, but this time they are trying to make Live much more appealing- with the Arcade and demos and trailers, they want people to be willing to get Live even if they don't want to play any games online. If they can get the majority of XBox users to pay for Live, they can keep selling more powerful systems for losses to keep ahead on the competition.

        Also unfortunately, it seems the competition have other ideas. Sony is gambling that by putting a Blu-ray player in every home, they'll make a fortune off of Blu-ray, so they're willing to sell the PS3 for an even higher loss than Microsoft ever did methinks- even if they take an overall loss on their games division, they'll take the loss and gain total control over the movie market. And Nintendo has the right idea- they said, "You know what, it's stupid to throw away money and sell for a massive loss and lose profitableness for bragging points on who has the most powerful system. We're out of this race- we'll sell a lower priced system with free online play, hundreds of downloadable classic games and a controller that gives you new ways of play. Having slightly better graphics than your competitor isn't so important anymore."



        And to the above poster:
        There was an interesting interview in this month's Maxim with the head game designer at Nintendo (I think that is his title, he is the guy that invented Mario Bros etc.)
        He said the big challenge is that games have become so complex, that there are no casual gamers. That the world has been divided into two types of people: those who play games, and those who don't play games.
        I see his point- I haven't played a video game in years, aside from ones that can be learned in 5 minutes. I just don't have the time to spend hours every day attaining levels and learning complex controls and commands.


        That would be Shigeru Miyamoto. Yeah. He also said in the interview that Nintendo wanted to change all that with the Revolution controller being so intuitive and easy.
        I've noticed that tendency. Games are becoming staggeringly complicated; on some Adventure games and RPG's I'll get halfway through the game before I realize what some of the items I have can be used for. There aren't many games that can be learned in five minutes, except maybe Burnout 3 (that button is accelerate, that one is brake, that on is boost, try to run into other cars, game learned!).
      • Re:Um (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday December 30, 2005 @03:30PM (#14366331) Homepage Journal
        "...those who play games, and those who don't play games..."

        Depends on the game too. I actually mis-read the title of the article at first, thinking it said something about MS using the Xbox for online gambling...which really did catch my eye.

        If there were some way to do gambling online through a video game...man, THERE would sure be a huge revenue stream there. A virtual casio would be pretty cool...a Sims type world, where you can really win/lose money.

    • Re:Um (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hell, I'll go to a local computer gaming place to kick the crap out of all the people there in Counter Strike as a social interaction.

      Yes, you sound like you're very well adjusted socially.
    • Re:Um (Score:2, Interesting)

      by johneee (626549)
      Well, you have to look at who said that: Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities

      What the heck does a Securities analyst know about gaming? Looking at his comments, I'd say not a whole heck of a lot.
    • Different people play video games for different reasons. It was wrong for TFA author to generalize, but I for one do play games to escape.
    • Re:Um (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:38PM (#14365591) Homepage
      Why do you think anyone builds model boats? Because model boats are so useful?

      Most hobbies are an advanced (and not necessarily bad) form of procrastination. It's a purposeful 'doing what you don't have to do' so that you don't have to think about anything that you do have to do. It's an escape. An escape from your life and your responsibilities. Playing online isn't real social interaction, even if playing multiplayer games in the same room can be.

      Sorry, this is as close to "to your face" as I can get.

      • Re:Um (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Asakusa (941025)
        I don't know. I would build model boats because it's interesting. It's the same reason I play guitar, because it's easy to pick up and fun. And I do it after I have done my 18 hours of work that day, so it's not procrastination or putting off of responsibility. I enjoy it. Just like I enjoy gaming. Not because of some psychobabble "I am hiding from life by having a hobby". Not that you are saying that, but this article is.
      • Re:Um (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shy (108614)
        I see your point regarding procrastination, but I disagree with playing online not being real social interaction. There would have to be some set definition of what real social interaction is, for this to be true. Does real social interaction require physical presence in the same area? If so, then talking to your friend on the phone isn't social interaction, and that's just untrue.

