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Blogs of Rage #1 - Console Multiplayer - Let My People Go

Can someone please explain to me why PS4, Xbox One, and eventually the Switch, cost money for multiplayer? I understand the short-answer is simply money, but let's sidestep that reality and ask the simple question: what exactly are we paying for?

Servers? Get real. If you're playing an EA, Activision, or any 3rd party game for that matter, how much of your subscription fee do you think goes to these companies so you can play on their servers? If you guessed $0.00, then congratulations! You too are thinking like a greedy corporation. I hate to be giving sympathy to these developers as they aren't exactly angels either, but nevertheless, let me reiterate, they don't get any cut of your subscription fee. Compare this to the PC platform, which is also hosted on the developer's servers, and the cost is again free. So let's get this straight: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo want me to pay them to play on someone else's servers, that they in-turn don't pay for, nor does the actual host of the netplay request payment either. Makes perfect sense. Think of it like this: If you live in or near a large city, you may be aware of a similar scam where someone stands outside of a parking lot located near an event, say a concert, and then pretends to be a parking attendant for the lot, happily collecting tolls from his/her hapless victims, while in reality the scammer has no relationship whatsoever with the lot and its actual owners. The crook simply pockets the money and escapes while the hapless victims inevitably get fined and/or towed for illegal parking. Can someone please explain to me how these subscription services are different, because I honestly cannot tell the difference.

Community interaction? Get the hell out of here. Public chat rooms for these platforms are simply put - terrible at their best, and depending on the game and community, will make you question whether or not humanity is worth continuing at their worst. Not that I am prude, but even I have my limits when it comes to having my sexuality questioned by mouthy 14-year olds. As a grown man in my thirties, I am at an age where even dignifying the vapid comments from the seemingly endless supply of knuckleheads polluting these services is something I simply don't want to bother with. I'll admit that the quality of the members is not really the fault of the platform holders per se, but then again, it's not like they do all that much to promote a better community either.

Free* games? Again, get real. By 'free' games, they mean just as long as you keep a paid subscription with their services. The second you let that subscription lapse, they remove your licenses to said games, thus making them unplayable. How generous of you. That's not a gift - that's extortion. Imagine for a second that kind of backwards gift-giving if applied to other businesses, like the hospitality industry. For instance, I am aware of several hotel chains that give frequent travelers a complementary stay if they meet some threshold regarding individual visits previously paid to the chain, say book 10 nights and get the 11th night free. Typically, there are no strings attached for that 11th night, aside from checking out by the requested deadline, leaving a credit card on file for possible damages, etc. Now imagine that same scenario, but this time, in order to redeem my 'free' 11th night, I first had to pre-pay for a 12th night. If that happened to you, you'd cry bullshit and file a false advertising claim with the FTC that day. Yet, this kind of deceptive practice is unfortunately the new norm with console multiplayer. Frankly, it's disgusting and these mega corporations should be ashamed of themselves. I hope all of their spouses cheat on them, citing they thought it was acceptable because they haven't bought them anything recently. And yes, I am aware that at least on Xbox Live, the backwards compatible 360 games remain playable even after your gold membership expires. I am sure this is due to some complicated technical reason vs. charity though. Still, how much would it cost these companies to just let us keep the games permanently? Forgive my ignorance, but license-wise, I assume Sony and Microsoft paid the game's publishers for each copy claimed by a member; not each time the game is booted. Assuming that's true, that would essentially mean, despite the game being paid for, the service providers refuse to let you play them because...spite? Sure seems like it.

In fact, let's discuss the quality of the 'free' content provided to subscribers. At least to me, the vast majority of the 'free' games these services hand out seem to fall into 3 categories - those being borderline shovelware, financial flops looking to recoup at least some of their development costs, and finally, those that are well past their expiration date. For example, I can remember Microsoft offering a Tron game, Peggle, and one of those souless Army of Two games last year. Who exactly finds these trinkets desirable, or even relevant for that matter? Would it kill these companies to offer something a little more in demand, like an up-and-coming indie title, or a known classic like Megaman 9 instead? Doesn't anyone have SNK Playmore's number? Give everyone games like Metal Slug XX or Garou: Mark of the Wolves. People would actually thank you for a change; I know I would.

Chat quality and connectivity? Now you're just trying to aggravate me. Someone explain to me how Microsoft, the actual owner of Skype, cannot get voice chat to work. How is that even possible? I cannot tell you how many times during my membership with Xbox Live that I could not connect to one of my friends, or encounter situations where one of us could hear, but not speak to the other. Here's a real gem - have you ever had your chat echo so that it repeats each and every sentence you say, except that it is on a 10-second delay, thus preventing you from ever holding a conversation beyond quick, 5-second intervals? Have you ever wondered what a stroke sounds like? Well, it's probably similar to that. What's odd is that the desktop version of Skype is typically excellent in regards to quality and connectivity with multiple parties, to the point that my friends and I starting using it vs. the in-house version used on the consoles.

So in summary, I don't expect any of the above companies to change their ways. I let my membership lapse about 1 year ago and I don't regret it. Maybe if enough people follow this example we can force a policy change, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Even if you are not into PC gaming, you can still netplay thousands of classic games with your friends for free via other methods, like RetroArch. Value-wise, you can't beat that.


Emulate This is not affiliated or endorsed by RetroArch, Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony, nor were we compensated for this article either.

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