Australia’s largest developer, Krome Studios are bringing a new concept called “Game Room” to Xbox Live, as news slowly starts being drip fed through to the media. The service will allow users to create their very own retro arcade and is coming our way in spring; in fact it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the PlayStation Home-style arcade.
The idea is that users will create their very own virtual arcade and invite their friends over to play, meet, chat and maybe even compare bragging rights. Upon launch we are told to expect thirty old-school games, and the added bonus of all the titles enjoying voice chat and online leaderboards which will link both Xbox 360 and PC users.
Microsoft said:“The new Game Room on Xbox Live, will be the place to relive the glory days of arcade games, with over 1000 games being released throughout the next three years”. Upon seeing early footage it does look good and there is something quite cool about you and your friend’s avatars wandering around the arcade you have just built but is there a catch?
The price for your virtual enjoyment has recently been announced and I must admit to feeling more than a little disappointed. Playing a game will cost forty Microsoft points (MSP); that’s thirty-eight pence in real money, but it is more expensive to own an arcade because, although the space itself is free, each game cabinet costs two hundred and forty MSP (£2) or four hundred MSP (£3.40) if you want it on both PC and Xbox 360.
I don’t mind paying for gimmicky virtual fun that I can enjoy with my mates but my first impressions from the press releases is that it’s a little on the expensive side for old arcade games. If I were to walk into an actual arcade in the real world, would I really pay to play games such as Asteroids? Probably not.
On paper it almost sounds like a strange hybrid of Second Life and Playstation Home, but what I struggle to understand is that people spend over $1.5 billion on virtual items every year; on pets, themes, avatar clothing, and now arcades; all items that don’t actually exist. In fact, these virtual objects are nothing more than a series of digital ones and zeros stored on a remote database somewhere.
Do not ever underestimate the power of the media. Imagine sitting in a room with a bank manager ten years ago, saying your business model was selling and marketing goods that don’t actually exist. No matter what your opinions are on the subject you have to admit that it has turned out to be an incredibly workable business model.
Who am I though to lecture you all? I’m just as guilty as I am ashamed to admit that I paid a few quid for a few ready designed and maxed out cars on Forza 2 a few years ago on Ebay. I must also question the logic of choosing prestige mode on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2; after all what do you get for losing all of your guns, kill streaks and classes by starting the multi player component all over again? Yep, that’s right, a different medal next to your name. If you were to seriously think about it, it’s madness to trade in hours of gameplay for a medal but guess what? I still did it.
There seems to be a market for Avatar based games if the Xbox Live Arcade and Indie games charts are anything to go by and the official trailer does make it look quite exciting.
Many of you will look at this and instantly think of Playstation Home, where you can play the games for free so it’s disappointing to see Microsoft expecting gold subscribers to pay for old games that are not selling on Xbox Live Arcade especially when Aaron Greenberg, a senior manager with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 games console division, said that Home, a Second Life-like virtual universe available on Sony’s rival PlayStation 3 console, doesn’t broaden users online experience.
It’s hard to imagine anyone seriously wanting to pay four pounds for the privilege of playing Centipede in a virtual arcade after spending forty on an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Maybe I am being a little harsh here, as only a limited amount of details have been revealed at the moment but despite my gripes with the project, I will no doubt be seen building my own virtual arcade this spring along with everyone else.
What are your thoughts? Will you be building your own Arcade? What games will be in it?