The Xbox Live Marketplace (XBLM) is a virtual market designed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console that allows Xbox Live members to download purchased or promotional content. The service offers movie and game trailers, Video Store, game demos, Xbox Live Arcade games, Xbox Live Community Games, Xbox Originals, downloadable content such as map packs, gamer pictures, and Xbox 360 Dashboard themes.
The Spring 2007 update to the Xbox 360 Dashboard relocated the Marketplace to its own "blade" in order to bring more attention to the service and make it more accessible to users.
Microsoft Points are used as currency in the Xbox Live Marketplace, which includes the Xbox Live Arcade. These points may be purchased with a credit card through the Xbox Live Marketplace, or redeemed from gift cards purchased at retail locations. Microsoft Points are universal across the globe, and their use allows content to be priced independent of actual currency, eliminating conversion factors for every purchase. The current exchange rate is 80 Microsoft points to one U.S. Dollar.
Xbox Live Arcade
The Xbox Live Arcade service was re-launched beginning with the release of the Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005. The Arcade service is integrated with the Dashboard user interface, allowing for distribution through the Microsoft Points. Arcade titles on the Xbox 360 support accurate and up-to-date leaderboards, with high scores linked to a player's Gamertag. Players can see where they stand in the Xbox Live community, take a look at the records set by the world's top-ranked players, or see how they match up against individuals on their friends list. Titles can also contribute to a player's Xbox Live Gamerscore.
Xbox Live Community Games
As part of the New Xbox Experience launched on November 19, 2008, Microsoft launched Xbox Live Community Games (XBLCG), a service similar to Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA), but with a few important distinctions:
- Community games are "developed by the community"; for $99 a year, anyone can become a member of the "XNA Creators Club", and develop community games using the XNA programming library for Microsoft Visual C#. Finished community games are playtested and reviewed for content by other XNA Creators Club members, and once they pass review they become available on Xbox Live Community Games to the general public.
- Community games are priced between 200 and 800 Microsoft Points. Community games can not be given away for free via Xbox Live Community Games, and any game over 50mb in size must be priced at least 400 Microsoft Points.
- Community games binaries must be no more than 150mb when compressed into a ccgame package.
- Community games do not have achievements or leaderboards, and are not listed on a player's "Gamer Card".
- Community games' "trial modes" are limited to no longer than eight minutes. After eight minutes, a community game will pause, and a notification will appear telling the player that (s)he will have to purchase the full version of the game to continue playing. This limit is imposed by Microsoft, and can not be controlled by game developers. Prior to December 19th, 2008, the time limit was only four minutes, but this was doubled due to feedback from players and developers.
The most expensive XBLCG production on record is Biology Battle, which cost in the area of $100,000 to create. While this is in stark contrast to the shoe-string budgets of most other XBLCG titles, it is extremely low compared to professional studios creating games on the Xbox360 or XBLA.
As the majority of these titles are casual titles produced by 1 or 2 hobby developers, their relative simplicity and low quality have invoked the ire of many game critics. Though some titles such as Weapon of Choice and Biology Battle have earned Metacritic ratings demonstrating a level of quality on par with full XBLA games.
A current list of all Xbox Live Community Games can be found in the "Community Games" section of Xbox Live Marketplace.
On December 4, 2007, Microsoft launched a new download service titled "Xbox Originals", which allows Xbox Live users to download Xbox games directly to their hard disks. The launch games for the service were Halo: Combat Evolved, Fable, Psychonauts, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex and Fuzion Frenzy. In Japan, a different set of launch games were released, including Puyo Pop Fever and Magatama.
The Video Store (originally Video Marketplace) is an online service operated by Microsoft that is used to distribute television shows and movies to Xbox 360 owners. The service was launched in USA on November 22, 2006 via Xbox Live. Initial content partners include Paramount Pictures, CBS, TBS, MTV Networks, UFC, NBC, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Other movie studios have since supported the service including Lionsgate Films and Walt Disney Pictures as announced at E3 2007. At CES 2008, MGM, ABC, the Disney Channel and Toon Disney announced their support for the service. At the present time, the service is available to users in the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, France and Germany.
Various films and TV shows are available for purchase in the Video Store. TV shows will be saved permanently while movies are only "rentals"; they will become unwatchable 24 hours after initial viewing or 14 days after purchase.
At launch, the Video Store encountered widespread problems such as lengthy download times, duplicate billing for the same content, and downloads that could not complete, or for which users would have had to repay to complete.
On March 6, 2007, the South Park episode "Good Times with Weapons" was available for free download; however, this episode was free only for the HDTV version until April 3, 2007. Starting on March 13, 2007, all episodes from South Park's 11th season were offered uncensored. Also, starting on July 26, 2007, the pilot episode of Jericho was available for download free of charge for both the Standard and HD versions.
On the web
Xbox Live Pipeline was a Flash-based website launched on October 12, 2006 that allowed users to view content available for download on Xbox Live from their PC. As of the beginning of 2007, the Xbox Live Pipeline website redirects to the standard Xbox site, which now contains most of the functionality of Pipeline.
The Marketplace Ticker is a replacement for the now-defunct Xbox Live Pipeline. The Xbox Live Marketplace Ticker allows users to view the latest demos, trailers, "gamer pics", themes, games, TV shows and movies. The ticker displays the availability, price, and information of items that can be downloaded from the Marketplace.
