I've recently started playing Burnout Revenge
and Rainbow Six Vegas
over Xbox Live, as opposed to just playing the single player story mode, like I've always done with my games. It's a lot of fun, and a completely different experience than playing against computer opponents. There's nothing like teaming up with a bunch of other guys and taking on another team in an online shooter or the thrill of winning a race against a lineup of human opponents.
My time on Xbox Live has also made me think about how and why the original Xbox, and to some extent the Xbox 360, became synonymous with first person shooters. Before Xbox Live, you could invite a few friends over and play Halo 1
on N64 with four-player split-screen, but it still felt limited. You were stuck with your own quarter of the screen, and everyone could see where everyone else was.
That all changed with the launch of Xbox Live in 2002 (the first broadband-only online matchmaking service for consoles) and the release of Halo 2
in November 2004. Now you could have 16 person battles against fresh competition whenever you wanted. You could team up with your friends and take on others, or just join an open game and have a free-for-all against everyone else. Microsoft had the perfect pack-in game to go with Xbox Live too, with Crimson Skies
As Xbox Live matured, we found that certain game genres were enhanced by online multiplayer - shooters, racing games, fighting games, and sports games, while others weren't affected - RPGs, platformers, and single player action adventure games (like Ninja Gaiden
). This might explain why the original Xbox became known as the console for shooters. Microsoft's emphasis on online multiplayer led to developers releasing more games in the genres that were improved by it, and this in turn led to more gamers playing these games over Live. In contrast, Sony's Playstation 2 only has limited online capability, and more of an emphasis on RPGs (especially Japanese-developed ones), platformers, and action adventure games.
Now, let's fast forward to the first year and a half of the Xbox 360. Microsoft designed the conosle with Xbox Live as a major feature, but they've also made a strong effort to get developers to release games in genres that aren't affected by online multiplayer. Games like Dead Rising
, and upcoming games like Mass Effect
, will help make the Xbox 360 a console with a more well-rounded game library. So in the coming years, we can expect to continue to shoot, race, and fight each other over Xbox Live, but we'll also be able to take in a game with a good storyline and a long adventure.