Microsoft Gamefest

I’ll be up in Seattle starting tomorrow attending the Microsoft Gamefest. Microsoft is rumored to be revealing some elements of their upcoming Panorama service – described as Live for Windows, in some form or other. I definitely believe they’ll be showing off something. We’ll see how much of that Live functionality they’ll be bringing anytime soon. What’s especially interesting to me is the pricing question. Are PC gamers ready to put up some money for access to a gaming environment like Live?

Live on the Xbox is a fabulous experience – seamless, simple, and (relatively) secure. I have far more fun playing on Live than any other multiplayer system, with the exclusion of our office LAN (can’t beat smacktalk down the hall to the boss). The ability to more accurately rank players, and then place them against players of similar skill with immediate voice communication and easy friendship making is really a powerful combination.

I’m actually of the mind that a big chunk of the PC gaming community will be willing to pay for that experience, once the early adopters get in and start spreading the word. Will they be willing to pay $5 a month? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a deal on Xbox, but with services like PlayLinc coming down the line to provide free servers (in exchange for watching 30 second spots each time you launch) on the PC, and so many existing services for staying in touch with friends, downloading content, etc…it’s a much tougher sell. But throw in the matchmaking and ranking, global leaderboards, and some other gaming-specific services (voicemail? email? web services designed as well as Xbox Live, but implemented on any platform?) and it starts to look a lot more interesting.

Of course, they’ll probably have a free membership level which gives you access to at least some of the community for free. Friends list, text & voice communication, access to Arcade downloads, etc – almost a certainty. So those somewhat diminish the value of any pay service. But access to the leaderboards and playing against friends on a 360 from the PC, including matching against people of my skill level, high speed servers, in-game access to a whole slew of services…I’d probably be putting in my credit card.

Anyway – if you’re going to be up in Seattle as well, drop me a line.



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