        • I would say talking on the phone is a minor form of social interaction, and is no substitute for being in-person in the same room. However, at least then the activity takes the specific form of direct interaction with another person (as in, there is no purpose other than to converse). However, online game-playing has neither the virtue of real interaction (in person) nor direct interaction (where there is no interveining purpose). The only social need it fulfills is game-playing (in the broad sense, that
      • Most hobbies are an advanced (and not necessarily bad) form of procrastination. It's a purposeful 'doing what you don't have to do' so that you don't have to think about anything that you do have to do. It's an escape. An escape from your life and your responsibilities.

        Whaaa-?

        What about people who live lives of leisure, without responsibilities, without having to do anything? When they're practicing their hobby, is it something totally different than people who do have some responsibilities?

        Man, I feel sorr
        • Everyone has responsibilities. Not all responsibilities can be taken care of with money. Not even the most important ones.

          To spend some portion of the day avoiding thoughts of these responsibilities isn't the same as neglecting them. That would be like claiming that you've neglected your work because you've spent some time resting. However, it wouldn't be unreasonable to claim that rest is the thing you do when avoiding activity/work, or that leisure is what you do when avoiding responsibility.

          And by

          • Re:Um (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LionKimbro (200000)
            Proof by contradiction:

            1. Anything people enjoy is actually an escape from responsibility.

            2. Responsibilities are things people do to live.

            3. People live to enjoy life. (Beloved people, beloved works, beloved ideals, sensual & mentally sensual pleasures.)

            4. So the purpose of responsibility is to help you enjoy life.

            5. But there are no joys in life, merely a series of escapes from responsibility.

            Thus responsibility can never fulfill it's purpose.

            What's bogus here is line 1.

            There is joy outside of "escape
      • Re:Um (Score:2, Insightful)

        by toad3k (882007)
        You assume that nothing is gained from a hobby. Imagine if all you ever did was work day in and day out. Most jobs cannot fulfill a person mentally, physically, and socially in a way that will make you into a better person. So you need to supplement it.

        Playing is just another word for training. We are wired to train when we don't have pressing concerns. The only thing is that in this day and age we've replaced a ball and stick with a controller and a mouse in some cases.

        This is just the way I think abo
    • Re:Um (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ectospheno (724239)

      I'll have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that gaming is about social interaction. I have a college degree, a job, a wife, and two small children. I don't get much gaming time but the time I do get is most definitely an escape. Don't get me wrong, I like my job and I love my family. But for an hour or so a night (usually after the kids bedtime) I get to escape.

      Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) my escape is Burnout and I get to drive like a maniac while slamming into other cars. Other times

    • Yeah this comment cracks me up:

      At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ... We play games to escape.'

      Ummmm, no, actually, at the end of the day, I play the game I play because of the social interaction. There's a group of friends I play with and that's how I socialize with them and frankly, the only reason I stick with this game and keep paying a monthly fee is because it's how I hang out with these friends.

      They don't know a damn thing about video games.
    • by XaXXon (202882)
      Amen, brother! Mod this guy all the way up.

      While I was reading this, I was thinking "Who's this 'we' you speak of?" when you say "We play games to escape."

      Tell it to my face, buddy. Preferably after I cap yo' ass with my gat (in a multiplayer game).

  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:31PM (#14365526)
    Machines and 'bots can only go so far to provide a challenging fun gaming experience - witness the number of Quake servers on the 'net at any given time.

    Online gaming is about gaming getting back to it's roots - "me vs. you". Playing against a console is essentially a souped-up version of solitaire. Fun, distracting, but nothing like the rush of defeating an opponent with the same chance of victory as defeat.

    • by Skidge (316075) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:36PM (#14365564) Homepage
      I agree. After I kicked my Everquest habit a few years back, playing single-player games seems to be lacking something. Even playing solo, an online game adds an extra dimension with the random encounters with other players and the background chatter. A single-player game now seems to me to be very quiet and isolated. Sometimes that's a good thing, but being online with other players can add more depth to a player's experience.
      • Very true. I'd be an instant convert to online gaming if:

        A) There were no monthly costs, just the purchase fee
        B) You could still play the game in single-player mode (with the same character) if the company pulls the plug.
      • Depth? You mean power-levellers, spoilers, ragers, OOC people, haxx0rs? Yeah, that's a layer of depth.

