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Xbox Live Silver Accounts Becoming Second Class 58

Posted by Zonk
from the live-classists dept.
Ben Kuchera, at Ars Technica's Opposable Thumbs blog, points out a troubling development on Xbox Live. While paying members of the service (those on the 'Gold' level) have always had more options than those on the free 'Silver' level, Microsoft is now making that gap even wider. From the article: "While the demos and videos are cool, almost everyone I've talked to about the system sees having an Xbox Live Gold Account as an almost required piece of the 360 puzzle. Those with Silver accounts may start to feel the pinch though, as content is starting to be released that can only be viewed with a Gold account. The first thing? The new Gears of War Trailer." Tycho has some choice words on this development as well. "This is really quite a trailer. The term 'trailer' may even be insufficient. But, um... When you make people pony up for instant access to ads? They might get the impression that you are taking advantage of them. I'm just throwing it out."
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Xbox Live Silver Accounts Becoming Second Class

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  • When you make people pony up for instant access to ads?

    When people want to watch them as badly as they seem to want to. Normally advertisements are a parasitic thing. Apparently this is more than just your run-of-the-mill ad (as Tycho concedes himself)
    • Other outlets... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149)
      Tycho did provide a link [gametrailers.com] to the ad...

      The web makes using content as a lure for subscription somewhat irrelevant and thus a bad idea.
      • by mbourgon (186257)
        Hell - if MS is going to CHARGE you to WATCH an advertisement, then the following quote seems even more apt than before:

        "The American public knows what it wants. And it deserves to get it....good and hard." - H.L.Mencken

        As for me - if I have to PAY to get interested in your product? Then keep your ad, keep your product, and choke on it.
      • by JFMulder (59706)
        Except, the trailer on the 360 is in crystal clear 720P with 5.1 digital surround sound and this is some quarter-HD res with stereo sound. It's not THE real deal.
        • by JFMulder (59706)
          Open mouth, insert foot. I watched the Quicktime version of it and it wasn't in 720P. The Windows media version on the other hand is the real deal. Silly me.
        • Well it just so happens that I (along with most of the people I know personally with 360s) don't have 720p or 5.1 surround. I'm just playing on a standard TV with stereo anyway. I might as well go watch the ad online for free (on a PC with better-than-hi res and 5.1 surround), rather than pay a monthly rate to have the right to pipe advertising to my 'box.
          • by JFMulder (59706)
            I didn't mean that it is right for Microsoft do to it. I just underlined the fact that you were getting a better version of it on the Marketplace. Which for the folk who are lucky enough to have 5.1 surround and 720P is a hell of a deal, because the trailer is terrific. But, if you go to websites like GameTrailers.com or TeamXbox and watch the Windows Media version of it, you'll actually get the hi-def version of it. (I can't vouch for the audio being in 5.1 tough, my computer is not hooked up to my home th
  • Trailer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkNemesis618 (908703) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:36PM (#16614952) Homepage
    If they don't pay, why should they expect access to extras. I mean sure, it'd be nice, but they're not paying for it so what can they really expect. Besides, if they really want to see the gears of war trailer...give it a week, I'm sure it will be all over the internet, youtube, google video, etc.

    I personally think it'd be better to let silver have access, but I guess it's just Microsoft doing business.

    • by kfg (145172)
      Besides, if they really want to see the gears of war trailer...give it a week, I'm sure it will be all over the internet, youtube, google video, etc.

      Whether patience is a virtue or not might well be debatable, but it can certainly save you a lot of money.

      KFG
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by amuro98 (461673)
      While I can understand the idea behind giving extra perks to Gold members, this seems like an odd item to start out with. I would think giving Gold members access to unique downloads for games, or maybe even discounting such pay-for-download items would be a good way to start. But making an ad a "premium exclusive"?

      After all, this means that you will have to pay in order to see an ad. I don't care what the ad is for - it's still an ad.

      Then again, Sony's online plan will require you to pay to download dem
    • Sounds to me like the advertising is only being delivered to people who paid for service, while those who don't pay aren't required to view advertising. Sounds like a pretty twisted reversal of the usual approach, where those who don't pay have to suffer the indignity of perpetual ad-pushing.

      I think it'd be pretty pathetic to pay to see a preview without actually getting real content. It makes about as much sense as paying for a CD case, but not actually getting a disk inside. All the gloss and advert

  • by imidan (559239) on Friday October 27, 2006 @04:43PM (#16615068)

    It's really a similar thing to what's going on with "micro" payments for content. You can make the customer pay more if you make him or her believe that the extra money is actually buying something.

    As an example, I used to work in a university IT department. The administration came up with this plan that basically pitted the various departments on campus against each other for funds, and we had one particular upper management guy in our IT department who went for that all the way. Everything, in his mind, suddenly got this ability to have value added. Give customers a baseline for free, and then nickel and dime them to death with extra levels of service. A 10 Mb Ethernet port? Free. 100 Mb? That'll cost you.

