Xbox Support Sets the Standard

I had a relatively simple question about my Xbox Live account, earlier today, but the answer just wasn’t clear to me. So I hopped on the online and asked the support rep. I had an answer within minutes and was on to the next thing. Mark was a big help. But it got me thinking… I’ve contact Microsoft’s support team a few times in the last few years, and every time they’ve been a huge help. All too often when I call one company or another for support, they find a scape goat. “It must be your internet connection,” they’ll say, or “have you replaced the batteries?” I’ve been asked. Whether it’s for a few hundred dollars in a game console, or thousands of dollars on an enterprise server, I have to work with tech support all the time, and the Xbox Support team continues to deliver the best experience. Continue reading “Xbox Support Sets the Standard”

Xbox Live vs. PSN: you get what you pay for!

My head just hurts, sometimes. Whether it was this weekend’s Belicheck’s Bad Decision, or problems in the video games industry, I just want to lock my doors and hide sometimes. Infinity Ward Community Manager Robert Bowling says that the Playstation Network collapsed under too many players in Modern Warfare 2. He explained in multiple Tweets that they had to bring more servers online, supporting 20,000 users at a time. Even Glenn & Mark over at PS Nation Podcast spent more than a couple of minutes venting about the problems. My biggest complaint is that the folks at Sony clearly had no idea this was coming.

Even Sony is so used to their attachment rate being so low that the glorified BluRay player stigma has even reached into the depths of their PlayStation Network operations center.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s people were on hand and watching the numbers climb, they were prepared, and they set the record of 2 million concurrent users on Xbox Live. Two million people using one unified service at one time. Meanwhile, the PlayStation network experienced so many problems that they had to start enabling extra servers. Go green as much as you want, but you didn’t think that maybe you should have had those servers online in preparation for such an event, then toned down the extras later?

Sony just proves, time and time again, that they are racing to play catch up with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. Just weeks after announcing the Netflix Disc, Sony has confirmed that t heir next Firmware update will include a standalone Facebook program. Great, they get to mimic one of Xbox 360’s least demanded features, good for them. Oh, I’m sorry, when was the feature demanded since the 2007 launch, cross-game chat, coming to the PS3? Oh, right, it’s still not. It is even to a point where, even as a PlayStation 3 owner, I’m genuinely disgusted with their service. I don’t care how tired this argument is, I’m going to state the simple fact again. If it would make it better, CHARGE ME FOR IT! People are ready to take that hit, it’s obvious.

Sony passes up a gigantic revenue stream in favor of trying to look like Mr. Nice Guy. While Xbox Live costs $50 annually, and games like World of Warcraft end up costing their players a minimum of $150 each year, Sony insists that they should remain free, but it is obvious that this budget minded plan is only hurting them, and if they want to be taken seriously as anything more than my BluRay player, Sony is undoubtedly going to have to step things up in 2010, or pack in the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Network and start laying all new groundwork to make the PlayStation 4 regain the pride the the Sony PlayStation name once carried.

Xbox 360 to get Streaming TV in the States? In the works!

Xbox owning Americans have been thrilled to enjoy the benefits of Netflix on the Xbox 360’s. Soon we’ll get some streaming music with the Last.fm service, as well as lots of social networking addons this fall. Still, we’ve seen a lot of jealousy when it comes to Sky TV in the United Kingdom.

While we have no clue as of a timeline, it’s clear that, for about a year now, Microsoft has been working with AT&T in North America to look at the possibility of bringing AT&T’s U-Verse TV to the Xbox 360. Why do I say it’s been in the works for a year? Because nobody at Microsoft would even MENTION it if it was supposed to be a super-secret. If they’re talking about it, it must be coming along. So, even though we haven’t heard anything like “we’ll see it this holiday season,” like we expect to see the other social networking addons, this was clearly far enough along that Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment &Devices Division, felt comfortable enough to talk about it clear back in April of 2009.

Well, there you have it. Nothing to worry about, right!? We’ll have TV streaming to our Xbox 360, perhaps as early as 2010! I’ve never used the AT&T U-Verse TV service, I don’t know how much of my television it can provide for me, but it sounds like a start! A lot of people still believe that a Hulu player, with no additional subscription fee, would be a great addition to the Xbox 360, and I agree. But until then, at least we can recover from the thought that we would never have anything to compete with Sky TV. Microsoft’s next secret weapon to make the Xbox 360 everyone’s “home entertainment device” of choice is clearly being worked on, and will hopefully be available by this time next year!

Reminder: Xbox Live Down June 16 '09


Awesome? Yes. Xbox Operations Center? No.

Yeah it’s old news, but I figured now was a good time for a reminder.

From MajorNelson:
On Tuesday, June 16th from 7:01AM UTC (12:01 AM PST) for up to 24 hours, Xbox Live will be offline for maintenance. As a result, Xbox LIVE and the ‘My Xbox’ section of Xbox.com will be unavailable, and the Xbox forums will be in read only mode (you won’t be able to post.)

The remainder of Xbox.com will be available with limited interruptions.

This service maintenance is to prepare for some of the recently announced features that will be available later this year.

Let me reiterate: When the service returns, you will not have any new functions or features. This is for scheduled maintenance only.

Xbox Live currently has 52 Billion Gamerscore

The sound, familiar to us all, the beloved “ba-loop” of the Achievement Unlocked. I’m not the only one who never gets tired of the rush, who doesn’t tire of watching my Gamerscore grow. In an April 1st article on Gamasutra, Aaron Greenberg, director of product management at Xbox said that an approximate 2.5 Billion achievements have been unlocked, leading to an estimated 52 billion Gamerscore points.