        I play on-line shooters like ET and BF2 because real people do indeed add tactical depth (plus the smack-talk is more satisfying), but for RPGS, I'm solo only because 1) no monthly fees, 2) "emergent" online play is used as an excuse by the developers to avoid having story and content, 3) online RPGs have all converged to the same thing, and 4) I play when I feel like it, I don't want to wait around for a
      • After I kicked my Everquest habit a few years back, playing single-player games seems to be lacking something.

        It was sometime in the early 80's when I played two games regularly - Ultima III and Quest for Sorcery. Ultima III is easy enough to understand / look up. Quest for Sorcery was a multi-player text adventure ran on Major BBS systems (the system I played on had 8 lines). Quest had no stats - your ability to interact within the world (and even combat other players) was entirely based on your knowl

    • Yeah, plus it's just not satisfying saying "HAHA PWNED!!!!11``oneone" to your Xbox.

    • Quite true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)
      All skill level concerns aside, there's just something more fun about knowing you beat another human being. Often the humans I play online are inferior in skill to the bots in the game but I still have more fun at it.

      Also, for many people social interaction is not an insignificant part of online gaming. I left a guild in World of Warcraft because it became in essence a big support group. Not what I was after, but there were plenty of people who liked it that way.

      All I have to say to this idiot author is "Bl
    • This seems like a great point, until you note that all this service appears to do is match players together. If you have a Quake server (and Quake is the game you want to play), you don't need them.

      I don't have any examples available because I'm not actually a gamer (it's the social interaction aspects of this story that interest me), but aren't there a lot of free web sites that promise to bring gamers together? Why pay $50 a year for this?

      D
    • Online gaming is about gaming getting back to it's roots - "me vs. you". Playing against a console is essentially a souped-up version of solitaire. Fun, distracting, but nothing like the rush of defeating an opponent with the same chance of victory as defeat.

      The problem lies in the skill level of "me" and "you". Battlefield2 not only had a steep learning curve for the game itself, but I got on a couple of months after launch and I was faced with guys that were very difficult to beat. I got creamed left an

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What a load. I guess he never played Battlefield 2. The social interaction against real humans vs bots is crystal clear to me. This seems just another MS slam article where something obviously not true becomes true becuase it is associated with MS. Yet another proud achievement of the Slashdot editorial stance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:32PM (#14365533)
    3.5 million customers x $15/month is nothing to sneeze at.
    • That's exactly what I was going to say. The WSJ is completely wrong to think that just because online games on consoles haven't been big in the past, they won't be big in the future.
  • The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its online service, Xbox Live, analysts say.

    I'm not sure how they spent such a large budget, considering what they have built. Skype and Flickr for example were each built for a small fraction of that.

    • It says hundreds of millions for its online service- not just the network. I imagine they include marketing expenses etc in that...
    • VOIP can tolerate a bit of lag, a bit of latency - for online gaming you want an incredibly efficient network which will let your reflexes be the limitation in game pace, not the network. For flickr it's a non-issue. Xbox live also has to support a more complicated environment - game rentals, voice chat, a TOS abuse warning system, many games, game matching systems, etc etc etc. When they built skype, they only had to do one thing - make voice work.

      Plus, on launch day xbox live needs to be damn well test
  • by MikeD03C (766484) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:34PM (#14365552)
    I would have to completely disagree with the idea that people play games to escape. Gaming, especially for younger people, is a hugely social thing. Walk around a college campus in the dorms and you'd be hard pressed to not find a multiplayer Halo game going on. While some may use games to escape, I think the trend is towards social gaming.
    • I agree completely...you go around a college campus and you will plenty of students playing multiplayer games (primarily Halo). Last year at times I would see cabling going from a window on a 3rd floor in a window on the 2nd of an apartment building in order link up xbox's so 8 people could play halo.