    Invariably, it seems like what you end up with are companies who aren't offering increased levels of service for a small price, but are instead scaling back the basic level so that they can rake in more dough on micro payments without making better or more product. Monthly payments can degenerate to the same kind of deal when there are tiered levels of service, one of them being free. The service provider only has incentive to offer the most basic of features and service for free: just enough to get the customer to see how great the service could be if they paid a little money for it.

    I'm not against micro payments or monthly fees on principle. I played WoW for a while, and never begrudged them their $15/mo. I know that it's the way the industry is going. And it's early, yet, so they don't know how to implement it, and we don't entirely know what to expect. But I suspect that when companies like EA push this far enough, and Tiger actually has to stop at the pro shop and buy a box of golf balls using xbox live points before playing, people are going to start pushing back. Hopefully, things will balance out sooner rather than later.

    • by MBraynard (653724)
      Your analogy fails because other departments in your university probably could not go out get a competitive price from another 'IT department.'
      • by AuMatar (183847)
        And xbox owners can't get another matchmaking service on their xboxes. Sounds equivalent to me.
        • by MBraynard (653724)
          You are being a little absurd, though, right? A university department cannot seperate itself from the university - but a gamer can choose a different system or choose not to play at all and go outside and get some sunshine.

          Also, Xbox (original) could use a Gamespy system or any other similar system to simulate a lan (technical).

          It's a little like the Ipod and Itunes. You can't choose any other DRM system using their player.

          • They could just as easily quit their job and switch universities, or go outside and get some sunshine.
             
            The problem is that they've already paid $400+ for an XBOX 360, and there's no way to switch services. With the PS3 and the Wii unshipped, the only next-gen option is (and has been) the XBOX 360.
            • by MBraynard (653724)
              See, this is why conversations break down. People break their own logic.

              A DEPARTMENT cannot quit a university. The analogy as stated the department as the equivilent of an Xbox users, not PEOPLE working IN the department.

              And yeah, they can switch services. Or use Gametap or the PS2 (has online service) or just any other option out there - arranging games on message boards, etc.

              • by AuMatar (183847)
                ALl of which would require them to toss out a hardware investment. And have totally different games (in gametap's case, its mainly 6 year old games). So no, they can't switch.
      • by imidan (559239)

        Well, not for an Ethernet jack. But for computer support, which also ended up with tiered levels of service, departments certainly could try (and succeed at) finding other vendors to help them out. Unfortunately, xbox owners are not in a position to solicit bids from other service providers. They're locked in to the xbox live service.

        It's Microsoft's right to run their service the way they want, of course. What I'm more concerned about is how this spreads in the rest of the industry. We haven't seen

        • by MBraynard (653724)
          You are being a little absurd, though, right? A university department cannot seperate itself from the university - but a gamer can choose a different system or choose not to play at all and go outside and get some sunshine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jtheletter (686279)
      I suspect that when companies like EA push this far enough, and Tiger actually has to stop at the pro shop and buy a box of golf balls using xbox live points before playing

      Oh my god, shutup before EA hears you! ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hemorex (1013427)
      Well, there is an existing model for using micropayments for access to gaming... ever heard of an arcade? *rimshot*
      • what arcade makes you pay $60 to get in then makes you pay per game?
        There are show like pinballexpo that make use pay to get in but then most of games in there are free to play.
        • My arcade charges you $400 to get in, and then $59 (plus tax) for each game you want to play. It also charges you a monthly fee for watching ads, and additional game content (like armor for horses) and cheat codes are extra.

          But it has high-definition support!!
    • But I suspect that when companies like EA push this far enough, and Tiger actually has to stop at the pro shop and buy a box of golf balls using xbox live points before playing, people are going to start pushing back. Hopefully, things will balance out sooner rather than later.

      Actually, as a gamer I'm not sure I have a problem with that. It would bring back an element of challenge into games, because suddenly you would have real motivation to not loose balls into that lake...

      I know in my heart the idea is
  • Bandwidth isn't free, even for Microsoft.
    • by bryerton (524453)
      And neither is the cost of the game.

      I think I almost would like a world where you had to pay to see advertising... be nice to not see any :)
    • exactly. I fully expect that the only reason MS is doing this is because of the BW costs. They'd have nothing to gain by not providing the trailer if doing to was no cost to them (because the trailer stimulates game sales).

      Paying customers get access to all content. Non-paying customers don't get access to content that burns large amounts of MS's server BW. Why does this surprise anyone??
  • The gap is widening because trailers aren't available without a gold account? Overblown don't you think? When they start to limit the games you can play, then I think we can have this conversation.
    • by Keeper (56691)
      It isn't even that bad. Gold accounts get a time limited exclusive -- Silver users still get access to the content a week later...
  • It's only really an advertisement if it's designed to expose you to a product you've never been exposed to before and get you interested in it; otherwise it's a promotional material, designed to make those who are already interested in it more interested. This may be quiddling with semantics, but I think it's important when "advertisement" is a loaded word that echoes concepts such as inconvenience and marketing.

    Furthermore, if people are willing to pay to see something, it's not exactly an advertisement
    • by cowscows (103644)
      How does "promotional material" not echo the concept of marketing? That gears of war trailer is meant to make people want to buy the game. It's not a piece of entertainment. It's not really informative. It doesn't have any sort of story or lesson. You're supposed to watch it and say, "Wow, that looks really cool."