Most complaints and criticisms leveled at the Xbox Live service concern the Xbox Live Marketplace. Specific areas include the following:
Problems with replacement consoles
Per Marketplace design, the digital rights management license for downloaded content is tied to both a specific user, as well as to a specific console. This means that to access the content, the user either needs to be signed on to Xbox Live using their Gamertag, or be playing on the original console the content was purchased on.
As a result, users with replacement consoles (either as a result of a warranty claim, or due to an upgrade to the Xbox 360 Elite model) cannot use previously downloaded content without being connected to Xbox Live. This has the effect of restricting usage of purchased content when no Internet connection is available. An additional wrinkle is added when there are multiple accounts on one console. In this case, all accounts can normally share content when it was downloaded on that system. However, if the system is replaced, then only the actual Xbox Live account to which the content is tied can make use of it (a workaround exists whereby the non-purchasing gamertag can use the content, but only if the original purchasing gamertag is signed into Xbox Live as a secondary profile).
Microsoft's original attempts to resolve these issues were limited to transferring licenses to consoles replaced under warranty. This required contacting Microsoft support, and the console must have been replaced through Microsoft itself or a warranty from the retailer where it was originally purchased. License transfers could not be performed in the case of a voluntary upgrade (e.g., if the user purchased an Xbox 360 Elite to replace their old console). Microsoft support states the license transfer process takes 20-30 days, however users have found that it can take much longer.
As of June 2008, Microsoft has released an online tool that allows users to transfer licenses from the console where they were originally purchased to another. This is done in a two-step process, where all licenses are first migrated on the server side, and then downloaded onto the new console. To prevent abuse, this process can only be performed once a year. Licenses remain bound to the Gamertag regardless, so users who store their profiles on portable memory units can continue to use purchased content on any console when signed into the service.
Price consistency and whether some content should be available free of charge has also been a source of criticism related to the Xbox Live Marketplace. A notable incident was Microsoft charging for a Gears of War map pack that developer Epic desired to provide at no cost (although it was made free four months later in September 2007). Exacerbating the controversy, Game Informer made claims that Microsoft forced companies to charge for content the company itself wanted to distribute free. In this case, Microsoft Publishing was responsible for setting the price, with this not actually being a policy of the Xbox team or Xbox Live Marketplace as was implied. Free content is indeed possible, but with the exception of the Xbox Live Arcade game, Aegis Wing, most of the free content is promotional in nature, such as the Xbox Live Arcade Yaris and Dash of Destruction.
Content Region Controls
After the Spring 2007 dashboard update, Microsoft increased the security on the regional content restrictions. This made obtaining entertainment content for international markets impossible, while the US market has a substantial offering in comparison. Even some free content, such as downloadable extras for retail games, is impossible to obtain in certain regions, despite there being no legal or censorship problems (an example of this would be the second Gears of War map pack; while the first pack was initially available free worldwide, the Spring 2007 update made both unavailable to many Xbox 360 owners).
- ↑ http://creators.xna.com/en-US/faq#anchor_1_15
- ↑ http://creators.xna.com/en-US/faq#anchor_1_13
- ↑ http://forums.xna.com/forums/t/20744.aspx
- ↑ Gamasutra interview of Biology Battle Creator Novaleaf Software, including $100K pricetag. url=http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=20854
- ↑ url=http://www.destructoid.com/first-360-community-games-sales-chart-word-soup-tops-the-list-of-awful-games-114210.phtml
- ↑ Metacritic score of Weapon of Choice url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/weaponofchoice
- ↑ >Metacritic score of Biology Battle url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/biologybattle
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Brandon Boyer (2007-11-13). Microsoft To Launch Downloadable Xbox Game Campaign. GamaSutra. Retrieved on 2007-11-13
- ↑ Luke Plunkett (2007-11-14). Japan Gets Different Xbox Originals Lineup. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2007-11-14
- ↑ E3 2007 - Walt Disney Studios Now on Xbox LIVE Marketplace (2007-07-10).
- ↑ Block, Ryan (2008-01-06). Bill Gates: live at his 12th and final CES keynote.
- ↑ Tech problems hit XBL video marketplace. Retrieved on 2006-11-27
- ↑ César A. Berardini (2006-10-12). Xbox Live Pipeline: Browse Live Marketplace from your PC. TeamXbox. Retrieved on 2008-05-29
- ↑ Xbox.com - Xbox LIVE Marketplace - The Latest Xbox LIVE Marketplace News. Xbox.com. Microsoft. Retrieved on 2008-05-29
- ↑ Xbox Lives Major Nelson. Larry Hryb. Retrieved on 2008-05-29
- ↑ Xbox.com "Shop 'till you Drop" (subsection):Usage restrictions. Retrieved on 2007
- ↑ Gears of War Map Pack Live on Thursday. Retrieved on 2007-07-06
- ↑ Microsoft Charges Again for Gears Content. Edge Online (April 26, 2007). Retrieved on 2008-11-17
- ↑ Microsoft to Tighten Up Xbox Live Marketplace Region Controls. Xbox 365 (2007-05-05).
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