      Playing single player versions of games are fun and a good way to learn the game and storyline. However, it can only take you so far once you complete the game. Not to mention after playing the game for a pe
    • by Anonymous Coward
      At all ages, at all walks of life, gaming suits different needs for different people; and can suit different needs for the same person.

      Look at it this way:

      Single player gaming is like reading a book. The experience is entirely your own and no one else messes with it; if you want to be the 'death dealing priest' no one yells at you "heal me you nub!" because it is your world (and your rules).

      Local Multiplayer is like watching TV (in particular a sporting event) with a group of close friends; you share the ex
  • by shinma (106792)
    And how many people play World of Warcraft, again?

    Right. No money to be made in the online gaming market.
    • You have two very different types of gamer demographics: MMO players and console gamers. MMO players tend to dedicate massive amounts of time to their game (tend to... there are a few exceptions). Console gamers... while some do play a lot many are casual or play in bursts. Consoles let you do that. You can save your game, turn off the console and walk away. Also bear in mind until just recently consoles did not allow for networked play, much less internet play.

      I think microsoft will be successful but the
      • Re:PC vs. Console (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aredubya74 (266988)
        Consoles and PCs are entirely different media setups, and generally encourage different types of gaming.

        In my experience, the vast majority of consoles in family homes are hooked up to the biggest TV set in the household, be it in the living room or family room/den. These are generally shared, communal spaces, with competition for screen time an issue (whether it be for watching cable TV, a Tivo'ed program, or console playing). The joysticks are the input devices that games are built around, which allow for
  • by shy (108614) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:35PM (#14365562) Homepage
    The only game I play that isn't about playing with other people is Civilization IV. Otherwise, every game I enjoy has some element of either a) competition, b) cooperation, or c) both. Counter-strike, WoW, etc, would be the most prominent examples for me.

    If people don't play games for social interaction, why is the chat screen constantly rolling on most multiplayer games? Why do people join clans/guilds/etc? How do you organize a 40 person raid on an imaginary dungeon? I can't get 40 people together in real life, but I can in a game. And that's not about social interaction?

    • Just gotta poke fun ;)

      If people don't play games for social interaction, why is the chat screen constantly rolling on most multiplayer games?
      People like to talk trash, clearleh.

      How do you organize a 40 person raid on an imaginary dungeon? I can't get 40 people together in real life, but I can in a game. And that's not about social interaction?
      It's all about the phat lewtz!
  • Microsoft Wallet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Generic Guy (678542) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:37PM (#14365573)

    I've said before, I'm concerned about Microsoft's huge push into "online" with the new 360 console. Its way too soon, and they seem to be trying to tie everything about Xbox into the "Live" service. If it isn't already obvious, this is Microsoft's attempted way of extracting monthly revenue out of their customers. You can see it in the way they are now re-attempting to push web services like Office Live and .NET.

    Microsoft wants that monthly charge, from everybody. But they are pushing way too hard with this generation of console, especially since they never garnered more than 10% or so of original Xbox players. We should rename Live to MS Wallet, or more specifically MS Hand In Your Wallet.

    • Haven't people been yelling at Microsoft to become more service oriented? Maybe everybody will be happy when Microsoft decides to do and sell everything for free. Everyone except the stockholders. Will the Microsoft haters of /. please decide what they, reasonably, expect from Microsoft, because I am really getting tired of the automatic bashing.
    • "If it isn't already obvious, this is Microsoft's attempted way of extracting monthly revenue out of their customers."

      Oh. dear. I had no idea.

      How awful.

      I quit... Do you hear me, Gates? I QUIT!!!

      Taking money from customers - what will we think of next?

      "You can see it in the way they are now re-attempting to push web services like Office Live and .NET."

      Uh... .NET isn't a web service. If you're going to slam our stuff, you could at least get your story straight.