      It's been a long time since advertising moved well beyond simply creating awareness of a product's existence. Playing semantic games all you want doesn't change the fact that video game trailers ex
  • Just to clarify for those who don't know (the summary is a little misleading I think) the GoW trailer in question will be available to Silver subscribers, it just isn't yet. Major Nelson was quoted as saying that this (delayed access to trailers etc for Silver members) will be getting more common place. I haven't yet seen any mention (other than speculation) of plans to actually prevent Silver members getting specific content, and to be honest that would be a big turn around as MS have consistently said tha
  • EA started this with a pay per view of the developers playing Madden. Microsoft is following the idea.

    To my knowledge they haven't made anyone buy gold unless they want to play online. It's true they now require gold for one trailer, but the way fanboys are salivating after it. I have a gold account, but I use it once in a while with my buddy, it's not required, but it'll be nice with GOW. I just hope more games do Co-op with it.

    Microsoft needs to be careful and keep gold as a feature, not a necessity.
  • long live the free market.

    I am fully confident that plenty of people will laugh at this new tactic, ignore the GOW trailer, and go on with their lives. Who cares if ALL their trailers have to be paid for? I can use one of my free rental coupons at Blockbuster and play the game when it comes out, and see if it sucks; if not, I'll buy it. Who needs the trailer?

    I avoid games that REQUIRE a Gold account to play, and if I need something via Xbox Live, I get live points cards for that. Total anonymity, and no nee
  • .. patches being released first on Gold, and only a week later on Silver. Granted, I'd prefer games didn't need patches at all, but it seems MS are actually letting games be patched via Live.
  • GoW is not really the first content.

    I am 100% positive that there were content that was only available for gold members download back during E3, last spring.
    This news is just really late... By about 6 months.

    Of course all content that was available last E3 has been removed from the marketplace soon after the show's end. I still have some of it's content on my 360's harddrive though.
  • Dude A: Hey, I got an Xbox 360!
    Dude B: Cool, I got one too! Do you have racing game X?
    Dude A: Yeah, I bought it with my Xbox 360!
    Dude B: Cool, log in Xbox Live and we'll race against each other!
    Dude A: Ok... hey, it won't let me?
    Dude B: Dude, you have to have a gold account to play against other people online!
    Dude A: What?! I've been playing non-MMORPG games online against other players for years, WTF is that "gold account required for online multiplayer" crap now? Thanks Microsoft, I'll go play Tetris DS o
  • Sony: Our online service is free!
    Nintendo: Our online service is free!

    Microsoft's response?: Not only do you have to pay for the best parts of our service, we're now going to make you pay for the mediocre parts as well!

    There goes the whole "XBox Live Gold for free in response to Sony and Nintendo" hypothesis...
    • by @madeus (24818)
      Sony and Nintendo do not have an online service for their consoles, while Microsoft launched their service 4 years ago. I'm not sure how you can reasonably interperate that as 'Sony and Nindendo have a free online service', it's only free in the sense they don't exist yet.

      When the other vendors eventually launch online gaming on their consoles (like Sega did with the Dreamcast over 6 years ago, but that Sony and Nintendo both dismissed as irrelevant) or at least talk openly about what they intend to offer,
      • by Senjutsu (614542)
        Sony and Nintendo do not have an online service for their consoles, while Microsoft launched their service 4 years ago. I'm not sure how you can reasonably interperate that as 'Sony and Nindendo have a free online service', it's only free in the sense they don't exist yet. When the other vendors eventually launch online gaming on their consoles (like Sega did with the Dreamcast over 6 years ago, but that Sony and Nintendo both dismissed as irrelevant) or at least talk openly about what they intend to offer
        • by @madeus (24818)
          They ARE talking openly about what the intend to offer

          No they arn't.

          If you disagree, I'd be interested to hear a rebuttle with a detailed description of what both Sony and Nintendo have confirmed about their online gaming platforms. For example, I would love to know more about the friends system, the match paring system, if it has different 'zones' for different types of players, if there will be different subscription levels, and what the abuse mechanism is like (especially if there is no charge for the se

  • At first there were no "gold" or "silver" accounts. There was simply
    X-Box Live and it was widely understood that membership to X-Box Live brought with it
    the priveleges of online play.

    Then Microsoft created a tiered system where users could pay more to access advertisements for new
    games, and pay even more dollars to download 3rd rate games created in 1983.

    The problem is that Microsoft has already made it perfectly clear that new content
    and new services will always represent additional costs. There is no se
    • by Babbster (107076)
      So, let's see if I can understand your point here. Microsoft is bad because they took a service that was only available to people who paid for it, added a whole bunch of stuff, and made those additions (at least in terms of game demos and videos) available for people who don't want to pay for the service. AND, the fact that they did this is somehow a slippery slope towards forcing people to may more for the service, despite the fact that the price for full Xbox Live [Gold] access hasn't changed while free
  • Standing on the virtual curb with their "Will work for points" signs and their tin cups, panhandling for points... :-P

The first version always gets thrown away.

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