I don’t necessarily think it’s a bragging right, or it makes one gamer any better than another. But I do love the gamerscore races, challenging my friends unlock specific achievements. And, as a friend and I have discussed, in prior console generations, we used to make up similar challenges. Particularly in Xbox Live Arcade titles, pacifist style achievements like those seen in Geometry Wars Evolved, or killing three pterodactyles in Joust – these were the kinds of things people have been coming up with for decades. It adds just another reason to keep playing a game, or to try a game you’ve never played. The addiction takes hold when you find yourself simulating 30 years of Madden 2006 for two hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Others are trying to emulate it, now, but I have not found myself as enthralled with my PS3’s Trophies… yet.

PSN's 20 mil. vs. Xbox Live's 17? Not Impossible…


The friendly banter that generally goes on between the console giants went strangely awry this week. VideoGamer.com (currently under the microscope for a recent Resident Evil 5 article, where a proclaimed “expert” had no experience in the topic of discussion) has posted an article in which an Xbox UK rep dismisses claims Sony has made that they have topped 20 million members on the Playstation Network, while Xbox Live sits at 17 million. Xbox Live isn’t just tied to the Xbox 360, it goes back to November of 2002 when it launched on the 360. To my knowledge, the account database has never been purged, therefore all accounts from November of 2002 are all still there. And Sony is saying they’re already at the 20 million mark? Perhaps there is an error in their aggregator and it’s an honest mistake, but I agree with Microsoft’s Stephen McGill, it seems little suspicious.

While other sites point out the obvious, like 21 million PS3s sold should not translate to 20 million PSN accounts, or perhaps the fact that the PSN is free could lead to muliple registrations, I have a few other points to bring up. As was addressed on one other website: Xbox Silver is also free, and of the 17 million accounts, Silver members are “accounted for.” Yes, PSP owners may have multiple accounts on each console – one for each friend, several for various region to download items from the various stores, and in some cases, it was simply easier to say “nah, I don’t like that name any more” and switch to a new one. When the Xbox 360 had “Gamerscore” that you wanted to keep, it was cause for a lot of people to change their gamertags less often.

Still, 20 million members in only about 2 years? One reason the higher number could be the 50 million PSP’s that have been sold, now having access to the PSN. This has been overlooked by every article I have read on this topic thus far. It’s quite simple to imagine users flocking to the free service when provided to them wirelessly, anywhere they go.

I’m a little unsure, myself, as to how much I believe the numbers, and how much it is a marketing tactic… but I don’t find it quite as impossible as the majority of other bloggers I’ve read this week. What’s your take? Leave a comment or visit the WinBreak forum.

Wii Community still coming?

While sony continues to litter the pool of SKU’s for the Playstation 3, launching the 160GB model this week, I decided to look for a story online that didn’t make me roll my eyes. The closest thing I could find today was this column-sized article on Gamepro, where Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime talks about how unique that the currently non-existent Nintendo Wii “Community” could be. I still rolled my eyes, because Nintendo still seems a long way from matching up with the offerings of Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.

Wii Speak is a nice start, but Nintendo is a long way from actually giving me a true “community” feeling on the Wii. Other channels provide a level of interactivity, like that in the “Check Mii Out” channel, but until Nintendo provides me with an easy to manage friends list and easier multiplayer options, I’m afraid they’re a long way from the community that I really want to be a part of.

It's announced: Scene it Box Office Smash (and NXE?) 10/28/08!

On October 28, 2008, “Scene It? Box Office Smash” will be released. The game that is supposed to involve heavy use of the “New Xbox Experience” and the Avatars has been dated. Does this mean the “NXE” will debut before then? Or will it come later, along with a title update for the game to add the enhanced feature? Only time will tell, but this has been the title people have been waiting for to confirm the arrival of the NXE!

Depressing Reminder: Xbox.com down for maintenance.


I nearly forgot that today was the day that Xbox Live was to be down for a backend update. Luckily, I just picked up Metal Gear Solid 4 to keep me company for a few hours after work, not to mention that both Heroes & a Pittsburgh Steelers game will be on TV tonight!

If that’s just not enough for you, Xbox.com came up with a funny list of the Top 10 Things to do while Xbox Live is offline… including tips like 9. Play through the story-mode of the original “Gears of War” so you have a story refresher before “Gears of War 2” launches in November. Practice your Roadie Run. A preview of “Insider Moves” to come? 😉

Sadly, you’ll even notice the “My Xbox” section of Xbox.com is offline. I guess I’m going to have to keep myself entertained chatting with folks on other sites, like Unscripted 360.

The Xbox Live Police

I’ve never been huge on just linking off to other people’s sites, I really like to provide good analysis and news updates of my own. You know, unique content (what an idea, right?). But this article is just a bit too good to pass up.

Kotaku is running a story on The Xbox Live Police – the people working behind the scenes to make sure that, when we file a complaint, Xbox Live users can get their just desserts. Operative word being “just.” Sure, everyone has filed their share of complaints, but these are the people who take them seriously.

From the article:
Any complaint that’s not a duplicate, however, gets looked at. Every single one. In many cases, the violation is clear, and they can move on to any possible punitive steps. But for others, things can get messy. Where does good-natured [smack]-talking end and genuine offensive behaviour begin? Just because someone finds something offensive, does that mean it is offensive?
…Keep reading on Kotaku.