      "...they are pushing way too hard with this gener
  • Social gaming... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:37PM (#14365583) Journal
    I've got three teenage kids who will sit for hours, if I let them, on XBox Live and chat with friends while playing Halo 2, America's Army and other "team" games.

    When not on live, they also browse MySpace and usually are chatting with IM clients. Yes, they get outside plenty. When you live up north (northern hemisphere) and it gets dark less than an hour after school gets out, going outside to play isn't an attractive option.

    Instead of having to have multiple phone lines, or even cell phones for the kids, they all chat with friends -- local and long distance -- via XBox Live & IM.

    Microsoft is spot on and when looking at new consoles next year, the question will be does the PS3 and Revolution have a good online community and voice chat? If not, XBox 360 it will be.

      -Charles

    • Charles, I believe you are correct on all counts. I think if people look past anti-m$ sentiment for a second and examine some facts, the "analyst" who wrote this article could not be more dead wrong. Here are some facts:

      No one really knows how many people were on xbox live with the original console. And anything as far as information gathered on it was little more than speculation, as Microsoft (like many others) did not release subscription numbers as far as I can remember.

      Secondly, the "big push" is indee
  • I never understood the popularity of online gaming. MMORPG, which cost $XX/game + $YY/month, isn't worth it to me. The only times I've played online was against my friend in an RTS. Halo was a lot of fun playing multiplayer, but we all played on the same console. It was a lot more fun sitting next to your friend as you blast him and talk smack instead of sitting alone in your room playing against strangers.

    I guess that's just me. I like to escape from the Real World (TM) when I play a game and get im
    • "It was a lot more fun sitting next to your friend as you blast him and talk smack instead of sitting alone in your room playing against strangers."

      Yes, this is very true. I got into FPS's with Goldeneye for N64, playing with 3 other friends.

      The problem is that you can't always find time to get everyone over to one physical location to play a game, even if all of your friends can play at the same time. Online gaming solves this problem as you get to play with your friends (and perhaps new friends), without
      • The HUGE plus (and I guess you don't get this), is that by playing your friends online, in say Halo 2 (or any FPS), you get your own FULL screen, not split screen garbage. With games using snipers and improving graphics, it helps to have your own full screen to see things.

        I'm aware of a full screen, but in my priorities, being physically next to my friends > having a full screen. Yeah, the sniper part is fun. We'd stare at each other's quadrant of the screen to find out where they are and try to zap t

  • Analyst on drugs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by demachina (71715) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:41PM (#14365610)
    "Says analyst Michael Pachter, 'At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ... We play games to escape.' Microsoft's strategy is 'absolutely flawed,' he added.""

    Wow, this "analyst" just shredded his credibility with that whopper. He is obviously extrapolating HIS gaming experience to EVERYONE. Blanket generalizations are almost always wrong. He should probably buy a copy of WOW, Battlefield etc, install a copy of vent and come to grips with the fact that millions of people are playing games precisely FOR THE SOCIAL INTERACTION.

    Its a simple fact of life that AI's in games are still generally weak and playing against a computer quickly gets old. There is way more satisfaction of beating other human beings than in beating a mediocre AI.

    The sweet deal about games like WOW are they are a constant revenue stream of people paying monthly subscriptions versus the boom or bust cycle of sell a box in the store, get a bunch of revenue and then go dry for years while you develop the next one. This is the dream revenue model for companies like Microsoft because it pleases Wall Street to have consistent revenue streams... if your game doesn't suck.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Blanket generalizations are almost always wrong.

      No they're not.

    • Blanket generalizations are almost always wrong
    • "Blanket generalizations are almost always wrong."

      Yours is an exception, I suppose :)

      "Wow, this 'analyst' just shredded his credibility with that whopper."

      Agreed. The thing that I don't understand from TFA is just how it is that he's supposed to know anything about what gamers want. In other words, how is he an authority? If there was a bio, I missed it.

      I'd also be interested in seeing the data he consulted to arrive at that opinion. It sounds a bit more like armchair psychology to me than an informed, numb
  • by tacokill (531275) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:41PM (#14365614)
    I think I see what he is saying by the last sentence in the summary. I, too, have noticed a focus on "social interaction" stuff lately. Chat, messages, etc. While these are valuable for strategerizing and chatting with friends in the game, I don't go online to dink around and "chat" with strangers. Not to say that I don't talk to strangers -- I do. But I don't look to make new friends or anything and it seems like a lot of these services are aimed at linking people in a social way. As in -- meeting new people and making new friends.

    The difference is subtle but there. When I game, the chatting, etc is pertinent only for the game. If I want to meet new ppl or find a date, I go elsewhere. Taking my online gaming and trying to make it a "social interaction" *IS* the wrong approach.

    And I think that is what he is talking about here.
    • "Taking my online gaming and trying to make it a 'social interaction' *IS* the wrong approach."

      That's a pretty heavy statement, and I haven't seen a convincing argument in favor of it (certainly not from the article).

      While the social interaction might not appeal to *you*, it clearly appeals to others. I've been spending a couple hours each night on Xbox Live, and I'm amazed at the number of people who just want to start conversations while racing around in PGR3. It's odd, to be sure, when you meet up with s
  • by neo (4625) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:42PM (#14365623)
    This is the exact system that Microsoft wants to use for it's other applications. They want you to buy Word monthly, or yearly. They want you to pay for a service rather than "own" the program. Briliantly they are testing the idea in their lackluster gaming system before moving it over to their applications.

    Next you're going to see an application "Office 360" that replaces your computer desktop and only allows you to do your desktop job... one ap at a time.

    Brilliant.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday December 30, 2005 @01:42PM (#14365625)
    This article really sheds light on a fundamental dichotomy : hardcore gamers versus the rest of the public. As I'm sure most slashdotters will post here in a second, online gaming CAN be and generally is far more engrossing and much, much harder than any single player game. Online is also much more technically complex which is the real reason why it's only recently come to consoles : you need a voice chat or keyboard, and to get the kind of smooth gameplay console players are used to you need broadband. So to hardcore gamers like us, there's not even a second's thought : the vast majority of the games in the xbox lineup will be more fun online, if the game is written well enough technically to support it. (for instance, games like Gears of War will probably be a lot of fun Co-op if that game supports it smoothly)

    Further, WoW/other MMORPGs and the Battlefield series I think offer some of THE most intense gaming available in any form, anywhere. No console solo or online game or PC game can really touch the intensity and complexity of these games. (and the difficulty level, especially in Battlefield. Even n00bs shoot me down and gun me down every 5-10 kills I get, which is a far harder game that most solo ones)

    But the regular public, the joes on the streets who buy game consoles by the millions and make up the "average", fat, T.V. watching, braindead gameplay game playing, Geography ignorant, stereotyping and racially biased, Americans? Who the hell knows what sort of trash they'll really buy. Unfortunatly for us, they make up the real market that Microsoft needs to make money from, and it seems that Microsoft, composed mostly of top C.S. graduates, thinks more like we do.
    • Oh yeah, Forgot to add : Britney Spears listening AND buying. I mean even I couldn't help but notice that the music executives had picked a pretty hot, underage at the time, blond girl from a hick town to be their poster star, and had underdressed her and put her in some pretty suggestive songs. But I'm not among those MILLIONS of fools who paid at least 15 bucks for a whole cd of this! Some did it more than one time.

      Course, *cough*, I have blown a lot more than 15 bucks on graphics cards I didn't really
      • Oh yeah, Forgot to add : Britney Spears listening AND buying. I mean even I couldn't help but notice that the music executives had picked a pretty hot, underage at the time, blond girl from a hick town to be their poster star, and had underdressed her and put her in some pretty suggestive songs. But I'm not among those MILLIONS of fools who paid at least 15 bucks for a whole cd of this! Some did it more than one time.

        Err.. she's kinda homely. I mean her body is okay but her face is nothing to write home abo
        • Uh...yeah...you forgot to mention she's a multi-millionaire. You know you'd trade your left nut to be in Kevin's place (heh, with a girl that fertile you only need one anyway...). I would.
  • "'At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ..."

    I personally play ONLY games against/with real people like Counter-Strike multiplayer,
    single-player is not for me, playing against "bots" is a dead-end play, I never play single player games.
    Online gamming is the next logical step. Microsoft is on the right track.
  • In the old days we would compete in sports, in activities outside involving endurance and training. Microsoft realizes just because people don't get out as much, they still have the desire to compete. They are providing an arena to bring people together to challenge each other and see who is better. Yes it is a social situation, but do you really ever know somebody named PIMPN8EZ? The more exciting you make it, the more games they sell. We are all addicted to anything that makes the heart go faster. H
  • Few things here - first off, men generally don't game with the intent of social interaction - they do however tend to play online because human opponents offer a different challenge to bots and scripted encounters.

    Second, the terrifying success of WoW, Everquest, CoH, etc. would suggest that games with some basis in social interaction are actually mind bogglingly popular.
    Also, as a vapid generalisation, you tend to see women playing games with some degree of focus on social interaction. (I was going to u
    • "I was going to use the Sims as an example here, but a moment's thought reminded me that the Sims is actually just an extension of the doll principle, having nothing whatsoever to do with social interaction"

      Exactly, and The Sims: Online was a horrid failure because of the "doll principle."
    • Second, the terrifying success of WoW, Everquest, CoH, etc. would suggest that games with some basis in social interaction are actually mind bogglingly popular.

      Not Necessarily. Especially when you take into consideration the PvP focus of WoW (and EQ, if you are playing on the PVP servers). Havent played CoH so I can't comment on it. I'm a highly antisocial gamer, I play all my MMO's prettymuch solo save for any real-life friends that I know are playing. MMO's are about dominance especially now with WoW
  • This forum has a fairly skewed opinion since we are all mostly tech geeks. We like to play multiplayer games. Unfortunately the "VAST" majority of gamers do not. only about 10% of Xbox owners ever redeem their free live subscription. The other 90% either can't or don't care for playing online. the pattern is similiar for the number of warcraft III players online ect... People just don't want to play other people that often.
  • by acvh (120205)
    "'At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ... We play games to escape.'"

    at last, a validation of my dislike for online gaming. i'm inherently antisocial, and absolutely game to escape.
  • XBL (Score:2, Funny)

    I feel that XBox Live is for very young children and just-made-it-to-teenager's. Every time they use the talk function they sound prepubescent or 5 years old. My roommate plays a lot of Halo 2 on Live, but he's nowhere near as good as those 5 year olds. I think it's awesome that preteens have a safe place to go to kill eachother for a modest monthly fee. WTG MS!
  • Michael Pachter is absolutely flawed. I don't even buy single player games anymore. I've done nothing but multiplayer gaming since 1997. (QW: Team Fortress)

    Sure console players are a little behind the curve, but they always are. Now that Xbox live has given them a taste of the good life, single-player console games will start to rapidly lose their draw.

  • 'At the end of the day, we don't play games for social interaction ... We play games to escape.' Microsoft's strategy is 'absolutely flawed,' he added.""

    Yeah, if you focus on online play you'll only end up with an itty-bitty niche market. An online game might have to struggle with a measely 5 million players [blizzard.com]. Truly online gaming is doomed.

    One can make many reasonable arguments against Microsofts investment. I do agree that single player games will continue to be a major force. But online play can cre

  • Why do mainstream publications keep going to Michael Pachter for information. I don't think the guy has ever been right in his industry predictions. He is one of the many completely clueless analysts that just don't understand the industry and the people that make and play games.
  • The people who currently play online games don't need convincing to play online games, are relatively few in number (compared with computer users who don't play online games) and the market is crowed. What MS and everyone else wants is to snare the people who don't currently play online games, and it's a fairly good bet that continuing to offer the same sort of games that have failed to interest them so far is not going to suddenly start to interest them in the near future. Increased social interaction is o

  • My father and stepmother are complete and utter technophobes. Their computer is spyware ridden, I wipe it every 6 months, you know the drill. BUT they have an xbox, they play xbox live, and chat on the headset with players they compete against. To me, this is vastly unnatural (parents playing xbox, including xbox live, and set it all up by themselves). Their PC is still F'ed, but they were able to get "right to the gaming" with XBOX. I applaud MS for this. They are doing something right. And my grandma will
  • I get so tired of MS bias tainting stories. Exactly how is MS's bet on online gaming flawed? Simply because it MS and not Google?

    Blizzard has 5 million customers paying $15 per month for a very minimal development cost.

    SOE had 500K to 1 million players paying $12 for EQ for a very minimal investment. SOE also had 6-7 expansions during that period at $20-40 per.

    Project Entropia is merging online and real world economies into a solid revenue stream of in-game virtual product for real dollars.

    IGN and many oth
  • Very shortsighted (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Neopoleon (874543) on Friday December 30, 2005 @02:45PM (#14366040) Homepage
    What many people seem to be forgetting is that current generations of kids are interacting in a way that's totally different from what many of us experienced growing up.

    If you had told me when I was a kid that I should be chatting with friends through VOIP while playing Space Quest, I don't think I would have given you the time of day. In fact, I'd probably try to urinate on you or something. It just wasn't part of my world.

    Now, though, kids spent a *lot* of time getting together online - through IM, myspace, games, and other technologies. It's a fact of life for them, and it's only going to grow for the coming generations.

    To say that the strategy is "Absolutely flawed" is to look at one segment of the gaming population without considering where *everything* is trending, and that's toward online activity.

    I've seen a lot of arguments here of the "Well, I don't like the idea, so it must suck dog balls" variety, but you have to remember that there is a universe outside your own - there are plenty of people who *do* live huge chunks of their social lives through online interactions.
  • by x.Draino.x (693782) on Friday December 30, 2005 @04:07PM (#14366585)
    How well did Doom 3 do this year compared to Half-life 2/Counterstrike Source? Doom 3 did not fair very well. Sure, everyone was excited about Doom 3 and it's singe player mode was fun, but once you beat it - the game was quite boring. The multiplayer aspect was well below par. Quake 4 was supposed to change that, but it doesn't seem to have taken off either. Multiplayer > Single player. period.
  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Friday December 30, 2005 @05:05PM (#14366978)
    Honestly, there's just no way to make a machine as complex as a console anymore without being able to issue updates. Heck, even the launch GAMES are buggy as crap (PGR3 awarded me -250,000CR for winning a series just last night). So you're going to have to have online capability for the consoles. And you're going to have to be able to send out code over it.

    The stuff they did is just an extension of that. Once you can download code and content, why not put some stuff up for free publicity? Once you already sell "track packs" (see PGR2 on Xbox), why not sell entire micro games?

    You're gonna want to update the "BIOS" on the machine to thwart modchips anyway...

    All this came more by necessity than anything else, and so I fully expect you'll see similar stuff from Sony, who isn't otherwise known for being keen on online. Heck, they'll have to send out patches to fix their BluRay video player ability, since it's going to be just about the first one of its kind and complex as heck (it uses Java!).

    We also expect Nintendo is going to do this too, since they said the "Revolution will be infinitely backwards-compatible". They meant that it will play NES, SNES and N64 games. Well, it doesn't have 3 cartridge slots on it, so where will the game ROM images come from? Answer, they'll sell them to you again over the internet.

    It's just business in today's world. MS isn't really striking out much or taking much of a gamble.
  • by bergeron76 (176351) on Friday December 30, 2005 @08:03PM (#14367934)
    It means, BUY BUY BUY.

    It's kind of like how Real Estate agents describe shitty houses: Clean Home, Great Schools!

    There's ton's of codewords out there folks. The fun thing, is outing them!

"It's like deja vu all over again." -- Yogi Berra

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